How to Maintain Metal Turning Lathes

What You'll Need
Compressed air
Lubricating oil
Metal hook
Tight gloves
Protective eyewear

Maintaining a metal turning lathe is not demanding as long as you follow some basic guidelines. These preventative measures are critical since metal lathe tools are rather expensive and without preventative maintenance, their performance can be seriously compromised.

Metal Turning Lathe Basics

Metal turning is a process of shaping a metal bit using the lathe, i.e. shaping the metal by turning it. This is referred to as metal turning due to the constant spinning action that the metal bit is subjected to. There are many variations of metal turning lathes. The most common varieties include the center lathe, bench lathe, and the engine lathe. The engine lathe is more automated than the other options being the more contemporary of metal lathe variations.

Step 1 - Get Started

You should be careful when working on the lathe machine. Always wear proper protective gear in the form of gloves and eyewear. Ensure that you wear tight-fitting gloves as they can get caught in the lathe’s forceful action. Similarly, loose sleeves are a working hazard. Warm up the lathe before using it for any kind of work. This is rather simple. Turn on the main power to the machine. Start the spindle and gradually increase the RPM range to about 1000. Allow the lathe to warm-up at this configuration for about 10-to-12 minutes.

Step 2 - Maintain Lubrication

Ensure that the metal turning lathe is always well-lubricated. Even the automated lathes need periodic lubrication since most of the parts are heavy-duty metallic components. Grinding metal bits without proper lubrication can seriously compromise the precision of the metal-shaping work. It is always better to check the oil level in the reservoir tanks. Ideally, the oil level should be around the maximum level before starting a metal turning project. You can use a funnel to pour the oil. Check the coolant reservoir. This requires less, regular filling-up than the oil reservoir but checking it occasionally is recommended.

Step 3 - Ensure Debris-free Metal Lathe

Don’t bang upon the headstock when fitting the metal bits. Place the metal that needs to be shaped in a firm but gentle manner. Before placing the metal into the lathe, ensure that all the holders are clean. Ensure that the chuck jaws don’t have impacted debris. This often happens as the metal is chipped into tiny fragments that often get embedded upon the chuck jaw. You can use compressed air for blowing away this debris. Don’t use hard tools like screwdrivers for this as they can damage the edges of metal lathe tools. Keep the lathe bed clean by removing the string-like metal fragments that are usually dispersed during metal turning. You can use a metal hook for this.

Step 4 - Check and Maintain Sharp Lathe Tool Tips

If you feel that the metal scraping is not proceeding as per the usual standards, stop and check the lathe tools for any kind of wear and tear. For this, you need to undo the retaining screws around the tool tip. Most metal lathe models have tool inserts with multiple tips. Inspect the state of these tool tips. If there is excessive wear and tear, like bending of tips or broken tips is visible, you need to replace them. Similarly, inspect the drill tips of the lathe.

Step 5 - Other, Basic Tips for Maintaining Metal Turning Lathe

Cover the lathe when not using it. This protects the machine against moisture, dust, and debris. Also, regularly check the belts. Replace cracked belts and tighten the slackened belts.