|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
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.
Enlarged view, 72kb.
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
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.
Enlarged view, 87kb.
A bowl begins to take shape.
Enlarged view, 65kb
The shaping progresses. Note the holes in the tool rest. Sean moves
the pin from hole to hole as the shaping progresses.
Enlarged view, 33kb
After trimming the edge of the workpiece with a carbide cutter,
Sean starts rolling it over ever so slightly to start the bead.
Enlarged view, 101kb
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.
Enlarged view, 103kb
Here, sean shows the finished product. It looks small in his massive
hands. It is about 5¾-inches in diameter and 2¼-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.
Enlarged view, 79kb
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.
Enlarged view, 76kb
Dave Roark, Past President of the Inland Empire Steam and Gas
Buffs, shows off Sean's nicely crafted lamp.
Enlarged view, 57kb
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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Revised -- 1/17/07