What’s Knurling?

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Knurling is a process of cutting or rolling patterns into materials like plastic or metal, often used to improve grip on handles or knobs. It can be done on a lathe with rollers or with hand tools, and can create diamond, crisscross, or straight line patterns.

Knurling is a method used to cut or roll a pattern into a material such as plastic or metal. This process is typically done on a lathe, although in some cases a hand knurling tool will be used instead. A knurled item can have a diamond, crisscross, or straight line pattern imparted upon it that adds functionality and pleasing aesthetics. Knurling is often intended to provide a better gripping surface than bare material offers, and knurled patterns are often found on handles, knobs, and other similar items. Another use for the process may be to put a worn part back into service, such as the way internal combustion engine piston skirts were often knurled to increase performance.

The primary method used for knurling items is a lathe process which uses a very hard roller to press the desired shape into the work material. A roller with a reverse imprint of the desired knurling is held in a knuckle or jig and then pressed into the workpiece being worked on. The main configurations used for this type of knurling have one or two rollers. A straight knurling can be pressed in by a roller, but any type of diamond or criss-cross design will require rollers with opposing patterns. The downside to this process is that the rollers must be matched to the unique outside diameter of each part, so it’s better for mass production of many identical components.

Another process on the lathe is similar to that used in cutting screw threads. This method can be used to create a diamond pattern by essentially cutting the left and right threads in the same item. In this case, the knurling process is usually achieved using a self-feed lathe and a variety of cutting accessories. Unlike the burnishing method, a single cutting attachment can typically be set up to knurl a wide variety of different workpieces.

A third way to knurling an object is with hand tools. These hand knurls work in much the same way as pipe cutters, but are designed to press a pattern into the work piece, instead of cutting it. Most hand knurls contain three wheels, one of which will have an opposite pattern to the other two. The advantage of this process is that the necessary tooling can typically be brought to the job site, rather than taking the work piece to a large stationary lathe.

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