Thursday , February 22 2018
Home > Columns > Norman Newguy: Making Custom Covers for Machinery

Norman Newguy: Making Custom Covers for Machinery

by Barry Young

Machines are expensive. Dust is abrasive. Don’t believe me? Go get that old motorcycle helmet that Aunt Beunice gave you for your 16th birthday after you bought that 125cc Honda Combat Wombat with your paper route money. Yeah, the snazzy lime green one. See all that dust on the face shield? Give it a good rub and telephone me to tell me it didn’t scratch it up.

You keep your calipers and micrometers in a toolbox right? Those baseball cards that Grampa gave you go into his footlocker right? You keep your money in a bank right? So what do you do with your machinery? If you are like ninety nine percent of amateur machinists you let your machinery sit out in the open, unprotected, cold and lonely.

Next time you are using foul language to describe to a friend how your machine wouldn’t hold the tolerance you wanted it to, look back at how you treated the poor machine. You oughta be ashamed. Why would you put the bench grinder where it would spit abrasive particles onto the lathe? You mean you did woodworking in the same room as your metal machines are stored? Don’t you know that wood chips will soak up all the oil on those precision surfaces and make them rub together? The precision of your machinery is based on the wear that occurs to the ways and other sliding surfaces. So when you are done hanging your head, when your lip stops quivering, I will help you pay your penance. Even you can seek forgiveness at the chapel of the recovering machine abuser.

The only way to fix up your Karma is to make covers for your machinery. Yeah, a lathe cozy. This sounds dumb until you think about it. Like “Don’t run with the scissors,” sounded dumb until you either thought about it or found out why people told you that. This is the same, you can learn the easy way through logic or you can poo poo the idea and pay when your machines will no longer do what they should. I finally got sick of waiting for February 30th which is when my wife said she would finish my equipment covers and asked her to show me how to sew fabric. This she was perfectly willing to do. It was not that hard to learn. We measured the extreme length, width and height of my Atlas horizontal milling machine and she made a sort of toaster cover shaped thing that fit like snot because the mill was not a perfect cube. Scratching my head I thought up a better way. That is what this article is about.

I took a cheap blue tarp and threw it over the mill. Everywhere there was looseness in the tarp got a row of pins. Eventually the tarp fit it snugly. I cut away all the excess tarp and cut nice and even around the base. Voila! We had made a pattern. We took it into the sewing room and laid cotton duck (fabric) down on the floor and laid the “pattern” over it. Dang! The fabric was too narrow. No Problem, We sewed on an extra ten inches and now it was wide enough. We pinned the pattern to the material, traced around it with a Sharpie marker and cut it out. She showed me how to sew the seams  which was WAY easier than I thought. I had her sew (hem) a piece of clothesline around the base of the cover and it was done. Yay! It fit all the curves and odd surfaces of the mill. It literally was a custom made cover.

Next came the Atlas 7-inch shaper. I decided to document the process and do all of it by myself.  Here are photos of the goofy shape that needed a cover

It is an ungainly thing to try to cover.

Under the tarp it looked like an ostrich trying not to be seen.

See that big flap ‘o nonsense hanging off the front? That is the excess we are trying to get rid of. Gathering all the excess material together then pinning it to isolate extra fabric leads to rows of straight pins pinching off whatever you want to get rid of like this.

Once the excess is pinned you can carve away the extra fabric OUTSIDE the pins with scissors leaving you something better looking like this.

Be sure to write on it before you take it off so that the outside is obvious. Otherwise the seams will show and your buddies will laugh even harder at you. When you trim away the bottom of the cover level with the floor it suddenly looks like a machine cover.

Now the pins can come out and you have a pattern. Lay this on the fabric you have chosen. You can see how I had to add material to get the width problem mentioned above solved.

Trace around the pattern and cut out the fabric. Sew up the seams and sew in the cord around the bottom. You now have custom fit machine covers. In this last photo you can see the incognito shaper on the left before the cord is sewn in around the bottom and the incognito milling machine on the right with the cord sewn in. The cord gives the cover a finished appearance so don’t be an idiot and leave it out.

That’s it! If you have a question or you want to leave a comment please click the “Join the forum discussion on this post” link below to log into the forum topic tied to this post.

– Barry

[adrotate group="4"]

About barryjyoung

Machinist, toolmaker, programmer, Machinist Instructor. Way too into metalworking.

Check Also

Shop Tip: A Fixture for Drilling Holes in Round Stock

Here's a handy weekend metalworking project for you! James Instone shows us how he made a fixture that's useful for drilling accurate holes in round stock. Jim's fixture is simple, functional, and includes interchangeable drill guides.


  1. Hi Barry,


    What weight of cotton duck (canvas) do you use?


    Regards John

  2. I'm not sure about the weight of the cloth, but I bought a 6' X 6' duck tarp they sell at Harbor Freight and call a welding screen (w/ eyelets) for about $10. It would make a good cover material for machinery and is water resistant.  I had my wife make me some covers out of gray vinyl that she bought at a fabric store for my MIG & Plasma.  A little red trim and Velcro closures and they look very professorial and keep the dust out.

  3. Hi John, I don't think Barry remembered to subscribe to his post so he might not know you asked him a question.

    I also made a cover for my lathe and I used black duck cloth. I don't know the weight, but the fabric store only had a few choices of heavy duck cloth to choose from, and only one choice in black (which is what I chose).

    Here's a link to my writeup, which includes a video of the process (with poor audio – sorry about that).…..tal-lathe/