Turning Archive

Alisam index wheel review *PIC*

john lucas
Alisam index wheel review

First of all I really enjoyed talking to the man who answered the phone when I placed my order. Very friendly and must be efficient because I got the box in just a couple of days like he said I would. Unfortunately his name went in one ear and out the other which often happens for me.
It is a beautifully machined piece of equipment that should last a lifetime. This is my 3rd index wheel, not counting the ones I have made myself. It is the best as far as machining and appearance.
I have been using the www.ironfireLLC index wheel for 10 years or more. It is made of some type of plastic and is extremely rugged and inexpensive. A good buy for those wanting to try indexing. The one problem is that the index pin is a little sloppy in the holes so you have some movement. Not critical for most turnings but I’m trying some new stuff and need more accuracy. I purchased a thicker plexiglass index wheel that had ¼” holes. Had to make my own index pin and a way to secure it to the wheel. I don’t remember now why I didn’t like It any better than my ironfire wheel but I gave it away long ago and kept using the ironfire.
The Alisam wheel fits directly on your spindle the same way the other two did. You slide it on the spindle and then screw in your chuck or faceplate and tighten them against the index wheel. This holds it in place. No screws or anything else needed. It is very well machined and looks great. Some lathes may have a problem with the chuck screwing down against the index wheel and you may need one of those nylon spacers.
They do come with different numbers of holes depending on the size of the wheel. Mine has 4 rings of holes, 144, 120, 90, and 16. These correspond to specific degrees but you can simply divide the number of divisions you want into one of those numbers and use that particular ring. For example if you wanted 36 divisions. Divide that into 144 and you get 4. So you simply place the index pin into one of the holes. Make a cut or mark the turning or whatever you want, move 4 slots and make another one. You can use any one of the rings that works for you.
On other index systems you have to build your own way of locking the wheel in position. The Alisam comes with an index bar that fits into flat piece of aluminum that has 4 large rare earth magnets in it. This is an L shaped device that has a set of holes to hold the index pin. It sits on the lathe bed and is held in place by the magnets and is very solid. The index pin is a 1/4x20 screw that screws into one of the holes on the index bar. It has a reduced diameter pin on the end that goes into the index wheel and it’s a very close fit. At first I thought it was a tiny bit loose. But then I found that if you tighten up the nut that is on the shaft it takes all the slop out of the threads and now it holds the index wheel with virtually no slop. My other index wheels all have some slop and on really critical work it shows up as either wiggly lines or misalignments. That’s why I bought the Alisam and I think it’s going to solve my problems. One other solution for those needing absolutely no movement is to simply put a spring clamp on the wheel and index rod. The pretty much guarantees it won’t wiggle. My friend who is starting to do the basket weave illusion pieces found that any wiggle at all causes problems when your burning the vertical lines.
There are a few things I’m not real keen on. Not serious problems but I may look for a solution. One is that the index bar covers up the holes where your working. This makes it difficult to count the 4 or more holes between your index point. John K Jordan came up with a good solution. Mount it so the numbers are on the headstock side. Now you can simply look at the backside. I have another solution. I take a pair of dividers and set them for the number of spaces I need. Then when I’m ready to move to the next index I put one leg of the divider into the hole I just used. The other leg sits in the hole I need. No more counting (or more accurately, miscounting).
I would replace the nut that is on the index pin with a wing nut. That will make it quicker and easier to lock down the index pin.
The last nitpicking thing is that I would like a spring loaded pin instead of the screw in version. When your doing 36 divisions like I often do, and you have 3 or 4 sets to do, screwing and unscrewing the index pin gets tiresome.
It is possible to bump the magnetic plate and lose your alignment if your not careful. They thoughtfully left a drilled and tapped hole in the center of the bottom bar so you can make your own lower plate and clamp it to the bed of your lathe. That’s what I’ll probably do for the serious work.
All in all I think it’s a wonderful addition to my lathe work. Very well machined and nice looking as well as dead on accurate.

Index wheel set up with furnished nut to hold the wheel for spindle turning

Using dividers to reduce errors when counting the hole spacing.

Using a hand clamp to really secure the index wheel.

this shows the 1/4x 20 nut used to lock the reduce the slop in the index pin threads.

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