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View Full Version : Buying Equipment - What is Good what is Crap ?



mark mccurdy
08-28-2006, 07:15 PM
Building my shop from the ground up. Want to buy a solid accurate lathe and vertical mill. I also want to buy machines that are as big as I can afford and/or have space in my 20 ft x 20ft garage. I see not small number of manufactuers, and machines that are from 50+ years old all the way to brand new stuff. What is good? What should I stay away from ? I have $5k-$10k to spend. How would you suggest I spend this money ? thanks

nheng
08-28-2006, 07:21 PM
It's taken me years to say this but with all the crap out there on the used market, unless you are in an area with a good selection of used machine dealers, I'd go for a good quality Taiwan built lathe in the 13" / $7k range. Use the remaining $3k to find a nice clean Bridgeport.

One of Grizzly's Taiwan built, "precision" series of lathes might fill the bill but I have no direct experience with them. Den

Forrest Addy
08-28-2006, 07:41 PM
Not an easy question to answer and your potential field for advise runs from a rigid "buy American" and "old American iron" to "buy only Asian" from many who bear powerful prejudices.

I will go this far: if you can find pristine (or nearly so) estate sale American made machine tools at a price you can afford then go for it. If you can distinguish subtle levels of quality in new import tools then shop carefully.

Do not rule out machine tools purely on account of country of origin. The same basic design is often sold under a half dozen labels built to differing standards. So far as I can tell, many models of Jet, Grizzly, and TurnPro machine tools are made from the same basic designs and castings yet sell for differing prices. I've bought several TurnPro machines and had good service from them. From this experience, I don't know how Jet justifies 30 to 50% higher price than TurnPro. OTH I can see how Harbor Freight make their money and for that reason would never purchase maching tools bearing their name.

Buy in haste, repent in liesure as the saying goes. The best solution is to take no-one's advice except in the form of tips or words to the wise. Form your own experience and knowledge base. Take a couple of months to study what is on the market both used in your area and on eBay, and the potential new or used import machine tools may hold for you. In the end you will be better informed on machinery in general and you will have made a number of contacts in your locality thus extending your resources.

I would suggest you avoid older machine tools having considerable wear unless you're willing to rebuild them. I would also avoid lathes with threaded spindles, mills with Brown and Sharp spindle tapers, and any machine with important pieces missing. Don't even bring a free machine home unless all the parts are present and assembled in place.

A word to the wise: there is no more frustrating event in the home shop machinist's life than to invest two year of time scrounging and making parts to commission a junky old relic of hallowed name and finally be forced to give up on it for lack of parts, time, or ability to make parts or find them. Unless you have actual machine tool rebuilding experience buy or obtain only complete running equipment for which tooling and parts may still be obtained.

Shop wisely.

dirty old man
08-28-2006, 08:12 PM
It would be virtually impossible to add anything of substance to what Forrest has posted.
Heed his words, take your time, and you'll find what you need.
There is a South Bend 13"X40" for sale on Practical Machinist right now that, although I have not personaly seen it, it sure looks nice. Since I only live about 25 miles from it, if I didn't already have a pair of Sheldons in that size range. I would be taking a close look myself.
The lathe I am referring to is in GA, just SSW of Atlanta.
Dave

reality checker
08-28-2006, 08:59 PM
I think that your first machines need to be tooled up running machines. Once you have the basic machines in place, they will help to restore others if you choose. If the first machines you get are projects, and you have no way to repair them.

Machining a shaft to repair something simple is tough when the only lathe you have is the project machine and without the shaft repair you can not use it!

I have a well equiped shop built on what was available when the need or wallet dictated the purchase. The first thing I got many years ago was the famous or infamous south SouthBend 10K. The machine was completly tooled including many tools that I may never use. It was 400.00 and it was from a school shop. It had had the cross slide fed into the chuck several times in its life and there was some wear on the saddle, but it was a runner and there is little it can not be forced to do. I got it at a municipal truck auction. If it had been a lathe auction the crowd would have been there for lathes and I would not have been able to afford it. I now have three lathes, the southbend helped to get the others running.

Tooling is worth more than the machine, if you try to buy it piece by piece. There are more buyers for tooling than complete machines. I always reject machinery from sources that have parted out everything but the carcass. Find a package that will help with future projects until you have enough machinery to complete some of those less complete projects.

I know that many will counsel to avoid production machinery, I consider anything that I come across. Production machinery may have worn parts, but it may also have had regular preventive maintenance and repair also. Many times when a machine is disposed of by a shop, it has been looked at as slow out of date junk, they just want it out the door. I have seen pallets of tooling bundled with " that old junk machine in the warehouse" I worked at a shop that sold a Tree CNC machine for 2000.00 with about 25 tool holders 6 weeks after paying 2000.00 to replace the spindle motor. No one wanted to run it, it was slow by production standards, out of date and a floor space hog. the tooling was not compatable with any newer machines. It would have been a dream machine in a home shop. A machine dealer bought it and hauled it off one afternoon. "Get it out of here" can be a great thing to hear.

If a aisan machine fits the bill for you go for it. I have been less disapointed with asian machinery recently than in the past. Maybe I am no longer buying the 2.00 collets, or the quality is better.

I always instantly reject any machinery that has been painted, I never consider the machines that I use needing to be cosmetically pleasing, and I have seen few machine paint jobs that were actually done well. I am sure that some people paint machines to improve the looks, but I want to know what it looks like before any "rebuild in a can" painting is done. I believe that I can evaluate a machines true condition by where and how the paint is worn or hammered off. I always wish the cost and effort that the seller put into the paint job had been applied to the way covers or cleaning the machine.

I think one machine at a time is a good way to build, as one machine is learned and becomes useful, the next machine needed becomes apparent. I don't know if this rant will help you or not, but it is a snap shot of what I think about machines and how to equip a shop.

If I had the money to spend, I would buy a Hardinge tool room lathe with some tooling for about 8000-10000 dollars and a good condition bridgeport mill with some tooling for 4000-6000 dollars. I feel satisfaction from running quality American machines, there is confidence in knowing these machines can build the tooling that built the country.

Good Luck, do it because you enjoy it, or at least you being well paid.

RobDee
08-28-2006, 09:25 PM
I've used Austrian lathes for the last 30 years both professionally and for my own work. They have served me admirably.

One thing I've found. don't look for the largest swing longest bed. The number of times I've needed a lathe to turn over 12 " diameters is in the single percent.

The number of times I've needed accuracy for under 1" diameter is in the thousands and I ran a business with all kinds of projects coming through the door.

Rob Dee

lane
08-28-2006, 10:13 PM
My only advise is . If you are Not familiar with machinery get a friendship going with some one who is , a old retired machinist or some one who has been in the trade, another home shopper . If you dont know what your looking at your in deepppppppppppp _ _ _ _ ! But Buy the best you can afford an you wont have to buy it twice.

tattoomike68
08-28-2006, 10:14 PM
Myself I would look for a lathe in the 15 x 60+ range with a gap that will swing 22"+ so you can do a driveline or even face a truck flywheel.

For a mill a 9 x 40 or a 10x50 table mill with an R8 taper. HP depends on the power you can get to the machine.

When my brother started his shop he picked up a 14x40 goodway gap bed gear head lathe (Japan) and a 10 x 50 3 hp komet mill (Taiwan)with dro and power feed, both for $9,000 used. they are fine machines.

I would forget the whole american iron BS and buy bigger stronger newer import machines. most of what people say about import machines is total garbage, if they would buy the bigger stronger machine and not be so stinking cheap they would not have the junk.

I have worked in job shops for over 12 years and most of the machines were import and I run the living hell out of them, realy making them grunt and work hard.

In fantasy land where price means nothing I would buy a Clausing /Colchester “THE PROFESSIONAL”
http://www.clausing-industrial.com/Products/Lathes/Colchester/vs-pro-home.htm

And the kondia mill.

http://www.clausing-industrial.com/Products/Mills/Kondia/kondiamanualmill.htm

john hobdeclipe
08-28-2006, 10:59 PM
Just split the difference and buy good crap. :D

Seriously, take your time, read everything you can find about the types and brands of machines in your area of interest. Read the archives of this board, and of the other boards that relate to your interests.

Then watch for auctions, estate sales, and other venues. Hit the pawn shops and flea markets...you never know what turns up in these places! Watch the local Craigslist ads, and always be ready to jump.

I've been able to outfit a nice little shop full of quality woodworking (and now metalworking) tools by patiently waiting, watching, learning and buying when I see what I like. I have stuff from estate sales (Emco 10" lathe, Delta wood lathe, DeWalt radial arm saw, etc.,etc. And I have stuff from auctions, (Powermatic drill press, heavy wood topped work benches, Delta Unisaw, hand tools and smaller power tools. And I have stuff from pawn shops, (Snap-On rolling tool chest, hand trucks. The point is, the good stuff is available everywhere, at good prices if you're patient and willing to do some footwork.

Take good care of the stuff after you get it, because the upgrading process is continuous, and you need to be able to turn around and sell your old stuff for top dollar when you've bought a replacement.

My personal feeling is that older American machines, if they are in reasonably good condition, are far better quality than the newer Asian imports, at least at the home shop level. But I don't have experience with larger Asian machinery to back up that opinion, so I'll just keep it to myself.

A 20 by 20 shop will be absolutely cavernous...for about a month....If you're slow.

ASparky
08-28-2006, 11:20 PM
Short answer no quick fix. Buying second hand by selecting brand or country of origin etc are non starters. It may be good machine abused, a machine that as new has bits missing that has been improved etc etc.

The long answer is you need experience, either teach yourself by researching for things that are bad and why and decide if you care. The other way is to find someone who is experienced to cast an eye over machinery you like. This can also be problem as some "experts" are not as good as they think they are.

Michael Moore
08-29-2006, 12:58 AM
I'd suggest modifying the "buy older American industrial tools" to read "buy older industrial tools from whatever country if they are in good condition".

The difference between an industrial tool and a hobby tool seems pretty large, at least in my limited experience. There are quality industrial tools made in many different countries, and getting one of them ***in nice shape*** is likely to make you very happy.

Worn out industrial tools should be avoided. But if you can get something in acceptable condition it may well last you your lifetime of HSM or even light to moderate commercial use.

If you are planning on making a purchase that is supposed to last you for a long time (as in decades) than you may find it money well spent to pony up for something in premium condition. A nice tool is probably not going to get any less expensive, and they probably aren't going to get any more common either. Bite the bullet, put the "I never thought I'd own one of these in this condition!" machine in your garage, and have fun for many years to come.

cheers,
Michael

SJorgensen
08-29-2006, 03:27 AM
That's really the question isn't it? I know people who have more high quality tools than god, and yet they can't do one third as much work as a capable man can with much much less. There have been several examples mentioned recently. Read the thread about the small workshops. Check out some of the examples of Evan's work. Evan doesn't use a big mill; he made a milling adapter for his SB 9" and has done wonderful work with it.

There is some unquantifiable advantage to working UP to the higher quality tools. At least you will learn WHY you want them, and it won't be the same thing for each person. Some people will never need high precision and the price curve gets pretty steep the finer you get.

Another good thing about starting with the lower or older tools is that if you buy a good tool in good shape you should be able to sell it in good shape without losing much value.

Take your time and buy a good tool, in good shape. It doesn't have to be the biggest or the best but it should have a track record. Look at old tools like South Bend lathes or Craftsman lathes or Shapers.
I could look at one and I could estimate pretty closely the selling price. Stay away from the Chinese stuff. Yet this too is changing. I remember when "made in Japan" was a pejorative term. Now Japan is at the top of the game. The Chinese quality is coming up fast.

J Tiers
08-29-2006, 09:01 AM
The "new asian" vs "old US iron" question is continual.

The problem is, of course, that the two labels do not describe "one" item each......

There is worn out "old US iron", and there is "made wrong" in teh "new aisian" category.

EITHER WAY you need to know the difference between crap and caviar.

Some new asian will never be any good, because it is featured wrong, and not put together right. Some is fine.

Obviously, with older US iron, you know at least one thing, it was once good.... and it was made teh way that "defined" machine tools, with the needed features, etc. That is if you stay away from Craftsman, Atlas, cheap Sebastian, etc.

Those work, but may never have been any great shakes. The difference between that low end hobby US iron and the low end hobby Asian iron is that the US has most of the features you will need or want. The Asian may be missing important features; back gears, decent compounds, even half nuts, on some models.

None of them will work and feel like a nice 9" S-B with power feeds. And I don't particularly worship S-B, they just made machines that work well. They should have, they had long enough to get it right.

Newer and more expensive asian will probably be OK, usability-wise, even without back gears (seems they nearly never have them).

Older asian may not even have the dials calibrated right..... might SAY 0.1" per rev on teh crossfeed, might BE some "close" metric equivalent, making the thing neither imperial nor metric......

Myself, given the choice, I'd rather have somewhat worn US iron, that has the features, rather than a newer asian item that will drive me nuts working around what it lacks. NOT "worn out", whatever that means...

But, if I spent several grand, I could get a nice enough chinese machine.

Millman
08-29-2006, 09:19 AM
You'll never know for sure till you Touch the handles.Listening to other's advice, is risky, at best.

caddy
08-29-2006, 11:05 AM
Just split the difference and buy good crap. :D

Seriously, take your time, read everything you can find about the types and brands of machines in your area of interest. Read the archives of this board, and of the other boards that relate to your interests.

Then watch for auctions, estate sales, and other venues. Hit the pawn shops and flea markets...you never know what turns up in these places! Watch the local Craigslist ads, and always be ready to jump.

I've been able to outfit a nice little shop full of quality woodworking (and now metalworking) tools by patiently waiting, watching, learning and buying when I see what I like. I have stuff from estate sales (Emco 10" lathe, Delta wood lathe, DeWalt radial arm saw, etc.,etc. And I have stuff from auctions, (Powermatic drill press, heavy wood topped work benches, Delta Unisaw, hand tools and smaller power tools. And I have stuff from pawn shops, (Snap-On rolling tool chest, hand trucks. The point is, the good stuff is available everywhere, at good prices if you're patient and willing to do some footwork.

Take good care of the stuff after you get it, because the upgrading process is continuous, and you need to be able to turn around and sell your old stuff for top dollar when you've bought a replacement.

My personal feeling is that older American machines, if they are in reasonably good condition, are far better quality than the newer Asian imports, at least at the home shop level. But I don't have experience with larger Asian machinery to back up that opinion, so I'll just keep it to myself.

A 20 by 20 shop will be absolutely cavernous...for about a month....If you're slow.
Loved this!! "There is no such thing as a big enough shop"

Ed Tipton
08-29-2006, 11:49 AM
Personally, I tend to favor the older American made machines. As a general rule, they are all well made for their intended purpose. If you need a specific feature such as a large spindle hole, long bed, large swing etc. you will be able to find it if you keep looking. Brand names get their reputations through well earned track records. Bridgeport mills and Monarch lathes are reknowned because they were quality tools when they were made, and they earned their excellent reputations through years of proven performance.
Search your local industrial auctions and you will find that these machines have reached a time in their life where they have limited use to industry. They can not keep up the pace with modern CNC machines, and frequently the only people interested in them are other hobbyists or shade tree mechanics. Good quality machines are available on the second hand market, but, obviously, one needs to be informed. Buying replacement parts will very quickly erode away any "savings" that you made in your purchase. A broken or missing part is very different from a part that simply needs adjustment.
There are many bargains out there for three phase machines. Many home owners shy away from these machines because they do not have three phase power. For the shrewd buyer, the savings to be had in the purchase of a three phase machine can easily pay for the components to build your own three phase converter, and you can probably have enough left over to buy that special accessory you will need. In addition, there are sometimes rather extensive accessories that may come with the machine in the auction environment. Not only that, but in the search, you will have the opportunty to meet many nice people and benefit from their experiences as well. The search for that specisl machine at that fabulous price can be rewarding in itself. If you're uncomfortable with evaluating machines on your own, take a buddy with you. Usually, a little experience, some good ol'common horse sense, and a discerning eye will be your best friends when you're out and about. Have fun, and good luck! Ed

SGW
08-29-2006, 11:55 AM
Especially heed Forrest and J Tiers. Lots of good stuff from others, too.

My take on it, which may repeat some of what has already been said:
All generalizations are false. "Chinese tools are crap" is not necessarily true, although a lot of them are. And a worn-out Hardinge toolroom lathe may be a boat anchor, no matter how glorious it once was. So you need to do your homework. I think it's pretty much mandatory to go see any machine you're thinking of buying, new or used, unless it's an absolute known quantity.

It also depends a bit on what size work you reasonably contemplate doing. One post said something to the effect that he's made a thousand 1" diameter parts for every time he's needed to turn somthing 12" in diameter. I'd echo that. While it might seem attractive to be able swing mega-diameters, ask yourself how many times you'll actually do it. Odds are extremely high, not many.

One thing you don't want to stint on is quality. While you may not need Hardinge quality, a poor-quality machine will annoy you as long as you own it.


I find I use the limits of my milling machine's table travel (22" x 8") fairly often though, so at least for me I'd say that a good-size work envelope on a milling machine is useful. On the other hand, nice as it might be to have an aircraft-carrier-sized table, the effort of moving and having room for such a monster make a smaller machine far more practical to own.

Michael Moore
08-29-2006, 01:14 PM
On those small 1" lathe parts spindle speed gets important, especially if you want to use carbide. I've noticed that some of the inexpensive small lathes don't have a very high spindle speed (1200-1400 RPM), while my 17" Mori runs to 1800 RPM which should make it, a moderately big lathe, better at doing small parts than some of the small lathes.

One drawback to a bigger lathe is that all the tooling is also big, and the prices can tend to track the mass on the tooling. Those bigger chucks and things will also take up more storage space when they aren't in use. The 5C collet closer for my lathe is just about 3 feet long.

cheers,
Michael

mnadeja
08-29-2006, 03:16 PM
Wow there is a lot of excellent advice here.
One thing to add, if you are going to buy New import equipment, buy from a machinery company or machine tool related company. Not from a catalog that sells anything that they can import, there is a hige difference. (besides price) there is a lot of great stuff out ther, but a lot of junk gets mixed in and gives it all a bad name.
Best of luck to you.

Forrest Addy
09-05-2006, 12:22 PM
I got a private massage from Mark McCurdy. I don't like to respond privately when material and questions of general interest are involved so I moved it to the forum. It's no more or less work for me and more people can benefit from the discussion.

Mark writes:

"For[r]est,

First thank you very much for your comments in regards to my "what is good and what is crap" thread.

Your response to my thread plsu what I have read of your other threads, sounds like, as I am a "newbe", I should be looking at buying "new" versus used.

This being said I have been looking at the Grizzly G9249 Belt Driven lathe, and the G6317 Grizzly horizonal/verical mill.

You see any issues here ? I think the noted lathe has a threaded spindle which you said to avoid (??? why). I have also heard that newbes should go with belt driven vs gear driven lathes as they are more forgiving.

Any additional insights you could share would very much be appreciated.

Thanks.

Mark"

I respond:

Mark: There's nothing wrong with threaded spindles per se but it's not safe to run them in reverse because of the danger of the chuck coming loose and spinning off.

Some common operations may be more convenient in reverse: boring, threading and detail cutting (grooves etc) in bores, backing out taps, polishing, etc. A small lathe furnished with a D1 series or an L series spindle nose is immune from trouble arising out of reversing the spindle.

Don't let this consideration push you away from a good machine with a threaded spindle. After all, threaded spindles were common for generations before the present day spindle nose configirations came out. However if you find a good machine with a threaded spindle, go for it. If two machine are under consideration and one has a thread spindle let that feature be a downcheck in the total score.

As for Gear Vs Belt that's BS. A good, well constructed lathe is a good, well constructed lathe be it cone pulley and belt drive or gear drive. An incautious move cen get into as big a trouble on a belt drive machine as a gear head. You are going to make mistakes and bust a few tools. That's part of the learning process. An engine lathe is robustly built. You won't hurt it if you stall it in the higher speeds.

As for your choices from the Grizzly line (I presume you mean the G3617 mill), they will be adequate to your tasks. If you pursue home shop machining and move up in scale in your projects, you will sooner or later become unhappy with their limitations, especially those of the lathe and the horizontal spindle of the mill. It has an R8 taper which has limited torque transmission. That said you can keep this info in mind and when the time comes sell them to another newbie and upgrade.