A metal lathe cuts and shapes metal into long cylindrical objects. The lathe spins a tubular piece of metal, or a piece of solid steel on a spindle and just like a wood lathe, a tool is pressed against the metal to cut and shape it. The tool can create several different objects so there are many interesting projects for the beginner and advanced user.
Metal chess pieces are one typical project for lathe users. Smaller chess pieces are more difficult to create because they require more control over the lathe and smaller-dimension arcs and cuts. If you create a set of chess pieces, start out building larger ones and work down to smaller pieces. There are many different styles and designs. Simple forms to represent the pawns, king and queens are often used by beginners. Cylindrical heads and bodies are cut with a single lathe cutter and require the least amount of time and expertise.
Captive Ring Rod
Another project that is fun for everyone is a captive rod with a ring. This is a long rod made of wood, or in this case steel. On both ends there are two large knobs with twice the diameter of the rod. Around the rod is a washer with the same diameter as the outer knobs; however, the inner diameter of the washer is larger than the inner rod, so it slides easily across the rod between the two knobs. This project is crafted on a lathe by boring out the centre of a 2 1/2-inch steel reel and then cutting and boring a washer from one of the knobs. This is also a wood lathe project.
A slightly more complicated project for the metal lathe is the steel hammer. This is a project that will give you a functional tool to use in the garage or home. The steel hammer is crafted from a one-inch piece of bar steel and a three-inch piece of bar steel. The smaller piece is ground and cut into a handle using a cutting tool, while the thicker steel bar is shaped into a hammer head. Make the handle and head into a shape that you are comfortable using. The handle is then fitted with a rubber gasket or sleeve and the head is bored to match the end of the handle. The two are assembled either through a MIG weld or by drilling a hole through the head and handle and sliding a steel pin through both to secure them.