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New to Machining_Need Some Opinions

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  • New to Machining_Need Some Opinions

    Thanks guys. After posting this last night I did exactly what Dog suggested. Oh boy! Unfortunate about Smithy since they're right down the expressway from me. I just don't want the hassle of a bad machine. I like to build things that work and build them with stuff that works. I think considering what I'm planning a lathe and mill setup would be best instead of the this and that in one. I'd still like to know what the best manufacturer is for what I need. If there is one.

  • #2
    New to Machining_Need Some Opinions

    Hello all,
    Although I am new to machining I have many years of mechanical design and "tinkering". I am looking for a "desktop" Mill/Lathe suitable for machining telscope mounts and telescope parts. I almost put my money down on a Smithy but after reading a few posts I think I'll pass which is unfortunate because that's really the size I'm looking for. The Sherline and Taig mini-mills and lathes are too small for what I plan on machining. Are there any well made 3-in-1 type setups out there that will permit me to spend more time on making things rather than trying to get the equipment to work right? Has anyone had a good experience with Smithy or does Smithy only talk the talk?


    • #3
      You might try banging in 3 in 1 in the search engine. You might bang in Smithy also because some similar machines may be mentioned in the same thread. I know this topic has come up several times in the past year or two. I think most guys would encourage to not do the 3 - 4 or 5 - in 1's. If you're into astronomy heavy enough to build your own gear than you might be a methodical enough thinker to be able to handle a 3-1 machine. I'd sure hate to be far along in a project, mess something up and then have to back up using a 3 - 1 setup! I do alot of backing up and retrying these days !!


      [This message has been edited by Your Old Dog (edited 03-04-2006).]
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      • #4
        A 3-in-1 makes a terrible mill. I would suggest just saving some money and buying a small lathe and mill. You will be much happier in the long run.
        James Kilroy


        • #5
          Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


          • #6
            You might look at what Prazi has to offer. Also EMCO. (That's EMCO with an M.)

            Blue Ridge Machinery and Tools (usual disclaimers) has quite a variety of offerings.

            [This message has been edited by SGW (edited 03-06-2006).]
            Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
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            Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
            There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
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            • #7
              What really breaks my heart? Seeing a Monarch VMC sell for $500 on eBay. It was within driving distance. Problem with it was that it weighed in at upwards of 20,000 lbs, had a footprint of at least a single car garage, and appeared to be about 10 feet tall. It had a 20HP spindle motor, IIRC, and ran on 3 phase 480V.

              Scale down the equivalent functionality to desktop size, setup for single phase power, and the price jumps to $3000-5000

              Supply and demand at work.
              The curse of having precise measuring tools is being able to actually see how imperfect everything is.


              • #8
                The 3 in 1's have significant limitations, but for small parts or model work they can get the job done. However, if you have the room and money, a small mill-drill (RongFu or Clausing) and a small lathe (9" or 12")is a big step up in capability. Next step after that is a Bridgeport size mill and a 12" or 14" lathe. This last setup covers a large workpiece size range.

                Don't get nothing just because what you can afford or have room for has limitations, if you only have room and money for a 3 in 1, go for it, you can make some nice parts with one of those. I started out with a drill press converted to a mill with an add-on cross table, all housed the closet of my apartment. I was able to make some parts I couldn't have made otherwise, and as I got more room and available funds, I upgraded my equipment.

                Good luck-

                Paul T.


                • #9
                  I have a smithy 1220 , I like the lathe part, I should have just gotten the lathe.
                  the mill part is less than great thats for sure.


                  • #10

                    Maybe you considered this, but if not...

                    How about a South Bend 9-inch Lathe? It has a footprint of approximately 48-inches by 30-inches and can be put on a desktop if "space" is such a premium for you. can do all the things (and likely more) that one of those 3-in-1 machines can do by adding a milling attachment or other clever "devices" that you may dream up! It would be perfect for making telescope parts!

                    If you're worried about a used one being worn - which it is going to be - don’t let that stop you. Remember, most things don't need accuracy over a long distance and a lathe that has considerable wear is still capable of holding a tolerance over a short distance for bearings seats etc. In other words, the "operator" doing some thinking can easily compensate for most inaccuracies of a lathe! Once you know what problems the lathe has, corrections will become second nature. Besides, you'll soon need to do this regardless of any machine you buy - new or used!

                    Be patient! If you check ebay and other suitable venues, I'll bet you will find one that is just perfect for you and you’ll have a machine that will get your job done time after time.

                    If a South Bend is not to your liking, then consider just a lathe. The other 3-in-1 features can easily be had by attachments or jigs.



                    [This message has been edited by Mike Burdick (edited 03-06-2006).]


                    • #11
                      "In other words, the "operator" doing some thinking can easily compensate for most inaccuracies of a lathe! "

                      Yep. Keep in mind that all new machines are made on used machines.

                      My 1937 South Bend 9" is perfect for telescope accesories and parts. Here is a crayford focuser I made. All parts were made on my lathe including all milling operations.

                      Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                      • #12
                        Thanks everyone. You've brought up some names I was not familiar with. Space is not a problem but I like a compact Machine so I have more room for the kids to run around. I plan on making a deticated tool shop so adding a few more square feet is cetainly possible. Now that I think of it, although the mill and lathe may not be as accurate as I think I need I would think that making a jig or possibly another tool all together would work for specific applications. Is there a "Home Machinist" magazine that is better than the others?

                        Evan, nice focuser. Bout time someone puts some shine on their scope. None of that flat black stuff for me unless it's in the tube. Have you ever made a drive worm gear and worm wheel?


                        • #13
                          I have made a worm and wheel but not for a scope.

                          It's for a small rotary table. What looks like a worm is the hob for making the wheel.

                          The wheel in the drive below was a precision brass gear that I found. I made the worm for it and designed the rest including the stepper drive for it.

                          [This message has been edited by Evan (edited 03-06-2006).]
                          Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                          • #14
                            I do like my smithy, its fine for hobbie work at home , my brother has a big machine shop i can use for free if needed.

                            Oh yes, do not be afraid of an old machine if you turn a part .002-.005 oversize file it some at a slow speed to get it within .002, speed it up and polish off the last thou or so with some used emory cloth and you can get to less than .0005 with most any machine.

                            It comes off easy, putting it back on does not work so well.

                            [This message has been edited by tattoomike68 (edited 03-06-2006).]


                            • #15
                              Alright Evan, it appears you're my new best friend! My main goal are the drives. Any suggestion or reference material on the net that you're aware of concerning fabricating your own drive gears and worms? I found one page explaining one method but frankly, I want to know how Ed Byers does his.

                              Your mount looks nice! I'd like to see some more views of it. You do any photography or just observation?