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Machining cast iron - do you cover your ways?

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Alan H

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#1
I am about to machine several casting made of cast iron. I will need my mill and lathe.

I have done only enough before to understand it makes a big mess. I think I remember reading that it is good practice to protect your machine ways from it if possible.

Do you cover your ways to keep the grit, cuttings, and dust off them?
 

Groundhog

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#2
I'm going to catch a lot of flack for this but . . .
I don't bother. I do clean my ways (and all upper surfaces of my lathe) after most every operation.
My reasoning; I've seen lathes at machine shops that get used on a daily basis. They don't cover their ways regardless of what they are cutting. However, if kept clean the machines that are used for cast iron don't show much more (if any) wear than the other lathes.
The amount of cast iron cut on my hobby lathe compared to what is cut on a job shop lathe is minuscule. I think that the paranoia of cast iron and lathe ways for a hobby machine is just that - paranoia. I doubt you or I will ever notice any additional wear caused by cast iron if reasonable cleaning is performed.

PS - of course, it sure can't hurt!
 

Nogoingback

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#3
As Groundhog pointed out, it probably isn't really needed, but on the other hand, it takes very little effort, it can't hurt anything and if nothing else it makes cleaning up easier.
I've used aluminum foil: cheap, always available and it won't hurt you if it does somehow get tangled in a chuck.
 

benmychree

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#5
I'm going to catch a lot of flack for this but . . .
I don't bother. I do clean my ways (and all upper surfaces of my lathe) after most every operation.
My reasoning; I've seen lathes at machine shops that get used on a daily basis. They don't cover their ways regardless of what they are cutting. However, if kept clean the machines that are used for cast iron don't show much more (if any) wear than the other lathes.
The amount of cast iron cut on my hobby lathe compared to what is cut on a job shop lathe is minuscule. I think that the paranoia of cast iron and lathe ways for a hobby machine is just that - paranoia. I doubt you or I will ever notice any additional wear caused by cast iron if reasonable cleaning is performed.

PS - of course, it sure can't hurt!
I agree with the poster; I take no extra precautions, but do keep removing chips as they pile up as I am working, and give things a good cleaning when I am done with the job; one thing about machining cast iron, use much more feed when roughing than with steel or whatever else, this makes a coarser "chunkier" chip that does not have near the fine dusty matter as when using fine feeds. Also important to avoid shallow cuts at the start of the job, you need to get under the hard as cast surface, which can dull a tool very quickly if it just skates over the hard surface; none of that matters, if you are machining continuous cast iron bar.
 

Doubleeboy

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#6
I cover my ways and change the oil in my carriage after machining casts iron. Its surprising how much crap gets by the wipers. Its abrasive as can be. On a nice toolmakers lathe I would go so far as to say only a fool would not take precautions when machining cast iron. Cast iron dust goes right past felt way wipers in my experience
 

darkzero

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#7
I normally do mainly cause it makes clean up easier. As Groundhog said, I don't machine cast iron enough to where I think it will cause accelerated wear on my lathe. But sometimes you just can't cover up enough or prevent mess unless you want to stop & clean up every so often or sit there with a vacuum.

I'm actually machining some cast iron today, taking a break, it's lunch time. I didn't even bother covering anything nor did I use a cutter upside down. I just let the chips fly & I'll deal with the mess after. Plus I wanted to see how much of it gets past my new delrin/felt wipers.


Img_2573.jpg

Img_2580.jpg
 

4gsr

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#8
Dura Bar brand of cast iron is not as abrasive as a true "cast" castiron is. Makes nice chips with little abrasive powder. Still, it abrasive to any machine tool to cut. I try to brush the chips off the ways after each cut. And wipe down the ways often.

Will, take those chips and sprinkle around on you yard. Your grass will love you for the iron your giving it!
 

Ulma Doctor

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#9
i should do more preventative covering of my ways.
i oil them religiously, but i generally only clean up when i'm done with the job/work.
i don't machine as much cast iron as i would like to.
usually only a few odd jobs a year, so my idiosyncrasy is not a big problem
 

mikey

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#10
I cover everything that isn't rotating or cutting and lay a damp terry cloth towel under the spindle and I stuff a big wad of oiled paper towel into the spindle bore, too. In my defense, I do this not (only) because of paranoia but largely because I'm lazy. It is sooo much faster to use a brush attachment on the vac to get most of the chips off, then carefully remove the plastic sheeting to reveal a clean lathe underneath. A quick cleaning of the entire lathe and I'm done. Oh yeah, I throw a plastic sheet (those cheap painter's cover things) over adjacent machines, too. I'd say this is just the smart thing to do but it's really just more laziness.

I also have a rubber apron in front of my cross slide so chips rarely even make it to the way wipers - this makes me feel better because my lathe is my baby.
 

darkzero

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#13
I use to cover them even when cutting welds . Cut so much cast iron when I sweat I use to rust . Even after hot showers , you taste it for months if you machine lots of it.
Yup, a respirator is a good idea too if you need to machine a good amount of it. This is what my lathe looks like today after vacuuming up all the chips. Look at all that fine dust. Yesterday when I went to wash up, it was black around my nostrils, not good. I was wondering why my lunch & dinner tasted funny. :)

Img_2619.jpg

Img_2623.jpg
 

William B

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#16
You also will want to make sure you wear a shirt that you don't care to much about. A white shirt will become yellow, especially if you sweat any (as Silverbullet mentioned) and the cast iron dust is airborne.
 

mikey

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#17
You also will want to make sure you wear a shirt that you don't care to much about. A white shirt will become yellow, especially if you sweat any (as Silverbullet mentioned) and the cast iron dust is airborne.
That's the cutest doggie face (your Avatar) I've seen in awhile, William - precious!!
 

William B

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#19
Thanks Mikey, We have two miniature dachshunds (Frank and Stewie) and they keep life interesting and fun.

I am with Nogoingback on using compressed air. It's like when you carefully tape and prep to sandblast something. No matter how much care you use the sand always seems to get into areas that you don't want it in.
 

eeler1

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#20
not so much to protect the ways, but to reduce the mess, I not only cover the ways, but rig up my shop vac to catch most of the dust and debris before it hits the ways.
 

mikey

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#21
... but rig up my shop vac to catch most of the dust and debris before it hits the ways.
I was just thinking of doing this the next time I turn CI. Great minds ...
 

chips&more

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#22
Yes, I also use a vac when machining cast iron. Also use a vac when machining phenolic, wood, beryllium and other nasty stuff that I can’t think of at the moment. I always try to use a vac to protect machine and or my body. Please be safe to yourself and others and care for your machines…Dave.
 

firestopper

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#26
Shop vacs are great, but please make sure your using a serviceable HEPA filter. Breathing in that stuff isn't advisable. We worry about protecting our machines, and sometimes forget the most important machine :acne:.
 

Dinosaur Engineer

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#27
During my 5 year mechanical engineering apprenticeship I was amazed how dirty some guys were in the large M/C shop (100 ton travelling crane !). I watched how thoroughly they washed their hands , arms and faces at finishing time. This washing & scrubbing didn't seem to make a big difference to the colour of their skin. Some guys seemed little affected by this condition. I found out later that the dirty skin condition affected guys who machined lots of large castings ( planers , vertical lathes, large face plate lathes , borers etc.) . This was before the barrier creams and other such remedies were commonly available. These guys just accepted this graphite/ carbon problem as part of the job. I often wonder if any of these guys made any compensation claims against the company.
 

Rick Berk

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#28
IS A FROGS BUTT WATER TIGHT?
YES, Cover your ways and everything else, cardboard, masking tape, wore out bed sheets, and turn the shop vac on with a discharge hose going to the outside.
 
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Scruffy

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#29
I use a large industrial quality lathe in my home shop. If 60 years in a factory didn't wear it out I don't think it will be damaged by my 3 or 4 hours of use per week if I threw sand on it. Just my thoughts most lathes are used in a factory inviroment are never covered, to dangerous. .
Thanks scruffy
 

mikey

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#30
Yeah, Scruffy, not disagreeing but somebody has to clean it up. Unfortunately, the rookie machinist in my shop is me so I get to do it and the less I have to do, the better I like it. If I do a good job covering my lathe up, I'm done with cleaning inside of 5 minutes - works for me!
 
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