Hi all Iam new here and like everyone else Iam fascinated by stop motion animation and this site has a ton of helpful info in pointing me in the right direction on a dream project of mine. Iam currently in the process of looking for a metal working lathe to learn how to make armatures, I have a mill already. What Iam trying to find out is whats a good size lathe that would be good for a beginner like myself to start making armatures on, also what kind of metal is used to make them, Iam assuming something light like aluminum.
I have a small Sieg C3 metal lathe, but I haven't used it to make any armature parts. So far it's for turning scale model props in brass, aluminium, wood, and plastic. When I made some jointed armatures I could have done with a mill for more accurate drilling than my drill press, and maybe for machining the body blocks (if I knew how to do that on a mill) but I'm not sure what I would use the lathe for. Well, you can use a lathe to drill a hole, but if you have a mill already, I don't see why you would need to.
Balls are usually stainless steel. Plates and blocks can be steel, brass, bronze or aluminium. I favour aluminium because it's lighter, and can be cut on my bandsaw. (That's what I use instead of a mill to shape the blocks, crude but it works for me.) But if a joint has to be very compact to fit inside a skinny arm or leg, steel plates can be thinner and still strong enough. Or I just use aluminium armature wire, which is what the majority of my armatures are.
There are a few people here machining armatures who can be of much more help, so I'll just say welcome, and leave it up to them.
I don't think a lathe is worth the investment if you're only interested in machining for armatures. Even professional armatures are built primarily from plates and balls soldered on rods - not much work for a lathe. The only areas I could think of looking to a lathe first is if I needed an extra small sandwich ball joint that required a turned head, or if I wanted to go the extra mile and make a tentacle or tail out of universal ball joints. For practical purposes, however, these are areas you're best just using wire anyway.
If you're new to machining, I'd suggest starting with brass - it's probably the easiest metal to machine. It is a bit pricier than aluminum and steel and doesn't play nice with foam latex, but that has to be weighed against the ease with which the later two can destroy cutters.
Interesting thanks for the advice guys, well I also want to use the lathe for other stuff too, I also have a strong interest in making replica movie props.
^ In that case you might save yourself a boatload of cash and just get a woodworking lathe rather than metalworking. Unless you really think you'll be making props out of metal?
Well Ive always wanted to make some light sabres out of metal lol, in reality I just want to learn how to make things on a lathe and a mill in hopes of helping me land a manufacturing job. Thank you for the advice though.
I've seen some articles where balls are drilled with a lathe, but you can make a jig in about an hour that works in a mill or a drill press (anything with a clamped vise and XY table).
There have been a few times where a lathe would have been nice, but I got what I needed using a drill press and a file or hack saw blade.
Thanks for the advice. Gonna sound kinda dumb here lol but whats a jig?
It's a thingummy used to position the material for making several copies of the same thing.... that's not very clear is it? It might be something to hold a ball so you can drill it, or a wooden shape you can bend strips of metal over so you get the same curve every time, or something that positions a bit of wood or metal so you can drill a hole in the same place on every one... actually there are dictionaries for this sort of thing :
"2 a device that holds a piece of work and guides the tools operating on it."
Ahhh ok, so something like a mold? or a guide?
Damn, I edited that post to add a longer response, and it vanished into the cybervoid...
Not a mold, so much as a guide. You make up a jig so you can do a particular repeated task.
To deal with Strider's suggestion of a wood lathe - here's why I went the way I did.
I only have room for one lathe in my workshop. The small metal lathe did cost more than a wood lathe, but it can turn both metal and wood (and plastic), the wood lathe can't do metal.
I did some small wood things the same way as you would cut metal, turning the dial to move the cutting tool in one axis at a time, and having to stop the lathe and rotate the tool holder if I wanted to change the angle of the tip. With a wood lathe you just move the chisel without stopping.
There is a tool rest made for some Sieg models, but it was not clear if it would fit mine, and it was another $60. All the compound slider assembly would have to come off to fit it. Instead I made up a simple wooden block, that just takes the place of the tool holder, so it's quicker to fit. (actually it's not true it cost nothing, I had to buy a bolt to attach it, instead of the much longer threaded rod that holds the tool holder on, which would stick up in the way.)
If you can get an older lathe in good condition, they are usually better made, so go for it! But all I could find in 3 months of looking were 2 ton monsters located thousands of kilometres away, for pick up only, and still costing twice what I spent.
Ahh ok I think I got it now, so basically a jig can be the thing that holds the camera in place while you take your shots, or like you said with the balls, it holds it in the same place for it to be exactly drilled in the same place.