How to Make Your Own Aluminum Rings

This is a tutorial for making a simple yet definitive ring using a metal lathe. Once you have the technique worked out, you'll find this an enjoyable way to make rings; perhaps even enough to make them to sell.


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    Gain access to and learn the proper safe use of a metal lathe in proper running order and good condition. Bad equipment can cause serious injury.
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    Familiarize yourself with the parts of the lathe and common terminology. A good resource for such information is Wikipedia.
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    Select a piece of aluminum stock that has about a quarter inch of extra metal on either side when sized up to your finger.
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    Insert the piece of stock into the chuck. The metal can be turned on only one point, but only if the piece short enough to not wobble. Typically, about seven inches is long enough to make several rings, and to allow for some error in work.
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    After chucking up and testing for wobble, select a tool bit for parting. This is necessary for a flat end surface to work with. Center the cutting point of the tool to just barely below center of the workpiece, and lock into the tool rest. Activate the lathe so that it is turning the metal counterclockwise when looking at it from the right of the stock. This will feed the metal in the correct direction as to cut it.
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    Once locked and ready activate the lathe, running at a relatively slow speed, slowly feed the cutting bit into the stock and proceed slowly with the parting operation. Once completed, run the bit directly back out, paying close attention not to make the bit traverse laterally toward the metal by turning the incorrect operation knob. If you like, you can move the bit away from the stock first, then back it out.
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    Prepare for truing. This refers to making the piece spin truly round on the axis. This is achieved with a tool bit that has been ground to the correct shape for performing the operation on aluminum, you can obtain this information in a metal-working book, or some stores may sell pre-ground bits; when in doubt, contact a professional or a person with experience.
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    If your lathe has an automated feed mechanism, set the tool bit to travel down the stock at a set, smooth speed. If not, or if you prefer, simply feed it slowly by hand, as evenly as possible. Set the tool bit at centerline of the stock, and move it to a position a few inches before the end of the stock. Then you can activate the lathe to turn in the same manner as before. Don't start the lathe with the tool touching it; feed the bit into the metal just a few thousandths of an inch. There should be little markings on knob that indicate thousandths of an inch. Engage the automatic feed or begin feeding it by hand; if the feed is too fast, the surface will look rough after cutting, so slow the feed by shutting down the lathe and adjusting the feed transmission. Or, just turn the knob slower if you're doing it by hand. Continue this operation until the desired size is achieved; this can take a while if you want it really smooth. Once finished, disengage the feed mechanism from the transmission via the switch on the tool-holding assembly.
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    After surfacing the metal, make designs in the metal by manipulating the tool bit on the metal creating grooves, rough spots, or knurling (this requires a specialized tool bit that creates the diamond pattern seen on many tool handles to improve grip and feel). Or, if you like the flat finish, you can proceed to the next step.
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    Find a drill bit that has a shank that is approximately the size of the desired finger. If it does not have a Morse taper on the back, (a locking taper), you will need a keyed chuck attachment to insert into the tailstock. Once you have the bit, insert it into the tapered tube in the tailstock if it has a Morse taper, or insert the bit into the chuck and put the chuck in the tailstock.
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    Move the tool-holding assembly away from the end of the workpiece, but don't run it into the chuck.
    • Slide the tailstock into position, with the bit fully drawn back, close to the end of the stock.
    • Lock the tailstock in place.
    • Activate the lathe in the same manner as before and slowly feed the bit into the stock, the turning of the workpiece replaces the turning of the drill bit.
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    Run the bit slowly inward until the desired depth is reached; it should be enough for at least two rings of the size that you want.
    • Back the bit out and shut down after the bit is clear from the workpiece.
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    Loosen the tailstock and slide it to the end of the rail or remove it to get it out of the way.
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    Get the bit you used to perform the initial parting operation and position the bit on center line of the workpiece. Position it for where you want the ring to end. Follow the parting operation; odds are, once you break through the ring, it will drop into the pile of aluminum leftovers from all the cutting. Just leave it there for a bit until it cools. Shut down the lathe or repeat the parting operation on another ring that is bored if you prepared enough metal for another ring.
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    Once the ring(s) is cooled, use sandpaper or emery cloth to remove any burrs or to smooth the inside of the ring. It might be sort of rough; always check for sharp edges and sand them off. Now that your ring is complete, wear it around and show it off to your friends; make more with different textures, finishes and designs.


  • When in doubt, get help from an experienced person or professional.
  • If it doesn't sound good, it's probably performing poorly; seek further instruction on turning the metal or operating the lathe.
  • Aluminum is light, cheap, and easily worked so it works well for this purpose.
  • Always follow proper safety procedures around a lathe; read the owner's/operator's manual before use or get training from a professional machinist on the operation of the lathe
  • Treat the lathe like the serious piece of equipment it is – not a toy.
  • Don't use a lathe unless you know what you're doing, and try to have a spotter in case things go wrong and you need medical attention.
  • Always make sure you have permission and experience with these tools.


  • Don't overstress the lathe; it's not unbreakable.
  • If you use metal other than aluminum, be sure to familiarize yourself with the cutting/shaping techniques and requirements.
  • Wear proper eye/face protection when using a lathe.
  • Never wear loose, or long sleeve shirts.
  • Never touch the stock while it is turning; small burrs can cut your hands severely. Again, know proper safety procedures from your operations manual.
  • Always read about proper operation of a metal lathe.
  • Use common sense, get help if in doubt, read the manual it could save your life if you know what to do in a potential emergency situation.
  • Tie back long hair.

Things You'll Need

  • Access to a metal lathe
  • Round aluminum stock
  • proper lathe cutting/shaping bits
  • Safety glasses/face shield
  • Owner's/operator's manual, or training

Article Info

Categories: Metalwork and Wire Projects | Ring Projects