An english wheel seemed like an excellent tool to build. I read up on the theory of operation to get an idea of how it worked, looked at some pictures of wheels on the internet, and I set forth to design and build it. The whole process only took two weeks, start to finish.
It works by stretching the small strip of material that comes in contact with both wheels as it is passed repeatedly between them. This stretching results in the material developing a curvature after many repeated passes. Rolling in different directions and angled results in different effects. You can see the results of my first test sheet, and all I had to go by was what I picked up from a couple of videos I saw on Youtube.
This instructable will be a rough-over of how to do most of the work, highlighting some insights I picked up along the way. You can scale the design ideas to make a benchtop model or a larger floorstanding version. The only thing that changes is the size of the "C" shape body, and the length of the adjustment screw, to accommodate larger work pieces.
Step 1: Design
I've made drawings of all the complex parts for the project. The ones not shown are just simple cut lengths of a standard size material (square tube, rod, etc) so a 2D drawing wouldn't be of any more help than just a written length. The PDF attached to this step is the design for the overall machine, showing the main lengths and their arrangement. I uploaded it as a PDF because the numbers and details are invisible as an image. The screw in red is just to show how it passes up through the bottom to allow adjustment.
I didn't have the material or lathe capability to make a 8" diameter disk for use as the top anvil, so I recommend purchasing one online or at Harbor Freight. A gigantic bearing would suffice, if you can find/get one. The bottom anvil is a curved bearing from a pillow block, these are perfect for this application because they are hardened and also run perfectly smooth and straight even if they are mounted off-center.
A bit about tools: Without welding, a mill or lathe, this project will be every difficult. Keep in mind that is project is designed for someone with access to machine tools. They don't need to be fancy, but they are virtually required to complete this project.
The following list correlates to the drawings below, and the quantities of each part you will need to make, and what material to make them out of.
- Guide rings (2) - 3/4" steel plate
- Pipe end cap (2) - 1/8" steel plate
- Lower anvil holder base (1) - 1/4" steel plate
- Gusset (4) - 1/8" steel plate
- Clamp/mounting bracket (4) - 3/16" steel angle
- Top anvil mounts (1) - 1/8" steel plate
- Threaded rod guide (1) - 3/4" steel plate
- Lower anvil holder side (2) - 1/4" steel plate
- Guide rod plate (1) - 1/4" steel plate
- Lower anvil pin (1) - 1/2" steel rod
- Anvil holder guide housing (1) 2" steel square tube
- Two bushings for the top and bottom anvils. These will depend on what you are using for anvils. They just need to be adapted for the holders.
In addition to these, you will also need to cut the following lengths of material:
- 9-1/2" length of 3/4" diameter threaded rod
- 4" length of 1-1/4" diameter steel pipe
- 2" length 1/2" solid rod
- 24", 26.75" and 26" lengths of 2" square tube, 1/8" thick wall
- 5x 3-1/2" long 1/2" bolts
- 5x 1/2" nuts
- 5x 1/2" lock washers
- 9x 1/2" washers
- 4x 8-32 1/2" flat head screws
Step 2: Lower Anvil and Holder
At the bottom of the guide housing there is the threaded rod guide. This plate with a 3/4" threaded hole in it is the only part that holds the adjustment rod. The adjustment rod presses directly against the guide rod that is connected to the moving assembly.
Step 3: Top Anvil Mounts
Step 4: The Frame
What you can't see is the other 1" hole drilled through the bottom tube beneath the lower anvil guide housing at the bottom right corner of the frame. This is a hole for the 3/4" threaded rod to pass through from the handle to the anvil holder that it has to move.
In order for everything to line up it is important that the frame is welded straight. If the cuts on the ends of the square tubes are not straight, then the tubes should be clamped and tacked in place at the correct angle and the gap filled with weld. Using a carpenter's square is a definite must. It is also important that the correct tube ends are placed against the correct tube sides or else the two wheels won't line up.
If there is an issue with alignment, one way to iron out any inaccuracies is to weld the three main tube lengths, then mock everything up and find the right place to put the anvil holder guide housing below the top anvil, and tack it in place. Remove everything that you mocked up and complete the remaining welds and gusset welds.
Pipe end caps cover the top-left and bottom-right pipe openings. I left the bottom-left opening uncapped since it will be facing the table, and the top anvil holder covers the top-right pipe opening. The gussets are welded into the inside of each of the four corners to increase rigidity in the frame.
The mounting brackets are drilled with a 1/2" hole to match the holes through the bottom of the frame.
Step 5: Paint and Assembly
Assembly is pretty self-explanatory. Be sure to use lock washers for the mounting brackets otherwise they might come loose, and this thing is pretty top-heavy. Once the lower anvil holder assembly is in place the guide rings can be screwed into place with the 8-32 screws.
Step 6: Operation
Step 7: Complete!
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please let me know.