Metal spinning, that process of sheet metal goods manufacturing which deals with the forming of sheet metal into circular shapes of great variety by means of the lathe, forms and hand-tools, is full of kinks and schemes peculiar to itself. It is the purpose of this treatise to give a description of spinning in general, and to outline some of the methods and tools used in spinning for rapid production.

The products of metal spinning are used in a great many lines of manufacture. Examples of this work are chandelier parts, cooking utensils, silver and brittania hollow-ware, automobile lamps, cane-heads and many other sheet metal specialties. Brass, copper, zinc, aluminum, iron, soft steel, and, in fact nearly all metals yield readily to the spinner's skill. At best spinning is physically hard work, and the softer the stock, the easier and quicker the spinner can transform it into the required product.

There are but two practical ways of forming pieces of sheet metal into hollow circular articles: by dies and by spinning. By far the cheapest and best method of producing quantities of this class of work is by the use of dies, but there are many cases where it is impractical or impossible to follow this course. Dies are expensive and there is constant danger of breakage, whereas spinning forms are easily and cheaply made and are almost never damaged by use beyond a reasonable amount of wear.

Thus it will be seen that when the production is small, it does not pay to make costly dies. Again, the styles or designs of many articles that are spun are constantly being changed; if made by dies each change would necessitate a new die, while in spinning merely a new wooden form is required — and sometimes the old form can be altered, costing practically nothing.

Still other advantages of spinning are that in working soft steel, a much cheaper grade may be spun than can be drawn with dies; beads may be rolled at the edges of shells at little expense; experimental pieces may be made quickly, and, added to these features comes the fact that very difficult work that cannot possibly be made with dies can be spun with comparative ease.

It must not be construed from the above that spinning is to be preferred to die work in all or even in the majority of cases, because, on the contrary, die work is a more economical method of manufacture, and should always be used when possible on production work. The cases already cited are merely given to point out some of the instances in which, for economical reasons, spinning is to be preferred to die work.


The principal tool used in the operation of spinning is the spinning lathe, shown in Fig. 1. While in many respects this machine is similar to any other lathe, it is built without back-gears, carriage or lead-screw, is very rigid in construction, and, on the whole, very much resembles a speed lathe. Like other lathes, the spinning lathe is fitted with a cone pulley (preferably of wood, because of its lightness and gripping qualities), allowing the use of four or five different speeds. Speed is an important factor in spinning. Arbitrary rules for spinning speeds cannot be given, as the thicker the stock the

slower must be the speed; thus while 1/32-inch iron can be readily spun at 600 revolutions, 1/16-inch iron would necessitate reducing the speed to 400 revolutions per minute. Zinc spins best at from 1,000 to 1,400 revolutions; copper works well at 800 to 1,000; brass and aluminum require practically the same speed, from 800 to 1,200; while the comparatively slow speed of 300 to 600 revolutions is effective on iron and soft steel. Brittania and silver spin best at speeds from 800 to 1,000 revolutions.

One of the essential parts of the spinning lathe is the T-rest. The base of this rest is movable on the ways of the lathe, and it has at the side nearest the operator, a stud about four inches in diameter and six inches high, through which is swiveled the T-rest proper.

As the illustration shows, provision is made for raising and lowering the rest, and the entire rest may be clamped in any desired position by means of the hand-wheel shown beneath the ways. The rest proper consists of an arm, 12 to 15 inches long, similar to a wood turner's rest, and through the face of this arm are from twelve to sixteen closely spaced 3/8-inch holes. These holes are to receive the pin against which the hand tools are held while spinning. The pin is three inches long and of 3/4-inch steel, turned down on one end to loosely fit the holes in the rest.

Another important part of the spinning lathe is the tail-center. This center is sometimes the ordinary dead center that is in general

machine shop use, but nearly all spinners use the revolving center, shown in Fig. 2. The revolving center is 3/4 inch diameter (without taper) and about six inches long, and is fitted into the socket in which it runs; this socket is, in turn, fitted to the taper hole in the tail-stock. At the bottom of the hole in the socket are two steel buttons, hardened and ground convex on their faces. These buttons act as ball bearings and reduce friction to a minimum.


The shape of a shell made by spinning is dependent on the form or chuck upon which the metal is spun. Forms are used for plain spinning where the shape of the shell will permit of its being readily taken from the form after the spinning has been completed; but when the shape of the shell is such that it will not "draw," as the molders say, it becomes necessary to employ sectional chucks, similar to the one shown in Fig. 3. Generally speaking, spinning forms are made of kiln dried maple. After being bored and threaded to fit the lathe spindle, the spinner turns the maple block to agree with a templet shaped in outline to the sample shell. When no sample is furnished: the templet must be laid out from a sketch or drawing; in either case proper allowance is made for the thickness of the stock.

When large quantities of shells are to be spun, all alike, the form is sometimes made of lignum vitge. Another method is to turn the maple form small enough so that one shell may be spun and cemented to it and then this metal-cased form is used to spin the balance of the shells. For continuous spinning, forms are made of cast iron or steel, which of course makes a most satisfactory surface to spin on and gives indefinite service.

A sectional or "split" chuck, as it is sometimes called, is, as the name implies, a spinning chuck or form which may be taken apart in sections after the shell has been spun over it. As before stated, this class of spinning chuck is only used when the finished shell could not be removed from an ordinary form after spinning. After a shell has been spun over a sectional chuck, the shell and the sections of the chuck are together pulled lengthwise from the core of the chuck. Then, starting with the key section, it is an easy matter to remove each section from the inside of the shell. As the sections are removed, they are replaced upon the core, slipped under the retaining flange and the chuck is ready for spinning a new shell. The whole operation of removing and replacing the sections of a chuck takes less time than it does to tell it, and, as the sections are of different sizes, it is easy to replace them in the proper order. Like other forms, sectional chucks are made of wood or metal, according to the requirements of the job. The core and retaining ring are first made from one piece and then the sections are turned in a continuous ring and split with a fine saw. In some cases it is necessary to add a small piece to the last section to make up for the stock lost in splitting the sections.

Another kind of sectional chuck, known to the trade as a "plug" (shown in Fig. 5) is used extensively in some shops in cases where the shell must have projections or shoulders at both ends, and no bottom to the shell is required. In making the plug, which is always in two parts, the first half is turned to take the shell from one end to the center of the smallest diameter.

Into the end of this part is bored a hole to which is fitted the end of the second part, which is afterwards turned to fit the shell. Over this two-part plug the shell is spun; then the bottom of the shell is cut out and the first half of the plug removed, thus allowing the shell to be withdrawn. The first part is then replaced and the plug is ready for use again. Fig. 4 shows a method of spinning difficult shells that ordinarily would require a sectional chuck. The shell shown at the left of Fig. 4 is first spun as far as the bulged part on an ordinary form that ends at this

point. Then after annealing, it is replaced on the form and while another operator holds the wooden arm, supported with a pin in the T-rest, the spinner forms the metal around the bulge-shaped end of the arm. The arm, being stationary on the inside of the shell, acts as a continuation of the spinning form, and by this method as good a shell is obtained as could be spun with a sectional chuck. For spinning operations upon tubing or press-drawn tubes, steel arbors are generally used. Tubing may be readily spun upon an arbor and it can be reduced or expanded to comply with the shape of shell required much more quickly than the shell could be spun from the blank.


For holding the sheet metal blank to the spinning form, a block of wood known as the follower, is used (see Fig. 6). Followers are made to suit the shape of the work with which they are to be employed, always being made with the largest possible bearing on the work; thus a shell with a flat bottom twelve inches in diameter would be turned with the aid of a follower having an 11 3/4-inch face, while a shell with a 4-inch face wculd take a follower with a 3 7/8 -inch face. All shells do not have flat bottoms, consequently, in spinning such as do not, it becomes necessary to employ hollow followers. Hollow followers have their bearing surfaces turned, out to fit the ends of the

forms with which they are to be used. In practice, the blank is held against the end of the spherical form with a small flat follower until enough of the shell has been spun to admit of the hollow follower being used. All followers are made with a large center hole in one end to receive the revolving tail-center.

In starting to spin a difficult shell it sometimes happens that the necessarily small follower will not hold the blank. To prevent this slipping, the face of the follower is covered with emery cloth. Often, however, on rough work, the spinner will not stop to face the follower, but will make a large shallow dent at the center of the blank; the extra pressure required to force the metal against the form will usually overcome the slipping tendency.


Hand tools, in great variety, form the principal asset of the spinner's kit. Spinning tools are made of tool steel forged to the required shapes, and are hardened and polished on the working end. The round steel from which they are made varies from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inch in diameter, according to the classof work upon which they are to be used. The length of a spinning tool is about 2 feet, and it is fitted into a wooden handle 2 inches diameter and 18 inches long, making the total length of the handled tool about 3 feet, as shown in Fig. 8.

As the spinner holds this handle under the right armpit, he secures a great leverage upon the work and is better able to supply the physical power required to bring the metal to the desired shape. The commonest and by far the most useful of the spinning tools is the combination "point and ball" which together with a number of other tools, is shown in Fig. 11. This tool is used in doing the bulk of the spinning operations— for starting the work and bringing it approximately to the shape of the form. Its range of usefulness is large on account of the many different shapes that may be utilized by merely turning the tool in a different direction.

Next in importance comes the flat or smoothing tool which, as the name implies, is for smoothing the shell and finishing any rough surfaces left by the point and ball tool. The fishtail tool, so named from its shape, is used principally in flaring the end of a shell from the inside, "spinning on air," as it is sometimes termed. This tool is used to good advantage in any place where it is necessary to stretch the metal to any extent, and its thin rounding edge proves useful in setting the metal into corners and narrow grooves.

Other tools are the ball tool which is adapted to finishing curves; the hook tool, used on inside work; and the beading tool which is needed in rolling over a bead at the edge of a shell when extra strength or a better finish is desired. When much beading of one kind is being done, a large heavy pair of round-nose pliers (Fig.10) with the jaws bent around in a curve and sprung apart enough to allow for the thickness of the metal proves to be a handy tool. After the edge of the shell has been flared out to start the bead, the pliers are opened enough to admit the metal and then closed and the stock guided around to form the bead as far as possible. In this way the larger part of a bead is rapidly formed, one jaw of the pliers acting as a spinning tool and the other      corresponding to the back-stick. During this operation, the pliers are, ofcourse, supported by being held against the T-rest.

Closely allied with these spinning tools are two other tools (also shown in Fig. 11) known as the diamond point and the skimmer. The diamond point is for trimming the edges of the shell during the spinning operation and for cutting out centers or other parts of the work. The skimmer is for cleaning up the surface of a shell, removing a small amount of metal in doing so, the amount depending upon the skill the spinner used in the spinning proper.

When the bottoms are to be cut from a large number of shells and it is necessary that they be cut exactly alike, a tool known as a swivel cutter is used. This tool (see Fig. 9) is simply an iron bar with a cutter on one end, which swivels near the center around a pin in the T-rest; thus by a slight movement of the arm the cutter is brought up to the work, cutting a piece from the shell of exactly the same size each time.


In order to make clear the successive steps in spinning, let us briefly consider the making of a copper head-lighc reflector, and the way the work is handled when a few hundred pieces are to be made. By trial spinning, the size of the blank required for one of the reflectors is determined, and with the square shears the copper sheets are cut into pieces an eighth of an inch larger each way. These squares are then taken to the circular shears and cut to round shapes ready for the spinning lathe.

The spinning form, of kiln-dried maple, is screwed to the spindle and the belt thrown to that step of the cone pulley which will bring the speed nearest to 1,200 revolutions. From the stock-room a follower is selected whose face will nearly cover the bottom of the form.

It is now "up to" the spinner. Holding a blank and also the follower against the end of the form, he runs the tail-center up to the center in the follower just hard enough to hold the blank in place. Then, starting the
lathe, he centers the blank by lightly pressing against its edge a hard wood stick. As soon as it "lines up" he runs the center up a little harder and clamps it in place. Some spinners will "hop in" a blank with the lathe running, but this is dangerous practice and sometimes the blank will go sailing across the room. Often this happens in truing up the blank and for this reason it is considered advisable to have a wire grating at the further side of the lathe to prevent serious accidents; for a sheet metal blank is a dangerous missile traveling at the high rate of speed which is imparted to it by the lathe.

With a piece of beeswax (soap is sometimes used for economical reasons) the spinner lightly rubs the rapidly revolving blank and then adjusts the pin in the T-rest to a point near enough to the blank to obtain a good leverage with the spinning tool. Holding the handle of his point and ball tool under his right armpit and using the tool as a lever and the pin on the rest as a fulcrum, he slowly forces the metal disk back in the direction of the body of the form, never allowing the tool to rest in one spot, but constantly working it in and out, applying the pressure on the way out to the edge of the disk and letting up as he comes back for a new stroke. In the meantime his left hand is busy holding a short piece of hard wood (called the back-stick), firmly against the reverse side of the metal at a constantly changing point opposite the tool. The object of the back-stick is to keep the stock from wrinkling as it is stretched toward the edge of the disk. Wrinkles cause the metal to crack at the edges and for this reason they must be kept from the stock as much as possible.

After a few strokes of the spinning tool have been taken, the shell will appear about as shown at B, Fig.12, and at this point it is necessary to trim the shell at the edges with the diamond-point tool. Trimming is required because spinning stretches the stock and the resulting uneven edge will cause splits in the metal if it is not trimmed occasionally. As a carpenter is known by his chips, so a spinner is known by the way his work stretches.

While the even pressure of a good spinner will stretch the stock very little, the uneven pressure of the inexperienced man will lead him into all sorts of trouble on account of the way the stock will "go." In either case the metal always stretches least in the direction in which the sheet stock was originally rolled, consequently giving the edge a slight oval shape. In trimming zinc, the spinner holds a "swab" of cloth just above the diamond point, to prevent the chips from flying into his face and eyes — or those of his neighbors. With other metals the swab is unnecessary.

The reflector is now taking shape. With each successive stroke the spinner sets a little more of the metal against the form. Not only does spinning stretch the metal, but it hardens it as well; therefore, at the stage C it becomes necessary to anneal the partially completed reflector, which is done by heating it to a low red in a gas furnace. In running through a lot of shells, the common practice is to spin them all as far as possible without annealing, and after annealing the whole lot, to complete the spinning. After replacing the shell upon the form, it is trimmed and worked further along the form, gradually assuming the appearance shown at

D. At this time, the spinner goes back to the small radius at the front end of the shell and with a ball tool he closes the annealed metal hard down against the form, for the spinning has tended to pull the stock slightly from the form at this point. The body of the reflector is now practically completed and the spinner directs his attention to rolling the bead at the outside edge. Slowly he begins to roll the edge of the shell back, using his hook tool to complete the bead as far as possible and exercising care to keep the back-stick firmly against the metal so as to keep the wrinkles out. Now, with the diamond point, he gives the edges a final trim, and with the beading tool closes down the bead snugly against the rest of the shell, as shown at E.

Lastly, the swivel cutter is placed in the proper hole of the T-rest and a turn of the tool cuts out the center to the exact size, and the reflector is completed. If any burrs or rough places remain they are easily removed at this time with the skimmer or diamond point, and a little emery cloth gives the shell a finished appearance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .