It’s all about the center
You might think that because I weld all of my rolling ball sculptures that my welder is my most important tool. And you’d be close to right. Without my welder I couldn’t make RBS. In fact, I have a few tools that I need every day to build my sculptures. But I could use different tools, or do something completely different, if I had to. Even my welder could be different than what I use now to join the stainless steel together. There is a jig that I use to drill holes in the pivot pieces I use on my tipping arms – that one is irreplaceable – but I could use a different way to make the pivots if I had to.
My most important tool I have in my shop is my Lathe. There is really no better way to drill holes in a piece of material and have it perfectly on center. To make the aluminum pieces I use for my pivot points on my tipping arms I need to get a hole in the center of 1″ round material so I can insert a bearing. The lathe is perfect for making this hole, on center, and just the right size. I drill the hole first, slightly smaller than I need, and then use a reamer to get it to the exact size.
The most important pieces my lathe makes though are the adapters I use for my motors and sprockets. I buy 1/2″ aluminum that I press into the center of my sprockets that have a bearing or slip over the shaft of the motor that powers the lift. If this hole is not perfectly centered, you would be able to tell. The chain on the chain lift would get tighter and looser and the spiral on the helical lift would move toward and away from the keeper track that holds the marbles in place as they rise up.
With my lathe the holes that I drill in these parts are exactly centered and there are no issues of being out of center. If I did not have my lathe, there would be no other way to make these parts.
That is why my lathe is the most important tool I have in my shop – there is no other replacement for what it does for me.