The Art of Metal Spinning

Metal spinning artisan helps tractor restorers solve parts puzzle

| July 2005

  • Ancient Arts
    Jack Hodgin’s roller making contact with a nearly completed piece, crafting the final lip. The rings in this piece are characteristic of metal spinning.
  • Ancient Arts
    Above: Jack Hodgin’s metal lathe, with a trio of rollers resting against the tailstock. A disk of metal (Jack typically works with aluminum, copper, brass and steel) is placed against the pattern, secured and then spun. Rollers are used to create lips and beads. Using pegs inserted into holes in the handles and then into a bar in front of the lathe, the roller handles are braced to generate maximum leverage. The spinning action of the roller against metal eliminates friction that might otherwise result during that process.
  • Part of the completed inventory for an order of 150 pieces
    Part of the completed inventory for an order of 150 pieces. The piece, a shade used in a vintage street lamp, was Jack’s most challenging project to date.
  • Ancient Arts
    Below: A brake drum cover for an F-12 or F-20 tractor; note the lathe in background.
  • Ancient Arts
    Right: Jack Hodgin forming a piece on a metal lathe, using a roller in one hand and a handle in the other. He uses the tools to press a sheet of metal against a wood pattern (or form) that he earlier handcrafted on a wood lathe.
  • Ancient Arts
    Left: This ancient 18-station Rotex punch was hauled out of retirement for Jack’s purposes. He completed an extensive restoration of the decades-old machine, and uses it to punch holes, achieving a cleaner cut than is possible using a drill.
  • Ancient Arts
    Below: A 1906 Fisher chain vise. Originally used in a foundry or other metalworking application, this vise features a chain-and-gear function to turn the vise jaws in and out.
  • Ancient Arts
    Above: A completed street lamp part, complete with a tiny and precise hole created by Jack’s Rotex punch.
  • Ancient Arts
    Above: This 1912 Lennox throatless shear is used to cut any shape from metal.
  • Ancient Arts
    Above: Jack with a pattern and the finished piece, which is part of a street light.
  • Ancient Arts
    Above: This Pexto circle cutter is one of two such machines in Jack’s shop. A suction cup-like device anchors the metal at the center, as waste metal falls away.

  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Part of the completed inventory for an order of 150 pieces
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts
  • Ancient Arts

It's a quandary faced by every restorer: Sooner or later, the need arises for a part that's out of production, unavailable and beyond the talents of the average hobbyist. At times like those, craftsmen adept at dying arts come to the rescue.

With yet another tractor restoration project on the front burner, I was recently confronted by the need for a custom-crafted part. This time, I would need the assistance of a person skilled in metal spinning. You don't hear much about metal spinning anymore, but it's an old craft. Metal spinning was introduced in this country in the early 1600s but traces its roots back as far as 3,000 years.

Simply explained, in metal spinning a sheet metal disc is fastened between centers in a spinning lathe. A pattern is placed at the headstock of the lathe center, and the piece is then formed by applying varying amounts of pressure on tools (rollers on long handles) positioned on the rotating pattern. Metal spinning is a useful (and necessary) process in creating cups, domes, bowls or anything that is both round and has depth.

Having worked as an Industrial Arts teacher for 32 years, I am aware of the process. In a basic metals class, my students completed a unit introducing them to the metal spinning lathe. My current project, however, involves much more detailed turning, well beyond my basic knowledge.



Fortunately, I had heard about a man at Liberty, Ind., who performs metal spinning. After I tracked him down, he invited me to visit his shop, where he boasted of holding the parking spot reserved for the "employee of the year." Jack Hodgin has a sense of humor: He is not only the owner but also sole employee of his business.

Jack worked with metal spinning on a part-time basis for many years before he decided to try doing the work full-time. "I always wanted to be my own boss," he says, "so I decided to buy some equipment and work for myself." This October Jack will celebrate 22 years in business. A combination of solid problem-solving skills and resourcefulness has been every bit as useful as specialized equipment. Jack's approach is simple: "If someone else made it, why can't I?"



SUBSCRIBE TO FARM COLLECTOR TODAY!

Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.




Facebook Pinterest YouTube

Classifieds