View Full Version : 3 IN 1 MACHINES ??

Jerry Porter
12-02-2003, 12:13 PM
What I would like to see on the 3 in 1 machines is what doesn't work and why.

Did the file search and most of what I found is more like the Chevy vs Ford fight or a comparason to a totally single purpose machine. Jerry

12-02-2003, 03:44 PM
There are people here who are more expert on this but,
Lathe swing is often excessive to increase capacity of the mill and lathe. Rigidity (VERY important) is reduced as a result. Many complain that the mill portion is just too light duty to be of much use. Capacity is quite limited. There is a large inconvenience when you can't go from one machine to the other without changing your set-up. You usually get fewer features with a 3 in 1, like power crossfeed, quick-change gearbox, and reversible leadscrew. I would have a much tougher time without all of these features. Your choices for accessories, and sometimes tooling, are more limited as well. Most of the combo machines are only capable of light work, and for the same cost, you can get separate and much heartier machines. I almost went with a combo machine many years ago due to space limitations, and I couldn’t be happier that I did not.
I learned woodworking on my fathers Shopsmith a long time ago. Now that I have dedicated machines in my woodshop as well, I HATE using the Shopsmith by comparison. The only reason I could recommend a 3 in 1, is if space requirements are THE most important issue, or the deal of the century comes up. I will say that ANY machine tool beats the heck out of none, and I certainly hold nothing against a Smithy owner for making it their choice.

I don’t know how much experience you have in machining, but there are many things you are likely to need to do at some point. If you don’t have the knowledge to know what is required to do those unforeseen operations, you are not likely to readily see the shortcomings of a particular machine. Think about what you are needing to do, and what you might want to in the future, and ask the helpful folks here some specific questions.
I hope this helps.

Jerry Porter
12-02-2003, 04:07 PM
Thanks Joel,
am looking for something small and do not plan on any heavy work (have access to large machines for that) just trying to find out what they are capable of, will be working on small parts mostly alunium and plastic.

12-02-2003, 04:12 PM
Great reply Joel, the only thing I would add is that it's a smaller outlay of cash if there's a chance that machining is something you just want to try and think you may not pursue it too much.

I'm the owner of a Smithy 1220 mill/drill/lathe, and after a small amount of time I realized it was a huge pain switching back and forth....getting everything all dialed in only to have to break down for some unforseen need.
I started making lists of all the things that needed the lathe, then I'd switch it all over for the mill work. As Joel stated, the mill is not rigid enough for medium to heavy cutting and that can get pretty frustrating when the mill lacks powerfeed so you have to make a million passes by hand.

I eventually yanked the mill head off and bought a more stout (for my needs and budget anyhow) mill....I now use the Smithy as a dedicated lathe.

Had my initial metalworking interest petered out, I would've made the right choice with the 3-in-1.

Food for thought.


12-02-2003, 04:14 PM
I too was very tempted by the 3 in 1 when I started shopping for equipment. I ended up getting two small machines (Sherline.)

I think another quantative problem with the 3 in 1 is the limited travel of the cross slide when used with the milling setup. Unless you are truly going to work on only very small parts, I think you will run out of room in the X direction. The Y direction (parallel to the lathe bed) has plenty of room in the bigger 3 in 1 machines, but that won't do you much good if needing to mill a long cut. Even my little Sherline mill has more X travel than the 3 in 1 machines I've seen.

12-02-2003, 05:44 PM
I upgraded my Shoptask Quadralift to separates some time ago. I will say that the Shoptask 3n1 with the Quadralift option is far more capable than the SMithy line IMO. One thing you mentioned was the cross slide travel - it is far greater on the Shoptask than the Smithy. The milling envelope is far larger with the milling head more central too. The rigidity issue is also improved with the Quadralift option which uses 4 steel bars in DOM tubing to support the mill head.

Jerry Porter
12-02-2003, 06:05 PM
The used 1220 LTD that I am looking at has power table feed (X-12" Y-8") and the mill head has it's own motor so it would be posible to make it into two machines.

12-04-2003, 04:31 AM

They are not built that way. If you buy a 3 in 1 you are comprimising yourself. I have a Maximat 7 which is an Austrian machine (high end, toolroom quality) and still it is a comprimise and not as good as two separate machines.

Do yourself a favour and look for a good used standard lathe and a small milling machine like a mini-bridgeport, Clausing, or if you are real lucky a swiss Aiecia f1, f2, or f3

12-04-2003, 10:37 AM
About the three in one machine question...I have owned a Smithy cb1220 for about ten years , and have put a bunch of hours on the machine..It has held up very well to the hours of use...You will learn to bunch up your work, using the mill and lathe with min. switching back and fourth...If you can afford and have the space , yes the two different machines would be the best..If you are a bit "short" of space or $$$$ , the three in one machines will get you on your way..If you want ,You can go to the photobucket site , and see a few things that the Smithy and I have turned out. Dale Detrich


12-04-2003, 10:58 AM
Dale is a pretty exceptional guy, and his comments on the 3 in 1 machines pretty well sum it up. They can produce good work in the hands of a good machinist, just as any other machine. It is the individual operating it that produces the results.
This Spring, I went to a farm auction and parked in a field of mud. When it was over, I had to drive my 2WD pickup around several 4WD's that were buried up to their axles to get out. Is a 4WD better for mud? Yes. Can a 2WD work better? Yes, if the guy driving takes his time and thinks things through.
Get what you can afford, and have room for. Learn to use it well, and you will be satisfied.
Be prepared to spend some money, it is not a cheap hobby to get started in, and money spent up front will pay dividends in the long run.
Dale, what scale are the cars and the motorbike? I hadn't seen these before, nice work.

12-04-2003, 11:20 AM
To JCH....Sorry I did not sort them out of the bunch of pictures...It took me about 400 hours to make the Whizzer..(HA-HA)

12-04-2003, 11:31 AM
I had a regular Shoptask before I changed to a seperate lathe and mill. I thought I was going to do only small stuff, so it seamed just right. Wrong! It was small, and it was nice to be able to have it inside the house instead out in a cold shop. I had only three real complaints with it. It seamed like no matter how light of a cut I took, it chaddered. It had no X-axis feed. And, not being able to move the head up and down really made milling a pain. It quickly became too small, so I sold it and bought a 13" SB lathe and an old round ram BP. That cured all of my complaints with the Shoptask except, that shop is cold.

Jerry Porter
12-04-2003, 11:53 AM
Dale does do some excellent work.
I have always thought the operator/driver was more important than the machine JC.

I know that the 3in1 machine is a compromise (have access to large separate machines at a local factory) just want a machine to make small parts at home in my basement.

As to the “you can’t do that”, I would like to know how many times I have been told that by someone that I thought was smarter than me.

The used 1220 LTD that I am looking at has power table feed (X-12" Y-8") and the mill head has it's own motor and it lifts off.

[This message has been edited by Jerry Porter (edited 12-04-2003).]

12-04-2003, 12:13 PM
I have a 3 in 1 machine and I like it. The one that I have is fully manual with no power feed on any axis at all. It has taught me alot about machining. I am able to make cuts of .001" consistantly. It was very economical for me to get into. I had to buy tooling which is not economical at all. One day I am going to buy large seperate machines, but for the past several years my 3 in 1 has done well. My biggest complaint is the lack of room for milling operations. You can see pics of it @ http://photobucket.com/albums/1003/bernieb/3 in 1 You can also see a few things I have done with it @ http://photobucket.com/albums/1003/bernieb/Projects


12-04-2003, 02:26 PM
Any machine is good enough if it will do what you ask of it. Sooner or later you will ask more than it can do- thats why some "full sized" (I am remembering a ship yard) lathes/mills have places for the operator to ride along side the work. And they (shipyard) still had to farm work out to places where they had bigger stuff.

My observation about 3in1 is that they are TOO LARGE for the work they can do.

Friend built a 30 foot sailer in Philippines, sailed around africa to Florida. His machine of choice was a maximat or minimat or unimat (I disrember which) that he says saved his ass several times. He had his lathe/mill/drill in a small package that could be stowed in several cubby holes.

A cheap, imported, worn out 3in1 in the hands of the proper man can do much better work than I on my 10" Atlas (which in in pretty good shape, considering how I treat it). Its like the story about the old violin and the "master's touch".

Nicest thing about a 3in1 is that when you mess up and admit it, every one who knows more than a wife about metal working says its the tool not the operator. You sell that advantage when yo buy a more capable machine (and the more capable machine does not make you a bit better machinist).

Jerry Porter
12-04-2003, 03:18 PM
Thanks Everyone for your replys.

I think that I will try the Smithy 3in1, my boys & I are working on a Cobra Replica and there are a lot of small parts to make. Jerry