Free Turning on a Metal Lathe

Some time ago I did some free turning on a metal lathe. Namely a Hobbymat MD65 and I was turning a steel spinning top. My approach at that time was to use a technique that mimicked that of wood turning.

the tool bit holder for free turning metal

I ground a broken HSS centre drill into a lathe tool.

The round bar of the centre drill was perfect for being held in a hand-held drill chuck.

Later I made a graver handle, dedicated for hold small HSS round tool bits.

However, for now this drill handle gave me good leverage to react the forces on the tool bit.

free turning metal

I used a piece of tool steel as a support. This was angled and brought in as tight as possible to the rotating workpiece. I was very keen to limit any overhang and hence reduce the possibility of the tool being levered out of my hands.

However, this workpiece needed to be supported with the tailstock and so this very much limited the access.

free turning a spinning top

The result was good. I managed to remove a considerable amount of metal from the spinning top centre. Enough that it actually sings when it spins.

This approach did feel dangerous even though I was wearing heavy gloves to protect my hands.

The big benefit though is this method allows you to freehand turn metal. That means the shapes you can turn are endless and perhaps artistic.

A great idea, but needs improvement. I have an idea for a better free turning on a metal lathe experience.


free hand and ball turning tool

Free Hand and Ball Turning Tool

A free hand and ball turning tool designed to work on the Warco WM240B lathe. I’ve done some free hand turning before and although it was ok, I used a wood working technique and this is a bit dangerous with metal. With the need to turn the curve on the smokebox door of the Burrell traction engine I also need a ball turner.


HobbyMat MD65

Hobbymat MD65

A fabulous small lathe for the model maker and model engineer. I have had this lathe for a very long time and it is still my go to lathe for small delicate turning projects.


M4 grub screw in ferule

Graver Handle

A graver handle is just a turned wooden handle with a brass ferule around the neck to stop it splitting. The high speed steel graver is then just tapped into a pre-drilled hole in the handle. Simple, but I wanted something a bit more elegant. Also, as I’m starting out I want to be able to play with different graver bits.

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