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A Beginner's Machineshop

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  • A Beginner's Machineshop

    As always, I come bearing another noob question. You people have always helped and I am very thankful that such a resource is readily available. On to the question:

    Is it possible for someone like me, who knows just about nothing about machining, to get a small shop started for under 5 grand? In the shop what I mean is a mill, lathe, and tooling. I hope to do work primarily for paintball and radio control cars BUT with future possibilities of larger parts for off-road buggy. I would think 5,000 bucks would cut it, but I was wondering if I can get tis stuff new. I want new because of the lack of knowledge. New would allow me to just get started and not have to refurbish an older machine. And last little requirement, I would also like the mill to have future CNC capabilities for a cheap price.

    I know that these guidelines may seem very broad for some of you, and I don't want to DEMAND anything of any of you, but all help would be appreciated.

    Thank you once again for your time.

  • #2
    It is what I did. By all means, if you can afford bigger machinery, get them.
    I have a chinese mini lathe, Micro mill, and lots of tooling, cost me well under 2,000$ for everything. I wish my mini lathe was a Southbend, and my micro mill was a bridgeport, but I can look forward to that in my future.
    Im a college student, living at home, so I need small tools that I can pick up and move.
    In the mean time, get some books, read the forums, and study how people do things and why.


    • #3
      I was also thinking going the mini-machine way. But my primary concern is they look so small and flimsy! They look like toys that can break just about any second. Are those mini-machines REALLY that capable? Or would just going for the bigger machine be better to have. Price-wise it would be very helpful though.

      Oh, about reading books, I've been meaning to get those but it seems the only source for them is the internet. I wish my local book-store carried something.....

      One thing I forgot to mention is the three-phase ordeal. The location where the machines will sit do not have three-phase power readily available, at least I don't plan on getting anything done to receive the power. Another note, there maybe some sort of I-Beam drilling in the near future for mounting plates and so forth. The beams would be used for construction and sometimes a beam needs to be drilled for holes and a plates to bolt two beams together. It would be NICE that the mill is capable to do this..... but not necassary(sp?).


      • #4

        Look around at local dealers, ebay, classified adds, many places to find machines. I have a 3 in 1, there are alot of things I can't do with it, but lots that I can.

        For books, try your local community college book store. Should have lots of good text books. They will also have learning guides for the courses that they teach. Here the learning guides are available individually (by "individually" I mean 1 for lathe, 1 for vert. mill, 1 for hor. mill,etc.,etc.).

        Subscribe to HSM and MW, lots of smarts in them.



        • #5
          Don't just look at the mill.... get a CNC control on a mini mill, a good PC, some decent creation tools and you can do amazing things - fast. It is just a step (a good forklift, too) up to a used Bridgeport II - and a next big adventure. Most things to make seem small, at first, anyway...

          The CNC part gives a serious new dimension to things. $5K can get some serious, amazing tools now.........



          • #6
            I may be making a really dangerous assumption here. Along with what BillH said, set your self up with small portable equipment at first. I am assuming your are in the prime of youth instead of being like some of us old codgers like me who have lived in the same house for 18 years. Chances are you will be moving in the not too distant future. Start small. The skills you learn can all be transferred to larger machines. Buy stuff that is easy to move, basically bench top machines, great for the stuff you have said (excepting the buggys).
            Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


            • #7
              By "shop", do you mean a home shop to fiddle in or a Shop to make and sell things? The smaller machines are useful for making smaller items but you're not going to be doing your own engine blocks with them.

              Going to "full size" machines, you'll be hard pressed to outfit a shop for $5k. (Even with Ching-Chang gear.) Going the "mid-sized" route may be best. The drawback here is that you won't be able to just pick it up and move it. The lathe may be 500-600lbs. and the mill 1000+lbs.

              You may want to sit back and think about what you'll use the equipment for and how much room you have. Get the largest you can afford that will fit into your space. Sometimes, working on a used machine will give you valuable information on how it works and why. You have to be careful that you don't get a Used-Up machine though.


              • #8
                New used, what to do. Well, if you have the cash, new is the best, but $5K is just a deposit on good machinery.

                If you are just in this to see if you like the hobby, I would not spend too much. On the other hand, if you are sure this is a keeper, then plan for the long term.

                Long term means that you can plan for growth by trading up or getting something that will last for a lifetime.

                The best way to get value for your money is by buying quality used equipment. The problem is determining the junk from the jewels. Sounds easier than it really is. You should be afraid.

                However, if you have a friend who is an expert in machines, then he can guide you. If not, then the road is tougher and new is more assured.

                If I had $5K to spend I would look for a used South Bend Heavy 10 and a used Bridgeport and spend any remaining funds on tooling. Tooling is important and will be acquired as time goes on, but you need something to get started. If you find those tools in good condition you will never need to sell them (although you may want to add more! :-) ).

                Finding the above used tools will take time, research, and planning. However, you will be hard pressed to make the right choice if you don't have knowledge about them.

                One path is to get started at a vocational school or college and take a machining course. You may find as you get along in the course that the instructor might have good leads or help you select the right tools. Meanwhile you get to use the tools at school, gain real machining knowledge, and build a network of experienced machinists that will guide you to your goal.



                • #9
                  I needed to get into machining for a certain part I wanted to make. I knew the maximum size (fairly small), so the Sherline tools were best for me.

                  Are they small? Yes. Are they "flimsy"? Compared to a full size tool, sure. Can they do the job? Absolutely. Am I happy with the tools, the after sale service, the price? Yes. The fact that once I'm done, They can go onto a shelf and get tucked away? Yes.

                  FOr me they were the right choice. fully CNC'd they were under (significantly) 5k. If you have any questions, by all means write here or email.

                  This has enabled me to start small and relatively cheap, and learn what I'm doing. (or start, anyway - there's reams of stuff I don't know yet)

                  Your biggest concern is work envelope. Since your concern is portability and budget, I think the sherline/taig may be ideal for you.

                  From what I understand, sherline is a little more flimsy (aluminum vs steel) and has better service. I haven't seen a taig, so I can't opine on that. I will tell you that any issues I had with the sherline were immediately addressed.

                  Good luck, have fun.



                  • #10
                    For your stated purposes, check out for their hobby sized machines and tools. They seem to specialize in tools for model railroading which should suit your radio controled cars to a "T".


                    • #11
                      5 grand? yes, if you are willing to buy used and clean up. Its a learning experience and worth it if you have the time.

                      I have spent under 2 grand for all the machines I have, total, and not a lot more for tooling. But nearly all have required some cleaning or setup, which I don't mind. I have had to make parts for some, again no problem to me.

                      For the hobbyist, buying new and avoiding the cleaning and setup is a time saver, but a learning disadvantage IMAO.

                      For a business, it is a necessity.

                      Many newer mills can be CNC retrofitted easily, older ones with more difficulty. It is hardly ever impossible, just difficult.

                      [This message has been edited by Oso (edited 11-06-2003).]


                      • #12
               is selling a line of small machinery that is likely to be pretty good.

                        The "good used American" will likely give you the most capability for your buck, but verifying the "good" part may be tricky if you're just starting out. Try to hook up with a club in your area, or just a kindred spirit who knows more than you do, to help with that if you decide to go the "used" route.

                        The Sherline-sized stuff is quite capable, within its limits, but I think I'd be inclined to look for something a bit larger.

                        I like the looks of the Jet JVM-836 milling machine, but it's around $3500, give or take.

                        Still, if you're in this for the long haul it's worth it to get good machinery. Otherwise, you'll be vaguely dissatisfied every time you use it for the next 30 years.

                        And don't think you need to get everything all at once. I imagine very few of us would have the luxury of being able to go out and buy everything all at once.
                        Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
                        Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
                        Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
                        There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
                        Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
                        Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


                        • #13
                          I agree with OSO. I have a 13" x 54" Sheldon lathe with tooling, $450.00, Rockwell mill $1500, Rockwell drill press $40.00, Craftsman bandsaw $100.00.
                          None of them needed rebuilding, all can be single phase, and with your budget, I would have $2910 left for tooling and other needs.
                          Before purchasing tools, assess your needs very carefully, include space available. Generally speaking, larger tools will make small parts, small tools will not make large parts. Get the tools which will handle the largest projects you intend to get involved in. Larger tools will be easier to learn on, as you are not trying to compensate for the machine's inadequacies, will have the advantage of quick change gears, and tooling usually is cheaper and more common than that available for the mini machines.
                          Get some training from a vocational school or adult education. Get as many books and catalogs as you can. Learning how to use the tools will give you a better feel of what your needs will be, and will assist you in the selection of what will fit your own needs and situation.
                          Jim H.


                          • #14

                            [This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 11-16-2003).]


                            • #15
                              Well with my mini tools, I am building a 1" scale Live steam locomotive, so perhaps that gives you an idea. Idealy though,be nice to have atleast a 9" lathe with a tailstock that actually lined up correctly.