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Unfoobarred birmingham toolpost and 4 Jaw

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  • Unfoobarred birmingham toolpost and 4 Jaw

    My birmingham 14x40 has had issues with the toolpost wanting to turn whenever cutting forces got big. It was driving me nuts until this afternoon.

    I examined the toolpost area carefully and I discovered that the Giant T-nut that holds the toolpost to the compound was protruding about .020 above the rest of the compound causing the toolpost to seat only against the T-nut and not the rest of the compound.

    I fixed this problem by taking the tool post and T-nut off and milling the nut to flat and parallel to the bottom. Nor, there is much less flex in the toolpost as it is firmly seated.

    Unfortunately, when I took the compound off, I noticed that the spotfaced area where the compound is supposed to ride on the cross slide looks like it was spotfaced by someone holding a rabid weasal by the hind legs. I guess it's time to try out that Tantung-G scraper I made and scrape that miserable compound's bearing surface to decent bearing and flatness. It also looks worth scraping the flat part of the dovetails on the cross slide and compound but I don't think I have time right now.

    The other bad birmingham glitch I discovered involved the 4 jaw chuck. I was having trouble screwing the 4 jaw to it's backplate. Finally, I noticed that they had drilled and tapped the holes through the plate all of the way into the collar behind the plate and that even better, the holes were within thousandths of the side of the collar and the screws came out the sides of the collar when you tried to put them in. But, the hole portions that went into the collar were not tapped and the chuck could not be held to the backplate without .500 (1/2) inch of play between the chuck and the back plate as provided. Based on available solutions, I finally ground 1/2 an inch of the end of each of the provided metric cap screws and voila, they suddenly fit to the point where the would hold the chuck to the backplate. It's a shame that they made these stupid mistakes as it's otherwise a quite serviceable 4" 4 jaw chuck. You could only do this if you hadn't bothered to test even one chuck from the lot.

    Not to start the perennial USA vs. import debate, but after these issues hit today I've come to the conclusion that Asian import machines don't have pretty rounded castings like old Monarchs because the squared off corners are a demonstration of how they cut corners on the rest of the machine. Old iron lathes were designed for a lifetime of industrial service cutting unpleasant materials like tool steel. My leightweight taiwanese lathe was designed to cut aluminum or plastic on an occasional use basis.

    In short, my Birmingham 14x40 is better than no lathe at all by far but it sure is a PITA to work around the idiot-syncrasies (idiosyncrasies promulgated by idiots or bean counters).


  • #2
    Not surprising after some of the other comments I have seen about import machines. Some of the importers are a lot better at QC than others. And even those have better and lesser machines get through. If you want to save $s by purchasing import equipment, you have to realise that you are gambling on quality and will probably have to do some repair work.

    Personally, I have purchased several machines from Grizzly and feel they are one of the better importers. I have seen the machines in the HF showrooms and would not purchase anything from them without a working demo of the exact machine being purchased FIRST. There are a number of smaller importers who may sell machines a bit cheaper, but the QC is almost totally absent and they probably can not sell any replacement parts for any of them.

    All the usual disclaimers.
    Paul A.
    SE Texas

    And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
    You will find that it has discrete steps.


    • #3
      Guess I just got lucky. I have a Birmingham 14x40 YGL lathe and a Birmingham 9x49 Variable Speed Mill, bought both new 3 years ago, both see daily use, and neither has given me so much as a moments trouble.
      Would have loved to have bought a new Clausing, or LeBlond or Bridgeport, but just couldn't afford them at the time. I was worried that the imports were going to be junk as others I know who have them (Jet, Enco, Grizzly, etc. I'm the only one with the Birminghams ) all had problems, but these have been nothing but a pleasure. Think I'll go buy that lottery ticket now before my luck runs out.
      NRA Life Member