If You Can’t See a Sherline Machine Demonstrated in Person, Here’s the Next Best Thing

We are often asked, “Can Sherline tools cut hard materials?” The answer is “yes,” but it is better to show you than to tell you. Some people (particularly those living in apartments or working in the kitchen or den) also want to know how noisy the machine is. The following video links in the table below will show about 30 seconds each of cuts on materials from Delrin to Titanium, and even Inconel. You will get a feel for how quiet the machine is and how it cuts various materials.

Use of Coolant

In some cases, we have cut the material dry rather than make a mess in the photo studio using coolant, but tool life can usually be extended and smoother finishes obtained with the use of coolant. With experience you will be able to make cuts like these, because Sherline machines are rigid and the DC motor supplies a lot of torque, particularly at low speeds where it is really needed for machining. Don’t let the small size fool you into thinking these are not serious metal cutting machines. They are rigid, powerful and precise.

About the Setups Used in These Cuts

The 4400 lathe used in the video sample cuts linked below is a stock machine right out of the box. We have kept the material size fairly large, part overhang low and tool overhang minimum. Tools are sharp and set to proper height. Cuts are made near the headstock end of the bed where bed flex is minimal. This is an ideal setup that allows the machine to cut at its maximum capacity. Some of the cuts are quite large in order to demonstrate what the machine can really do. Many times your particular setup will require less than ideal part or tool positioning. In those cases, you will have to scale back dramatically on the depth of cuts used compared to these examples. In some cases, for example, you may only be able to take 10% of what we show here. Additional support with the use of a live center, a steady rest or a follower rest can help alleviate these types of problems. Remember what Joe Martin says in his book, Tabletop Machining: “I’ve never seen anyone ruin a part by taking too light a cut.” Take cuts that you are comfortable with and that yield the surface finish you are looking for. Don’t be in a hurry. Your leadscrews, cutting tools and spindle motor will last longer if you are not constantly pushing your machine to maximum capacity. Consider this like a road test where we are showing you how fast a new car can turn the quarter mile, even though you will hopefully not be driving it every day like you are at the race track.

Videos

Click on the image of the video to begin play. You can enlarge the video to full screen by clicking on the “expand video” icon in the lower-right corner of the player.

MATERIAL DIA. OF STOCK RPM DEPTH OF CUT AMOUNT REMOVED FROM DIA. CUTTING TOOL COOLANT COMMENT
DELRIN

0.650″
16.51 mm
650 0.100″
2.54 mm
0.200″
5.08 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(Not needed in non-commercial applications)
An easy to cut plastic similar to Nylon, but long chips tend to “birds nest” near the cutter and must be cleared with a brush periodically.
WOOD (Maple)

Cut #1: 3/4″ square
Cut #2: 5/8″ round
2000 0.100″
2.54 mm
0.200″
5.08 mm
1/4″ HSS No The harder the wood the better. Interrupted cut on square 3/4″ blank shown first, then a smooth cut on round 5/8″ stock. A toggle switch dust cover is recommended if you cut a lot of wood.
BRASS

0.625″
15.88 mm
800 0.050″
1.27 mm
0.100″
2.54 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(Brass is normally cut dry)
NOTE: Tiny chips can get in speed control and cause a short. A toggle switch dust cover is recommended if you cut a lot of brass or wood.
ALUMINUM
(6061-T6)

0.75″
19 mm
1000 0.050″
1.27 mm
0.100″
2.54 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(Kerosene makes a good coolant for cutting aluminum.)
A charcoal lighter fluid that contains odorless kerosene can also be used.
As Fred adjusts his feed rate slightly he begins to get a better chip as the cut progresses.
STEEL (12L14)

0.625″
15.88 mm
500 0.030″
0.76 mm
0.060″
1.5 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(But coolant is recommended)
A light cut. This is a free machining leaded steel that cuts well, leaves a good finish and can be heat treated. Note the slight second cut as the cutter is withdrawn. This is due to a little tool flex and is normal.
STEEL (12L14)

0.625″
15.88 mm
800 0.065″
1.65 mm
0.130″
3.30 mm
1/4″ HSS Yes A heavier cut with coolant shows some smoke from hot chip and tool. Note that the part is supported by a live center for more rigidity.
STEEL (12L14)

0.625″
15.88 mm
500 0.100″
2.54 mm
0.200″
5.08 mm
1/4″ HSS Yes A very heavy cut. Starts with .035″ deep cut until it comes to .065″ shoulder, then continues taking .100″ cut (.200″ off diameter). Note the machine does not even slow down or chatter.
STEEL (“Stressproof”)

.75″
19.05 mm
350 .010″
.25 mm
.020″
.51 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(But coolant is recommended)
A tougher steel that takes hardening well. This sample happens to be a cutoff from the material we use to make the worm gear for the rotary table. A live center is used for additional support.
CAST IRONS

.75″
19.05 mm
450 .025″
.64 mm
NOTE: This cut is listed incorrectly in the video title as .25″
.050″
1.27 mm
1/4″ HSS No A short video of Fred’s hand turning the handwheel is included so you can get a feel for the feed rate. It is about .06″/minute in this case. Cast iron chips tend to be small, dirty (from carbon) and gritty.
01 TOOL STEEL

1.0″
25.4 mm
250 .010″
.25 mm
.020″
.51 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(But coolant is recommended)
Note that Fred uses an even slower feed rate than for cast iron, but once he gets it just right, the chip comes off in one continuous coil. After this cut, one chip was almost 3 feet long.
STAINLESS STEEL (303)

3/8″
9.53 mm
500 .030″
.76 mm
.060″
1.52 mm
1/4″ Brazed Carbide No
(But coolant is recommended)
Though often feared, cutting stainless with carbide tools is not all that difficult.
TITANIUM
(Normal cut)

0.50″
19 mm
400 0.025″
.64 mm
0.050″
1.27 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(But coolant is recommended)
Carbide tools work well on stainless steel and titanium, but HSS is used here to show it can be done. Smoke means the chips are HOT.
TITANIUM
(Heavy Cut)

0.40″
10.2 mm
400 0.050″
1.27 mm
0.100″
2.54 mm
1/4″ HSS No
(But coolant is recommended)
This is a very heavy cut in a tough material done with High Speed Steel rather than a carbide tool. This is not something you would do every day, but does show the capacity of the machine. CAUTION: Chips can catch fire and burn like magnesium. Clear excess chips from machine often.
HARDENED STEEL
(End Mill Shank)
3/8 Shank (5/16″ end mill—very hard tool steel)
9.53 mm
2800
(Full speed, and a relatively fast feed rate as well.)
.010″
(.25 mm)
.020″
(.51 mm)
Ceramic insert in Sherline P/N 2267 holder No Coolant is never used with ceramic inserts. It will cause them to shatter.
Note the nice finish this cutter provides. An end mill was used because most people know how hard they are. End mills usually need to be ground rather than machined. Note also the blue color of the chip that came off the part. That means it was HOT!
INCONEL (625)

.375″
9.53 mm
300 .015″
.38 mm
(A light cut, but a nice finish.)
.030″
.76 mm
1/4″ Brazed tip carbide No
(But coolant is recommended)
A real challenge to machine. One of a family of super-alloys used in extreme high heat environments like jet engines. Work hardens very easily. Not commonly found in normal applications, but if you can cut this, you can cut about anything.