Metal Lathe

This week we worked on turning a small 1” piece of aluminum on the metal lathe. This was a pretty straightforward exercise that required a lot of patience when you consider how little you take off with each pass. But I find it helpful to reflect on what the lathe actually allows you to do which is cut into metal in a fine and uniform way, a task that would be nearly impossible any other way.

One place I got hung up was that I didn’t tighten down the chuck enough, not wanting to mark my piece, and the lathe began to pull the piece out of the chuck. This was very disturbing and confusing in the moment, as I had to check myself if I was moving the piece into the chuck. It kind of felt like that moment when you see another car rolling backwards and you don’t know if you’re actually moving forwards.

I also got in a rush and pushed the cutting bit into the chuck for a split second, as I was dangerously close to the edge and got turned around on which was I was cranking in. This could have been very dangerous as well as ruining the machine.

I see a lot of potential in making very nice gifts and crafts with this tool, as it carries a solidarity and weight that other materials do not. When you see something made out of metal like this, it evokes a sense of strength and also elegance. I would like to perhaps make a pen holder and paper weight out of 2” round aluminum or brass.