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Engine Turning Aluminum


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#1 LilysDad ONLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 07:20 AM

I'm going to demonstrate how to engine turn an aluminum panel on a drill press. There are other ways to do this, but this is what worked for me. If you wish to do alot of this, there are kits on the market that include wire brushes. I have even heard of guys using a dowel chucked in a drill with lapping compound applied. I did try this, but it was a mess and gave poor results.


To proceed; make a flat panel to clamp to your drill table. This can be 1/2" plywood, laminate, whatever you have handy. The size will be determined by what you are going to make. Secondly, use a strip of straight wood and fasten it to the base as a fence. (See first photo)


[attachment=37760:103_9657.JPG]
You will notice the dowel in the picture; this is your tool. Adjust the fence and base so that your work piece is aligned so that the tool will contact the side nearest to you.


Before we go any further, let me show you the shop made tools. These are made from hardwood dowels to which is attached red Scotch Brite pads using hot glue. The size of dowel is entirely up to you. I started with 1/2" dowel, but decided I prefered 3/4". A large dowel would not fit in my drill chuck. That is why they are turned down on one end.
[attachment=37761:103_9658.JPG]


Now, turning to your panel, the aluminum must be smooth and free of scratches. Any defects will show through the finish. The panel may be dressed using a power sander or by block sanding with wet or dry sandpaper, or as I did using a die grinder and those power lock buffing pads. Also, if you should mess up, you can polish the problem area and continue.


Now, take your panel and place it on the base, against the fence. Align the dowel with the near edge of the work piece and located at the left edge. Lower the rotating tool on to the work piece. You don't have to press it hard. Just touch it down for a moment. Then place a mark on the base next to the piece with a pencil, so you can return to this position. Move the work to the left a distance equal to 1/2 the diameter of the tool. Repeat touching the tool down and making a mark until you reach the right edge.
[attachment=37763:103_9660.JPG]


Now you will make a wooden spacer equal in width to 1/2 the diameter and place it between the fence and work piece.
[attachment=37764:103_9661.JPG]



Repeat the directions above, adding spacers as you go.
[attachment=37765:103_9662.JPG]


I haven't tried staggering the alternating rows, but that would sure be something to experiment with.


And that's it! Shown is the completed panel.
[attachment=37766:103_9663.JPG]


I see no reason why this process couldn't be adapted to the end mill. Perhaps someone could report on this.


I am in the process of making a dash insert for a '68 Wheel Horse Charger 12 that I am customizing. I'll show photos of that when it's completed.

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#2 NUTNDUN OFFLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 07:28 AM

Very cool. Thanks for posting the information. I also want to ask if you think those stone grinding wheels for something like a die grinder or dremel would work for this as well?

#3 KennyP ONLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 07:29 AM

This should be fun to watch and informative!

#4 MH81 ONLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 07:31 AM

Is there a minimum suggested thickness to the material? Obviously, im not going to try tinfoil, but would flashing work to play with?

#5 JD DANNELS OFFLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 07:57 AM

This will be good! I've often thought this would be a good solution and treatment for those impossible to find Quality dash panels on so many old GT's. Maybe easier to make a new one thatn find a replacement?

#6 JD DANNELS OFFLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 08:00 AM

Is there a minimum suggested thickness to the material? Obviously, im not going to try tinfoil, but would flashing work to play with?

Yes, I think flashing would make good practice pieces. Lyle Gatch showed us how it was done in High School machine shop class way back in 1967. So I have a clue, but have never done it.

#7 JD DANNELS OFFLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 08:56 AM

This is a very well done tutorial. Now a question, since Aluminum naturally oxidizes, do you have a reccomended treatment to prevent that after you have gone to so much work? I'm thinking a wax would be apropriate. But since the turnings are a scratch pattern on the metal, what kind of wax would not load up the pattern? I'm pretty sure my favorite Johnsons Paste Wax would not be the proper choice.
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#8 LilysDad ONLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 09:33 AM

That's a new idea to me, but your right. I would think anything you would use on an auto that doesn't have an abrasive.
But to begin with maybe cleaning with naptha and applying a clear coat would be a good idea. Thanks for the thought!

For practicing, I'm sure anything that will lay flat will be fine. I used the aluminum that is sold at Menards/Lowes. I believe it is something like .020" thick..... or is that 20 guage? I forget. I would like to have used something thicker for the dash, something like aluminum road sign. None were legally available, though.

Edited by LilysDad, July 11, 2012 - 09:49 AM.

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#9 Cvans ONLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 09:42 AM

Thanks for your time and efforts in showing us how you did this. Well done.
Thought I remembered using an abrasive pad when I did mine. If I remember correctly they lasted quite a while before needing to be changed.

#10 JDBrian OFFLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 11:06 AM

This is a very well done tutorial. Now a question, since Aluminum naturally oxidizes, do you have a reccomended treatment to prevent that after you have gone to so much work? I'm thinking a wax would be apropriate. But since the turnings are a scratch pattern on the metal, what kind of wax would not load up the pattern? I'm pretty sure my favorite Johnsons Paste Wax would not be the proper choice.


I've never dealt with that type of panel before but my oinstinct would be to seal it with a clear coat. If you are using something like 6061 alloy then you could probably polish it and it would stay pretty clean.

#11 KennyP ONLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 11:47 AM

That's pretty simple and sounds easy. Thanks for sharing with us!

#12 caseguy OFFLINE  

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Posted July 11, 2012 - 07:55 PM

Thanks for the great tutorial! That looks a lot simpler than I imagined it would be! We really appreciate it when members take the initiative to present something useful like this. I'm sure that many of us will use your technique! Thanks a bunch!

#13 Ryan313 OFFLINE  

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Posted July 12, 2012 - 10:36 AM

Thank you for a very informative tutorial! I will use this if I ever have to make something like this!

#14 JD DANNELS OFFLINE  

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Posted July 12, 2012 - 04:20 PM

That's a new idea to me, but your right. I would think anything you would use on an auto that doesn't have an abrasive.
But to begin with maybe cleaning with naptha and applying a clear coat would be a good idea. Thanks for the thought!

For practicing, I'm sure anything that will lay flat will be fine. I used the aluminum that is sold at Menards/Lowes. I believe it is something like .020" thick..... or is that 20 guage? I forget. I would like to have used something thicker for the dash, something like aluminum road sign. None were legally available, though.

See That's what I love about these discussions! I had not thought of spraying a clear coat over the panel. But it's the obvious choice.

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Posted July 13, 2012 - 11:57 AM

thanks for taking the time to share this. awesome write up
this needs to stay close to the top so it dont get lost




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