Essential Live Tooling Lathe Accessories You Should Consider

Lathes equipped with live tooling allow machinists to drill cross holes, mill complex shapes, and broach splines in a single operation. This allows them to save time, reduce cost, and eliminate secondary machining on the shop’s other machines.

When incorporating this technology, it’s essential to ensure the machine has sufficient through-hole and bar stock capacity. Also, consider adding a Y-axis to the turret for off-center machining capabilities.

Safety Glasses

Operators must wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses when operating on a lathe or mill. This will lessen the chance that a risky circumstance could result in an injury and assist in avoiding future liability concerns.

Lathes create a lot of shavings and chips, so operators must wear eye protection to protect their eyes. They should also remove entanglement hazards like loose clothing, rings, and jewelry. Additionally, they should tie back long hair and not wear gloves to avoid catching on spinning parts or accessories.

It’s also a good idea to test the machine by rotating the workpiece by hand before turning it on and making any adjustments. This will ensure that the tool rest and bed are clear of obstructions.

Tool Rest Bar

The tool rest bar is a simple device that eases fatigue in your hands by taking the weight of your tool off them. It has a smooth surface allows the tool to glide smoothly over your workpiece.

Some woodturners prefer hardened steel rod rests because they last longer than other types of rests. However, they don’t provide a smooth transit because the bar has ridges and bumps along its length.

For this reason, many woodturners choose the modular system instead. It allows you to swap in various rest posts and toolbars as needed for different projects. It also includes a screw for fastening the rest bar to your tool post. This is an excellent option for any lathe owner.

Thread Adapter

Whether a shop can perform polygon machining, gear hobbing, or turning their live tooling lathe must be capable of threading. This is how the lathe creates a proper ratio between the lead screw and headstock spindle.

Historically, the only way to change the pitch of the screw being threaded was to open the headstock cover (if there was one) and physically switch out the gears that set the ratio between the headstock spindle and the lead screw. This process is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

These thread adapters allow chucks, faceplates, and other lathe tools to be used on different spindle sizes. They are accommodating when sharing tooling between multiple lathes that use different threaded spindles.

Morse Taper

Morse tapers are used in the headstock and tailstock of lathes to hold centers. They also are used to support work between centers.

The male cone-within-female-cone design of a Morse taper self-locks and positions parts accurately on the axis of rotation, usually within ten thousandths of an inch. This makes changing set-ups quick and easy.

Tapered shanks “stick” in a socket best when the socket and the taper are clean. The shank can be wiped, while the socket is best cleaned with a specialized taper cleaning tool inserted and twisted.

Drive centers do not have bearings and are fixed to the headstock Morse Taper hollow by friction, sometimes called dead centers. A knockout bar helps dislodge these centers from the headstock.

Steady Rest

Steady rests are helpful when the length and stiffness of a workpiece make it challenging to machine without damaging the piece by deflecting or distorting it under tool pressure. They also help reduce finish problems, keep part dimensions within acceptable tolerances, and increase productivity.

A manual, steady rest requires careful adjustment of all points that touch a workpiece. Improper adjustments can damage the steady rest, the workpiece, or the machine tool. Automatic steady rests utilize hydraulics or pneumatics to clamp and unclamp parts. These systems have integrated cylinders that can be actuated by machine control M codes or manually operated switches.

Digital Caliper

Vernier, dial, and digital calipers measure internal dimensions (using the pictured upper jaws) and external dimensions (using the lower jaws). The head of a caliper can also take step measurements.

These tools are handy for any trade that requires measuring tiny things, like machinists, stoneworkers, millwrights, and HVAC techs. They can read to the 1000th of an inch or mm, but their accuracy depends on the user’s skill and the tool’s features.

When choosing a pair of digital calipers, look for one with durable and strong inside and outside jaws. Also, make sure the calipers have a large, easy-to-read digital display. And remember to purchase a spare set of batteries. 

Feeler Gauge Set

A feeler gauge set is a group of metal strips that check gaps and alignment. They include a variety of grades and thicknesses that are riveted together in a fan-like case that folds up for portability. These sets can be purchased in either imperial inch or metric size sets. The specific sizes in the case depend on what the user needs and can be easily replaced by individual blades when needed.

Some feeler gauge sets have angled blades designed to access tight spots. These are particularly useful for areas that are difficult to slide a standard gap gauge into, such as the valve clearance on an engine. The angled end is also more accurate than the straight edges. When purchasing a filter gauge, look for an affordable one with the range you likely need.

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