A jeweller’s lathe is a piece of stationary machinery that spins an object and is commonly used for the intricate work of repairing clocks and watches or creating jewellery pieces. The tools that accompany the use of a jeweller’s lathe vary widely and depend on the type of work required to fix an array of timepiece sizes. Instructors at Tascione Clock and Watch Repair say the basics are sufficient when it comes to lathe tools, and it’s not necessary to use high-end or overpriced lathe tools.
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The knurling tool is used in tandem with a lathe to emboss the ends of metal tubes or shafts like an engraver. The knurling tool typically carves straight, diagonal or diamond patterns into soft metals such as aluminium and steel. The knurling tool is made up of multiple rotary cutters, which are held against the metal shaft as it turns on the lathe at a slower speed (roughly 500rpm). As a cylindrical piece of aluminium or steel spins in place on a lathe, the knurling tool carves the desired grooves into the metals.
Jewellers use chucks to turn tiny parts for extremely delicate pieces. Chucks come in many sizes depending on the size of the lathe used for certain watches and clocks. The chuck holds the turning piece in place. A three-jaw chuck centres the turning, while a four-jaw chuck allows for off-centre turning that can be adjusted with a chuck key. A basic model three-jaw chuck generally costs between £65 and £130.
Small handheld cutting tools called gravers are used in conjunction with a lathe for setting stones and applying embellishments to jewellery pieces. A set of three basic gravers can be purchased for about £42. Jewellers generally work with four types of gravers, including the point, round knife, flat bottom and linear varieties. Gravers' handles are usually wooden spheres designed for comfort and ease of grip while working with small parts.
Jewellers use roughing tools to give a piece its initial shape. Roughing tools make the deepest cuts and come in a variety of shapes depending on the piece of jewellery being cut. Basic roughing tool shapes include square, straight, angled or skewed. A single roughing tool can range anywhere from £52 to £97.
Finishing tools are used with the lathe to make lighter cuts on pieces that have already been roughed. Finishing tools are slightly curved at the end and give pieces their final shape. Finishing tools come in many varieties for jewellery work; however, high-precision tools offer accuracy as well as reliability. An investment of £65 to £130 will ensure a set of finishing tools that won’t set back the hard work of shaping a piece to its finished form.
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