Sean McKenna's Metal Spinning

Restoration of antique iron requires many skills. Here is one that is not used in the average shop, but, it's one to keep in mind when working on fuel tanks, oilers and other sheet metal parts. It is called metal spinning. Here is a brief introduction to the technique.

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Meet Sean McKenna. Before showing us how to do metal spinning, Sean showed us around the best-equipped home blacksmith shop I've ever seen. In fact, when taking into consideration its cleanliness, neatness and "kewl" memorabilia hanging on the walls, I'd have to rate this shop right at the top. Seeing as how this page is about metal spinning, we'll limit the blacksmith pictures to just this one.

Here, Sean demonstrates the shop's massive hammer. The head weighs 87-pounds and is filled with lead shot which almost eliminates all rebound. It really delivers a walloping whack.

Note the massive build of this man. With all those muscles Sean made metal spinning look effortless.

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Here, Sean demonstrates the technique of placing the tool handle under his armpit. His left hand helps guide the working end of the tool. Note the large size and sturdy construction of it.

Although these pictures do not show it, Sean wore appropriate safety apparel whenever needed. He slipped on a pair of heavy welders' gloves for all hazardous operations.

Here, Sean, is just beginning to shape the metal blank.

I was not quick enough to get a picture of him centering the blank on the mandrel. He did this by loosening the tailstock slightly while the blank was rotating. Then, he pressed against the edge of the spinning blank with a hardwood stick. This quickly centered it. Then, he tightened the tailstock ram against the mandrel.

Note the green colored object under the end of the tailstock wrench. It is a piece of glycerin soap. Sean uses this as a lubricant. He applies it to the spinning metal blank before doing any shaping.

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A bowl begins to take shape.

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The shaping progresses. Note the holes in the tool rest. Sean moves the pin from hole to hole as the shaping progresses.

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After trimming the edge of the workpiece with a carbide cutter, Sean starts rolling it over ever so slightly to start the bead.

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Then, he switches to the roller tool (the roller is barely visible) and completes the bead. The edge is just starting to roll over, here.

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Here, sean shows the finished product. It looks small in his massive hands. It is about 5-inches in diameter and 2-inches high.

Before removing it from the mandrel Sean polished the copper. He favors a cloth-backed fine steel wool. It works quickly and produces a pleasing finish.

Note that Sean did not have to anneal the 0.043-inch thick copper at any time; but, he seemed to have to "lean into it" a little bit more when it started to work harden.

Note the mandrel that gave the bowl its shape.

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Here are some of Sean's other creations. He buys the lamp burners and solders them to the fonts he spins from brass.

Brass must be annealed from time to time while being spun.

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Dave Roark, Past President of the Inland Empire Steam and Gas Buffs, shows off Sean's nicely crafted lamp.

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Sean added one comment about the tools. He says that hard ones must be used to spin soft metal, and, soft tools--such as brass--should be used for spining hard metals, such as stainless steel.

I hope Sean's demonstration will add to your understanding of metal spinning. If you want to learn more about the process, here is an excellent tutorial . Links to other metal spinning sites may also be found on the Metal Working Links page


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