Instructables

Machining titanium and stainless steel jewelry

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Jewelry for body piercing is expensive and can be hard to find, particularly if you need an unusual or large size. I go through the steps of machining a barbell style piece from scratch. This project includes many operations typical of small scale machining on a lathe including facing, turning down, drilling, tapping, and polishing.
 
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Step 1: Gather materials

The first step, as in most projects, is to track down all the materials you'll need. For this barbell, we'll use titanium and 316L stainless steel. The titanium bar stock is 1/8 inch (3.2mm) diameter, and we'll only use a small amount of it. The screws are 18/8 stainless- still corrosion resistant, but stronger than 300 series. The balls are 316L ball bearings. All of this is pretty easy to find online. smallparts.com and onlinemetals.com are good sources.

Alternatively, you could use 316L for the bar. I've made quite a bit of stuff from titanium and in small sizes it's pretty much like working 316- I don't see much reason not to use the titanium and some people may have reactions to the small amount of nickel in 316.

I love using recycled materials for projects. I'm always grabbing scrap metal out of trash and my basement is, well, let's say it's full. This is one place where scrap materials are a really bad idea. For piercing jewelry I would only use 316L stainless, titanium, or gold. Use new materials from sources that know their stock. 'Stainless steel' rod from the hobby store or home center won't cut it, and is probably more expensive than buying good stock from a metal supplier. Anything else is risking nasty metal reactions and infections. The right stuff is not very expensive- all these materials should run under $10 and give enough for 5 or 10 pieces of jewelry.
J359 months ago
Can anyone advise me how to HAND drill an 1/8" hole in large stainless taper for body jewelry. I dimpled it with a punch, however 2 @ Dewalt cobalt drill bits and an 18 volt Makita drill didn't even begin to cut into it. (I'm hoping I don't need to go buy a $500 lathe tool setup.)

Thanks in advance for your replies.
dpieschke10 months ago
You are aware that the "L" in 316L is lead? Is there any concern of that leaching?
zs dpieschke10 months ago
No its low carbon, 316l is implant grade stainless. Its used in the food and medical service widely.
No...
sixsa9010 months ago
Gonna make one today, thx!
black hole2 years ago
Where do you get your titanium? And at what price?
_soapy_8 years ago
As an idea, you can machine the bar to any size you want, so why not make the balls first, pair them off, and then make the bars to the right size for the holes. That way you won't have nay issues with the countersinks being the wrong size. Nice instructable. :-)
32768 (author)  _soapy_8 years ago
Thanks! That's a good idea. It ends up not making a lot of difference what order you make them in. You have to machine the countersinks in the balls to match the diameter of the bar. If you want to match standard gauges (and there's no reason you have to), then you already know the numbers to shoot for- otherwise you pick a number and make them all the same. It's easier if you pick sizes that match bits you already have. For 8 gauge, I can cut the countersink with a 1/8" endmill. There's enough runout in the chuck that it ends up being the .128 I want. Otherwise, you have to start fiddling around with really little boring bars.
Hello I was referred to you by an asscoiate . My name is everton and I dont small time acting and promoting. I have a custom piece that need to be made that I belive you can make. I had a gentleman in texas that use to make custom spikes for me. I have dermal implants in my head that allow me to screw a metal spiked mohawk in over that last year of going to events and getting drunk I have lost a few of them. I can send you one to use as a example and or email you pictures . They ones I have now are 6-8 guage -80 pitch . If you can help me out this would go alone way and I will compsensate you. If you have someone you can refer me to please do so thanks

Everton Watson

evertonwatson@gmail.com
Bump! just kidding. An actual tip. Instead of an appearent counterbore(or was this an illusion o fthe photo?) use an actual countersink.(I'd use the center drill again, for a hole that small) When machining the bar, make it a few thou over the size of the outside o the countersink. Put a taper on the end of the bar that matches your counter sink. If your tools are sharp, and your eye keen, this should give a "seamless" joint, as long as the tapped hole in the shaft is deeper than the threads on the post.
blacknkhak5 years ago
would you make an instructable about making captured bead rings?
captive* lol
i second that!
316LVM5 years ago
Awesome job I've been making body jewelry for 5 years (nothing threaded) mostly just custom bends and other designs..this is a good instruction on how to make a barbell! thank you so much for posting this!
What are those things that look like tubes of pigment on the bench top?
I think those are T handle hex keys like these:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=37861

Did you know that titanium can actually be cut with water?

Link
macona7 years ago
316L is available at most weld shops as tig filler rod. Standard sizes are .035, 3/32, and 1/8. Thicker can be ordered.

What grade of Ti are you using. Commercially pure?

As for your lathe work a couple things. You may get better performance from HSS bits, Cobalt even better. You can get a much sharper edge on HSS than carbide. Especially with the TNMG inserts you are using. There is also a company that offers HSS and cobalt TNMG inserts that should work with your holders. It looks like you are using TNMG21.51?

Second is work holding. Try to get a collet chuck of you can. Better runout and repeatability especially when using small barstock like this. Littlemachineshop has some setups for your lathe.

Third. Either use a dead center or follow rest when turning long thin materials. This will reduce the spring cut you need to take. A follow rest is available for your lathe.

Fourth: Center drill are for making the pilot hole for centers, live or dead. Use a spotting drill with a split point to spot before drilling. They will not wander like a center drill will. Alternatively use a split point screw machine length drill and drill in one go.

Fifth. Use an actual counterbore bit to counterbore. They are available in many different sizes and pilot sizes.

Sixth. Tapping, look up the drill size for 50% threads. You shoudnt need anything more than that and this will reduce tap breakage. Also give the form taps a try.

Dont set youself on a Hardinge. There are a lot of machines as good or better than a Hardinge and many times cheaper. A Monarch 10EE is a good choice. Better runout than a Hardinge from the factory and weighs more as well (Mine is about 3500LBS) I used to have one of the lathes like yours. Great little machine. But the lower belt cover on my machine weighs as much as your lathe. More mass = Less Vibration = Better Finish = Happy Operator
okto8 years ago
Nice job. Any tips on creating curved-bar jewelry? I'd like to make some custom stuff for my eyebrow.
32768 (author)  okto8 years ago
I haven't actually done this yet, but here's a few ways I've thought about. Start by making a straight barbell. You'll need to do a little math to figure out how long to make it to end up with the length and radius you want. Build a simple press using a small bottle jack and a frame made from steel or large pieces of wood. Make a pair of dies, maybe out of UHMW plastic or hardwood (I'd guess metal dies would be more likely to mar the finish). The dies will be specific for the radius of curve you want and the diameter of stock you use. The curve of the dies should be smaller then the curve you want to end up with since the bar will spring back some- experiment to find the right curve. Put the bar in the dies in the press and crank away... That's the hard way. For small stock, you might be able to make a bar, screw a handle into each end and pull it around a bar by hand. It'd be less controlled and you'd risk stripping out the threads. I've made CBR (ring with ball) jewelry by bending a length of stock around a bar a little smaller then the ID I was shooting for. Wind it around like a coil spring then cut off loops. Check out the chainmail making websites for details- it's the same technique they use for making rings. You could cut out a piece of curve and drill and tap it, though you'd have to make some special jigs. It would probably be easier in a mill or good small drill press. Like I said, I haven't tried any of these. If anyone's made curved bars, I'd love to hear ideas.
thats awsome i wish i had all those tools, iv custom mad retainers before and debarbed and polished hooks for suspension but thats just sweet
What did you make the retainers out of (and how)? I'd rather make my own than pay for 'em.
natemc8 years ago
You should autoclave any jewelry before you stick them in a human, especially if your putting them in a freshly pierced hole as jewelry of this type often is.
Eh, it's not really necessary to autoclave if it's going into an established, healed peircing -- simply cleaning the jewelry with alcohol is usually sufficient. For fresh piercings, it depends on the piercing parlor, but they'll often autoclave custom jewelry for you, provided it meets their quality standards.
TGM8 years ago
What make/model of lathe are you using ? Curiosity . . .
32768 (author)  TGM8 years ago
It's the harbor freigh 7x10 lathe. Their pn 33684. I think they're selling it with a different part number and some extra plastic guards now. I chose it because it was cheap, there's lots of online support through forums like mini-lathe.com, there are lots of aftermarket parts and tools to fit it, and it has a decent resale value when I decide to step up to a Hardinge. The steps here are pretty generic and could be done on pretty much any metalworking lathe.
TGM 327688 years ago
Oh I know you can do it on just about any lathe. However, I'm the market for a small home use one like this.
(removed by author or community request)
Eh? Just click on the step you want to view alone, and it will reload just that step. Up at the top, where it says "Steps".
jtobako _soapy_8 years ago
how about reducing the file size?
krusty8 years ago
"Drill your balls" LOL
cartertools8 years ago
You might look into using form (or fluteless) taps, they forge/form the thread instead of cutting it, no flutes means stronger tap and less chance of breakage.
http://www.precisiontwistdrill.com/techhelp/help_pages/thread_forming_prod_taps.asp

Also you might want to get a tapping guide, they are spring loaded and inexpensive.
http://www.cartertools.com/fmpdtg.html#hftg
(the link is to my commercial page showing the use of a product I sell, but you can get them from any metalworking supply house, like MSC or Enco, in the interests of non-commercial-ness)
32768 (author)  cartertools8 years ago
I'll look into the fluteless taps- they sound very interesting. I wonder if they would mess up the OD. The metal that's displaced has to go somewhere and I'd guess it might push out the sides of a thin tube. Do you get full thread depth with them? I haven't had much trouble lately, but when I first started using taps smaller than 4-40 I used to break a lot. I think it's a common problem for beginners so I wanted to make sure to address it... The spring loaded guides are nice. I use one in my drill press all the time. For this, though, I like holding the end of the tap in the tailstock- I can feel what's going on better and spin the tap more easily when I'm backing it out. Both work fine, just my preference here. Nice website, BTW. I'll have to spend some time digging through your catalog. You can never have too many tools...
You use a larger tap drill for the fluteless/form taps, unless the wall is really thin you don't get a lot of deformation. I have a friend who does 2-56 holes all the time and he only uses the form taps anymore. He also has a slick tapping arm:
http://flexarminc.com/flex1.htm

Too expensive for me though...I do use a tapping head an awful lot anymore, and I have just strated playing with threadmilling on the CNC...

I use my Taig tailstock for holding taps - it has a lever arm instead of a screw so it's really easy, but I know what you mean about feel with the tailstock, if you can get into that 1/4 turn at a time groove...

On the body jewelry thing I had a nice gig for a while making tiny nose studs(turning 14ga. down to 18ga and making a ball) for a local shop, and once had to modify a 2ga.(!) hoop that was causing some prince-albert-related discomfort - I made sure that thing was autoclaved 1000 times before consenting to work on it!

And yes, you can never have too many tools...