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View Full Version : New guy in the shop...what Lathe to get?



Mattio
02-26-2008, 08:07 PM
Hi folks.
This forum looks great....have been doing a lot of reading here. I recently have been bitten by the model steam engine bug. I would like to start and possibly attempt to make one (or two). The dilemma I am in...is what tools to start with? I am familiar with a lathe, did a bit in high school....but would like to learn more and tinker in the shop (garage). I have looked at the Sherline lathes..they look great (and about in my price range $600...then I see the older Unimat SL1000' s for about $400 that look in great shape with a milling attatchment...then I see the Taig Micro...wow...cool little setup for about $400 and have seen some of the work some have done on these...incredible....then comes the Kung Fu iron (Cummins, Griz, no name stuff etc.) in the 7 x 12 variety (all the toys...but need tweaking....then I see a seemingly ok deal for an older Craftsman 101 (with Timkins) that has seen very little use. I have some of this old iron, and it can be a great addition (and made a lot better).
If you were to recommend a small bench lathe for the shop to learn and play with steam engines (probably make more swarf than actual parts..lol), what would get your vote? I am open to any suggestions.
I live in southwestern Ontario Canada buy the way (Kitchener area).
Thanks:D

Your Old Dog
02-26-2008, 08:40 PM
Been a lot written the past few days on that very subject. Read through those post and you'll see it is no simple answer. You are in the same spot I was in when I wanted to get into machining. Just start where you can and make the best of it assuming that it will be your first lathe, the one you learn on and that a second lathe may follow in the future after you know what is important to you and what features you need. I bought a used SouthBend 9x40 model A because it became available. Prior to that I was looking for a Unimat but I don't know how I would have made out with it. I don't think anyone here can really recommend what you should buy unless you are saying money is no object and then there might be more ideas forthcoming. Good luck and welcome to the forum.

RobbieKnobbie
02-26-2008, 09:15 PM
A bunch of people will probably disagree with me, but I'd go and get the least expensive machine that will suit your needs (your expected work envelope, threading etc). This probably means a trip to harbor freight/grizzley/ etc.

Use it, learn on it, crash it a few times, then once you have a better feel for what your specific needs are and what features you need/want, THEN go get yourself a larger/more expensive/more feature rich machine.

If you think of your first machine as expendable it takes a lot of the anxiety off and lets you have more fun. And when you do decide to upgrade you can retain your tooling and sell the first machine, or better yet keep the old one for secondary operations or special setups that you do often...4 jaw work, center grinding, all that good stuff that's a PITA to change over your main machine for.

smiller6912
02-26-2008, 09:35 PM
IMHO, go to your local community collage or trade school and take a class. It will brush you up on your skills and give you a chance to play on a lathe and get a feeling as to what will fit your needs. You can network with the students and staff and get some input on what others are using and, possibly get some good leads on local used machines.
Good luck...........

JRouche
02-26-2008, 09:41 PM
Well heck, get a Monarch 10EE, then you could make a lil lathe LOL Just kidding, that is the idiotic response you can get some places though and I dont know why folks are always pushin bigger when the OP has a size in mind..

That being said. If you have already thought it out quite a bit and space is a strict factor then you have many choices. And you already know that, thats why you asked :)

I really like the lil 7" X 12" lathes put out by Sieg. They come in a large variety of distributors, from HF, grizzly, Cummins and many more.. http://littlemachineshop.com/Info/minilathe_compare.php

I like them over the Sherline and Taig for price for one but also because the are made from steel or iron not aluminum.. Not to say some really fine stuff has not been produced from the SL or Taig lathes.. Just my opinion..

Now I hate saying go larger because I assume you know what size you want.. But just in case you can squeeze out some extra floor space I would highly recommend one of the smaller used south bends or Logans..

But Im gonna think you already put a size limit on the lathe so I like the seven by...... lathes.. JRouche

Fasttrack
02-26-2008, 09:51 PM
A bunch of people will probably disagree with me, but I'd go and get the least expensive machine that will suit your needs (your expected work envelope, threading etc). This probably means a trip to harbor freight/grizzley/ etc.

Use it, learn on it, crash it a few times, then once you have a better feel for what your specific needs are and what features you need/want, THEN go get yourself a larger/more expensive/more feature rich machine.

If you think of your first machine as expendable it takes a lot of the anxiety off and lets you have more fun. And when you do decide to upgrade you can retain your tooling and sell the first machine, or better yet keep the old one for secondary operations or special setups that you do often...4 jaw work, center grinding, all that good stuff that's a PITA to change over your main machine for.


I aggree - you can get a decent small lathe that's good for learning fairly cheap. I bought my lathe without "breaking my budget" and its served me well although i'm definitely in the market for a much larger machine.

The one thing i suggest is that you only buy tooling that is more or less transferable to other lathes. On my lathe, for instance, i made an adapter for the spindle so i could mount a threaded four-jaw chuck that are more common and much less expensive than the ones specially made for my smithy machine. This is true of many things i've bought - i want them to be useful on other machines as well. (Obviously it doesn't work all the time, but its something to keep in mind)

Oldbrock
02-27-2008, 02:29 PM
If you're in GB contact John Stevenson, he just found a myford ML7 under a bench. He isn't using it, maybe he will give it to you:D Peter Oops, didn't see the location.

ptjw7uk
02-27-2008, 02:43 PM
I would think hard about the size of lathe you get as in my experience whatever size you get it will at times be to small!!
I dont know what the unimat lathe you refer to is but the one I used in the past was I thought over the top for a die cast lathe.
I wish I had one to sell now as they go for silly money.
Only advantage in going for soemthing from the far east is that it hasnt had any bad knocks(apart from the idiot assembling it)
So just go for the largest you can fit in or afford.
Welcome to the mad house.
Peter

Mcgyver
02-27-2008, 02:45 PM
you need to get to TSME's site asap and check out the myford for sale - look through the latest newsletters. i have no idea what shape its in, but if its good, the 1500 price for a fully accessorized super 7 is a great deal, imo.

Davek0974
02-27-2008, 02:56 PM
I would base the decision on size first, what size engine do you want to make? Things like the flywheel, crank, cylinder will give you a starting area for swing over bed and distance between centres etc.

I can say from past experience that projects always get bigger but there is no harm in starting small as long as it is big enough to make what you need or there is the risk that you will loose interest when you get stuck.

Now you have the size, you can start looking for the machine, i am a firm believer in old iron and have a small shop full of it:-) Get the best you can based on size and price.

Good luck and have fun, I am.

Dave
http://www.davekearley.co.uk

Thomas Staubo
02-28-2008, 10:17 PM
Do you know about this website? :
http://www.mini-lathe.com/

If I wasn't so lucky as to acquire my Myford lathe, I would probably have ended up with one of those 7x12 mini lathes.
They seem to be ok for newbies, who are willing to make some adjustments and modifications.


.

J Tiers
02-28-2008, 11:06 PM
Among the import-from-china machines, the mini-lathes seem to be the best choices. They are actually relatively consistent, and seem to work well for many people.

That said, I find that the most popular lathe size is probably the range from 9" to 12" swing, with 10" the leader. It is "right-sized" for a LOT of kinds of work.

Bed length giving 20" on centers is probably good enough, although there are times when longer is better, of course. But somewhere in the 20" to 30" on centers and 10" swing area is just about dead-center on the home-shop machine.

Smaller seems to often be too small, and larger is an issue with speeds, and usability, not to mention movability.

Machines such as Atlas, or Logan, are popular on a size and availability basis. S-B also, but that is typically priced higher due to name. All have machines centered in the range mentioned.

Atlas made a lighter machine at 6", which might compete with mini-lathes. And there are 12" Atlas which because they are based on 10" machines, are lighter than usual 12" size, more movable, giving the advantage of swing without the weight. It comes at a price in stability, but suits many people.

So, I am pointing you at the 10" area as the center of the range for small steam engine etc work. You can decide, and certainly a mini-lathe will not break the bank. They can be had quite inexpensively. But I suspect you may find them too small fairly soon.

tony ennis
02-28-2008, 11:57 PM
But I suspect you may find [mini-mills] too small fairly soon.

+1

Also consider that you may not always want to make tiny steam engines.

Ed Tipton
02-29-2008, 02:01 PM
As previously mentioned, this question is all about you, what you're going to be doing, what you can afford, and how much room you have.
If you can say with absolute certainty that you will never...under any circumstances.... want to build anything bigger than a miniature engine...then you have absolutely no reason to even consider any of the larger lathes. If you simply have no room for a larger machine AND THE ACCESSORIES that you will need, then you have no need to consider a larger machine. If you are living life an a budget (and who isn't), then...all things being equal...smaller is cheaper. Occassionally , if you look long and hard enough, you can find a larger machine that will go pretty cheap simply because the size will limit it's appeal to many otherwise interested buyers ( too big for the garage).
The purchase of the lathe, in most cases is only the beginning. Once you begin working with it and your skills improve, you will want and need more accessories than you're likely to get with the initial purchase. You might get a break on the initial price of the lathe, but the larger the lathe.... the more you will pay for the accessories.
Small lathes have one serious and obvious drawback. With a small lathe, you simply CANNOT work on larger things even though you may have the knowledge and expertise to do so. A small and fully tooled and accessorized small lathe is still a small lathe, and there is no way to "get around" that simple and overriding limitation. As a follow-up, I will add that they don't give away the accessories for smaller lathes either. As previously stated, buying the lathe is just the beginning.
As a general statement, I would advise you to buy the largest and highest quality machine that you can reasonably use and afford. I disagree with the poster who suggested buying a cheap machine to learn on as I believe this just leads one into developing bad habits. WHATEVER you decide on, it should be something that you want to own, and that you will take pride of ownership in and will make every attempt to use correctly without abusing it. Anything else is just a form of false economy.
So there you have my $.02 worth. You are the only one who knows your specific needs and concerns, and so there is nobody on this or any other forum who can tell you what to do. The best you can hope for is for somebody to maybe give you some considerations that you had not previously considered, but the things I've mentioned here should probably be factored into your final decision. Good luck.:)

Mattio
03-05-2008, 10:44 PM
Wow...thanks folks...lots of great info to consider. I certainly appreciate the comments. I will keep looking at my options, and when the missus lets me buy a new tool, I will have lots to choose from. Thanks for the warm welcome:p