CRANKSHAFT- using the mill instead of lathe

by John

My first attempt at making a crankshaft for the triple expansion steam engine involved turning the workpiece between centres.

It worked in a fashion, but only at 200rpm.  At that speed, not  great finish.  And frankly it was scary and hairy!

Then I discovered that I had made a 3mm mistake in the position of the middle big end bearing, so it all had to be done again.


The first method of making the crankshaft. Slow, not a great finish, and fairly hairy, despite the 2 tonne lathe.

So today, with some new steel, I decided to use the vertical mill instead of lathe. Actually, I turned the cylinder to size on the lathe, after drilling the centres on the mill. I tried to turn the big ends on the lathe, (eccentric turning, using counterweights this time) but I was still not happy with the result from the intermittent turning.
So I tried a different method, using the vertical mill, and rotary table, set up as in the photos.


Setup on the vertical mill. The rotary table was turned by hand… rather tedious. The 8mm end mill was run at 1600 rpm, taking off 0.5mm on each revolution. A slow process, but it felt safe, and the finish was excellent.


The rotary table setup.


Only 10mm of material remains, for the big end bearing. Before excavating the material for the next 2 big ends, I will glue (Loctite) blocks into the gaps to provide support. The mains will be turned or milled last. I might still finish the bearings on the lathe. Not yet decided. Watch this space,

After my initial problems with making the crankshaft, I asked and obtained advice from my Model Engineering Club colleagues. That resulted in the decision to machine the big ends first (thanks Stuart) and counterweight the turning when doing offset turning (thanks Malcolm). Also thanks to Peter V, for double checking my measurements this time, and jollying me along.

Still a lot to go to finish the crankshaft, but I can see that this method will work.  I might motorise the rotary table before I start any more of the 8 remaining bearings.

p.s. 7 December 2019 (4+ years later)  I did eventually motorise the rotary table, with a stepper motor, and it is CNC controlled, along with the XYZ axes on the mill, by Mach 3.   The triple expansion engine has been running on steam for over a year, and is virtually finished except for some optional small fittings (like cylinder waste drains, builder’s label).