Welcome back to the Excell Metal Spinning Blog, where we admittedly have had a very large break from writing the blogs due to updates to the website and a huge increase in demand for our services which meant attention had to be paid elsewhere. I’m happy to be back and today the Blog consists of an interview with Excell Metal Spinning Ltd.’s two Directors Lee Bligh and Neil Hunt. Here I’ve asked them to answer some simple questions. To begin with, I asked Lee Bligh the following;
What is Metal Spinning? and what is the history behind Metal Spinning?
“I’ve had many people ask me this, what is metal spinning? the words themselves ‘Metal spinning’ along with ‘I’m a metal spinner’ generally intrigue people’s
minds with all sorts of thoughts and images (admittedly some with dread) which generates quite a few questions, and it’s always been a good ice breaker when networking or socialising, I always use the ‘well it’s like pottery when you throw the pot on the potter’s wheel and shape the clay into a cylindrical shape, well, we do this with metal’, I always state it has to be cylindrical & hollow and made from pretty much any type of sheet metal you wish (some harder to spin than others), then refer them to our website www.excellmetalspinning.com to take a look for themselves. I pretty much always state that the process is carried out by proud CRAFTSMAN, NO not tradesman!!! It’s too unique for that, plus, like I say ‘we are all proud of what we do in metal spinning’ so I promote the ancient craft as much as the next metal spinner.
“The process is carried out by Proud CRAFTSMEN, NO not tradesman!!! It’s too unique for that”
To explain the process a little further the typical most common form of metal spinning is carried out on manual lathes, so basically in layman’s terms (which I pretty much describe everything in) this is a machine that needs a Human being to operate it and to carry out the process. The lathe itself is very simple, motorised and belt driven with a threaded spindle to attach the solid mould tool to the shape of your requirement as well as a tail stock to clamp the metal disc (soon to be your spun item), so let’s say you wanted a piece to the shape of a jelly mould, if you imagine a billet of steel now turned into that shape but solid on the inside other than a female thread to the centre, but with the jelly mould shaped on the outside, this would be a typical good to go tool.
A Metal Disc cut to the estimated size to form the spun requirement is then clamped to the top face of the “jelly mould tool” the lathe is then switched to rotate and speed and the Metal spinner gradually shapes the metal disc around our mould tool using the usually handmade stick forming tool of choice, the piece once formed can be cut to size on the lathe as well as cleaned up to a good finish to give you a quality spun item at a cost effective price, which is what we are all looking for.
Now when I’m asked what do you mean ancient craft? It usually moves onto an explanation about the history of metal spinning which like most other metal spinners we have very limited information about.
“The Process can be traced back to the age of Ancient Egypt”
We know that the process can be traced back to the age of ancient Egypt, articles have explained about a Pharaoh’s tomb which shows wall illustrations of Egyptians operating an ancient lathe, one operating the lathe spindle the other carrying out the metal spinning operation. From the middle Ages there is a well known wood carving off of a metal spinning operative producing a piece whilst a second person rotates the lathes spindle, the reason we are reliant on pictorial evidence is due to the fact that any redundant lathe tools would of eroded to the eliminates, especially as wooden construction was the preferred choice early on.
As time moved on water and steam was evidently used to help aid the lathes operation, foot pedals were introduced to allow the operations to be carried out by one man instead of two. Spinning lathes themselves were constructed and built from stronger more hard wearing materials moving from the early wooden construction to copper and iron along the way, but it was not until the industrial revolution that motorised spinning lathes were introduced which allowed the lathes to spin at a higher speed which allowed for better accuracy from the craftsman as well as bigger production runs, so it was really from here on that the metal spinning process was in full swing.
“The concentration levels required when manual spinning compared to CNC spun items is greatly reduced”
From the 1970’s Computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines were gradually being introduced, which is where we are today, this takes away the need of such high levels of human oversight during production runs as well as the effects of fatigue to the operator, and believe me I’ve had plenty of days like this in the past, the concentration levels required when manual spinning compared to CNC spun items is greatly reduced, but the watchful eye of a skilled craftsman will from my point of view and experience to date will always be required.”
Continued with Neil Hunt in Part 2 ….
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