The major problem with milling in the lathe is the loss of the third axis. This is
overcome by the addition of a vertical slide as shown in Photograph 4, and when milling
with the cutter mounted in the lathe's spindle this device is essential for other
than the simplest task.
Another approach is to use an overhead milling spindle that is supplied as an accessory
by some manufactures. With this fitted the result is the equivalent of mini vertical
milling machine and is outside the scope of this series. Do though, see my pages
for making a milling head , and other pages on using it to make a horizontal steam
The advantage of the milling head is one will be using a horizontal work table, and
larger than a vertical slide would be. However, the milling head will be less ridged
than the lathes mandrel and therefore cuts taken will have to be less demanding.
I do though believe that lathes that have the head mounted above the lathes mandrel
should be avoided and rear mounted heads are to be preferred.
Tee slotted cross slide
For most viewers, the lathe will already be available and may not be fitted with
a tee slotted cross slide. If though you are reading this with a view to starting
up a new workshop then do purchase a lathe with a tee slotted cross slide. Even if
it is intended that a milling machine will also be acquired relatively quickly, some
milling and particularly boring operations are still easier done on the lathe. Also,
power feed to the cross slide will be a distinct advantage as this will ease the
task of multiple passes necessary due to the light weight nature of the set up.
If an existing lathe does not have a tee slotted cross slide a vertical slide can
often be fitted using the same fixings as those used for the top slide, as can an
auxiliary table such as that in Photograph 5. However, you may not feel inclined
to make a tee slotted add on table in which case a simple plate drilled and tapped
with a large number of holes would be an alternative. Again this could be secured
using the top slide fixings. Tee slotted tables can though be purchased for some
lathes, possibly adapted for others.
Small vices are available but frequently only have two holes or short slots for fixing
them to the machine table. This, coupled to the limited tee slots on a vertical slide
gives very little scope for getting the workpiece into a suitable position for machining.
Vices that have the facility for varying the fixing position are therefore of considerable