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View Full Version : Inexpensive tooling - a JOAT's perspective



bgreen776
12-14-2016, 02:39 AM
I'm not a master machinist, but I did receive an associates degree in Machining Technology, and I have been passionate about the trade since I was just a little shaver watching my father and grandfather make all sorts of parts from scratch in Dads little 700' garage, a good 30+ years ago. Right out of college (1999) I went into industrial repair as a "Millwright/Machinist" at a local refinery that used trapped natural gas to make anhydrous ammonia, prills, and granules, and life was good. Margins were high, we had a great budget, and I was able to purchase any tool I wanted without question. We had nothing but the best and lots of it, from any sort of carbide insert to the nicest measuring tools I could find. We had a full time tool room attendant and a massive selection of well maintained tools from Kennametal inserts to Snap-on ratchets. The work was hard, very high pressure, but the pay was good and I was in it for the long haul.

Fast forward 5 years. The world market had been crushed, margins disappeared, and layoffs started. Politics between the represented hourly hands and the salary corporate folks had risen to a new high so I was ready to find another employer. I volunteered to go with the first round, burned through my severance while looking for work, but was fortunate enough to find a job at a neighboring refinery as a Rotating Equipment Mechanic/Machinist. (2005) Life was different. This new refinery had been through hard times and still operated with the same philosophy that made them successful even when their stock had dropped to an all time low. IE: They were TIGHT with their money.

It was complete and total culture shock. I went from having three CNC machines (Laguns and Bridgeports), a dozen manuals (LeBlonds, Laguns, and various very nice, well made boring mills, large gap bed lathes, grinders, etc.) and a vast tool room to an import 12x40 lathe, a very worn out Bridgeport with a very sketchy 2 axis DRO. We had one tool box full of broken end mills, worn out inserts, and a 40 year old set of Craftsman non-carbide tipped micrometers. Not only did we not have Snap-on tools, we had a corporate wide ban on the purchase of them, and many of the mechanics had put so many miles on their Proto wrenches that the 12 point box end had worn out so completely that they were no longer capable of breaking loose even the easiest bolts. It was a very quick and brutal introduction to the extremes of operating philosophies.

Since hiring on I have seen some great changes. I was able to justify a decent CNC 3 axis mill, a nice LeBlond gap bed (43" swing), and a nice old surface grinder. We finally are able to buy a few decent measuring tools once or twice a year and get the mechanics new wrenches when theirs wear out but being responsible for the purchase of new tooling I find myself looking for sales, bargains, and little places where I can save as much money as possible while still keeping our equipment reliability above industry standards. Our numbers are significantly higher than our competition and I am proud of it. We are able to do great work with what bigger companies likely couldn't imagine.

How this translates into the home shop machinist world...

I've been doing fabrication and machining at home, in my own little 700' shop, since the winter of 2000/2001. I started with a garage sale buzz box, one grinder, and a small set of oxy/acet torches I bought on a student discount at a local Air Liquide. My personal budget has always been tight, my shop always small, and my goals always large. Since the beginning of my career I have had the privilege of full use of the company shops after hours. This allowed me to make a lot of really cool parts for any number of projects. At the first job I had everything I could ever want at my disposal, at the second I had very little, yet in both places I managed to tackle projects small and large, some that consumed nearly every waking moment, sometimes for years on end.

Recently some things worked out to pile up in my favor financially so I took the opportunity to finally purchase some machine tools of my own. Over the last 3 months I've been able to spend about 10k on some machine and fabrication tools, all of which are second, third, fourth hand, or imported from various countries most hold in low regard as they relate to machine tools. I bought a home built CNC knock off Bridgeport 9x42, a completely worn out South Bend 9, and a bunch of small tooling to support those machines, a Jet belt/disc sander, and a no name 48" box and pan brake. These machines are supported by my AHP imported TIG welder, Husky tool boxes full of garage sale Craftsman, Proto, and import wrenches. I've bought some nice Ingersol Rand impacts, Mititoyo calipers, Starrett micrometers, and Snap-on Ratchets, but the majority of my tools were bought at Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Ebay, and Amazon, and do not carry a high end name brand. All in all I have just about every thing I need to re-wire a modern luxury car, build 1000 hp hot rods, fabricate complete tube chassis race buggies,modify firearms, and build high performance racing snowmobiles. All in my little home shop, and I am quite proud of it. Its rewarding to do much with little. Having to make due has taught me ways to do more. Being thrifty has lead me from failing basic electronics in college to re-wiring my house, shop, and cnc mill. It has introduced me to fine body work, precision TIG welding, mass production fabrication, automotive machining, computer programming, and endless other things I really learned to enjoy.

Last week I took delivery of my first import tool that let me down. I bought a set of ER32 collets and the cheapest R8 collet holder I could find. The collet holder had .010" run-out on the collet taper! Junk. 27 dollars of absolute garbage. The key way was cut too short and the key was biting into the tooling radius up by the tapered R8 shoulder. But... it came with a nice spanner wrench which works just as well as the 30 dollar shiny anodized wrenches you can find online. I was inclined to throw the collet holder away, or send it back to the seller with a nasty-gram, but I decided to see if I could fix it myself. I did just buy a lathe right?!

I've spent a few hours working on that junk tool, while I could be working on the race truck that's taking up the majority of my shop, but no. I'm going to fix that thing myself and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. I have a job. I make decent money. But I enjoy coming home and relaxing in the shop, tinkering, thinking, and making or repairing things. Finding ways to make chicken soup out of chicken... Its satisfying. So if I find myself repairing another junk tool in the next 10-20 years, so be it, I feel like I am way ahead of the curve. I might choose to fix it myself or I might just toss it into the trash and go back to working on something else that I think is more important at the time.

The collet holder in question... two hours of testing, setup, and machining and it runs out less than .0005". The only error left is in the nut and the collet. I'll spend another half hour tuning up the nut to get another tenth or two out of it then test the collets and see which ones I may or may not need to replace. I'd love to follow philosophy #1 at home and at work but I can't. I couldn't do half the things I do if I bought high end tools for every thing I want to do. I gambled with the home built import cnc mill and won but even that I could justify in the big picture. My shop doesn't even have sheet rock! But I've enjoyed every tool in it and every minute I've spent in it.

I'll never say one way is better than the other, but I will say that for me and the work I do, with the experience I have had, I like buying inexpensive tools. All those words to simply say... adopt one philosophy or the other, or something in between, but make sure you get maximum enjoyment from your choices. Take time to appreciate what you have or are able to acquire and envy none.

PStechPaul
12-14-2016, 03:48 AM
I agree with your philosophy. Machining is not much more than a hobby for me, and I don't mind spending extra time fixing or improving on worn out or cheap machines and tools. I enjoy the process of machining as much as finishing a given project, and in fact I often leave things unfinished when I lose interest or find something else more challenging or useful.

My profession has been as an Electronics Design Engineer, specializing in high current test equipment, and my most recent interests are EVs (especially tractors), battery chargers, BMS, DC-DC converters, and AC drives. I also enjoy making air/steam engines, but even more electric motors, particularly SRMs (switched reluctance motors). I also have quite a few pieces of electronic test equipment, some professional quality name brands, but mostly imported from China. And I have found that most of these items work very well, although sometimes they have needed some fixing, which also often provides an interesting challenge.

Welcome to the forum!

Magicniner
12-14-2016, 04:18 AM
It's mainly cheap import tooling that can be poor quality, when I say cheap I don't mean what you pay but what the importer pays, he will negotiate a price and will often save a dollar on a product at the expense of quality.

I use some Taiwanese Nine9 engraving tooling which is very high quality and which gives excellent results,

- Nick

Doc Nickel
12-14-2016, 06:39 AM
[cracks knuckles]

Wow, after being on this board for what, fourteen years, finally another local boy shows up.

Right off the bat, there are very few home-shop machinists who can afford to buy the best, or buy new- and of course, as you just found out, "new" doesn't always mean even "good", let alone 'the best". It's been my experience that a few of the better-off types will splurge on something really nice- a Monarch 10EE, a Hardinge HLV-H, that sort of thing- but most of us buy what we can afford, and what happens to be available.

I went to work for myself- as a very amateur machinist- some 18 years ago, starting off with a well-used Jet mill-drill. I then picked up a new Grizzly 9x20, because I needed a lathe, and as you've undoubtedly found out, used lathes are few and far between 'round the Peninsula.

The Griz gave way to an old Logan/Powermatic, which was better in some ways, worse in others. I lucked out on a better Logan a year or so after that, and eventually I sold off the Powermatic to make a down payment on a good-condition Sheldon with a truckload of tooling. It's still my main machine today.

The Jet eventually gave way to a Grizzly Bridgeport clone, made in Taiwan. Again, I went that route because actual Bridgeports may as well not exist up here, and the few that do come up for sale are clapped-out and only good as drill presses.

With the exception of the two Grizzlies, all the rest of my machines I bought as cheap projects, because that's the only thing I could afford- hell, most times, it was the only thing I could find.

I have a pretty nice collection of tools today- although a fair number of them still need work, and even that's a collection it took nearly two decades to amass.

My hand tools... same deal. I pick-and-choose from the bins at the secondhand stores, I buy off eBay when I find a deal, I horsetrade. Most of my standard sockets and wrenches are Craftsman- maybe not the best, but pretty good, common, and affordable- and my hand power tools are DeWalt, Milwaukee and Sioux.

I have splurged on a few things- when I got the Bridgeport clone, I sprung for a real Jacobs ball-bearing superchuck. I have a $60 pair of scissors that cut like a dream. I paid maybe a bit too much for a DoAll bandsaw that I then had to partially rebuild, but it's rapidly become one of the handiest tools in the shop.

BUT... I still recall doing some damn good work with a clapped-out mill-drill, and no lathe at all. I recall the days when I owned a total of six endmills, and having to resharpen them on occasion using a Dremel tool. I remember taking a broken drill bit and grinding it down into a corner-rounding bit, because I couldn't afford the real thing. I still have it- I just used it a few weeks ago.

In the... four, four and a half years I used the mill-drill, I never once had a proper mill vise. I used a $35 Craftsman drill-press vise. I owned two files- total- and all of three bars of HSS, two of which O'Bie gave me when I took his class. My first carbide tooling was a couple holders I made, using inserts I salvaged from his coffee can of scrap- I just rooted through it until I found some inserts that still had a good corner or two.

I remember once spending my last ten bucks on a diamond tile saw blade for a Dremel, and using that to put a point back on a carbide insert in order to get a tough job done, so I could get paid and eat that week.

The craftsman uses what he has available, to do the job. Yes, better, fancier and more powerful tools make the job easier and faster. But not having a top-of-the-line machine doesn't mean the job is impossible.

I made this...

http://docsmachine.com/projectpics/2015/nymph31.jpg

... and this...

http://docsmachine.com/projects/angel/AngelVTwin01.jpg

... On an Asian-import manual mill and a sixty-year-old manual lathe. No CNC, no CAD, and in several cases using drills and endmills I resharpened myself.

'Course, I also built this...

http://www.docsmachine.com/snowvair.jpg

(yeah, I'm that guy :) )

... With no machine tools whatsoever. Or for that matter, no air tools and damn few power tools. I owned a gas torch, a buzz box, a 9" angle grinder, and enough tools- in total- to almost fill a 5-gallon bucket. About halfway.

Don't worry about what'cha got. Worry about what you can DO with what'cha got.

And you ought to stop by sometime. This week I've been working on my CNC lathe conversion, and just picked up a Shapeoko CNC router.

Doc.

pinstripe
12-14-2016, 08:51 AM
Welcome!


... I enjoy coming home and relaxing in the shop, tinkering, thinking, and making or repairing things. Finding ways to make chicken soup out of chicken... Its satisfying.

That's what it's all about for me. Import or domestic, new or old, manual or CNC, carbide or HSS, whatever. As long an you enjoy doing it, then the details don't matter.

reggie_obe
12-14-2016, 09:09 AM
Qualify your question/poll a little bit. Imported meaning USA/European tooling makers that have offshored some of their manufacturing or Chinese companies mass producing tooling. Sorry, but I see a large gulf between the two.

microshop dinker
12-14-2016, 09:50 AM
bgreen776----As I'm another hobby machinist (kinda, wannabe) on a tight budget I'm following this thread closely. And, I also buy some imported tooling when I can't seem to find what I want/need at yard sales, flea markets, etc. But, before I officially cast my vote my natural skepticism and curiosity re: internet "stuff" makes me wonder about the "View Poll Results:........'poll will close on 08-23-2030....'". Just wondering. Sammy

Mcgyver
12-14-2016, 10:40 AM
bgreen776----As I'm another hobby machinist (kinda, wannabe) on a tight budget

Some encouragement for the guys beginning and on a tight budget.

point 1) After 25 years at this, and being rather into it, I've at this point pretty much got at least one of everything. Probably a dozen lathes, 3 full size mills, 2 small ones, every kind of grinder and bit of meteorology equipment, its embarrassing how much I've accumulated and everything is top brands. Cripes, I counted the other day - 5 sets of friggin gauge blocks! BUT...... I had just as much fun day one with my first lathe and mill....point is having everything is really nice, but it it doesn't mean the passtime isn't just as enjoyable with a beginner kit.

2) I probably don't have a net dollar into it. Trading up, bit of wheeling and dealing, looking for deals and buying in bulk and selling the duplicates has let me build a shop without spending much. Its the old group of 3 line.....you want it high quality low and it fast, pick two. All things will come to he who is patient....its that serendipity idea, you start thinking about and stuff comes your way

3) sort of corollary to 2.....buy high quality used stuff. You can't believe how many tools and tool kits I've seen and its very very rare that stuff is not in great shape. Except for the 1" mic and 6" caliper, most of it sits a drawer 99% of the time. I would never buy a China mic because its so easy to have Starrett, Etalon, B&S, Mit, etc for the same or less money.

4) You really don't need much. I like have a lot, its llike collecting......but its not necessary. Look back. Once upon a time, before cheap asian imports, pretty much all tools were excellent quality and very expensive. A hobbyist buying a quality lathe could spend as much as a small car - he couldn't afford a mill so learned to do everything with the one machine. Look back further still to when there was less disposable income, and guys talked about having a micrometer as a luxury. Yet with technique they built very high quality and complicated model engineer projects that would win awards today. Read some old, like pre WWII Model Engineer Mags for a sense of what quality guys turned out with very limited tools - including their own micrometers!

Fasttrack
12-14-2016, 11:31 AM
bgreen776 - I really enjoyed your post and welcome to the forum!

I fall somewhere in between. I like quality tools; using them and even just owning them puts me in a good mood. If I have to use junk tools, I feel my mind set is "git r done" and the quality of my work becomes hurried and sloppy. That said, I also enjoy tinkering and restoring machine tools and accessories. I have more project machines than I do working machines! I look at a lot of the stuff coming out of Harbor Freight and - previously - Enco as "kits". For instance, I have one of those band saws from HF and I use it all the time but I also made a number of changes to it to make it work better.

I have a mix of Husky, Craftsman, Armstrong, Snap-On and Proto tools. I'm trying to sell some tools and build up a collection of just Armstrong and Proto tools. Snap-On are nice, but I actually like Armstrong ratchets way better. I also have some HF tools kicking around from when I was in high school. I really hate using those and they are now reserved for those special cases where I need to modify a wrench or socket for something unusual.

For me, it's more about the mindset I have when I pick up a tool. A quality tool helps me to slow down and do quality work.

flylo
12-14-2016, 11:38 AM
You start with what you have & a list of what you want. Using what you but always looking for that deal on what you want. I have a friend who thinks if meant to be a deal will fall in his lap(hasn't yet). I wake up expecting to find "That deal" every day & actively look for what I want at what I want to pay (until recently I've been downsizing). But I enjoy getting great deals & upgrading, moving, hauling & selling what I replaced. Most times you can upgrade for free or less but you have to be quick, take cash & have a way to get it moved as you have to read what the sellers motivation is, room, health, he upgraded, family member died, etc & make the sellers motivation happen. The great deals go quick. Everyone's different that just how I'm wired.

microshop dinker
12-14-2016, 11:39 AM
1+ on both Mcgyver and Fastrack--Sammy

Mike Hunter
12-14-2016, 02:45 PM
As some of you may know, my shop is primarily there for me to make money. When I first started up my shop, money was tight; no way I could afford all the tooling I needed or wanted. As a result I focused on price over quality; because of that I learned a valuable but expensive lesson.

First starting up, I bought 5 machine vises; imported by a big (animal) name vendor. I spent several hours truing these vises up. Within a year, 4 of the 5 vises had cracked, and were in the scrap pile. My shop was making money, and I decided to upgrade and bought a Parlec from Enco on one of their 20% off + free shipping. That vise is still strong and tight as the day I bought it 10+ years ago. A couple of years later, again using Enco’s 20% and free shipping, I purchased a Kurt. That vise see’s daily use without a hiccup. Later I purchased a used Bridgeport vise off eBay, 6 + years in the shop…no issues.

Now those import vises ran about $125 each for a total cost of $625. I estimate that I paid $ 800 for the three quality machine vises so $175 more. Four of the import vises died within a year, so cost was $500 per year.

I paid roughly $300 for the Parlec, 10 years ago, so far cost is $30 year. Kurt $400/8 years =$50 year. Bridgeport vise $100/6 years = $17 year. So, Cheap import = $500 year, quality tools= $97 year and going down every year.

I purchased three bench vises for the shop….. Again all cracked within a year or two. I replaced all of them with used Reed vises off eBay, I suspect that my son will be using them when he is my age.
Import R8 collets were terrible, the drawbar threads weren’t even cut right on half of them. Replaced with Crawfords about 8 years ago, no issues.

Drill chucks, could barely hold a wet noodle without the jaws marring. Replaced with Bison or Albrechts off EBay that I rebuilt. I will probably never have to buy another drill chuck.

I can give the similar examples for end mills, V-Blocks, grinding vises. Dial indicators and DTIs.
In just about every case when I cheap out I lose money.

DR
12-14-2016, 02:48 PM
I enjoy fixing things, like the made in USA $30 electric die grinder at an estate sale that was given to me after the seller discovered it didn't work. I spent two hours one evening taking it apart and re-soldering a loose wire. Not a profit making thing to do considering the time I spent, but fun to salvage a good quality tool that might last me a lifetime.

What I won't do is fix new junk. It may be equally satisfying for some. In my opinion it does no more than encourage sellers to continue peddling junk. Sending junk back causes an inconvenience for the seller which is my intention.

(Just noticed the OP is in Alaska, considering shipping cost and time to Alaska, I suppose might reconsider fixing something if I was up there.)

softtail
12-14-2016, 03:09 PM
The poll question could be better. "Import"... Swiss? German? Chinese? "Like".. loaded. I assume that by 'import', Chinese is what is meant. I never 'like' to buy MIC, nor do I set out to.. but I do sometimes depending on what it is, what other options are available, etc. If it's just dirty cheap and either gets good reviews and/or isn't real critical, I do buy MIC (or India)... don't like it though.

Doc Nickel
12-14-2016, 04:55 PM
Yeah, "import" doesn't always denote poor quality. My new-to-me vertical mill is an import- from a quality manufacturer in Spain. Both the small lathes have Phase II toolposts- a Taiwanese import, but ones that have proven themselves very good over the years.

The Grizzly mill, as I noted, was also imported from Taiwan, and it's given me 13-some-odd years of trouble-free service ever since. When I picked it up, I also "splurged"- if that word can be used here :) - on an import Kurt-clone vise. That vise worked great- I still have it today- although later ones from the same supplier have gone steeply downhill in terms of quality.

I have lathe chucks from Bison, a vertical mill from Spain, VFDs from Japan and China, a drill press from Sweden, a surface grinder from Taiwan, a hydraulic press from Denmark...

Doc.

CarlByrns
12-14-2016, 05:36 PM
Qualify your question/poll a little bit. Imported meaning USA/European tooling makers that have offshored some of their manufacturing or Chinese companies mass producing tooling. Sorry, but I see a large gulf between the two.

Yep. I have a DeWalt jigsaw that was made-in-China and it's excellent. I've also seen some obvious counterfeit/questionably labelled made-in-China power tools (sold at sketchy 'discount' lumberyards) that are absolute junk.

BTW- not everything Harbor Freight sells is Chinese. I have a HF hammer drill that's a knockoff of a Milwaukee. It was made in Russia and has proven to be unkillable. I bought it for one nasty job with the intent of tossing it when done. I beat on it like a rented mule and ten years later it's still going strong.

A.K. Boomer
12-14-2016, 05:49 PM
Does not "import tooling" mean something different for everyone???

don't we have to clarify here?

I mean what does a Chinese guy call import tooling? USA???

just saying there seems to be a survey going and maybe it should say "only for the USA guys"

bgreen776
12-14-2016, 10:49 PM
My bad, I was trying to be polite, if I knew how to change the poll I would. Maybe a moderator can change it to something more appropriate. Or just delete it as its not really relevant to the discussion, just my own curiosity. I see the topic discussed a lot and felt like it would be worth offering my thoughts as guy who has been on both sides of the fence. Not to convince anyone already established that their way is right or wrong, but to show the new guy that they shouldn't hesitate to consider lower cost alternatives in certain instances. If I was making money with my home shop I would be much more middle of the road. The nice thing about the low cost of the tooling I have is that I can, should I ever want to, take on profitable jobs that I would otherwise be completely unable to do. Then when the need arises buy nicer tooling, etc, etc, etc.

For now I just like to build cool stuff for myself and friends, when the timing is right, and I have the capability. Its fun and that's all I really care about at this time.

fixerdave
12-14-2016, 11:20 PM
My long rambling response to a long first post :)

I collect capabilities... tool sets and the skills to use them. However, I'm not so keen on using said capabilities to make a living. That's a key difference. If you're doing it for money then a lot of things change, like being able to count on a machine returning it's investment. Most of my tools will NEVER return the money I've invested in them. Never. Thus, things like durability and speed of use stop mattering. What matters is how I feel when using them, or even just having them. And, even that's not exactly straightforward.

What's more fun to use, a new car or an old beater? I've owned a new car... hated it. I'm way happier in a beater I can kick the door closed on. If I had a pristine and very expensive lathe, new or a classic, would I shrug my shoulders and run a toolpost grinder on it? But... the difference between a really nice cordless drill and a piece of garbage? I'll pay 5x for the good stuff with no regrets at all. It all depends.

Fixing my beater cars is an important part of my shop... the money I save driving beaters essentially pays the shop expenses. Thus, yeah, I've paid for some decent automotive tools. Not Snap-On mind you, but decent, and I treat them with respect. Some of my other tools... I've actually never used. Bought them on a whim, thinking maybe I'd like to get into it, and didn't. Other times, I've struggled through a job with the wrong tools then, after I've finished, gone out and bought the right ones... even though I'd sworn to never do that job again. I've never pretended to be rational in this particular hobby ;) But, durability of these tools isn't exactly critically important. They'll last the rest of my life sitting in that drawer.

Now, switching tracks, here is my take on Chinese import tools. People say manufacturing has all been off-shored. It's not really true. I'll use a local example to make my case, and (just so you know) I'm just picking numbers out of the air to illustrate. So, Blackberry started making this fancy-phone thing and were wildly successful, say they sold a million phones, had 80% of the market. Apple comes along and makes something else and everyone goes crazy for it. Everyone else jumps in too. After a while, Blackberry's market share has dwindled to 5% of the market. It's horrible and they're such a failure. But, they're still selling a million phones. The market expanded and they didn't happen to grow with it, so they're a failure? Manufacturing in North America is basically the same thing. Stuff is still made here, but the market for stuff has expanded massively. Look around your house... FULL of manufactured... stuff. How many TV-like things do you have? When I was a kid, a router was something special... contractors had routers, or really serious (and rich) hobby shop types. I have 5 routers. Same goes for most of the stuff in my shop. The idea that some hobby-schmuck like me could afford all those tools would be a fantasy in my father's day. Why do I have all this stuff? Because automation and off-shore manufacturing has made it cheap, so we can have more. A serious contractor, or somebody rich, still has the option of buying really high quality tools. The only difference is that now the rest of us have options too.

Then again, Blackberry, after being such a failure and "loosing" all that market share, was basically forced out of the phone manufacturing business. Not, at the start, because people stopped buying their phones, but because all the new buyers didn't buy them. The shareholders didn't get obscenely wealthy like those that owned Apple stock, so the company was forced to stop making stuff. I expect a lot of the North American tool manufacturers went through exactly the same thing.

So, North American manufacturing didn't keep up with the the expansion of stuff. Some were forced out of business because of it. Other jobs were lost to automation, which is a trend that will not stop anytime soon. Modern manufacturing techniques, that tend to eliminate the need for skilled labor, also destroyed the old manufacturing jobs. They say... (don't know the source or veracity) that North America manufactures 3x what it did in the '70s. We just have 10x the garbage in our houses so most of it is, in fact, made somewhere else.

David...

Black Forest
12-15-2016, 02:59 AM
I don't buy import tooling. Maybe if I was better at this machining thing I might try some but at this point I need the problem to be me. I have top quality machine tools and top quality tooling for the most part. If something isn't working then I know to look in the mirror to find the problem. For my mill and lathe I buy only Walter brand tooling. For drilling I buy only top quality drills made in Germany. (as far as I know). My welders are Kemppi brand made in Finnland and top quality.

I do buy used tooling sometimes on Ebay but it is all top quality name brand tools.

The cheap low quality tooling no matter where it comes from is too expensive for me. I totally understand the feeling some of you mentioned about using good quality tools. For instance I really like the feeling of confidence I have when it comes to parting on my lathe. Most all of the round stock I use for my projects is hydraulic rod. A lot of it is hardened on the outside diameter.
Knowing I can without a problem mount my parting tool with inserts made by Walter on my Swiss made Multifix tool post which is mounted on my Russian made lathe and set my rpm at 800, my feed rate at .97mm/rev squirt some oil on the rod, hit the power feed lever and watch little watch spring curls come out of the cut is pure pleasure for me. Whether it is 20mm or 80mm diameter rod I know I am going to get a good operation and no stress. Even though at the larger diameter the rpm might be too high for the correct surface speed it will work and I don't have to mess with stopping and changing rpms or feed rate. Just part and get on with things. Yes I like quality tooling.

Doc Nickel
12-15-2016, 04:47 AM
Not to convince anyone already established that their way is right or wrong, but to show the new guy that they shouldn't hesitate to consider lower cost alternatives in certain instances.

-The thing is, the current market, which includes a large amount of cheap and often "barely adequate" tooling, is in fact a significant benefit.

Home-shop and small-startup guys have never had it as good as we do today. Back in the 60s and 70s, you had a handful of choices for lathes- Southbend, Sheldon, Logan, Atlas, Craftsman, etc. Not a bad selection, really, but today, a guy can choose from two dozen more flavors- yeah, they're mostly Chinese, and the smaller stuff can be rough around the edges, but you can get anything from a tiny 7x10 which is perfect for small work in apartments or other limited workspaces, to 14x40s with all the bells and whistles. And the big stuff costs about what the small Southbends did back in the 70s.

Carbide inserts were usually only found in big industrial shops, nowadays we can buy entry-level kits that let a home-shop guy cut exotic metals with relative ease, not just aluminum and brass.

The relatively recent advent of affordable VFDs opened the door to using cheap industrial-grade machines in the home shop. (Cheap because they were 3-phase.)

Here and on PM, one will constantly see the old guard razzing the new guys about using "cheap Chinese" machines. Hey, nobody's even making affordable home-shop machine tools in the US, and not all of us want to wait around until some worn-out US iron shows up, and then have to repair it. The "cheap Chinese" machines get us started, and cost less.

Sure, I'd like to have a shop full of Snap-On, Bridgeport, Hardinge and Buck. And maybe one day I'll have it. But in the meantime, I'm getting a great deal of work done, and making a pretty decent living with my rag-tag collection. :)

Did you buy that one 2D converted Vectrax from out in Sterling? Looked like a pretty decent build for a decent price. I was kind of surprised to see it stayed listed for so long...

Doc.

Mike Hunter
12-15-2016, 08:50 AM
I believe everyone here understands what I meant by cheap imports; there are some imports that provide outstanding quality, and in some cases far surpasses what is currently produced in the US.

My Bison lathe and drill chucks made in Poland. Crawford R8 and 5C collets made in the UK. Albrecht drill chucks made in Germany. B&S digital calipers made in Switzerland, as well as my DTIs. Rotary table made in Japan, as well as a lot of my end mills and DT cutters. I believe the Parlec milling vise is made in Taiwan.

One of the best values that I’ve found lately are Kobalt hand tools, a Lowes house brand made in China.

As far as Harbor Freight, I have one of their General 60 gallon air compressors, tank & motor made in the US, compressor head made in Italy. It cost me 1/3 to ½ what a comparable “Name Brand” would have cost, and so far has been going strong for 5 years. Same for their impact sockets.

So I’m not bashing “Imports” en masse, but the consumer really needs to look at value; the old cost v. quality equation. Is it a one-time use or a lifetime buy? Will the tool actually do what’s advertised? Do I have to modify the tool to get it to actually work? Will it last as long as I need it to?

Asian import machine tools certainly have a place, my first lathe purchase was a mini lathe, I made a lot of parts with that little lathe, it taught me a lot, and without it I would have never learned what I needed/wanted in a larger lathe.

enginuity
12-15-2016, 10:10 AM
Max and I talked a little bit about lathe prices in our first podcast ....

His manual Rivett lathe would have cost about the same price as a 2 axis industrial CNC lathe does today. I would suspect if someone went ahead and made an American or Western European 10" - 12" swing lathe today it would cost around $25,000 - $30,000 by the time you include the margin for profit for the company. This would be for a standard lathe with nothing special. A new manual Hardinge HLV costs significantly more (are they still making them?). That means that in general, import tooling from China and the like are usually cheaper by a factor between 5 and 10 or even more!

Inexpensive import tooling has allowed many to get into the hobby, and allows me to make things. I constantly am looking for old iron, (I have an Ammco shaper and Linley Jig Borer), but I get sick of people asking too much money for clapped out machines. And while I'm not an Atlas / Craftsman hater, I have used those lathes and I will say that my inexpensive 10x18 will run circles around them ... primarily because it is an Emco copy.

Most of us have jobs, and fixed incomes. I couldn't afford to do work in my garage if my lathe cost the same amount as a new car. There is always used stuff, and I encourage you to look for it if you live in an area that has a reasonable used market.

Stefan has a lot of reviews on import tooling, and he suggests that you need to think of them as a kit. It is a starting point to a machine tool or tooling that may require some rework. I think given the price of most import tooling this is a very good way too look at it.

Andre3127
12-16-2016, 01:51 AM
A few companies offer HLV-H copies, but I do not believe Hardinge makes them anymore from what ive seen. Babin machine offers a nice one with servo automatic threading.

Sent from my XT1053 using Tapatalk

Hopefuldave
12-16-2016, 05:32 AM
I buy cheap consumables - milling cutters, drills and lathe tools - but most need sharpening to make them usable, tools I try to buy used and British where possible even if it means spending time rebuilding/refurbishing: my Holbrook lathe, for instance, is a 13 x 30 Toolroom quality lathe with all the bells and whistles (Imperial and metric threading, power feeds, micrometer stops, taper attachment) and cost me a lot less than a secondhand mini-lathe, BUT needed electrical conversion to run its 3-speed 415v motor from 240v, bringing up to more modern safety standards with 24v control circuits (instead of 415!), adaptations to replace Unobtainium bearings in the QCGB, it has proved worthwhile and an interesting learning experience :)

Next on my list is a milling machine, I plan to go the same way, a 40's - 70's Western (ideally English) machine with luxuries like power feeds and rapids (my shoulders can't take cranking handles for long) probably for much less than a secondhand Chinese mini-mill but with a few wrinkles to iron out.

I worked for a while at an importer of "hobbyist" Chinese machine tools, I was very unimpressed with the overall construction quality and safety standards (particularly electrical safety, that being part of my background) - as has been said, the importers want them built to a price, not a standard, not such a consideration when an endmill costs a few quid from China, but when it's a machine that's intended to last years and the best part of a thousand quid...

Dave H. (the other one)

Mcgyver
12-16-2016, 07:46 AM
Imy Holbrook lathe, for instance, is a 13 x 30 Toolroom quality lathe with all the bells and whistles (Imperial and metric threading, power feeds, micrometer stops, taper attachment)


sounds almost as nice and complete as my DSG :) j/j. Holbrooks are an amazing lathe. I've a B8 that is in the middle of being scraped, and I just marvel at how well made they are. An equivalent lathe here is the Rivett 608, similar shape size and quality. I have one of those too, but can't justify having both....it pains me to think letting either go.

JCHannum
12-16-2016, 09:34 AM
I am of the opinion that I cannot afford cheap tools and tooling, even consumables. Most tasks can be completed with basic tooling, and a bit of imagination. I have built up my home machine shop in the past twenty or so years purchasing most on the used market. I do have the advantage of living in an industrialized area and attended many auctions and estate sales. I can't remember what tooling I purchased new, but it is a very small portion of the total. I don't believe I have purchased any tooling in the last five years or so beyond a couple of drill bits.

To veer a bit from the OP, there is a range of lathes of varying quality available on the new market today. Depending on how much one is willing to spend they range from barely acceptable to excellent. The problem I see is that, for the most part, the home shop variety are all either a variation of the Emco or a more complex gearhead.

When Grizzly announced they were resurrecting the South Bend line, I thought they might reintroduce a lathe along the lines of the original South Bend machines. That is a belt drive, step pulley, back geared machine in the 10"-13" size range with 5C capability a quick change gearbox. But, instead, they rebranded the current lineup of gearheads with the South Bend logo and paint job and an enormous price tag. The new Heavy Ten is another disappointment.

I, and many others here are quite happy with their "vintage" machines and they perform admirably in the home shop environment. I believe a manufacturer could put a good quality machine of this type on the market at a much more attractive price than what the current decent quality offerings are.

bgreen776
12-17-2016, 01:52 AM
[cracks knuckles]

Wow, after being on this board for what, fourteen years, finally another local boy shows up.

I've been reading this forum for years off and on and have always enjoyed everything I've read. Love this place! Your posts have always been my favorite for reasons I'll speak of below.


I went to work for myself- as a very amateur machinist- some 18 years ago, starting off with a well-used Jet mill-drill. I then picked up a new Grizzly 9x20, because I needed a lathe, and as you've undoubtedly found out, used lathes are few and far between 'round the Peninsula.

They sure are!



I have splurged on a few things- when I got the Bridgeport clone, I sprung for a real Jacobs ball-bearing superchuck. I have a $60 pair of scissors that cut like a dream. I paid maybe a bit too much for a DoAll bandsaw that I then had to partially rebuild, but it's rapidly become one of the handiest tools in the shop.

Ginghers (http://www.gingher.com/)? I bought a set of those for my Mother probably 30 years ago, I had to save up a years allowance to get them, but I knew they were going to last her a lifetime of quilting. Fiskars are nice, but for certain things it sure is nice to splurge a little to get the best quality.


The craftsman uses what he has available, to do the job. Yes, better, fancier and more powerful tools make the job easier and faster. But not having a top-of-the-line machine doesn't mean the job is impossible.


I made this...

http://docsmachine.com/projectpics/2015/nymph31.jpg

... On an Asian-import manual mill and a sixty-year-old manual lathe. No CNC, no CAD, and in several cases using drills and endmills I resharpened myself.

Do you still have that or did you sell it? I'd love to see it.



Don't worry about what'cha got. Worry about what you can DO with what'cha got.

Well said.


And you ought to stop by sometime. This week I've been working on my CNC lathe conversion, and just picked up a Shapeoko CNC router.

Doc.

I stopped by one time a good 15 years ago, with Kirk, but I cant remember exactly why. Been checking out your website ever since. :) I'd like to come by again one of these days for sure!

bgreen776
12-17-2016, 02:15 AM
Did you buy that one 2D converted Vectrax from out in Sterling? Looked like a pretty decent build for a decent price. I was kind of surprised to see it stayed listed for so long...

Doc.


Not sure bud. Here is the description I got from the guy who does live in Sterling. He sold it to buy a nice used 3 axis VMC. Keep your eye out for parts I can use to add a 3rd axis. :)


1992 Acer 3VS vertical knee mill, 3hp, 3phase variable speed. 9x42 table, hardened ways. 2 axis CNC conversion, using high quality precision ground ball screws, not the cheap ebay parts. It features high powered Allen Bradley servos and drives, the axis motors are rated at 2.8hp, with the belt drive they put approx 8hp and 12lb-ft of torque on the screws, the control is Mach3, using a CNC4PC 24v breakout board, it uses an EtherNet SmoothStepper motion controller, for high quality signaling as well as 250 inches per minute rapid speeds.


https://www.dropbox.com/s/ula958qywt7y0pl/File%20Oct%2015%2C%207%2009%2059%20PM.jpeg?dl=0

https://photos-3.dropbox.com/t/2/AABlb2r0TFwq5wvBKzYCUQO9gcZ9vORrEZcHO_9jJSkC_A/12/12903952/jpeg/32x32/3/1481979600/0/2/File%20Oct%2015%2C%207%2009%2059%20PM.jpeg/EJLxygkY7OQBIAcoBw/_nv01fCJec_EdTlB-imtBHmgQNIaF1a5685XIXJAkWk?size_mode=3&dl=0&size=1600x1200

bgreen776
12-17-2016, 03:25 AM
Great discussion. I love all the great posts and points of view.

The ER32 chuck I bought? Well... its still far less than I wanted, but I have it down to .0015" TIR depending on which cheap collet I use. I've got some nicer collets from Little Machine Shop in the mail as well as some Tormach TTS chucks. It was kinda tough to spend two hours on a chuck that will likely never be quite right, but I had fun doing it, and I now have an extra holder that will work just fine for larger end mills. I put my 3/4" Iscar Helimill (http://www.travers.com/helimill-indexable-end-mill/p/19-241-027/) in it and believe it will work great for such an application.

Today I went after a couple old drill chucks that I got when I bought my CNC mill. They were in really rough shape, or so I thought, but after some TLC they are going to be a great addition to my home shop.

The two on the right are imports and they looked worse than the one on the left. The chuck on the left is an Albrecht. The Albrecht is seized up so I don't hold too much hope for it but I'll tear it apart tomorrow and see what I can do with it.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/82ljz07xkjjh6rd/File%20Dec%2016%2C%209%2043%2057%20PM.jpg?dl=0

https://photos-1.dropbox.com/t/2/AAD0cDi_dt4H0WMgQ-kGPzIshoR4wPKzvdHztVNWfvyAzQ/12/12903952/jpeg/32x32/1/_/1/2/File%20Dec%2016%2C%209%2043%2057%20PM.jpg/EJLxygkY7OQBIAcoBw/ESmJF2A0z-56ANEY0MzZOEURq11RM8obRuzqupaLqmY?size=1600x1200&size_mode=3

Doc Nickel
12-17-2016, 03:48 AM
Ginghers (http://www.gingher.com/)?

-No, Mundial (http://www.mundial-usa.com/), out of Brazil. Their forged dressmakers' shears. I also recently found a monster pair of near-antique Italian Betakuts at Bargain basement for a whopping $5. Industrial sort of thing, like you'd see in a jeans factory.


Do you still have that or did you sell it? I'd love to see it.

-No, that was made to order for a client. Here's a shot of it anodized and assembled:

http://docsmachine.com/projectpics/2015/nymph-finished.jpg


I stopped by one time a good 15 years ago, with Kirk, but I cant remember exactly why. Been checking out your website ever since. :) I'd like to come by again one of these days for sure!

-I'm almost always here. Whenever you're in town and have a minute to kill, swing on by.

Point in fact, if you have any time at all you could lend towards helping me get up to speed on this CNC thing, I could sure use all the help I can get right now. :D


Not sure bud. Here is the description I got from the guy who does live in Sterling.

-That's the one. I thought I recalled it being a Vectrax, although it basically is, under a different badge.

What was the guy doing he needs a VMC for?

Doc.

dian
12-17-2016, 05:56 AM
I believe everyone here understands what I meant by cheap imports; there are some imports that provide outstanding quality, and in some cases far surpasses what is currently produced in the US.

My Bison lathe and drill chucks made in Poland. Crawford R8 and 5C collets made in the UK. Albrecht drill chucks made in Germany. B&S digital calipers made in Switzerland, as well as my DTIs. Rotary table made in Japan, as well as a lot of my end mills and DT cutters. I believe the Parlec milling vise is made in Taiwan.

One of the best values that I’ve found lately are Kobalt hand tools, a Lowes house brand made in China.

As far as Harbor Freight, I have one of their General 60 gallon air compressors, tank & motor made in the US, compressor head made in Italy. It cost me 1/3 to ½ what a comparable “Name Brand” would have cost, and so far has been going strong for 5 years. Same for their impact sockets.

So I’m not bashing “Imports” en masse, but the consumer really needs to look at value; the old cost v. quality equation. Is it a one-time use or a lifetime buy? Will the tool actually do what’s advertised? Do I have to modify the tool to get it to actually work? Will it last as long as I need it to?

Asian import machine tools certainly have a place, my first lathe purchase was a mini lathe, I made a lot of parts with that little lathe, it taught me a lot, and without it I would have never learned what I needed/wanted in a larger lathe.

does your bison drill chuck have 0.15 mm runout like mine? oh, wait, probably 0.2 mm, because mine is of the "precision" variety. its $100 spent on something i still have to find a use for. made in poland? hardly.