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Learning how to use a lathe

I am interested in learning how to use a lathe/mill. Does anyone
know some good workshops that teach lathing(sp?) and milling this

If not any suggestions on how to learn on your own?

Thanks in Advance

Hi Belinda,

Where are you located? Check into your local high school for adult
education classes, usually held in the evenings a couple of times
weekly. That’s where I started; it gives you enough training to
practice safely on your own.

My class included lathes, milling machines & also included some
surface grinder training, which my husband taught, since the
instructor didn’t have the experience for this. He’s a tool & die
maker & r & d machinist for over 40 years. I’m always teasing him
about his “toy machine shop for jewelry” after working in a huge
industrial shop!

I was a quality assurance inspector in the tool/die shop & machine
shop & wanted to learn about the processes involved. We worked for a
suture mfg. plant; the largest in the U.S.

If there’s a local trade school, that would be a good place to
inquire also.


    I am interested in learning how to use a lathe/mill. Does
anyone know some good workshops that teach lathing(sp?) and milling
this year? 

If you mean metal lathe/milling, a local trade school may be your
simplest solution

    If not any suggestions on how to learn on your own? 

Absolutely not. A very dear friend of mine who was a machinist for
20 years lost half of his right hand one day while doing something
he had done every day for decades. If not for a quick-thinking
fellow employee, he would have lost the whole arm. I wouldn’t
suggest anyone tackle it on their own.

James in SoFl

    If not any suggestions on how to learn on your own? 

With extreme caution and it depends a lot on the size of lathe or
mill you are using. A small table-top rig, like a Sherline or Taig
for instance, can be a great way to learn if you start small and take
it s-l-o-w. A good book or two (I’d suggest “The Home Machinist’s
Handbook” by Doug Briney) goes a long way to getting you started. And
use a face shield because your face is where your accidents are
likely to end up.

One way to learn what’s going on is to start with soft wood, pine for
instance, and learn to turn that. Sure, you’re using a whole
different set of tools but you are also learning about cutting angles,
speeds of feed, depth of cut, etc. And if something goes wrong
–which it will-- you’re not going to take your arm off in the
process. Then shift over to hard plastics or soft metals and have a
go with the metal cutting tools. Once you’re comfortable there you
can graduate to the real stuff like brass and steel.

On the other hand trying to teach yourself on a big, machine shop rig
is a good way to seriously hurt or even kill yourself (no, I’m not
kidding). Learning on one of those things is like sitting on an engine
in order to learn how to drive: scary at best. They have an immense
amount of power under the hood and if you make a mistake you and the
tools are going to suffer for it. My father used to say: you are the
softest part of this operation and will “yield” long before the
machine will.

If you can take lessons do so. It’s far and away the best way to get
properly oriented while minimizing the scars that the self-taught
route has to offer.

Trevor F.

I don’t know about workshops, but there is an incredible amount of
info on the web. Whichever lathe/mill you decide to buy there is
likely a yahoogroup dedicated to it (7x10, Sherline, Taig) and there
are a number of general lathe and machining forums. As far as I know
there is precious little jewelry-specific info out there. If you can
find a friendly home shop machinist in your area I’m sure they would
show you the basics - try or any one of the other forums.
I have some links to online machining manuals on my pages here:

and to forums here:

Don’t overlook local community colleges - they often have night
classes, using much larger machines than you will probably buy. A lot
depends on what you want to do, wax turning/milling, toolmaking,

If anyone in the Willamette Valley, OR wants to learn some basics,
email me, I’m in Philomath. I have the Taig lathe and mills and a
bunch of other small shop equipment that I could familiarize you

The proper term is “turning” rather than “lathing” (although it
seems to sometimes get some use.)

Finally just get a machine and start playing with it, you can have a
lot of fun before you learn how to do things properly.

@Felice_Luftschein_an is Felice Luftschein and Nicholas Carter.

While not specific to jewelry-making, you’ll find a lot of links and
tutorials on this site:


 I am interested in learning how to use a lathe/mill. Does anyone
know some good workshops that teach lathing(sp?) and milling this

I’m very pleased to announce upcoming workshops that I’ve been
wanting to take for years!

Micro- Machining Workshop with Phil Poirier - 5 days
(9-5) September 26- 30, Mon- Fri, Wolf Designs, Portland, Maine

This 5-day, hands-on, Lathe and Milling Workshop will explore the
wide range of possibilities available to jewelers, silversmiths, and
artists. Topics include safety, work-holding techniques, when and how
to use the different types of chucks and collets, alignment of the
lathe and mill, and dealing with handwheels and backlash.
Intermediate topics include ornamental turning using a T-rest, the
shaping of the T-rest gravers, standard lathe tools and their
holders, knurling for decorative effects, and threading. Advanced
topics include stone setting, tool making, milling and drilling
rings, use of the rotary table, ornamental turning and flycutting and
their patterns, introduction to CNC, and lots of machine tricks!
Hands-on will be emphasized with practical application exercises-
such as stone-setting dies, expanding arbors for rings, and
multi-stone ring blanks. A 30 page book will be included for each

Tool making and the heat-treating of steels - 1 day (9-5)
October 1, Sat, Wolf Designs, Portland, Maine

This one-day class is an extension of the micromachining Workshop.
Students will learn to harden and temper steel to the proper
hardness. The many alloys of tool steels and their heat treatments
for tools and dies will be discussed with an emphasis on their
intended uses for all facets of jewelry making. There will be
demonstrations of hand-carving conforming dies for forming precious
metals. Many samples and examples will be shown and explained in

G. Phil Poirier is a master gem cutter and goldsmith residing near
Taos, NM. He is the inventor of small scale deep-draw techniques
utilizing the hydraulic press for studio metalsmiths and authored the
book- Deep Drawing for Metalsmiths. Phil presented his paper Tooling
for the Press and Press Operations at the 2003 Santa Fe Symposium.
Phil has been teaching workshops throughout the US and abroad since
1991. Visit to see more of Phil’s work and view
his list of Gallery and Museum shows.

Have a great day!
Kate Wolf, In snowy Portland Maine
Workshops at Wolf Designs