Mini Lathe Makes Tiny Hydraulic Cylinders for RC Snow Plow

You can get pretty much any part you need online these days, but some specialty parts are a little hard to come by. So if your needs are esoteric, like tiny hydraulic cylinders for RC snow plows, you might just have to roll your own.

To be honest, we never really knew that realistic working hydraulics on such a small scale were a thing, but [tintek33]’s video below opened our eyes to a new world of miniature mechanicals. You’d think a linear actuator would be a fine stand-in for the hydraulic ram on a tiny snow plow for an RC truck, but apparently no detail is too small to address in painstaking detail. And as with many things in life, the lathe is the way to get there. Every part is scratch-built from raw brass, aluminum and steel on a mini lathe, with the exception of a few operations that were sent over to the mill that could have been done with hand tools in a pinch. The video is longish, so if you’re not into machining you can skip to 16:40 or so and pick the action up at final assembly. The finely finished cylinder is impressively powerful when hooked up to [tintek33]’s hydraulic power pack, and looks great on the plow. He’s got some other videos on his site of the RC snow plow in action that are worth a look, too.

Ready to take the plunge with a lathe but don’t know where to start? We’ve covered the basics of adopting a new lathe before.

19 thoughts on “Mini Lathe Makes Tiny Hydraulic Cylinders for RC Snow Plow

  1. Lego had in the late 80s, apparently my mother gave away or kids she had over stole them so my kids do not have.
    There was a switch and two cylinders but I hooked up an old propane cylinder and pressurized to 50psi for some stuff.
    I also used to fill the system with silicone oil, cap the one open port on the switch, and put a gravity load on one cylinder and something useful on the other.
    I would love a little hydraulic cylinder like this, maybe drilling and tapping out a small pressurized air spring would work though.

    1. There were two desigend that Lego offered. The first pneumatic cylinders had only one port. The control valves were switched over to either blow air into the cylinder, or to suck it out of the cylinder. There was a 2×4 block with three ports which I guess from memory was internally valved to create either a pressure or vaccumn action. The control valves switched this functinality to the cylinders.

      They were not so good in one direction. It’s far to say they sucked (intentional pun).

      The redesign a few years later kept the same control valves but gained cylinders with two connections. Now air was always blown in but at different ends to make the two actions, in and out.
      These were much much better and could move faster and hold more weight than the single port cylinders.

      There was an optional design in the back of some models for adding a motor to the master cylinder to eliminate manual pumping and essentially make a small air compressor. This made a huge difference to the functionality of the pneumatic system from memory.
      I believe later on Lego made a small air compressor as a part in it’s own right??

  2. A lathe would have to be pretty small if I wanted to hide the purchase from my spouse. Sewing machine size, or even smaller.
    Maximum diameter of 2 – 3 inch (5 – 7.5 cm) should be enough for making models.

    Thinks: 4x small water foggers, plus fans, mounted in the engines of a model X-wing…

    1. Sherline or Taig are small enough to fit in a closet or under a sofa. The long ribbons of nearly razor sharp metal sticking to all your clothes and showing up in the laundry are a bit of a give-away, though.

  3. It’s a neat little video, but the person using the lathe is using utterly horrible safety technique. Even mini lathes are fully capable of killing you. Please, please add a disclaimer to the article to point out that you should never wear loose clothing, long sleeves or jewelry while operating machine tools, especially lathes and mills. Even his sanding technique leaves something to be desired, in terms of safety If that jacket of his ever gets caught in the jaw, that little machine is not going to stop turning when it encounters his skull. Any machining instructor makes it very clear that many tools can hurt or maim you, but a lathe won’t hesitate to kill you.

  4. The main advantage to hydraulics is they are easy to outfit with overload limiting features. Ordinary electrically operated actuators will either fail to back-drive and be damaged or dissipate excess power due to being supplied with enough current to withstand the load. A hydraulic system can hold a load without power being required and can give way without damage.

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