Friday, December 12, 2008

Making nylon bearings

I wanted to share with you how I make my nylon bearings. I have gone through several different kinds of "pivots" for elements on my sculptures and these have proven to be the best. I start with a rod of 1" acetyl plastic. I get 4ft lengths. First I cut the rod into sections 1.125" long. This will allow me to take face off side of the bearing without making it less than 1" wide. "Facing" makes the end (face) smooth and flat.
(above) Here is some of the plastic pieces I am left with after cutting the rod into lengths.

(Above) Here's the part chucked into the lathe.

(above) This photo shows the first side of the part with the chamfer. Once I did all of the parts on one side, then I set my stop, and did the other side. With the tool shown I cut the chamfer, and faced the end so it was smooth.

(above) The center drill. The center drill just cuts a small hole to make sure the drill bit cuts true in the next step.

(above) Now I will drill the hole. It's drilled 1/64th under 3/8" (the OD of the bronze bearing)
(above) Now the final drilling step, the reamer. Since plastic "closes" on you after you've cut it, the reamer gets the plastic closest to the size you want without going over, or being too small.

Finally, here is the bronze bearing inserted into the plastic. The bearing on the left is to show you the bearing halfway in, and the bearing on the right is all the way in. I've still got more than a hundred to go. My son, who is 10, has drilled more than 20. I think he could do them all.... Who says child labor is wrong?


Tom said...

Ahhh, you have a lathe. I'm jealous! I've begun thinking about wanting a welder. Won't happen anytime soon. Heck, I can't even do more copper work until this muscle issue in my hand goes away. The wait is annoying me.

Carl said...

I saw your RBSes in your web site.
I want to know the prices of mid-sized sculptures. Please contact me at
and leave your phone # if you can.

Thank you.

Fernando Quartin said...

is it possible to make the bearing in aluminum? it´s light and its not plastic. I don´t like very much plastics in a metal sculpture.

Matt said...

Sure. The bearings could easily be made out of aluminum or brass instead of the plastic. It would just cost more, the aluminum is much more expensive. But the process of making them would be the same. If not a little slower. : )