Drilling Vulcanite Rod

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The basis for the following article was written by Tyler Lane for his website, and is used by permission.

I use a Taig micro metal lathe for this operation, so my instruction will be specifically for that lathe, but they should be generic enough to be followed on any metal lathe.

1. Chuck the rod securely in the headstock. I recommend a self-centering chuck for this procedure to make things simpler. Personally, I have a self-centering four-jaw chuck.

2. Face off the end of the rod so that you have a flat, square surface to drill into.

3. Hold your preferred tapered drill bit (I use a 9/64" taper) against the rod, and mark the bit so that you can stop the tapered hole about 3/8"-1/2" from the end of rod.

4. Using in the jacobs chuck in the tailstock , bring the tailstock up to the rod until the bit touches the rod.

5. Before securing the tailstock, turn on the lathe at its LOWEST speed. Apply enough pressure to the tailstock to keep the bit in gentle contact with the end of the rod. This will cause the bit to self-center in the middle of the spinning rod.

6. Push the bit into the rod enough to cut a small starting hole, and lock the tailstock into place.

7. SLOWLY drill the hole. Remove the bit often to clear it of debris. Vulcanite burns easily, and a fouled bit will generate a LOT of heat. Again, do not rush this step.

8. Stop drilling when you have reached the mark you made on the rod.

9. Replace the tapered bit with a 1/16" bit of sufficient length to complete the hole through the stem. I have an aircraft extension bit that is about 6" long that I use for this task.

10. Slowly complete the drilling of the stem with the 1/16" bit. If you do use an aircraft extension bit, back it out and clear the bit often as there will be minimal fluting to clear the debris from the hole.

11. Remove the 1/16" bit from the chuck, and wrap a long, thin piece of 400 grit sandpaper around the bit so you can sand the inside of the nearly drilled bit.

12. With the lathe still on its slowest speed, sand the inside of the bit. I like to do this with 400, 600, and 800 grit for a nice smooth finish in the bit. Because you are using the bit that you used for the last 3/8" - 1/2", you will not be able to sand that portion because the bit will be too big to fit in the hole once wrapped with sandpaper. This is not a concern though, because we will be opening that last portion of the bit later anyway.

You now have a drilled rod!

Here is a video of me doing the process I describe above. It is a Widows Media file, and includes me describing the process as I go along. Someday I will re-do this so that the video is a closer view of the tenon, but if you have any suggestions other than that, I would love to hear them. Please post such comments HERE.