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OT (or not?): Beginner's tool quality woes

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  • OT (or not?): Beginner's tool quality woes

    All right, you guys have certainly been through this and there's probably been already more than just a couple of threads on the topic. Still I need to let out some pressure and hopefully get some advice so please bear with me.

    When I got my mini-lathe and mill some time ago they were equipped with some basic tooling only so I started building up a tool inventory. Very soon I met with quality issues, most of them just annoying rather than serious. Some examples: square screw heads on the new QCTP tool holders too large for the key supplied with the unit, T-slot nuts don't fit in the mill table slots, bad angle plate castings, center finder & wiggler set downright crude. The two first examples are brand accessories specified and sold by the German / Chinese manufacturer, whereas the two others are Indian and purchased from other sources. Of course, there's always a remedy for all this, like get new Allen screws, use the file, send it back. I've used all of these and the net result is positive. So far there's been a free keyless 13 mm drill chuck with a MT 2 arbor, a free machining job to fit the QCTP to the top slide of my lathe plus free shipping both ways for everything in compensation so I shouldn't complain. However, I'm wondering if this is something I'm in for with my future purchases.

    On the positive side the few pieces of industrial quality tooling I've got are great, both in performance and visible quality. Anyway, the prices being what they are I guess I'll mostly keep on getting the economy stuff. I've got some questions to those of you who didn't fall asleep reading above text. Are there any Asian tool brands that are clearly better than the rest of them or is it just a lottery? Any major quality issues with brands like Vertex or Soba, these being the ones offered by most German or British tool sellers? How about B & R (Sieg)? Comments are welcome.


  • #2
    There is one area where it pays to stick with the expensive "industrial quality" tools and that is cutting tools. I have yet to see a Chinese (or Indian) made tap or drill bit that can compare to the quality of English, European or US brands. This is especially so in the case of taps. The nice thing about these types of tools is that you can build up a complete selection a piece at a time as budget allows. As the old saying goes: There is no substitute for Quality.
    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


    • #3
      Jouko, I pretty much have to order stuff out and see what it looks like when it gets here. Most of this depends on just how fussy you are. I work out back in the barn as a hobbyist and can't afford to be too fussy so I rework what I can if I can buy it cheap enough.

      Some might be able to answer better if they knew where your interest lies. You want to build telescopes, tripods or trains!

      My Dad used to kid me about putting a $100 saddle on a $10 horse
      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
      Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

      It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


      • #4
        My Dad used to kid me about putting a $100 saddle on a $10 horse
        Yeah, but it makes the rider comfortable.
        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


        • #5
          Evan & YOD,

          your replies very nicely echo one of my mother's favorite sayings: "Us poor people just can't afford to buy cheap stuff". No explanations necessary. So I guess it's like: think what I really need, take a deep breath and get the good one, let that nice-to-have stuff be even if the tool chest still has some empty space.



          • #6
            Truman -

            This reminds me of a story... The topic was the price of motorcycle helmets. Since I don't ride and have no idea about the world of 2 wheels, I asked about price and quality regarding headgear. The answer was simple, straightforward, made sense to me and was one I could understand.

            "If you've got a $10 head, get a $10 helmet."




            • #7
              "Vertex" and other "Asian" tools

              Last edited by oldtiffie; 08-20-2007, 06:19 AM.


              • #8
                After going throught the learning curve buying tools and equipment, I have come to the conclusion that it is usually not worth going cheap with anything that has to do with workholding and cutting. Drill chucks that wobble and slip or a tap that jams/breaks don't make my day.

                As far as Vertex is concerned, I have a 6" rotary table that is very good although it needed a tuneup before first using it.

                It appears that Soba is an Indian made series of vises similar to the Groz line sold here in Canada by Busy Bee. Don't buy without looking over them. I've had good and bad experiences with them (2" tilt/swivel: excellent, 4" swivel: so/so- it has been replaced by a 4" anglelock style made in Taiwan).

                The Bison series of chucks/tools made in Poland are good as are the Tos lathe chucks made in the Czech Republic. Dormer taps are excellent. All my drills are from the Precision Twist Drill Co., except for a no-name chinese letter set in Jobbers length that I rarely use (the screw machine length set is used most of the time).

                Nearly all my drill chucks are now the Jacobs ball bearing series as well as a JKP 130 keyless and a 1.5mm Albrecht. All except two were bought new on E-bay at what I consider bargain prices. One has to be patient but I now have accurate, non-slipping chucks that I could not have afforded at retail prices.

                I am pleased with a recent purchase of Glanze CCMT insert toolholders purchased from Chronos in the UK.

                Good luck,



                • #9
                  Originally posted by Truman
                  When I got my mini-lathe and mill some time ago they were equipped with some basic tooling only so I started building up a tool inventory. Very soon I met with quality issues, most of them just annoying rather than serious.
                  Truman, I feel your pain. Most of us here have gone through Chinese mini-mills or lathes or Mill/Drills.

                  Think about these machines as unfinished kits. If you get a Mini-Lathe or Mini-Mill with a good casting (not warped, and no major voids), there's a bunch of tweaking/tuning you can do to make it a lot more reliable, accurate, and fun to use.

                  A cheap and easy fix is to replace any bolts and screws. The Chinese machines have infamously bad bolts, and replacing them with good Western bolts makes a big improvement. For the folks in the 'States -- don't get your replacement bolts from Home Depot or Lowes -- those are made in China too!

                  Another thing that helped my mini-lathe a lot was to re-tap all the threaded holes with a good, sharp tap. I think they give the guy one tap at the beginning of the day, and by nightfall he/she is just poking holes in the casting with a blunt dowel pin

                  Finally, you're not alone -- there are a ton of enthusiast sites for the Mini-Mill and Mini-Lathe (and the Mill/Drills). Here's Frank Hoose's collection of links of modifications that you can do to improve your Mini Lathe. There are similar pages with mods to the 9x20 lathes, and the Mini-Mills and Mill/Drills:

                  "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by oldtiffie
                    The best Asian brand I've found consistently is "Vertex". "Mitutyo" is way "up there" with the best in the world.
                    I coughed up my coffee when I saw Vertex (which is made in Taiwan) and Mitutoyo mentioned in the same sentence
                    Mitutoyo is up there with Starrett and Brown & Sharpe. In fact, I prefer Mitutoyo calipers and micrometers to the Starrett and B&S.

                    OSG is another Japanese company that should be mentioned here: they make very fine taps, drills and endmills.
                    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


                    • #11
                      Phase II is a good Asian brand also. So is Yausa
                      Every Mans Work Is A Portrait of Him Self


                      • #12
                        About a 2 years ago I bought a 1/2" Glanze CCMT lathe tool bit set from Grizzly (it was on sale and cheap), it came with Valenite CCMT inserts, I've had very good results, and the tools were made in India. Very good fit and finish, use the boring bar that came with the set all the time. I also have a 1/4-20 tap that was made in India, after 3 holes, the once straight 4 flute tap, now looks like a cork screw, I was surprised that it twist like that, but it didn't snap.

                        All 3 of my mills were made in Asia, I would love to have better, I just can't justify the replacement of very good working equipment, with anything else. They all work good and the type of work they are used for, they fit the bill, would rather use the money on more and better accessories.

                        I'm sure all of us have bought inferior product, either by choice or where "shocked" when you opened the box. Many of us have limited budgets, and often have to make do, but you don't save money when you have to rebuy it 3 or 4 times.



                        • #13
                          well for turrniung tools i got a set form busy bee that uses the triangle bits great for aluim and othe soft metals ok on steel if you take your time and realy light cuts , i have leanred to make my own HSS tools form blanks and they rock for anything i put them to so far , as for drill bits i use HSS and cobalt drill bits and i dont cheap out on them Center drills i use the cheap HSS ones and they work great my chuck for my lathe is a metabo and my taper MT2 is a Groz my new live center is a Groz HD revolving center and i still use my cheper smaller no name one... i have the busy bee adjustable tool post and its works great i had to dril the center hole a slight bit bigger for my mini lathe when i had it and its a perfect fit on my new 10x18 busy bee lathe i use shimms in my factory 4 way tool post for my HSS bits and i use a colbalt parting tool ,, for boaring bars i cheaped out on the busy bee ones and thoes i dont like so iam going to learn to make my own or buy a really good set ,, you get what you pay for in alot of cases ,, sometimes cheaper is better but sometimes its not.....

                          i dont have my mill yet but soon and iam going for a middle of the road model milling machine but the tooling iam going to go for the besti can afford for it andin time my lathe will also get the higher quaility tooling as well..


                          • #14
                            I have to agree with Evan, when it comes to drills and taps, buy high quality! I started off with the Harbor Freight TIN coated drill bit set and one by one, replacing each drill bit with a high quality USA version as needed. As for Taps, buy the best you can afford, no ifs ands or buts


                            • #15
                              How can you tell?

                              I was wondering, unless you order directly from the manufacturer most online catalogs don't mention the brand. So how can you tell?