View Full Version : What could I do with an Emco CNC lathe?

Doc Nickel
11-16-2016, 04:18 AM
A semi-local seller has a pair of Emco Compact 5 CNC lathes, that have been listed for a while with no takers.

I wasn't overly interested when I first saw them, as I know they're pretty small lathes (4" swing, 13" bed) and the controls/computer are pretty antiquated. (According to Tony's site, these models were only made up to '92.)

But the seller has dropped the price to almost "aw, what the heck" which has made me wonder just what I might be able to do with such a thing. The price, however, is not so low it'd be worth buying just to junk the controls and try to slap Mach 3 on it or something. He says it works as-is, though (the second lathe is a "spare", presumably meaning parts) and he can teach someone to use it in just a few minutes. They apparently have the little 6-station turret, a coolant pump (!) and he says he has all the books and software.

I know these things were made mainly for training (which, I admit I could use a great deal of) but would it be worth wasting some time, funds and shop space on? (No, I know it's not for 500-part production runs. :) I'm looking at part practice/training, and part maybe making a few special parts.)


11-16-2016, 05:02 AM
The electronics are old enough that they need to be cheap enough to convert to Mach3 or one of the new stand-alone Chinese controllers, unless the seller is giving you a warranty ;-)

11-16-2016, 07:12 AM
I'll take one.

11-16-2016, 07:56 AM
There are some videos on YT. They're very slow, but they will cut better curves than you can by hand. Some of the early ones don't have a serial connection, so they have to be programmed from the console. They only support a limited set of G-codes. I wouldn't get one of those.

I believe there is some third-party software to program them on a Yahoo Group. Unless they come working with a computer, I would work on the assumption that you might have to replace the electronics.

One was for sale on eBay last week, and I was reading about them. The one here was the PC version that connects to a computer. It sold with a computer for over $1,000. I wasn't that keen, but I would pick one up for fun if it was cheap enough.

11-16-2016, 01:15 PM
Here you go Doc: http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/threads/59984-Emco-Compact-5-interface-with-linuxcnc-(no-interface-mods-)

Thinking about your other project, going through the Linux learning curve with a cheap Compact 5 may pave the way for success with the Logan. They are quite capable for the smaller stuff & would be nice to have setup to make multiples of a few of you parts while doing larger onesey-twoseys on the other one. According to Sam, a hardware update isn't necessarily needed.

11-16-2016, 02:24 PM
Some software from back then won't run well on today's operating systems without a lot of tweaking and additional files. I'd want to see the software install and run on a new 'puter before I'd agree to anything.

A while back I tried to install a program from my old Windows 98 days on the new Windows 10. It didn't want to go. Checking the web showed that it was possible but not without a lot of deep setting changes and some additional support files. In the end I didn't need it that badly so I'm living without it. But it's an example of how what worked easily with the operating systems of the day won't work now without a lot of jumping through hoops to get there.

Doc Nickel
11-16-2016, 02:52 PM
The seller says the setup includes a 'laptop', so presumably either it's an ancient laptop, or he's already done whatever conversion is needed to run a more modern control.

I haven't called for details yet, as I'm only marginally interested- and they'd be a 10-12 hour drive one way to go get. (Or $200-$300 in shipping on top of the purchase price.)

I'm mostly just curious. Sounds like at least the hardware is pretty solid? For what it is?


11-16-2016, 04:20 PM
The seller says the setup includes a 'laptop', so presumably either it's an ancient laptop, or he's already done whatever conversion is needed to run a more modern control.

I haven't called for details yet, as I'm only marginally interested- and they'd be a 10-12 hour drive one way to go get. (Or $200-$300 in shipping on top of the purchase price.)

I'm mostly just curious. Sounds like at least the hardware is pretty solid? For what it is?

Doc.Sam's your man to answer that question & I suspect he'll be along soon. I would think it's very capable when used within its designed capabilities. Emco doesn't make doggy equipment. It should make tons of good aluminum widgets at around 1" to 2" diameter. I think they do have an aluminum headstock though if memory serves.

If the good one was already set up with Linux the way Sam's were, I'd be all over a road trip If they were cheap and I was in your shoes.

11-16-2016, 07:48 PM
I have an EMCO Compact 5 CNC and the F1 mill. I wouldn't even consider keeping the electronics. Actually, I ended up selling the electronics to some other guy for almost what I bought the machines for.

I've taken both machines completely apart. I made mounting plates for Nema 32 motors for the F1, and was planning on making plates for the Compact 5. Then I ended up getting a hold of a Denford Novaturn, which is superior to the Compact 5. I've already converted it over to Mach3.

I personally would just buy the lathe for the hardware, I don't think I would spend more than $500 for one. I would replace everything else, including the stepper motors. I would just get some cheap few hundred dollar kit off eBay from China with the motors and everything to get it going. The lathe itself isn't too bad. There are a few places where I felt like they went a little cheap. The headstock is pop aluminum. The pulley for the headstock is plastic. Other than those two things, the rest is fine. For what it's worth the F1 mill is sold, and excellent for it's size. There isn't anything cheapened up about it at all.

Unless, you are purchasing it to tinker with, and spend a lot of time learning how to put it all together originally.

Doc Nickel
11-17-2016, 01:05 AM
See, that's the thing. If they were usable more or less as-is (and the seller states at least the one is) then that might actually be useful.

But if I have to gut everything but the bed and headstock, put new steppers and an all-new controller on it... well, that's yet another full project, and I'm already working on a CNC lathe conversion project.

Aaaaand now it's a moot point. :) I was going to screenshot the picture to post it here for posterity, but the ad's gone.

He started out asking $2K, and has been relisting it for at least a month. A day or two ago, he relisted it at $1,200- Still a bit much for an "oh, what the heck" buy, especially considering I'd have to drive 600 miles to pick it up (or pay to have it shipped down) but I figured I'd ask.


11-17-2016, 03:32 AM
As I recall, the rotating tool turret was essentially the same as the one used on Denford Orac lathes, and those turrets fetch serious money on eBay here in the UK.

11-17-2016, 05:21 AM
I've seen them in a watch factory in Switzerland, they were making parts, not screws, they had specials for them but they were doing serious work with them, the controls were all updated, I remember seeing Bosch on lots of bits.
Looked very impressive as they had Mitsubishi robots loading and unloading, very slick

11-17-2016, 01:01 PM
Not that it matters now, but a friend of mine bought one for $1K several years ago, and resold it for a small profit. It was used as a training cnc in a school. The thing that got me was that the error in the minimum step in turning was 0.001", resulting in a 0.002" diameter error probability.

Dan L

11-17-2016, 01:16 PM
The emco with existing drives and steppers have a half-step resolution of .000273"... Not spectacular but very usable.


Zahnrad Kopf
11-17-2016, 03:35 PM
I've a 220P that I ripped the controls, the steppers, and spindle motor from, and replaced them with LCNC, new servos, encoders, and a 3HP motor with VFD. I consider it a wonderful little machine. The core is VERY well made and the old girl will honestly hold tenths all day long. It's not blazingly fast and has a limited work envolope, but it is a very capable small turning center. I am honestly going to miss it when it's time for it to leave. Have a larger turning center coming and cannot keep both. If you do update one, they can do great work. Don't be afraid of them at all.