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View Full Version : Using metal lathe for wood spindle (Celtic whistle) longer than lathe bed



Matt NQ
13th Jan 2018, 07:36 PM
Hi, I'm setting out to make a few Celtic whistles. I have a Nova Comet 2 lathe with extension bed, and ideally I'd like to put a cross slide on it for the most precise work like turning the windway block and the tuning slide. However cross slides for wood lathes don't seem to exist commercially in Australia, and I don't have the skills to adapt one from a metal lathe.

So I'm looking at buying a metal lathe for the finer work, where .1mm makes a difference. As I'm planning to make only two-piece whistles with a tuning slide, I only need maybe a 100mm long bed for the finest work on the fipple. However it would be great if I could also use the metal lathe for work on the final tuning slide 30-60mm portion of the whistle body, which can be up to about 420-430mm long (for a low D whistle).

So, my main question is: Can I remove the tailstock on, say, a 300mm bed length metal lathe, such as a Sieg C2, and use a steady rest to support near the end of the bed, working on the end near the headstock with the spindle sticking out past the end of the bed? It seems okay to me, but as a beginner with metal lathes I wouldn't mind some practical advice.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this - particularly on the minimum size metal lathe I would want to do this. The cheaper the better :U

Here's a link to the Sieg lathes I'm looking at: Lathes (http://www.ausee.com.au/shop/category.aspx?catid=6)

hughie
13th Jan 2018, 08:47 PM
They are available from various sources as separate items

https://www.ebay.com.au/i/401470174829?chn=ps
Cross Slide Vice Table (http://www.dawntools.com.au/Cross-Slide-Vice-Table)
Vices Machine Cross Slide Table 225 x 175mm Fixed Base Dial Indexed Handle (http://www.gasweld.com.au/dawn-vice-table-62171-daw)

I wouldnt be in a hurry to use a metal turning lathe for wood.

Paul39
14th Jan 2018, 04:08 AM
Hi, I'm setting out to make a few Celtic whistles. I have a Nova Comet 2 lathe with extension bed, and ideally I'd like to put a cross slide on it for the most precise work like turning the windway block and the tuning slide. However cross slides for wood lathes don't seem to exist commercially in Australia, and I don't have the skills to adapt one from a metal lathe.

So I'm looking at buying a metal lathe for the finer work, where .1mm makes a difference. As I'm planning to make only two-piece whistles with a tuning slide, I only need maybe a 100mm long bed for the finest work on the fipple. However it would be great if I could also use the metal lathe for work on the final tuning slide 30-60mm portion of the whistle body, which can be up to about 420-430mm long (for a low D whistle).

So, my main question is: Can I remove the tailstock on, say, a 300mm bed length metal lathe, such as a Sieg C2, and use a steady rest to support near the end of the bed, working on the end near the headstock with the spindle sticking out past the end of the bed? It seems okay to me, but as a beginner with metal lathes I wouldn't mind some practical advice.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this - particularly on the minimum size metal lathe I would want to do this. The cheaper the better :U

Here's a link to the Sieg lathes I'm looking at: Lathes (http://www.ausee.com.au/shop/category.aspx?catid=6)

You might want to chase down and have a chat with Old Croc, also from Townsville, and have a chat. He turns both wood and metal with both kinds of lathes.

dubrosa22
14th Jan 2018, 06:59 AM
I've only been turning renaissance and baroque flutes for a little while now but if the workpiece in question is a cylinder I would answer no.
Generally once the whistle/flute has been bored through it needs to be secured at both ends in a mandrel or jam chuck. Too fragile otherwise. Any uneven pressure from the cutting tool or a catch will easily destroy the piece.

I have a Sieg C3 for making conoid flute reamers (or at least that's the plan!) and the Sieg steady-rest is, in my opinion, a piece of junk. I certainly wouldn't put a nice piece of wood that has been bored on there that's for sure.

My Jet 1220 wood lathe is not incredible but so far I have had no need to turn any parts of a wood flute elsewhere but there. Tenons and sockets are difficult but not certainly impossible. Detail and accuracy are not a worry with practise and more practise.

I know lots, if not most, flutemakers use metal lathes and/or milling machines for parts of their flutes but sadly their setup wouldn't be a Sieg C2 and they use custom-made mandrels for mounting workpieces over 150mm or jigs for fitting keys, rings, etc.

Flutemaking it seems is mostly making tools and holders for making flutes it seems!

What sorts of wood are you making whistles with?

Vaughan

dubrosa22
14th Jan 2018, 08:56 AM
I'd also be interested to know your basic method for turning whistles. The bore, socket & tenon and the fipple and its block.
Cheers,
V

Matt NQ
14th Jan 2018, 02:46 PM
Some really great advice here - and so quickly! Many thanks. To reply specifically to things you've raised:

hughie - That's a welcome surprise that commercial cross slides for wood lathes do in fact exist in Australia. I'll be following up on one or two of those to see if they will fit a Comet 2.

Vaughan - Don't see why I have to bore it before trimming the tuning slide end of the whistle body. My plan would be to have the drill enter the trimmed end.
- Would plan to modify Sieg large (50mm) steady rest by attaching rollers.
- Note that I said I'm "setting out to make a few Celtic whistles" not that I'm already in production. Yet to make a single whistle - just buying the tools I need right now, after having done a fair bit of research. It is indeed surprising how many special tools I need to get, and even make, before beginning. One task I have to do soon is construct a 500mm or so long tool rest!
- Planning to use only Queensland timber. It just feels good to do that. Want to start with red mahogany, as I know it's been used for flutes. Ultimately I want to use traditional didgeridoo timber like ironbark and woollybutt, as well as acacias like gidgee. There seems to be a strange prejudice against using eucalypts for woodwind - don't understand it. If it works for a didj, why not for a whistle? Yes, there's a bit more shrinkage, but that just comes down to design - metal slides on outside of timber, not inside etc, and of course not using really oily stuff like Tallow wood.
- On methods. Not much to say as I haven't done anything yet! Planning on using Colt Maxicut drill bits with extensions and see if I can drill out a cylindrical bore as long as 420mm or so (210mm from each end) for a Low D whistle. If that's too demanding then I'll scale it back and make a two piece body. Planning on a curved windway using a cutout sleeve holding the block - seems the simplest - just sanding back the windway part of the block to get it just under the soundblade.

All plans right now - I'll let you know how it goes.

Matt NQ
14th Jan 2018, 05:01 PM
And thanks Paul for letting me know about Old Croc. I'll chase him up once I've got my workshop set up with new toys and have started doing stuff.

dubrosa22
15th Jan 2018, 06:36 AM
Don't see why I have to bore it before trimming the tuning slide end of the whistle body. My plan would be to have the drill enter the trimmed end.
You can do it that way but perfect concentricity is harder to achieve (not impossible of course). Plus a greater chance of cracking or splitting under pressure/heat. Not worth it in my opinion.

All wood flutemakers I know of first roughly turn down the blank/billet and drill/ream a pilot hole or bore and set the piece aside to 'settle and move'. For weeks or years sometimes. If a crack appears it has been 'discovered' before wasting time or money working on a flute that will crack eventually due to flaws.
When I visited Terry McGee in 2016 (one of the world's best flutemakers and researchers) he had hunderds of such roughed and pilot holed blanks sitting in airing wire drawers. I would assume that the same method is followed by whistlemakers since the size is really the same as a piccolo flute.

There is a great film about the top flutemaker Patrick Olwell called 'The Keymaster' which illustrates his techniques and basic practices throughout. It's on Vimeo.
There have been films about the late, great Australian recorder maker Fred Morgan and Michael Grinter too but are very hard to find.



Would plan to modify Sieg large (50mm) steady rest by attaching rollers.
Rollers would be an improvement for sure.
I own a Sieg C3, but if a metal lathe had to be my principle flutemaking lathe I would sell it tomorrow and buy a $8000 real metal lathe with all the features, kit and length I need plus more. They are not good enough.


Note that I said I'm "setting out to make a few Celtic whistles" not that I'm already in production. Yet to make a single whistle
Aside from Oz Whistles, Michael Grinter or Terry McGee I doubt anyone in this country has anything like a production line of wood whistles/flutes. Though I doubt even they would refer to their instrument making as a 'production line' :U

Since you have the Comet lathe already, personally I would make some whistles on it first just to get a sense of the process and the craft of making them. Freehand on a woodlathe is how the majority of bespoke, non-factory CNC milled wood flutes, clarinets, oboes, recorders and whistles are made. And the tenons and sockets are not hard to turn with ordinary lathe chisels and tool rest.

Are you planning to turn tapered whistle bodies? Offsetting the tailstock or buying a tapered turning jig for the Sieg C2? Is there one?
See tapers are easy on a woodlathe freehand but a real pain on any crosslide toolholder (wood or metal lathe). Limited range and slow.

Straight grained Gidgee is a perfect for whistles/flutes. Not sure about the other timbers but I'd be interested to know how they work out. I know Oz Whistles use lots of wood types and they are very popular.

Vaughan

Matt NQ
15th Jan 2018, 11:16 AM
Thanks so, much Vaughan! This is really golden advice. BTW by "in production" I just meant actually making them, not a "production line", which would be truly silly to imagine at the stage I am at.

I will take your advice and proceed initially just using the Comet, which as I begin to play with is actually quite nicely made. When I put both centres in they meet point to point absolutely perfectly, and there is almost no play in the tailstock. Making the fipple design of 3 concentric parts will be challenging with a wood lathe but it feels like a good way to learn. I've realised there's an inherent problem with installing a cross slide on the Comet - the 300mm swing over. That's quite a height to reach and the units I've seen advertised would need serious adaption. So for now it's just training my hand and eye.

I will definitely check out "The Keymaster" - I love windows into people's workshops. I'm studying Phillipe Bolton's excellent website as well.

No plans to turn tapered bodies and bores at present. For some reason, when it comes to balancing the octaves, I feel more attracted to the challenge of tweaking the fipple and headstock bore, wedges etc than I do to the challenge of designing the shape of conical bores for the body. Maybe it's because I've just worked a bit with wood and never metal and making reamers feels like I'm doing metalwork rather than woodwork. Though you've already started me thinking about whether I've given myself an unnecessary limitation there. Anyway I'll start out cylindrical and see how it goes.

Thanks again so much for the kind help.

dubrosa22
15th Jan 2018, 08:47 PM
Tapered reamers are a big hurdle for sure.

That's what I'm using my Sieg lathe for - Baroque style conoid reamers in 3 parts for F and D flutes. Still learning the metal lathe and turning longish tapers on the Sieg.

I have predominantly made Renaissance styled flutes based on a McGee made 16th Century Rafi copy (from a Brussels museum set of drawings). All cylindrical bore and headjoint. Very straight. No wedges or conoid headjoints.

I also dabble in bamboo Shakuhachis. Mostly because I started making flutes in bamboo (then PVC, then aluminium...) but their tuning is terrible for Western scales. Shaks are gorgeous, but very difficult to make!

So I got a wood lathe and after half a dozen trials finally a working and in tune two-piece Jarrah F flute based on my Rafi. Since then another 8 or so in various sizes, pitches and tonehole and embouchure styles.

Now my plan is to emulate my 1814 Monzani boxwood 4-key F flute and my 1826 C. Gerock one-key boxwood D flute. Both have the late-Baroque/Classical conical bore and simple 'flap' keys.

The best wood I've found so far is Gidgee, Rock Maple and Burdekin Plum. African Blackwood is wonderful but nearly impossible to acquire now!

Check out a wonderful flute and oboe maker Yanagita Tokinori on Youtube. His videos are instructive but tough to watch at times - but worth it. He uses a metal lathe for finishing his instruments
https://www.youtube.com/user/YANAGITAtokinori

Let us know how you go on the Comet 2 and remember the great instrument makers of the 17th and 18th centuries would have used very rudimentary lathes!

V

Old Croc
15th Jan 2018, 09:01 PM
And thanks Paul for letting me know about Old Croc. I'll chase him up once I've got my workshop set up with new toys and have started doing stuff.
Or you could see me first and see a shed full of stuff that I have bought that I really don't need:oo:
Rgds,
Crocy.

dogcatcher
16th Jan 2018, 05:23 AM
Drill the hole, using a homemade jam chuck for the headstock and same to fit your live center. I take a 2x2x6 blank of hardwood, drill and tap one end to fit my spindle, turn the center 3" to the diameter of the hole in the flute body. Cut that in 2 so you have the 2 ends, one threaded for the headstock, and the other end with the dimple for the live center.


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dogcatcher
16th Jan 2018, 12:47 PM
After reading this thread a couple of times, instead of drilling and tapping for threading the blank to the spindle to make the jam chuck. Get a 2MT threaded arbor like in the attached picture. Thread your blank to fit it, that will give you more bed length to use, and lessen the wobble factor while turning the flute body. If you ream a taper in the flute, you can ream it after drilling the hole, but then you need to make your jam driver so that it fits the taper. I make a similar contraption except it is shorter and called a turkey trumpet. Here is a tutorial I made several years ago, it might give some ideas. http://www.thogamecalls.com/PDF%20Tutorials/How%20to%20MakeaTurkeyTrumpetCall.pdf

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Matt NQ
16th Jan 2018, 08:18 PM
Thanks for all the tips guys, though I have to admit I don't quite follow it all yet - need to get some practice on the lathe and I think then things will be clearer to me. I will keep your advice on how to set up the piece in mind dogcatcher - very kind of you to supply such detail.

Vaughan you've done and still are doing such amazing stuff. Interesting that you got something totally cylindrical to work without any tweaks. I'm noticing that the Chieftain Thunderbird Low D/Eb/E whistle I have has only minimal tweaking in the headjoint and it works fine. Maybe I should do simple before complicated :-) And it really helps to hear the wood you've used - I'm only 100km from the Burdekin River, so Burdekin Plum sounds very interesting. Queensland Maple is something I want to try too - any experience with that?

Old Croc that's a kind invitation. I'll send you a private message.

Many, many thanks guys.

Matt NQ
17th Jan 2018, 07:31 PM
Old Croc - I've tried to message you a couple of times over the past couple of days, but it doesn't seem to be working - the messages don't end up in my Sent folder so I suspect you're not getting them. I've contacted user help. Perhaps you might be able to message me and maybe give me your private email? Would very much like to take you up on your kind offer of a look at your shed.