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The tool post clamp that comes with the minilathe gets the job done, but has some shortcomings. First of all, the handle tends to come unscrewed from the post. This problem is easily solved with some Loctite or superglue. Secondly, the handle is too short to effectively apply enough torque to firmly lock down the toolpost. That problem is not so easily corrected. Third, after tightening, the handle sometimes ends up right in the way of the work. Finally, because the handle extends from only one side, it cannot be spun off and on easily but must be worked around one turn at a time. Usually, in my experience, it gets dropped down into the inaccessible space between the ways during this exercise.
While these may seem like minor annoyances, the toolpost clamp is one of the most frequently used adjustments on the lathe. Any improvements made here quickly translate into improved productivity and convenience. The clincher is that making a much nicer clamp is a quick and easy project - one that even a beginner can knock off in a few hours time. There are a few improvements to the minilathe that, once you've tried them, you'll wonder how you ever got along without them. This is one of those.
Here are some of the features that make it nice to use:
Long handle provides excellent torque for tightly clamping the toolpost
Handle can be used in a T-configuration or extended to either side for maximum torque
When in the T-configuration, the clamp can be quickly spun on or off the stud
Handle can be slid to either side as needed to get it out of the way
Handle stays in position where you set it until you want to move it
If you've ever changed a tire using a T-type lug wrench versus the standard L-style lug wrench provided with the car you are already familiar with the advantages of a T-type configuration. The balanced nature of the T-type wrench lets you quickly spin the lug on or off. The same benefit applies to this clamp. When you need to replace the toolpost with a special toolholder for knurling, boring, etc. you can spin the clamp off or on in about 2 seconds.
While an experienced lathe operator could easily make one of these simply by looking at the picture, it makes an excellent project for the beginner. In fact, if you just got your lathe (or soon will), this would be a great first project from which to learn the basics. Some of the operations you will use in this project are:
Drilling, Facing and Turning and Reaming
Turning short tapers
Tapping large and small screw threads in the lathe
Working with Teflon
As always, I'll guide you through step-by-step with lots of detailed color photos to illustrate the procedures. Not only will you get a good introduction to the basic lathe operations of facing, turning, drilling, turning short tapers and tapping; when you're done you'll have a nice-looking improvement to your lathe.
Skill Level: Beginner
Topic Length: About 25 pages when printed
Note: as always, it is a good idea to have extra materials on hand in case you make a mistake during any of the operations.