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Art & Inspiration The History and Art of Engine Turned Material - Lets See Yours

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Speed~On, May 17, 2017.

  1. David Gersic
    Joined: Feb 15, 2015
    Posts: 2,398

    David Gersic
    from DeKalb, IL

    I’ve only ever done these from one side. I start at the right edge, work to the left, then reset back to the right for the next row.

    Alternating left and right might yield an interesting pattern though. If it looks cool when you’re done, that’s all that matters.

    I don’t mark the piece. I just clamp a yardstick down and eyeball measure each step to the side. Draw a T on the table. Draw a second vertical line, that’s the row offset. Center the yardstick on the T to set the first row. Pull, move, pull, repeat to end of row.

    Measure up the row spacing, move the yardstick, center it on the other vertical, and your next row is set. Pull, move, repeat.

    On the plate I just did, I ran out of vertical space. The piece hit the column, three rows from the end. So I had to flip it around, re-measure my offsets and starting points, and work left to right.

    With a mill, I’d think this would be easier. Your left to right spacing is just counting turns of the handle. Crank it back over to the start position, then 1/2 position over, or whatever you want for your row offset. Row to row spacing would just be counting turns of the handle too.

    The next piece I have to do is triangular. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. Maybe just rows. Maybe triangles around the edge and working inward. Or something. That needs more pondering, and I haven’t finished prepping the piece yet.

    After that, I have a round piece. I’m thinking concentric circles, but haven’t figured out how to jig that in my drill press.

    Sent from my iPad using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    rusty valley likes this.
  2. rusty valley
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 2,573

    rusty valley

    thanks for some more education Dave. using a mill was precise, but slow. i spent a lot of time bent over trying to get the dials exactly on the .250 , where as eyeballing on the part would have been accurate enough
  3. Scrapin’Metal
    Joined: Mar 19, 2018
    Posts: 64


    Teaching my girl how to turn panels for her dash. Started out with some clean aluminum and a drill press with a cut down 3 M “Cookie”. Think she did a pretty good job. 32E160B1-36B0-4A30-9050-B819028B5801.jpeg A64CFCAB-4867-49AD-AD58-8F25764FE4B5.jpeg
  4. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,556

    from Ks

    Man those all look great. Even the scraps!! LOL. Guy could get hooked on doing that! Hmmm wonder what the fridge would look like? Wife would kill me. lol. Lippy
    High test 63 likes this.
  5. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 9,469

    jimmy six

    Check the engine turned firewall. It was installed in 1962 or 3 by Blair’s Speed Shop in Pasadena when this 40 Chevrolet was built for Noel Melovich. Because it was only .050” it did not meet SCTA specs for a non stock or aluminum firewall. I installed a .025” behind it to make the .060” minimum in 1975. C110A692-05E1-4B4E-9E5A-602B9E86267A.jpeg
  6. fleetside66
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,669


    The Studebaker Hawks (including the '55 Speedster) had nice engine turned panels. I wonder if they did them in their plants or subcontracted them? I would imagine that the process they used to make engine turned sheets was automated. I would have loved to see one of those in action.
  7. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,383


    It's a great idea to stay home these days. With shelter in place policies being implemented, perhaps this is a great time to hone your engine turning skills.

    Here are two pieces I recently finished.



    A Boner, Fordor Ron, rod1 and 4 others like this.
  8. Pat Thompson
    Joined: Apr 29, 2012
    Posts: 225

    Pat Thompson

    this is a firewall I'm doing for a 56 Ford pickup. mail[1].jpg
    LAROKE, alchemy, chevy57dude and 3 others like this.
  9. Osoty
    Joined: Nov 21, 2017
    Posts: 97


    You guys motivated me to buy some cratex sticks. I'll toss my hat in the ring shortly. Until then, may I please see some more
    David Gersic likes this.
  10. rtp
    Joined: Aug 14, 2007
    Posts: 181


    I use a end type wire brush with a small hose clamp around the wires, Chuck that up in the drill press . Make a plywood table mark it front to back with 1/2 marks, and a center line ,clamp a yardstick on the first line left to right. Line up a constant number (say 20) the first line of swirls ,move yardstick in to next mark and left or right 1/4in line material up with constant (now offset),run 2nd line move stick in to next mark and back left or right 1/4to line up the constant. Moderate pressure on handle only 10seconds per swirl. When you can't advance in because of press post rotate work peice 180 and move in the other direction (if you moved the work right to left to start then move left to right)
    No lube or it takes longer to make the swirls.
    Did 2 12x 18 panels brush did not lose much length . If it seems to slow down cutting run it against a bench grinder (lightly)to sharpen.

    Sent from my 100005207 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    David Gersic likes this.
  11. David Gersic
    Joined: Feb 15, 2015
    Posts: 2,398

    David Gersic
    from DeKalb, IL


    I started making this cover a while back, then got distracted by other things and it just sat on my bench. Off work today, I finally got back to it.

    I wanted a hard edge to the turning, and spent a while experimenting with ways to get it. In the end, I just turned it all the way to the corner, then clamped a piece of paint stick and sanded and polished the edges.

    I’m pretty happy with the result. When the weather improves a bit, I’ll install it. It’s to cover the ugly black plastic gas pedal mount. Probably nobody but me will notice it, but that’s enough.

    Material is stainless. Bent it with a modified HF brake. MIG welded the corners, which worked better than I expected it to. Polished and turned with Cratex coarse rod.

    Sent from my iPad using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    treb11, LAROKE, Fordor Ron and 3 others like this.
  12. RatPwrd
    Joined: Apr 15, 2019
    Posts: 189

    1. 37-38 Chevys

    IMG_20200821_184116215.jpg P1010722.JPG
    Lots of good pictures of me building the gauge panel, but not any good ones of it finished?!
  13. Mitchell Rish
    Joined: Jun 10, 2007
    Posts: 1,295

    Mitchell Rish
    from Houston MS

  14. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,383


    I came upon an old dash that I knew had potential. After striking a deal it was mine. Here is how it looked when I began.


    First, I rubbed it down with 0000 steel wool. Then I polished it with Mothers.

    Then off to the drill press for some engine turning...



    Then I filled it with gauges, a SCTA medallion, red jewel light and a toggle switch...



    Can't keep them all....time to list it for sale...
  15. big duece
    Joined: Jul 28, 2008
    Posts: 6,225

    big duece
    from kansas

    Nice work! Does not even look like the same panel... did you use cratex abrasive?
    kadillackid, loudbang and Speed~On like this.
  16. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,383


    Thank you so much @big duece ! Yeah, it really transformed into a very nice looking panel.

    I used a Cratex stick, Medium Grit, 1/2" diameter.
    kadillackid and loudbang like this.
  17. fleetside66
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,669


    Amazing work, Terry. I've always wondered what sort of machine did the turning on the old mass produced panels, such as the ones Stewart-Warner produced in the 1950's/1960's. I'm thinking that they probably outsourced that part. Since there are companies out there that still sell different sized rectangular panels, I'd think that such machines still exist. Did you ever see any reference to that? However they did it, it was not as deep as yours, as there are many old panels out there where the engine turning imprints are actually worn completely off of the panel, like the one shown below.

  18. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,383


    Thank you, Greg! I have contemplated the same thing as it is quite the time consuming process. If they were to do it by hand (as I do) on mass produced sheets they would have a ton of overhead into each piece. I wonder if engine turning was ever done by machine as you stated. You would almost think it would make it cost prohibited if they had to do it by hand. Once you start engine turning on a radius that adds to the time as well. I have done several panels that had a radius, the first one took me a while as I didn't want to wreck the job, I got quicker, but it still takes extra time.

    Thank you for the compliments, Greg. I will admit I am a bit anal when it comes to engine turning. If you do it just right, it gives off such a cool prism look when light hits the panel. I still get excited to see each panel when it's finished, I'm like a kid on Christmas....I'm such a dork!:D

    We need to get you out in your garage this summer so you can try your hand at it. I know you're going to enjoy the expereince!
  19. loudbang
    Joined: Jul 23, 2013
    Posts: 37,029


    Real Nice work. Really like the smaller size that you used.
  20. 36and63
    Joined: Mar 21, 2017
    Posts: 24

    from Wisconsin

    This is my SW Mate panel - The insert was just plain so I messed around on my drill press with some scrap metal until I had enough confidence that I would not F#&% it up. Ended up looking nice and I'm happy with the results. Panel.jpg
  21. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 2,698


    My panel was missing the turned panel, Scott at Haneline made up the new one.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  22. ken bogren
    Joined: Jul 6, 2010
    Posts: 906

    ken bogren

    I was thinking about this the other day, glad to see the thread pop up again.
    kadillackid and Speed~On like this.
  23. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,383


    A friend laser cut several guitar pick guards and asked me to engine turn a few.




    These pieces are aluminum and are particularly soft. Typical I use a "medium" grit stick. For aluminum this soft I used a "fine" grit stick. It's important to only make contact for a fraction of a second when laying your swirls. Allowing the sanding stick to make contact for any longer will score the aluminum and it will ruin your job.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
  24. cretin
    Joined: Oct 10, 2006
    Posts: 2,954


    We needed a rack for our new planishing hammer dies, so I decided to make it with some style using some extra engine turned material we had lying around.

  25. Smitty@Haneline
    Joined: Mar 4, 2016
    Posts: 6


    If you guys want to do it the easy way and just pay a guy to do it, please give me a call (844)Est.1952 or email I do it the old fashioned way with a drill press just like most of the guys on this thread.
    Thanks -Scott Smith
    kadillackid and David Gersic like this.
  26. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 28,171


    Nice neat stamp work too.

    kadillackid and cretin like this.
  27. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,383


  28. fleetside66
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,669


    I was recently at an antique truck show & I was drawn to this dimpled tank on the back of an old fire truck....very similar in spirit to the engine turning technique.

    loudbang, kadillackid, GuyW and 4 others like this.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 3,642


  30. cfmvw
    Joined: Aug 24, 2015
    Posts: 706


    Lots of fantastic craftsmanship in this thread! I was thinking about the machine that mass produced the dashboard panels for Studebaker; wondering if it had multiple rotating heads that could do the job in just a few passes. I would like to know how they did it back then.
    loudbang and kadillackid like this.

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