I bought a second hand bead roller and had a few parts lying around. A Motorised Bead Roller would be much easier to use.
I tried rolling some beads using the manual cranking handle and found it very hard to keep a straight line or consistent bead. The physical action of turning the crank seemed to take priority.
Mounting the roller on some cast iron legs from an old lathe helped loads. Although they weighed around 60Kgs the whole assembly simple walked around the workshop.
Motorised Bead Roller
I had a reversible 240v Parvalux motor and integral 40:1 gearbox (36rpm), so I thought connect it up and see what happened. It was very promising, in that it was very smooth and no longer walked around, but it was way too fast. I could roll a bead from one end of a complete sheet of steel to the other in a couple of seconds.
With numerous cogs from an old lathe lying around, I used a 15 tooth cog and a 86 tooth cog to slow things down (6.3rpm).
It was considerably better, but for tight corners it still seemed a little too quick. Therefore, I added a removable second set of cogs (0.9rpm).
With everything running super smooth, you can really concentrate on the work piece, achieving much better results than hand cranking. However, now it becomes possible to see how the blue metal frame of the bead roller flexes as you turn a corner or fashion thicker metal. Therefore, I will stiffen it up by adding some extra box section bracing to the rear.
Another great modification was the £4 (Chinese) sewing machine foot control. I’d say this was essential. There is a lot of momentum in the whole motor / flywheel assembly and it can take just over a centimetre to stop. By pulsing the foot pedal, you can gradually slow the motor. It also completely frees up both hands for what matters.
I will also add a removable / adjustable guide to help with keeping perfectly straight lines. Although the metal naturally tries to keep a fairly straight line, over a long distance that line can wander.
What was a cheap and somewhat useless bead roller, now produces professional results. Not bad, considering most of the upgrade bits were robbed from old broken tools or just under the bench.
Home-made Mini Milling Machine
I’ve also bought a mini milling machine (£50). The previous owner had, in his words, ‘restored’ the mill after finding it covered in rust in a farmers field.
Restored is a loose term, as what he’d realistically done was loose shims and bolts, paint machined faces etc. This left the whole assembly loose and wobbly.
When I tried to machine a test piece, despite the whole assembly weighing nearly 200Kgs, it jumped and hopped across the floor. It turned out, the XY table had so much ‘slop’ the cranking handles were almost redundant.
The milling head was almost 2° out of line to the bed. It needed some sanding, some new shims and hours of adjustment.
I used a digital bubble gauge to get the milling head vertical and the bed perfectly level to less than 0.01°. The guy that originally built it done a cracking job. Everything is adjustable.
Getting it working properly
I also cut down 4 Land rover engine mounts to use as anti-vibration feet for the four legs. This killed the resonance in the frame against the concrete floor, making an amazing improvement to the finish.
The handles are a bit hard to turn now as I have probably tightened things down a little too tight but considering this home-made mill was made from a few old lathe parts, a screw type car jack and lots of angle iron the results are surprisingly good.
It came with an MT2 taper chuck, so I can also use the 16mm chuck or the M10 milling collet from my Colchester Lathe.
One vital component that is missing is an on / off switch. I’m also going to add an extra bracing arm to attach the upright milling head to the wall and maybe some extra metal to the legs. I’ll use Land Rover engine mounts, to stop vibration, where ever it bolts to the wall or floor.
With everything correctly adjusted, tightened and shimmed this little gem will be very handy.
It’s just a shame I hadn’t found it in the field before the previous owner. The guy that built it originally would have winced if he’d seen it in it’s ‘interim’ condition.
I’ve already used it to make a few small parts for the bead roller. Sure, some jobs like making new front uprights might be pushing it’s limits, but for those 5 minute jobs it’s great 🙂