The Versa-Mil adds important machining functions to a lathe. With built-in power and vertical feed, it adds a third machining dimension, allowing the operator to mill, drill, bore, slot, shape, grind, and perform other special operations. The success of any Versa-Mil operation depends largely upon the judgment of the operator in setting up the Versa-Mil, selecting the proper cutter, and holding the cutter by the best means possible under the circumstances.

Preoperational Checks

Gibs should be as snug as possible and still allow the movement needed. Tighten all gibs not required for the operation being done to prevent movement and chatter. The adjusting bar on the back of the lathe carriage that holds the carriage onto the lathe bed should be snug enough to still allow a slight drag when feeding the lathe carriage. If the work is held between centers, they should be tight against the work and long pieces should be supported at the point where machining is being done. Unless both the Versa-Mil and the work are rigidly supported, it is difficult to obtain accurate results.

Mounting on a Lathe

The Versa-Mil may be mounted on the front or the rear of the lathe carriage. On the front, it may be set on the compound rest or directly on the cross slide. A more permanent and generally more useful mounting is at the rear of the lathe carriage, where it may be left until it is needed.

Squaring the Versa-Mil to the Lathe

For accurate milling cuts, it is necessary to square the Versa-Mil to the lathe (Figure 9-17). The front compound face of the Versa-Mil is a reference surface machined in relation to the spindle. A square can be set across this face and squared to the chuck or face plate of the lathe. For work between centers, the Versa-Mil can be squared to the workpiece. After the machine has been squared on the compound rest of the lathe, the compound rest can be loosened for adjusting the spindle to various angles using the graduated scale on the compound rest. For extremely precise adjustments and settings, use the dial indicator or vernier protractor.

Figure 9-17. Squaring the Versa-Mil to the Lathe


Conventional milling is recommended when using the Versa-Mil on a lathe as the lathe’s feeds and bearings are not designed for upward pressure on the carriage. Cutting square end keyways (Figure 9-18) can be accomplished with the Versa-Mil using a variety of different cutters and speeds. The Versa-Mil is usually set on top of the compound rest with the spindle of the Versa-Mil parallel with the travel of the compound rest. Select and mount the cutter to the appropriate arbor. A stagger tooth side milling cutter the width of the keyway is the most satisfactory cutter to use for square end keyway milling operations; however, plain milling cutters may be used. Mount the arbor into the Versa-Mil spindle and tighten.

Figure 9-18. Milling square end keyways.



Do not over tighten as the pin in the back of the Versa Mil may shear

Speed Selection

If a good flow of coolant is available to the cutter, choose or select speeds near the top of the recommended cutting speeds for the operation being performed, type of cutter used, and material being milled. If milling is to be done dry, then use a speed at the lower end of the recommended cutting speeds.

Centering the Cutter

To center the cutter over the work, first ensure the backlash is removed from the cross slide. Next, start the Versa-Mil and reference the cutter to the side of the work using a paper shim. Zero the cross feed dial; then, raise the Versa--Mil above the top of the work. To determine the distance the cutter must move, add one-half of the diameter of the cutter plus one-half the diameter of the workpiece plus the thickness of the paper shim. Keep in mind some latches only move half the distance shown on the crossfeed dial. After the cutter has been moved over the center of the work lock the cross slide to prevent movement during milling. See Figure 9-19.

Figure 9-19. Centering the cutter.

Depth of Cut

Start the Versa-Mil and reference the cutter to the top of the workpiece using a paper shim. The depth of cut equals one-half the key thickness plus the chordal height plus the thickness of the paper shim. Tables for chordal height may be found in the new American Machinist’s Handbook or Machinery’s Handbook. A simple approximate formula for chordal height is key thickness squared, divided by four times the shaft diameter. After the depth of cut is determined and set, tighten the post binding setscrew to prevent the basic unit from moving during machining.

Feed Rate

The rate of feed will vary from 0.001-inch chip thickness per tooth to as much as 0.008 inch per tooth. Determine the feed rate by multiplying the number of teeth on the cutter times the desired chip thickness times the RPM of the cutter. A chip thickness of 0.001 to 0.004 is considered a finishing cut while a chip thickness heavier than 0.004 is considered a roughing cut. Most milling operations involving the Versa-Mil are fed by hand. The operator should attempt to feed the cutter at a consistent rate with each tooth taking the same chip thickness. Power feeding is recommended when long cuts along a shaft or workpiece are necessary. To do this, mount the steady rest on the lathe close to the headstock and clamp the steady rest tightly against the workpiece. Lubricate the headstock center or use a ball bearing type center to allow the headstock spindle to rotate freely while the workpiece remains stationary. If a ball bearing center is not used, maintain low spindle speeds to prevent overheating the work. Feed rates during power feeding are adjusted using of the quick change gearbox on the lead screw.


After the internal diameter of gears or sleeves have been machined to size, keyways or splines may be cut into the work with the Versa-Shaper without removing the work from the lathe chuck (Figure 9-20). This has a major advantage of saving time by not having to change setups.

Figure 9-20. Internal keyway and spline cutting.

Sizes of Keyways

Each of the standard widths of keyways from 1/8 to 1/2 inch may be cut with one of the standard keyway cutters available with the Versa-Mil. Wider keyways may be cut with one of the standard cutters by cutting the slot to the proper depth and enlarging it by feeding the cutter first to one side and then the other through the use of the cross slide lead screw.

Depth of Cut

Determine the depth of cut by the amount of feed applied to the basic unit lead screw. However, it is necessary to allow the Versa-Shaper to take additional cuts (free cuts) until no further material is removed before taking a measurement. This will assure accurate keyways or splines being machined in the gear or sleeve.

Direction of Feed

Whenever practical, mill keyways and splines by feeding upward with the Versa-Shaper. This will cause the lathe carriage to be held more firmly in contact with the lathe ways and the lathe bed, permitting heavier cuts to be taken.


After the Versa-Shaper is set up, run through the entire stroke cycle turning the worm sheave by hand. This will ensure that the cutter clears the work at both ends and does not strike the lathe chuck or encounter any other obstructions.


Plain milling or slabbing (Figure 9-21) is a term applied to many operations such as face milling, milling a hex or square shape, or milling flat surfaces along the side of a workpiece. The process of plain milling normally involves removing large amounts of material with either a shell end mill or side milling cutters to form a flat surface. Work may be held either in the lathe chuck or between centers for plain milling.

Figure 9-21. Plain milling.

Depth of Cuts

In the case of shell end mills, the depth of cut should not exceed the depth of the teeth or flutes. With side milling cutters, the depth of cut is controlled by the diameter of the cutter. For deep cuts, a staggered tooth, side milling cutter is recommended. Extremely light cuts should be avoided if possible as the cutter tends to slide over the work, heating and dulling the cutter which may result in putting undo pressure on the arbor and carriage causing excessive chatter.

Milling Feeds

The best milling performance is obtained when each tooth of the cutter takes a full chip. When milling steel, for example, the ideal feed is 0.005 inch. Depending on the width of the cutter and machinability of the material, it may be desirable to reduce the depth of cut and increase the rate of feed to maintain chip thickness. Chatter is likely to result when chips are too thin, causing cutter life between grindings to be reduced.


Many drilling and boring operations not ordinarily possible on the lathe are easily performed with the Versa-Mil mounted on the lathe. The Versa-Mil is usually fed by hand using either the either carriage, cross slide, or compound rest. Check the operators manual supplied with the Versa-Mil for information concerning power feeding when drilling.

Off-Center Drilling

Off-center drilling and boring may be performed by positioning the Versa-Mil spindle parallel with the lathe axis and maneuvering the drill by means of the cross slide and the Versa-Mil lead screw. This allows the complete machining of irregularly-shaped items without removing them from the lathe chuck. See Figure 9-22.

Figure 9-22. Off-center drilling with the Versa-Mil.

Angular Drilling

With the Versa-Mil mounted on the compound rest, holes may be drilled at any angle in relation to the lathe axis by setting the compound rest at the desired angle and feeding the drill into the work with the compound rest lead screw. To use power feeding with the taper attachment, set the taper attachment and Versa-Mil spindle parallel with the hole to be drilled. The work must be held in position to prevent turning when the lathe carriage feed and head stock spindle are engaged. See Figure 9-23.

Figure 9-23. Angular drilling with the Versa-Mil.

Index Drilling

Stock held in the lathe chuck or between centers can be drilled at regular intervals around the center or perimeter of a workpiece by using the indexing head to position the work. A considerable amount of setup time and effort is saved after positioning the drill for the first hole to be drilled.

Additional Drilling Applications

Drilling with the Versa-Mil attached to a feed table, turret lathe, or vertical boring mill is unique. Special drilling operations with these pieces of equipment are covered in the operator’s manual on the Versa-Mil. See Figure 9-24.

Figure 9-24. Index drilling with the Versa-Mil.


Milling Woodruff keyslots (Figure 9-25) in shafts is very similar to milling straight keyways in the basic setup, centering the cutter, and feed rate. The only difference in milling a Woodruff keyslot is that the carriage must be locked down in addition to the cross slide, if cutting from the top of the workpiece, to prevent the basic unit from moving during milling. Cutting a Woodruff keyslot is relatively simple since the proper size cutter has the same diameter and width of the key to be inserted. The work may be held in the lathe chuck or between centers and the cutter may be on an arbor or in a drill chuck. After the cutter has been centered on the work, the cutter is fed directly into the work until the proper depth of cut has been achieved.

Figure 9-25. Woodruff keyslot milling.


An indexing head comes with the Versa-Mil and is installed on the headstock of the lathe to permit indexing a workpiece. Even though the workpiece is mounted in a conventional manner in the lathe, the headstock spindle should never be allowed to rotate under power with the indexing head attached as this would cause severe damage to the equipment. It is always a good practice to unplug or turn off the main power switch on the lathe in this situation.

Mounting the Workpiece

A workpiece may be supported in the lathe between centers, against the faceplate, or in the lathe chuck. If the work is mounted between centers, a lathe dog is mounted on the work and used to transfer movement from the faceplate to the work.

Indexing the Work

Indexing is the process of controlling the rotational position of a workpiece during machining. The indexing head attaches to the left end of the lathe headstock and locks into the headstock spindle using an expansion adapter. With the indexing head mounted to the lathe, the work will not rotate unless the crank arm of the indexing head is moved. Forty complete turns of the crank arm move the lathe spindle one revolution. The indexing plate contains a series of concentric rings with each ring containing a different number of holes. The workpiece is indexed by moving the crank arm from one hole to another through a calculated pattern of turns and holes.


Form milling is the process of machining special contours, composed of curves and straight lines or entirely of curves, in a single cut. Gear cutting may be considered form milling by definition; however, the definition iS usually restricted to the use of convex, concave, or corner rounding cutters. These form cutters are manufactured in a variety of radii and sizes and may be grouped or ganged together on an arbor to mill intricate shapes. Convex (curved or rounded outward) cutters mill concave (curved or rounded inward) shapes while concave cutters are used to mill convex shapes.


Angle milling is milling flat surfaces which are neither parallel nor perpendicular to the work. Angular milling can be divided into several different types of setups.

Single Angle Milling Cutters

Single angle milling cutters are mounted on an arbor and the arbor is then mounted to the basic unit or universal head. The unit is then squared to the workpiece and the work is milled in a conventional manner. This type of cutter is manufactured in a variety of angles with the most common angles being 45°, 50°, 55°, or 60°.

Dovetail Milling

When cutting dovetails with the Versa-Mil, the workpiece is usually held in the lathe chuck or mounted on a face plate. The tongue or groove of the dovetail is first roughed out using a side milling cutter, after which the angular sides and base are finished with the dovetail cutter. See Figure 9-26.

Figure 9-26. Dovetail milling.

Compound Rest

Angular milling may also be accomplished on the Versa-Mil by squaring the Versa-Mil on the compound rest and setting the compound rest to the desired angle. With this method of angular milling, the cutter is usually a shell end mill and the work is either held in the lathe chuck or mounted on the faceplate. See Figure 9-27.

Figure 9-27. Compound rest.

Universal Head

Angles may also be milled on a workpiece using the universal head. This head may be tilted to 180° in either direction of center. Complex angles may be machined with the universal head used in conjunction with the compound rest or the tailstock offset method. See Figure 9-28.

Figure 9-28. Universal head angle milling.

Tailstock Offset

This type of angular milling is accomplished by squaring the unit to the tailstock spindle or faceplate. Normally, a shell end mill is used in this type of milling. Work is mounted between centers and the tailstock is offset to the desired angle for milling. The work may be rotated with the indexing head to mill additional surfaces on the workpiece. See Figure 9-29.

Figure 9-29. Tailstock offset milling.


Straddle milling (Figure 9-30) is the machining of two parallel surfaces in a single cut by using two cutters separated by spacers, washers, or shims. Use straddle milling in spline milling or the cutting of squares or hexagons on the end of a cylindrical workpiece. The workpiece is mounted between centers to mill splines on a shaft and mounted in the lathe chuck to mill squares or hexagons. In both cases, the indexing head is used to rotate the work after each cut.

Figure 9-30. Straddle milling.


Gang milling differs from straddle milling in that two or more cutters of different diameters or shapes are mounted on the same arbor to mill horizontal surfaces. Cutter combinations in gang milling are virtually unlimited and are determined by the desired shape of the finished product.


Splines are often used instead of keys and keyways to transmit power from the shaft to a hub or gear. Splines are a series of parallel keys and keyways evenly spaced around a shaft or interior of a hub. Splines allow the hub to slide on the shaft either under load or freely. This feature is found in transmissions, automotive mechanisms, and machine tool drives. Manufactured splines are generally cut by bobbing and broaching; however, this discussion will be limited to field expedient methods. Standard splines on shafts and spline fittings are cut with 4, 6, 10, or 16 splines.

The dimensions depend upon the class of fit and the shaft diameter. The class of fit may be permanent, sliding fit not under load, and sliding fit under load. Table 8-8 in Appendix A lists the standard dimensions for the different classes of fits. Shafts may be milled several different ways.

The most common way is to use two side milling cutters separated by spacers, with the width of the spacers equal to the width of the spline. The splines are cut by straddle milling each spline to the proper depth and indexing around the shaft for each spline. A narrow plain milling cutter is used to mill the spaces between the splines to the proper depth. It may be necessary to make several passes to mill the groove uniformly around the shaft. A formed cutting tool or cutter may also be used for this operation.


After a hub or gear has been drilled and bored to the finished internal minor diameter, internal splines may be cut into the hub or gear by using the Versa-Shaper (Figure 9-31). The indexing head provides the means to locate each spline to be cut. For this operation, the milling is continued until the desired class of fit is obtained. For field expedience, it is best to machine the mating parts to match if possible.

Figure 9-31. Spline milling internal splines.


Slotting with the Versa-Mil (Figure 9-32) covers a wide variety of operations from milling long wide slots in material to cutting curved or thin slots. Workpieces may be mounted in the lathe chuck or between centers for slotting operation.

Figure 9-32. Slotting with the Versa-Mil.

Longitudinal Slots

Longitudinal slots along a shaft or other large piece may be cut in the material in the same manner as milling keyways with end mills. It is often desirable to use a cutter smaller than the width of the slot. The reason for this is, when the cutter is as wide as the slot, one side of the cutter is climb milling while the opposite side of the milling cutter is performing conventional milling. This causes a difference in the finish between the two sides of the slot. A roughing out of the slot should be made first, followed by a finishing cut down one side of the slot and returning on the other side.

Narrow Slots

For narrow slots, use slitting saws rather than end milling cutters. When using slitting saws, reduce speeds and feeds to extend the life of the cutter.


Fly cutting (Figure 9-33), also called single-point milling, is one of the most versatile milling operations available to the machinist. Fly cutting is done with a single-point cutting tool, like the lathe or shaper cutting tool, held in a fly cutting arbor. Formed cutters are not always available and there are times when special form cutters are needed only for a very limited number of parts or operations; therefore, it is more economical to grind the desired form on a lathe cutter bit rather than order a special form cutter. The fly cutter is used to great extent in the reshaping of repaired gears because the tool bit can be ground to the shape of gear teeth available. Fly cutting can also be used in cutting standard and special forms of splines.

Figure 9-33. Fly cutting.

Plain or Face Milling of Soft Nonferrous Metals

Plain or face milling of soft nonferrous” metals such as aluminum, with a fly cutter produces a high quality finish. Boring holes with a fly cutter is generally not desirable because of the difficulty in positioning the cutter and controlling the diameter. The short arbor allows boring of only very shallow holes.

Gear Cutting

A variety of gears, pinions, and sprockets can be fabricated on the lathe using the Versa-Mil. By referring to various texts and references for detailed data and instructions on gears and gear cutting, the operator can develop different methods of mounting the Versa-Mil to the lathe to perform gear cutting. The basic unit and the indexing head are the two basic elements needed to cut gears. When large diameter gears need to be cut, the universal head is used to mill the side of the gear.

Spur gears are the most common type of gear used in the field and the correct cutter to use for this type of gear is determined by the pitch of the teeth and the number of teeth required. Standard cutter catalogs supply the data necessary to select the correct cutter.

Gear Cutting with the Basic Unit and an Involute Gear Cutter

In this setup, Figure 9-34, the gear blank is first turned to the correct diameter using a mandrel mounted between centers. The blank should remain on the mandrel after turning. The lathe dog should be wedged against the faceplate to eliminate backlash and the indexing head mounted to the lathe spindle to position the individual teeth. The basic unit is mounted on the compound rest with the faceplate parallel to the lathe center and an arbor with an involute gear cutter, stamped with the correct pitch and number of teeth, is installed in the basic unit. After the cutter is positioned, lock down the cross feed by tightening the gibs. When the correct depth is reached, tighten the post locking screw on the basic unit. The cutter is then fed into the blank by hand using the lathe carriage wheel.

Figure 3-34. Gear cutting with an involute gear cutter.

Gear Cutting with the Basic Unit and a Fly Cutter

When an involute gear cutter is not available or delay in obtaining one is too great, a fly cutter is used. The only difference is that a fly cutter with a 5/16-inch square tool bit, ground to the correct shape, is used instead of an involute gear cutter. See Figure 9-35.

Figure 3-35. Gear cutting with a fly cutter.

Gear Cutting with a Universal Head

Used this setup with either a fly cutter or an involute gear cutter on gear blanks larger than 8 inches in diameter. See Figure 9-36.

Figure 9-36. Gear cutting with the universal head.


Wheel dressing (Figure 9-37) with the diamond dresser is a must for accurate precision grinding. Dress wheels before starting any grinding job and again prior to the finishing cut. The diamond dresser is the most efficient type of wheel dresser for truing wheels used in precision grinding. The diamond point is the only usable part of the diamond and must be inspected frequently for wear. Rotate the diamond slightly in the holder between dressings to keep the point sharp. A dull diamond will press the wheel cuttings into the bonded ores of the wheel, increasing the wheel’s hardness. When truing the wheel, the diamond should be centered on the wheel and slanted between 5° and 15° in the direction of wheel rotation to prevent chatter and gouging.

Figure 9-37. Wheel dressing

The grinding wheel should rotate at or slightly less than operating speed when truing or dressing, never at a higher speed After truing, slightly round the edges of the wheel with an oilstone to prevent the wheel from chipping, unless the work requires sharp comers. Start the dressing process at the highest spot on the wheel, normally the center, and feed at a uniform rate with a 0.002 inch depth of cut per pass. Too slow a feed will glaze the wheel while too fast a feed rate will leave dresser marks on the wheel.


A wide range of grinding is made available to the machinist by using the Versa-Mil and the different grinding heads supplied with the unit. Refer to references published by the leading abrasive manufacturers when selecting the proper wheel for the job being performed. For maximum metal removal and minimum wheel wear, surface speeds of the grinding wheel should be near the highest allowable speed for the wheel size. Light cuts at full speed will remove metal faster than deep cuts at slow speeds. In general, rough cuts average 0.002 inch per pass, while finishing cuts average 0.0005 inch. The spindle rotation should be selected to throw wheel and metal debris away from the operator. When movement of the work is required during grinding, the work and the wheel should rotate in the same direction. This allows the wheel and work to move in opposite directions at the point of contact. The precision grinding may be done either wet or dry.


Before grinding work between centers takes place the centers should be ground true (Figure 9-38). With the center mounted in the lathe headstock, mount the Versa-Mil on the compound rest and set the compound rest at one-half the included angle of the center. Grind the center by feeding the compound lead screw by hand at a uniform rate of feed.

Figure 9-38. Grinding lathe centers.


The lengths and diameters of shafts ground on a lathe are determined by the lathe swing and the distance between the lathe centers. Mount the Versa-Mil on the compound rest with the face of the basic unit parallel to the work surface. In cylindrical grinding (Figure 9-39), the work rotates slowly while the wheel rotates close to the highest allowable speed. The wheel should never leave the work at either end of the cut in order to produce a smooth surface free of wheel marks. Direct the spark pattern downward onto a dampened cloth to prevent very small particles of material from getting into and destroying machined surfaces. A spark pattern directed downward and away from the operator indicates the wheel is too low on the work, while a spark pattern that is directed downward and toward the operator indicates the wheel is too high on the work. Conical grinding can be accomplished with either the taper attachment or by the tailstock offset method.

Figure 9-39. Cylindrical Grinding.


Holes and bores as deep as 18 inches may be internally ground using the Versa-Mil. The diameter of the hole may be any size larger than 3/4 inch. Either the internal grinder with the taper spindle or the deep-hole grinder may be used, depending on the hole dimensions. Internal grinding differs from external grinding basically in one area. The surface contact between the work and the wheel is much greater in internal grinding, causing the wheel to load and glaze much more quickly. This loading or glazing will cause unnecessary vibration and produce a poor surface finish. A coarser wheel grain structure, which provides better chip clearance, or a softer wheel that will break down more easily, should be used for internal grinding. While grinding, the wheel should clear the end of the work at least one half the wheel thickness but not more than two thirds. If the wheel is allowed to clear the end of the work entirely, a bell-shaped effect will be produced.

Tapered Spindle Grinder

For shallow and small diameter holes up to 6 inches in depth, use the tapered spindle internal grinder. Tapers may also be ground on the work by using either the taper attachment or the compound rest. See Figure 9-40.

Figure 9-40. Tapered spindle grinder.

Deep Hole Grinder

The deep-hole grinder with the extended housing offers a rigid precision grinder for holes as deep as 18 inches. Tapers may also be ground with the deep-hole grinder. See Figure 9- 41.

Figure 9-41. Deep-hole grinder.

Versa Grinder Head

The Versa-Mil external grinder with the wheel guard removed may be used for internal grinding of large bored pieces if a considerable amount of stock must be removed and the hole depth does not exceed the unit clearance. This setup permits the operator to grind internally, externally, and face in one setup, assuring a true relation between the three different surfaces. See Figure 9-42.

Figure 9-42. Versa grinder head.