A Freehand Tool Rest
© Frank Ford 2004; Photos by FF

Having been a woodworker all my life, I still find old habits surfacing when I machine metal. Here's the result of my frustration at not being able to turn metal parts the way I could work with hardwoods, plastics and other materials on my wood lathe.

I made myself a simple tool rest with a familiar design and feel, and mounted it on my compound slide:

I milled it from a hunk of 1" x 2" cold rolled steel:

The top edge is about 1/4" below center.

And, I find I can turn brass with a fair degree of precision using this unusual wood working chisel. It has a 45 degree cutting angle, so there's good support:

If I crowd the rest right up to the work, I have tremendous leverage, and, I think, a good degree of safety. Unlike readjusting my old wood lathe, it's a snap to screw the tool rest in close using the compound or cross feed.

With the bevel up, I get a scraping cut that's easy to control:

And, if I flip the chisel over, I get a nice slicing action that's especially good on plastics.

Here's a project featuring this kind of turning.


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