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Eastern Bloc Equipment

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  • Eastern Bloc Equipment

    I see a number of sellers on Ebay who are located in ex-Eastern Bloc countries or Russia selling mostly tooling, and I find it interesting. Most of the tooling looks to be well made, and a good amount looks like it was made and set aside without ever seeing use. I know soviet-era equipment has a bit of a reputation of less than spectacular quality, but for some of the programs they must have had some very skilled machinists and I think they relied heavily on some of the Eastern Bloc countries for some of the more precision components. An example would be that to have German appliances in the USSR was a huge status symbol. I don't know if that's more an example of how good the Germans were, or just how miserable the USSR's capabilities were.

    Does anyone have experience with tooling from this era/region and is it a worthwhile purchase? Some of it's a pretty good deal, but without a known brand backing it up the quality would be in question until you pretty much have it in your hands.

    Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

  • #2
    Some of it is very good. I have some diamond grinding wheels from Ukraine, they work great and are about a third of the price or less of brands like Norton, USDW, etc. And yes it's a gamble if you don't know anyone who has tried the brand. You can get a general idea of quality by looking at the item if the pics are high resolution, but that's still no guarantee.

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    • #3
      me too! ukrainian grinding and honing wheels. i whish i could understand the designations. did you get them recently? i found mine in a bazzar in kiev probably 30 years ago. use them often, work very well.

      tom, what kind of tools do you have in mind? i have some optical flats and some gage blocks.

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      • #4
        My 1986 TOS FNK mill is a fine piece of engineering and built like a tank. The late John S had a Russian lathe at one point which was similarly well built.
        Dave
        Just south of Sudspumpwater UK

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        • #5
          Thanks. At the moment I’m looking at lathe chucks, but I also see lots of measuring equipment and small lathe accessories that catch my eye. The only disadvantage with the measuring equipment is that it’s mainly metric, my equipment is imperial.
          Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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          • #6
            I bought a NOS 25-50mm micrometer for a very low price on ebay and it is a very nice instrument. It predates glasnost as it is marked DDR. Of course East German manufacture is superior to further east, I used to have a couple of excellent Carl Zeiss Jena lenses.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by dian View Post
              me too! ukrainian grinding and honing wheels. i whish i could understand the designations. did you get them recently? i found mine in a bazzar in kiev probably 30 years ago. use them often, work very well.

              tom, what kind of tools do you have in mind? i have some optical flats and some gage blocks.
              Yes, I got mine in the last several years. I believe the brand is Poltava. Pretty good stuff. I had an opportunity to get a bunch of nice stuff in Moscow on Arbat St. (like a black market bazaar back then) at a time when the ruble was absolutely crazy low over there but I was still young and had no way to get any of it home with me.

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              • #8
                Polish Lathe Chucks (Bison et al) are very well made. I don't like the jaw pattern as well as a toothed American pattern like a Cushman, but they are my second fav.
                21" Royersford Excelsior CamelBack Drillpress Restoration
                1943 Sidney 16x54 Lathe Restoration

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by eKretz View Post

                  Yes, I got mine in the last several years. I believe the brand is Poltava. Pretty good stuff. I had an opportunity to get a bunch of nice stuff in Moscow on Arbat St. (like a black market bazaar back then) at a time when the ruble was absolutely crazy low over there but I was still young and had no way to get any of it home with me.
                  you dont say, i was young at that time too. i believe mine cost me $1 each.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tom S View Post
                    Does anyone have experience with tooling from this era/region and is it a worthwhile purchase? Some of it's a pretty good deal, but without a known brand backing it up the quality would be in question until you pretty much have it in your hands.
                    I am already using tooling made in Poland, Switzerland, Czechia, and Germany. Based on what I have seen of old soviet surplus, (metrology tools and instruments) I wouldn't hesitate to buy their tooling. It seems to be as well-made as anything else I have. Very attractive prices, too. One thing I would watch for on the power tools, though, is completely different voltage standards.
                    25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

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                    • #11
                      many of the firearms imported prior to the Clinton era (eastern bloc) were of fine quality, fit & finish.

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                      • #12
                        Among other things I have a Czech-made toolpost grinder, made by Drukov. I have been very happy with it. Also a Bison indexer/super spacer; very happy with that also.

                        Originally posted by dian View Post

                        you dont say, i was young at that time too. i believe mine cost me $1 each.
                        I believe at that time the exchange rate was 130 or 140 rubles to a dollar, and 3 rubles could buy a delicious fresh baked loaf of bread at the local bakery, so cost maybe about a couple of pennies? And boy, look out if you had a pair of Levi's jeans. You could get almost anything for a pair of those.
                        Last edited by eKretz; 03-12-2021, 02:34 PM.

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                        • #13
                          wonder if the run them through a geiger counter. I bought some metric hobs from the Ukraine and they seem ok. Easter bloc is a big area covering a lot of cultures....just not sure to what extent with central planning it was all the same shade of grey or whether different cultures produced different qualities
                          in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mcgyver View Post
                            wonder if the run them through a geiger counter. I bought some metric hobs from the Ukraine and they seem ok. Easter bloc is a big area covering a lot of cultures....just not sure to what extent with central planning it was all the same shade of grey or whether different cultures produced different qualities
                            "Western side" satellite states or the countries part of iron curtain had lots of industry and probably best quality overall (Czechoslovakia, Poland, DDR)

                            Industrial production of almost anything in Russia took huge hit after the collapse of the USSR. Amount of USSR era tools still available after 30 years is amazing but the soviet system with the 10 years planning was famously inefficient and inaccurate to overproduce something what is not needed and not producing what was actually needed.

                            USSR era tooling:
                            HSS cutters: bit of hit and miss
                            Measuring equipment: mostly usable but nothing to drool over
                            Carbide tooling: not relevant today

                            What I have been eyeing or use myself: Diamond and CBN wheels,​ dial indicators, optical flats.

                            Some of the machines are also quite nice like toolroom milling machines and some lathes but those are not what you would typically buy from Ebay. ​​​​​​
                            Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe

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                            • #15
                              I have a Russian lathe. A Stanko. It is built very well and very accurate. Sir John said most soviet era machine tools were capable of being dropped from a plane and still hold 2 tenths. And he said the tools are like Russian women. Ugly as hell but hard workers! Really he said that!
                              Location: The Black Forest in Germany

                              How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!

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