The Learnings Continue

Let me start out here by saying that I am not a machinist.

As a matter of fact, I’m not a pimple on the fleas ass on a machinist’s dog.

I try not to let things like ignorance stop me though.

Sometimes things turn out OK and other times my scrap bin gets a little bit heavier.

It is what it is.

My latest attempt at this kind of thing has been an On again, Off again affair.

Once again I am attempting an upgrade on this little Mini lathe I saw on Youtube quite some time ago.

As usual, some things went OK and some things didn’t.

I chalk it all up to learning.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

The upgrade is to the saddle for the cross slide, I first saw it at Steve Jordan’s Youtube site.

The guy is a genius and does some amazing things with these little Chinesium monsters.

He tends to forget that not everyone has his Mad Skillz though and he mislabeled this particular video by titling it thusly,

A New Easy Very Effective Upgrade For The Chinese Mini Lathe Carriage

It’s about 24 minutes long and you can watch it by clicking that link if you want.

Effective it may be, easy it weren’t.

Typically, I stewed on this for months and then all at once decided I was going to tackle it.

Also typically, I went rushing into it without studying the details of the situation at length first.

It’s the same lathe made by the same Chinese company, right?

mini lathe.

As I relearned YET AGAIN, they tend to change shit up occasionally and no, they aren’t identical after all.

Of course I didn’t discover this until I had mine torn apart and had already purchased some of the steel I needed to do the upgrade with.

In particular, I discovered that the saddles are cast very differently and this turned out to be crucial.

This is a screen grab of Steve explaining how to up grade the saddle, pay attention to the holes in the middle , he is pointing at one.


The purpose of this upgrade is to once and for all get rid of the rocking back and forth of the cross slide these things are so notorious for.

He figured out that by adding an assembled part from underneath the ways right in the center, he could then attach the saddle to that and have it slide on the bottom of the ways in the middle, on top of the factory set up that does the same thing from the outside edge and eliminate the clearance issue that is so hard to deal with.

You will see what I am talking about here shortly.

Back to that picture above.

That is where he mounted the assembled slide that rides up under the ways for his saddle. Look at the very bottom right and you will see the piece he made for this.

Now let’s see what Ol’ Uncle Phil ran into after he got all excited and tore into his.

This is what my saddle looks like.


There is a whole lotta NOTHING THERE where he drilled those mounting holes.

This is also the only style available as a replacement now as that picture is straight off of The Little Machine Shop website and they are basically the only suppliers I have found for parts for these things.

After I discovered this little problem I had to stop and think about how I was going to fill that in so I had something to drill holes in.

This is where I enlisted the help of my good friend who shall remain nameless at the moment, to pull my ass out of the fire, YET AGAIN.

Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme but he knows what the hell he is doing and does nice fucking work too.

He helps me in his spare time, I appreciate the hell out of it and he knows that.

Poor guy. I’m sure he must get tired of it but being the good man that he is, he machined those cut outs that are painted red above to make them flat and square for me, then machined down a piece of flat bar,twice, to slip inside the same opening the locking plate for the tail stock slides in. I say twice because I gave him the wrong measurement the first time.

Then he machined down some scrap to make plugs to fit the openings. I cut them to length and drilled all the holes, after I had to get a hunk of 5/8’s square stock and make a new one because I cut one too short.

I basically had to hand fit the damn things but I finally got them to fit nice and tight. I drilled all the holes on Sunday and finally got it put together and installed.


Here we have the two metric countersunk screws that cost me $1.20 each plus tax last weekend.


IMG_20200124_220004 (1)


One of the many test fits.



Just like me, it’s ugly but it works.


No more twisting back and forth and no more rocking.

I hand lapped that piece that rides in between the ways and it’s so tight that it has to be perfectly straight to slide.

I still have to figure out how much to shim the two outer retainers,how much to shim the front of the adjustable slide I just installed and put everything back together. I am also going to have to reset the center and maybe the height on the tail stock also.

A nice byproduct of this new set up is a built in carriage lock. A quick quarter turn of the back screw in the middle and the saddle locks up tight for facing off and such.

Just as it is it slides way smoother than it ever has before so I am eager to finish this thing up and see how much of an improvement it really is.

There is still much to be done though.

11 thoughts on “The Learnings Continue

  1. I worked for Millwright company for 14 years between the small compressor
    division and as a field mechanic for the Millwright division. I was in awe of the shop
    machinists. Literally every job they did was custom machining. They knew every rule
    of thumb for clearances and tolerances. They were not machinists, they were artisans.

    Phil, if you get a chance to buy a copy of Audels Machinist and Mechanics Guide
    for the mechanical shit and their machinist and tool makers guide, get them both.


  2. Phil, “I try not to let things like ignorance stop me though.” And that statement is why you have a lot of old guys like coming back and reading your exploits. A lot of us aren’t machinists and true credentialed ASE mechanics, so ignorance is our battle cry and forge ahead any way to get the job done. The fact you have machinists and mechanics come on and comment with their valuable insights and advice to set us straight.


  3. Nice work, Phil. It looks good and I bet it’s going to work good, too.

    Like you and Cederq, I know nothing about the machining I’m doing.

    I’m taking time off my project to make myself do “how to measure properly” crash course because I have a problem with the little engine I’m building that’s really caused by measuring the ID of the piston wrong. Measuring the inside diameter of a cylinder is hard, and I did it by using telescoping gages, but even then, I put the piston rings on the piston and the cylinder is too small to get the piston in. It’s going to be much easier to open the cylinder than to take the rings off and make the piston smaller.

    I probably would have learned more about how to do this stuff by taking apart a small engine and learning how to rebuild it. Maybe three or four engines.


  4. “I hand lapped that piece that rides in between the ways and it’s so tight that it has to be perfectly straight to slide.”
    That comment, right there, almost qualifies you to be a machinist, IMHO. It’s not an interference fit, but downright close. I used to watch the machinists at KeyTronic make the molds and other stuff, and learned a lot of stuff, but never had hands-on experience with making stuff so close that it had to be aligned precisely or it’s not going to go in. THAT, right there, is the mark of a good machinist.
    Now, when it comes to electronics and computers and everything related, I have y’all beat. So what? I can recognize that a precision job is every bit as important (if not MORE SO) than a clever bit of programming or a circuit that performs beautifully. More math involved than machining, but again, so what. Machinists got mad skillz.
    So, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t perform at an “expert level”. For most of the time, it’s more’n “good enuff”, and *much* better than “close enough for Gubmint work”.


  5. I know enough to be dangerous on a mill or lathe. I have fumbled my way through a few successful projects. I do know how to weld/tig but I have to go to the younger guys for anything on the CNC machine as they have the skills.

    But I can tune a carberated engine and know how to set points.


    • I got so good at tuning by ear I seldom used a point/dwell meter – the result of working in the Pits at Deer Park Raceway back in the late 60’s – early 70’s.
      And a race engine is a rather fickle bithch, too – this was before EFI – my dad taught me to tune the old Bendix mechanical FI systems, rather came in handy on the strip back then.


  6. Don’t buy Chinese shit! There are tool sales from companies going out of business all the time, and you can pick up a Hardinge precision lathe in good condition, for a few hundred bucks. Less premiere brands go for less.


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