Home Machine Shop Tool Making – Machining A Set Of Vintage Style Rope Knurls

Machining A Set Of Vintage Style Rope Knurls, by Clickspring

In this video I make a set of classic rope knurling wheels, to put some ornamental rope knurl patterns on some of my future projects. There’s plenty of lathe and mill work, as well as a bit of hand finishing with a fine cut file.

This is the main video in a series of 3, that will relate to the subject of creating these beautiful rope knurl patterns. The other 2 videos in this series are:

Spare Parts #5 – Making A Bump Style Knurling Tool Holder:

Spare Parts #4 – Making, Hardening And Tempering A Form Tool For The Lathe:

Free plans for the double angled cutter, and form tool:

If you would like to help support the creation of these videos, then head on over to the Clickspring Patreon page:

You can also help me make these videos by purchasing via the following Amazon Affiliate links:

Cameras used in this video:
Panasonic GH5 –
Panasonic X920 –

Tools & Shop Products:
“Lathework: A Complete Course (Workshop Practice Series)” –
“Milling: A Complete Course (Workshop Practice Series)” –
Dykem 80300 Steel Blue Layout Fluid, Brush-in-Cap (4oz):
“Hardening, Tempering and Heat Treatment (Workshop Practice Series)” –
Kaowool 24″ X 12″ X 1″ 2400 F Ceramic Fiber Insulation:
Blue Matador Abrasive Paper –

Abbreviated Transcript:

00:31 The rope pattern is formed by a knurling wheel that looks like this, that has a number of fine teeth around its perimeter. Now to form those teeth, I’m going to use an additional cutter that looks like this.
00:44 Each tooth on this cutter has a 90 degree V profile, and there are 4 teeth milled around a central axis. There’s relief at the back of each tooth, and the cutting rake angle will be generated by milling past the tool centerline. I’ll be using some of this EN8 steel to make both the cutter and the knurl.
02:43 After finding the edge of the work, I positioned this end mill, the correct distance past the centerline, and then set about milling the gaps between the teeth. For this part of the job I’m using the simple indexing plate of the dividing head, thats just behind the chuck.
03:32 For the cutter to work correctly, the back side of each tooth needs to be relieved, so I’ll be removing this little corner of metal here on each tooth, and shaping it to blend with the back surface.
04:20 But I thought it might be worth showing what happens to the steel if nothing is done to protect it while its heated, so I’ve wrapped the working end of the cutter as usual, but I’ve left the chucking end uncoated, and exposed to the torch flame. With nothing to stop the oxidation, the unprotected end has formed a thick black scale, while the protected end is mostly free from scale, and looking quite bright.
05:39 Now you’ll have noticed that the knurl teeth are cut on an angle to the body of the knurl, which means that the knurl blanks need to somehow be securely presented at an angle to the cutter. I could have simply cut them while they were still attached to the parent stock, but I figured since I was making a few of them, a dedicated holder would be bit more efficient, and I can keep it for when I make more in the future. So I made this arbor to hold them on the mill.
07:47 Back onto the mill, the work was again secured in the dividing head, and then tilted to an angle of 30 degrees. I took some time to cutter was carefully positioned against the work, to make sure it was centered on the blank, and then the teeth were cut into the knurl.
08:19 For this particular knurl I indexed for 40 teeth, which was simply one turn of the handwheel on the dividing head, for each cut.
08:56 With that first one complete, I used a few different angles, as well as index counts, to make the full set of 5 knurls, which will give me a good range of different rope knurl patterns. Each of those knurls was quench hardened and then tempered.
09:41 Bump style knurling tools generate an enormous side force on the work, so tailstock support definitely helps. And even with this support, the work still deflects quite a lot as the pattern is formed.
10:24 Now I didn’t make any effort to calculate the correct diameter to avoid double tracking, in fact I was surprised to find that it wasn’t really necessary.


Frank Ford (Luthier/Machinist)

Machining A Set Of Vintage Style Rope Knurls, by Clickspring


49 thoughts on “Home Machine Shop Tool Making – Machining A Set Of Vintage Style Rope Knurls”

  1. aside from the excellent subject matter, this is probably the best video photography on youtube. Please make a video on how you make videos. I bet you use a camera that has the ability to turn auto focus OFF. Source of 90% of video focus problems on youtube – auto focus. subscribed.

  2. Really annoying when the man says he is going to just make something and he ends up making the tool that makes the thing as well as the thing itself. Annoying, because I can't do it myself.

    Real skill shown here.

  3. I've always been curious about this question: why do you use Dychem dye instead of a something like a permanent maker for layout? to me it seems like a marker would be more available and cheaper. Is this a poor assumption? Thanks for the great content!

  4. What I like the most in your doing is your use of… *TIME*. Quality parts needs TIME, in whatever amounts it is needed to reach the fullness of the result. A chinese say tells that "A work is finished when the material has found its form and the spirit of the craftsman rests peacefully", it reflects very well in your work. TIME is apparently lost in present times (nowstanding we are frantic in chasing it), and so I truly appreciate your "rediscovering" of it in the natural pace of making things out.

  5. Do u use the marking blue just for visual effect for the vid….or is there an engineering reason ?
    Not being snarky… just interested 🙄😏
    btw… seems like u could more easily have "hobbed" 'em with a custom "tap" cutter ?? 🤔


  7. I am really interested in machining job but dont have any knowledge what should i do can you guide me how to be a conventional machinist

  8. hello friend, I always see that you do heat treatments and I would like to know what chemicals you use to give the temper, in which solution you cool the pieces .. Greetings from Chile and thank you very much for sharing your videos ..

  9. Wait… did he just make a tool so that he could make a tool so he could make a part for a thing he is making? 😳🤯

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