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View Full Version : Mini-Lathe feedback wanted.



G.A. Ewen
06-01-2003, 09:30 AM
I would like to hear from Mini-Lathe owners about the strengths and weaknesses of these machines. I am in the market for a small lathe and have looked at these machines in the show room but of course the sales people don't know didly. One guy, who admitted that he had never made a chip in his life, claimed that "it's the best machine on the market" http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//rolleyes.gif All input is welcome good or bad. Thanks, George.

BC21OSH
06-01-2003, 10:00 AM
George,

Just curious, what brand of mini lathes have you looked at and which was the "best on the market"

Bernard

G.A. Ewen
06-01-2003, 11:00 AM
The one that I am looking at is the 7" x10" sold buy Busy Bee. I have misplaced my catalogue and can't remember the model number. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//frown.gif

nitacboss
06-01-2003, 11:18 AM
G.A.,
I have a Homier 7x12 (Blue colored one) and am, thus far, quite satisfied with it. There are a few glitches and design issues I shall get to in a second.

After reading about these lathes for quite some time at http://www.mini-lathe.com/ I decided on the Homier.

- It was the lowest price, if I didn’t like it I had put minimal investment into it.

- It was available at a sale in Indiana. Since Harbor Freight has no stores in the Metro-Chicago region and Enco, which used to be based here left because of high state business taxes this was basically my one and only chance to get it with a hands on inspection.

All of the sites that cover these mini-lathes consider them an 80% finished kit. I agree with this to some extent. Some of the glitches are:

- Tailstock mounts to the bed with a God-awful nut and bolt design. You almost need to modify it to make it function under actual working conditions.

- The headstock uses plastic gears to drive the lead screw and spindle. If you are thinking of .25” material removal passes with carbide or one-pass knurling forget it.

- There are a LOT of sharp edges on the machine. I actually make a practice of breaking these edges as I find them. So when I see my blood on the unit I know I have more filing to do…

- The cross slide has no capabilities to be driven by the lead screw.

- The 4-position tool post that comes with the unit is crap. I did, and would recommend, an immediate purchase of a QC type tool post from an outfit such as TS Engineering or something similar.

- The chuck the unit came with is rather poorly made, needed to be taken completely apart to remove the chunks of swarf, I assume from when they manufactured the lathe, lubricated with lithium grease, and reassembled. After all that it is still a bit sticky at times.

- The 3-jaw, 3-inch chuck that comes with the lathe is great for making very small pieces but that is about it. A very limited work holding capacity. My first projects I had in mind would not fit and I found myself ordering the 4-inch, 4-jaw and 3-jaw chucks right away.

This all said I would not want you to shy away from one of these lathes. I think it is a very good starter machine, a great second lathe so the set-up one the “big” lathe can “stay”.

There are a great many out use groups out there and some very good (if not great) people to help with your questions, this group being one of them. I would pursue info from these other groups as well:

http://www.mini-lathe.com/
The site for mini-lathes. Everything and more than you wanted to know…

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/7x12minilathe/
Being a yahoo group you’ll need to register, which is free, to participate but you can look at all most all of the contents without registration.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mlathemods/
Another yahoo group. These guys do some incredible modifications to these little lathes.

rec.crafts.metalworking
A general metal working group. Some info good, some kinda screwy, but all very interesting…

GM69camaro
06-01-2003, 01:24 PM
I have the Harbor Freight 7x10" and I am happy with it. I think I paid $369 for it.
Like previously mentioned, it is like an 80% completed kit. It will work when you get it but half the bolts are loose and you will quickly find many modifications that need to be done to make it more useful. I lapped all the gibs and ways which made a huge difference in accuracy. I installed some bolts in the saddle to lock it in place for facing. The "L" shaped allen wrench is a pain, so I made a T handle wrench. Mine has a hard to find miniature 3 amp fuse and holder, so I replaced it with an automotive size fuse holder. Not all minilathe brands have that problem.
I guess half the fun is making modifications! At first I thought mine was a piece of crap, but now that I fixed a lot of the problems, It really is a nice little lathe.

Gordon

[This message has been edited by GM69camaro (edited 06-02-2003).]

davestea
06-01-2003, 10:59 PM
do a google on "mini lathe" and use the quote marks -

you'll get a ton of links to check out - many are users with lots of changes and photos - some are sellers.

have fun - should take you a while to get through those - when you get done you should know all you need to know to make the decision.

Thrud
06-02-2003, 01:18 AM
George
They are handy for small stuff.

I have a maximat 7 and I wish it was a 17"x60" instead of a 7"x18".

If you want a superior machine look for a EMCO maximat 7 or maximat 10, Wabeco, or Prazi. These are Austrian or German made and very high quality serious machines.

lightswitch
06-02-2003, 03:11 AM
Small cuts only, I have found myself cutting too deep & stalling the motor. paid $299 for a Homie off ebay. oh also pretty much expect teh chip tray to be damaged when it arrives, seems most people have this problem. Nothing a hamer @ 4 minutes cant solve.

KenS
06-02-2003, 07:59 AM
G.A.,
Do yourself a big favor by holding out for the longer bed model and one with continuous speed control such as Grizzly sells. There isn't much room for work - particularly if you stay with the horrendously large toolholder and use a live center.

I had one once but sold it after a couple of months. During the time I had it I made it into quite a nice little machine by completely dissembling it, stoning and lapping ALL surfaces and rounding every square edge that I could without affecting the working tolerances. The halfnut is notchy and difficult as supplied but can be made to work as smoothly as a Clausing usually does, for example. I removed all decals and hokey name stickers.I even painted it machine grey and made or bought polished handles and wheels. I cut down HF wrenches to fit the tailstock and crosslock (added by modification) I buffed every part that I could and made the machine look and work like a jewelled watch. (sorta')

When I couldn't find any more ways to improve the machine I wrote a good description of why mine was better than the supplied ones were, took some pretty impressive photos of it and sold it on ebay for $50. more than I had paid for it. I'll look around both of my discs - I may still have some pictures of it but this has been nearly two years ago and they've probably all been deleted. (my two harddrives total some 60 gigs and there's stuff hidden or lost all over both of them)

All in all, I had fun with it. As supplied they are all made rough but the basic design and the parts are pretty good. Don't worry yourself over which brand is better - they are all identical under the distributor's chosen ugly color and labeling. The only differences are the length of the bed and whether you get rheostat 0-2500 rpm control or not.

The websites listed above are great. There are many more, and they seem to keep popping up uncontrollably. There is a lively subculture of mini-lathe users that are creative and energetic. When you buy one it can be like joining a great big friendly club and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in beginning to machine metal.

Damn! I think I may go get another one! LOL!
I've seen a version in ebay for $299. and the seller seems to have a continuous supply. Don't remember his name but it shouldn't be hard to find.

nitacboss
06-02-2003, 09:08 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by KenS:
Damn! I think I may go get another one! LOL!I've seen a version in ebay for $299. and the seller seems to have a continuous supply. Don't remember his name but it shouldn't be hard to find.</font>

KenS,
Homier sells one with a variable speed control for $299.00 and mine even came with a ready to use chip pan! No hammering needed! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//rolleyes.gif

After starting with off-the-shelf purchased modifications I'm at the point of starting the custom mods. Thus far I have been quite satisfied

lightswitch
06-03-2003, 03:56 AM
http://www.car-nage.com/Robert/minilathe.html

Pictures of my mini lathe.

Remember this thing is bare bones for $300 even the Grizzly & HF still need, live center & jacobs chuck for tail stock. HF sells a face plate, HSS tool bits arent included. Can spend an easy $200 more in odds & ends tooling just to make your mini lathe useable.

KenS
06-03-2003, 07:31 AM
nitacboss,
That's not bad. The only one available with variable speed when I had mine was the Grizzly version @ $495. Wish someone would drop the price on the little mill to a reasonable level.

lightswitch,
I sure like your blue one better than the pukey green and red that were about all available when I had one. Oh, and your ratio of tooling to machine is about right for any lathe, big or small.

I do still have one of the best links for tooling: http://www.littlemachineshop.com/default.php

I bought a few things from him and he delivers fast and well. I see that there is a (somewhate pricey) bed extension or replacement kit that makes any of them into a 7"x14"! Wow, a person might be able to fit a drill bit into a tailchuck and USE it with that much room!

nitacboss
06-03-2003, 08:35 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by lightswitch:
http://www.car-nage.com/Robert/minilathe.html

Pictures of my mini lathe.

Remember this thing is bare bones for $300 even the Grizzly & HF still need, live center & jacobs chuck for tail stock. HF sells a face plate, HSS tool bits arent included. Can spend an easy $200 more in odds & ends tooling just to make your mini lathe useable.</font>

LS,
Me thinks that is a Homier "Speedway" brand based upon color and someone peeled off the stupid sticker. As far as I know the only distinguishing feature between suppliers, aside from accessories is the color. Go to http://www.littlemachineshop.com/Reference/Paint.php for further details. As far as spending only $200 it'll be a lot more than that by the time you are done really setting up. My mill-drill was the same way. Most of my guns are the same way. Hell, even the girlfriend is the same way. You buy the basic model and accessorize it to bankruptcy...

ztarum
06-03-2003, 09:41 AM
Does anyone have anything to say about the Micro Mark 7"x14"? It is significantly more expensive ($550 or so), but it has inch lead screws, a longer/beefier bed, and a digital tach. I am sort of leaning towards this version, but by the time I buy accessories and make some mods that gets me pretty close to a $1000 9" SB.

I have a nice mill (Rockwell), but I desperately need a reasonable priced lathe so I can actually finish a project. Any recommendations concerning the Micro Mark mini lathe or others?

lightswitch
06-03-2003, 12:32 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by KenS:
[B]nitacboss,

lightswitch,
I sure like your blue one better than the pukey green and red that were about all available when I had one. Oh, and your ratio of tooling to machine is about right for any lathe, big or small.

B]</font>


you nailed it, its a Homier speedway.
Yeah i was pretty happy with teh blue color, as all my tools get painted red, blue or black. So right out of the box it was @ home. not the same shade, but craftsman makes a tool box that its going to sit on that is alos blue. Peeling that lame sticker off was the first thing i did out of the box.

G.A. Ewen
06-05-2003, 12:58 AM
Thanks for all the great info. I am still doing research but I have a couple of questions.
lightswitch, what is the horse power on your lathe and how heavy a cut does it take to stall it?
With a variable speed machine does it have the same torque on the lower speeds as it does wide open?
Has any one had any dealings of any kind with Micro Mark? I am seriously considering the Microlux 7 x 14 but I would like to know a little about the companys reputation.
Thanks again.

G.A. Ewen
06-05-2003, 01:31 PM
How about the Lathemaster 8 x 14 Model CQ6120X320 ? www.lathemaster.com (http://www.lathemaster.com)

BillH
06-12-2003, 10:15 PM
I just received my Micromark 7x14 lathe today. It looks to be a very nice lathe, but I have yet to cut anything on it.
The cross slide, and compound are a bit rough, they need to be deburred and gibbs adjusted. I will get around to it.
It is on sale right now at Micromark.
The Enco 9x20 lathe I had a much better fit and finish when it came to the cross slide and compound. Nice thing about these lathes is that they are simple.

ztarum
06-12-2003, 11:54 PM
Thanks for the info. Please give us another update after you've had a chance to work with it a bit.

BillH
06-23-2003, 09:21 PM
Well, I took my lathe further apart, and I did not have to debur anything. Still havent ordered the tooling yet to cut anything on it, but Im very happy with it so far.

dnsbss
06-24-2003, 09:49 AM
I had thought about one for making metric screws, has anyone actually cut screw threads with one?

Yankee1
07-13-2003, 03:45 PM
Hello Everyone
I have a 7x12 Grizzly mini-lathe.
It works very well for me. I've made a
few modifications to it,removed the sheet
metal on the rear to allow more travel to the
rear. Added a animation motor 3.5rpm for
a very fine finish on parts, its connected
to the leadscrew and I remove a gear in the
drivetrain so the leadscrew can be turned
by the animation motor. Added a cover to
the back of the handwheel housing to
keep chips out of between the leadscrew
and handwheel gears.I use this lathe all
the time and take about .020" off in one
pass on aluminum or steel with the auto feed. The hole through the headstock is
only about 13/16" for some this may be a
drawback. I have made a crank handle to
thread by hand using a die holder in the
tailstock. I used to have a SB 9" but
when I moved up to Oregon I sold it and
bought this little lathe . I have no complaints considering what it cost and
what I use it for.
Regards Yankee1

WSmac
07-27-2003, 08:37 PM
I have the Homier also.
I took it completely apart, washed it up, cleaned up alot of rough/sharp edges and surfaces then put it back together.
It runs good and everything works well on it.
The best thing I've made so far was a special tool to remove my inline fuel filter on our Ford Explorer. I used Delrin.
I plan on making mods I've found on other websites.
The MicroMark seems to be different only with the tach, and screw pitch, I don't believe it has a longer bed than the Homier.

I had Homier ship mine to me (East coast to West Coast)and when I ordered it by phone, I hemmed and hawed a bit, asked the nice lady if it was on sale, etc. then she said she'd lower the shipping charges a bit ($90 down to $70something). I thanked her profusely and rattled off my CC number.

I also ordered the Homier Mini-Mill and have yet to use it. I tore that one apart also and cleaned it up.

I think they are just fine for the work I want to do now and the learning I have to finish doing.

BillH
08-12-2003, 10:46 PM
THe micromark lathe is actually more than 2" longer than the 7x12 series, part of the extra length is for the slightly bigger motor and better motor mount.

I have made some axles for my live steam locomotive on my 7x14 lathe, and I have found this lathe to not be a .001 machine in steel. I need to further work on the gibs to get them smoother and more accurate without so much force on them. I find that the 9x20 enco lathe I had was far superior in terms of fit and finish, and in overall design. To bad I sold it when we had to move.

BillH
09-04-2003, 02:25 PM
Well, my mini lathe, after using it a lot, I learned something about it. It has tons of flex in it, all over. I was chucking a wheel blank in the 4 jaw chuck, and with my dial test indicator, I noticed I could push on side of the lathe and move it out .020 or more with not much force. Also, cutting 3.25" wheels, just remove .1" off the face, took me about 2 hours, tons of chatter on the outside of the wheel. The face was also bumpy. Perhaps my gibs were not tight enough. The 9x20 lathe I used to have, although sold it before ever using it, appeared to be much stronger built!

THe mini lathe is what it is, if you have a workshop, and dont plan on moving anywhere anytime soon, I say get a 12x36 or some old american iron.

I need small and portable, so I am stuck with it.

ztarum
09-05-2003, 07:56 AM
Sorry to hear about your problems with the mini. After a great deal of thought I passed on the mini-lathe and bought a South Bend heavy 10. I haven't used it much since I am busy cleaning it and replacing all of the oil wicks, but so far I am happy. The heavy 10 is certainly not portable, but if you were able to find a South Bend 9" it might meet your portability requirements. Still probably a two person job to move one, but relatively light.

ztarum
09-05-2003, 08:29 AM
One other thing that I forgot to say. Lots of people have confirmed that the gib strips on those machine are crap and cannot be adjusted properly no matter what you do. Even though your lathe does flex, I would bet most of your problem is movement of you saddle, cross slide, and compound due to bad gibs. Some people have made there own tapered gibs to help solve this problem. I think there is a link on the mini-lathe website.

brunneng
09-17-2003, 09:16 PM
After having a mini-lathe and mini-mill for 2 years and doing the micro-mark / LMS inch upgrades on both plus many of the other fixes - I'd say they're good little machines.
Not great, but good. I don't think the lathe's designed to handle anything much bigger than 1" in dia, really. You can cut larger stuff but there's just not enough support for the tooling or enough mass in the machine.

Just like with the mini-mill. Not enough mass to resist flex. I've watched the column vibrate in a twisting manner with a 1/2" chatterless single flute countersink from a bbs recommended brand. I've been thinking about filling the column with zero (or slightly positive) expansion concrete.

Soon as I have the funds I plan on getting the 12x36 lathe. I've been looking at the hort/vert combo mill that grizzly has. Interesting idea. The whole head spins around to use either function. I wonder if it's accurate enough to switch functions without remounting work and keeping accuracy.

But for the mini's. They are good little machines for little money. No more and maybe slighty less.

Thrud
09-18-2003, 03:02 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by brunneng:
I've been thinking about filling the column with zero (or slightly positive) expansion concrete.</font>

Fill it with dry sand first. This is an old trick used to dampen vibrations on high end Turntables sitting on tubular metal stands. It will help, try it first rather than filling it with concrete - the concrete is nearly impossible to get out if it does not work.

dplugs39
10-03-2003, 09:21 AM
Mini- Lathe owners.....I bought the Homier(blue) lathe , and found that there was no locking means on X, Y, and compound movements....So after I installed locks on the X.Y&lt; and compound movements, made a working cam lock on the tail stock, and designed and installed a fine screw adjustment on the tail stock lateral adjustment (it was impossible to adj. lateral movement), cleaned ,and tightned things up....The lathe is "not too bad"...The 80% kit statement is just about RIGHT....Still for the cost,($299.00) it is a good value, and runs well....Still I plan to use the "Homier" for small items, not big heavy cutting jobs...For small things the Homier is fine, but limited in power and "bulk....... Dale Detrich