Step 1: Cut a Square Out of Bar Stock
We're going to face the bar stock to make sure it's both the right size and perfectly square. However, it's easier to be precise when you have a the whole bar to clamp in the vice, so I'd recommend facing one end of the bar before you cut it. This is an extruded bar, and the sides are remarkably square, so the only sides I need to worry about are the ones I (or the factory) cut.
Carefully measure and cut a little wide so you have material to trim off. I used the horizontal band saw.
Finally, stick an end mill in a milling machine and get the remaining side nice and square at your desired thickness (1.016" in my case). Be careful! If you take off to much you'll have to rotate it and introduce more likelihood of un-squareness.
Step 2: Center Your Stock in the Lathe
The poor man's way to measure while doing this is to scribe an X from corner to corner of the end to find the true center, and put the live center on your tailstock very close to the end so you can see if it lines up with your scribe marks.
The slightly nicer way to do this is to use a dial indicator to measure how far each side is away from it's opposite.
The key it to make small adjustments, and really really try to get it as accurate as possible -- it will help your dreidel spin better!
Update: Here's a good tutorial on how to center your work in a 4-jaw chuck. Some of the tips here would have helped me:
Step 3: Cut the Bottom of the Dreidel
Step 4: Cut the Handle
If your stock is longer than you want it, you can save a little time by using a parting tool to cut it down to handle-length.
Now switch to a right-hand cutting tool and use facing cuts to trim that metal around the handle to the same length. If you want a slight bevel to the top of your dreidel, angle your cutting too slightly to the right.
Step 5: Engrave the Letters With a Tormach
I used a 1/2" 60 deg V mill, cutting to a depth of 1/16", mostly because I didn't trust myself not to break any of the tiny mills I had available. This only worked okay; I did both pocket and profile cuts (on-line) for each letter, but the thin features were too small for a pocket. This meant that in those thin features there was a thin strip of aluminum that didn't get cut (between the two profile cuts) that you'll have to manually file out.
Attached are the VCarve Pro files I used. If you want to make your own the easiest way is to import bitmap images of the letters and trace them.
Finally, file the letters as necessary, bevel the corners, polish it up, and spin the dreidel!
- Measure the positioning of the letters on the side better than I did -- I estimated a little bit and ended up with the letter s running a little high.
- Use an appropriate mill to get good-looking letters.
- Make a short dreidel! Mine looks good, but is a little too top-heavy to spin really well.