Adapting a Chinese Milling Head to a Classic WW Lathe

Copyright 2008 by James P. Riser



I have wanted to set up one of my WW lathes for drilling lantern pinions and have been trying to purchase an old WW lathe milling attachment with no luck. Every one of the milling heads I located was way too expensive for the budget alloted to this project. I had seen the Chinese made milling heads advertised and figured I could at least use some of the parts from one for my needs. I had, of course, read all of the negative posts about these items - all written by guys who have never handled one of the units. I like good old "American Iron" and my shop is full of it but I will also use anything else that will get the job done at the right price. So, I decided to try one of the little Chinese milling heads.

The units look like this. The paint job leaves a lot to be desired but the construction is not bad.


Having read the reports that the items were filled with grit and poorly machined, I first of all disassembled the unit to examine and clean it carefully.


No grit was found anywhere and construction was good.



The spindle is one long taper which turns inside of a matching barrel.

This is an acceptable and previously used design for such a unit.

The work and fit on everything was found to be acceptable.




Cleaning everything with tissue would show up any grit or metal shavings - if there were any.

As can be seen, all that whiped off of the unit innards was oil and cosmoline.

No grit nor metal shavings.




The next concern was whether the unit would accept the assortment of WW collets/wire chucks etc. that I already own.

Shown here is a Moseley collet which will not fit the spindle of the unit.

The problem is the collet key or pin. It is too large in diameter to allow my collets to enter the spindle.


So, a little modification to this pin with an assortment of diamond files did the job.

All of my collets from various makers will now fit the new milling head spindle. The next problem was that the draw tube for the collets would not fit the ends of my collets. This was an easy fix.

The draw tube end was rethreaded with a .275" - 40 tpi tap.


This image shows the metal flakes removed from the draw tube after tapping it.

This is the sort of grit and metal shavings I had been told would be seen throughout the unit - not so.

The unit was clean.



After rethreading, the collet easily goes fully into the spindle of the unit and locks in place.

Moseley collets are longer than other brands and there is this gap on the draw tube.

This modified unit now accepts all of the various collets and cutter arbors etc. that I have.

Standard practice is to make a brass washer to fill in this gap. Since I planned to use this unit with index plates and non Moseley collets anyway, I did not worry about the gap at this time.

The next concern was how to mount the new milling head on to an old two way slide rest. This slide had been modified by a previous owner but would still work for my needs as a base for the milling head.

Notice the milled out slot.

I decided to make a steel mounting plate to solve the problem of holes on the milling head not matching up with the slots on the slide rest.

Here the steel plate is being cut to size.


The steel plate tried for size.


The three T-nuts in position in the slots.


The steel plate in position. The new milling head mounts on the 4 threaded holes.

Here is everything bolted together...

... and mounted on a WW lathe.

In part two I will show the making of the index plates for using the milling head to drill lantern pinions.

Click here to go to part two.