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The old arguments

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  • The old arguments

    I've been around this stuff for a long time (though I wish I had found this forum sooner), back to the days of the rcm newgroups. As long as I've been follow this, there have been 2 long standing opinions that come out in various forms and fashions:

    1. Worn machines are junk.
    2. Chinese machines are junk.

    My story: Home shop sized machines are rare here. Extremely rare. About 20 years ago, I picked up an old SB 9. Don't remember what I paid ($1500?), but it was probably too much. But I was glad to have found it. It has a lot of bed wear near the headstock, but I make things with it. I've made press fit bushings with it, which is about as precise as I'll ever need to get. I've done some threading on it. Some milling. It does what I need. But I'm not a production shop. I'm a hack making parts for a 40 year old Formula Vee.

    I've been looking for a small mill since I went to leisure learning classes 25 years ago. Watching the paper, auctions, estate sales, ebay. Nothing locally. I can't see spending 3 days each direction driving, fuel, lodging, and a week's vacation to pick up a bench top mill.

    Last January I turned 50. Not sure why, but that number rang in my head really loud. So I sent $3500 to Enco, and they dropped a square column mill on my door step. Set it on the stand, oiled it, and started cutting. Again, I'm just a hack with a squirt bottle of cutting oil in one hand and a Miller High Life in the other. It does what I want (except, of course, the stuff I haven't bought/built tooling for).

    So I guess it hits me wrong when I hear someone say "If it has bed wear, pass on it". It'll still cut metal. Maybe not as precisely as you would like, but for someone who just wants to get his hands dirty and make some swarf and get away from the SO for a few hours, it might be precise enough. Besides, how'd the wear get there to begin with? Probably in a production environment. Probably making precision parts. It's not like someone forgot to oil it one day, and woke up the next morning with wear on the bed. Personally, I'd be more worried with headstock bearings than bed wear, but that's just me.

    Same goes with chinese machines. I haven't had to work on it to use it. It's good enough for me.

    Sure, I'd love to have fresh scraped American iron. Not going to happen. And I'll guess it won't happen for a lot HSM's.

    I would have hated to miss out on the last 20 years of metal cutting because I passed on a worn machine. I guess my point is, don't shut someone completely down on something until you find out what they are trying to accomplish. Maybe they're just a hack... like me.
    Definition: Racecar - a device that turns money into noise.

  • #2
    where's here?

    I'm not 100% sure of the point of this, but i'll try and type some stuff maybe not same as the rest of the 20 year debate

    Each buyer picks his position, almost always a compromise, with the axis being quality/accuracy of the machine tool, how much you're willing to spend, how much effort/work you're willing to put into it. It's each buyer's choice where that is for them and therefore can't be wrong (for them)

    The debate comes in on the reasoning beyond where they see themselves on each axis and how true or false it is. As few take machines apart, quantify fit and errors, blue them, scrape them etc imo there is a lot of ignorance out there on what makes a machine tool good. I've tons to learn, but realize looking back I didn't have a clue about what quality in a machine tool meant until I started recondition them.

    I'm a supporter of "it's all good", IF you get what you want. Your hit y our coordinates in my imagery 3d machine buying continuum....but it isn't 'all good' when reality is a very different than where they were shooting for. It's my opinion this is more likely with machines made to a price point than function. I think on lots of the low priced ones don't end up meeting expectations and that chases away potential new ranks to the hobby. It took reconditioning a bunch of them to have the real quantifiable why's behind that statement.

    So I guess it hits me wrong when I hear someone say "If it has bed wear, pass on it".
    nothing you read here should be considered anything but a random collection of words UNLESS it meets at least a couple of the following. 1) you have a sense of the speakers credibility 2) you understand their reasons for saying it (we each say things that might sound very different but each might be valid given the context) 3) it resonates with your own experience, ie passes the smell test an 4) you can verify it somewhere.

    My point is "If it has bed wear, pass on it" could be completely valid or hogwash depending. How much bed wear, why are they saying it, what's their experience level, what's the intended use, what other options are out there, what's the price, what's the budget, how much tooling is there, is that make/model of lathe worth reconditioning, does the person want to recondition etc. etc
    Last edited by Mcgyver; 06-14-2012, 01:31 PM.


    • #3
      I couldn't have put it any better myself. I it is worn out and you can still make parts with it, how can one call it worn out.

      My current stable consists of SB 9A 1942 war board, 1960 Bridgy called a parts machine when I bought it (seems to work fine to me) a 1922 dalton which I really like, 1898 yes 1898 Hendey/Norton universal mill (thrown out by previous owner), a 1952 SB13 which is very worn headstock wise, But as long as I watch my DOC it works fine for me and a $55 craftsman 109 (which seems to be junk when it was new ) My drill press is the oldest Delta I have ever seen. Also thrown out by previous owner.
      I also have a very old Deta grinding station and some other ancient crafsman power tools, so old the factory color was Blue. think 40s or 50s on those.

      All those tools were dragged home and put right to work. I can hold a thousandth with any one of them provided I pay attention. That is the most difficult part for me.
      My total investment in that whole list is less than a thousand dollars, of which I paid $520 for the little SB.

      Besides being a self described hack, I also make a dollar a minute when making something for any one who wants to be a customer. (=$60 and hour no minimum) with no complaints there either.
      What more could I ask for? I enjoy using the old clapped out machines as people are amazed at the work I can make them do. That feeling itself gives me a very high level of self gratification.

      Plain and simple, those who condem these tools, have apparently never experienced making do with what they have.
      Bricolage anyone? of lifes fun games.


      • #4
        I have three mills. An Enco square column (like yers but getting converted to cnc), a Bridgeport cnc and a Hardinge horizontal. I love them ALL!! You know why? Well 20 years ago I was using a belt sander to shape metal. Then a year or two later I bought a 20" harbor freight drill press along with an X-Y table and some end mills. I was HAPPY!! Then a couple years go by and I got a Smithy clone (3-in-1 mill, drill and lathe), again, HAPPY!! Then more years and the South Bend came home, then the Bridgeport, a Emco 120 found the door as well as the Monarch. And as the story goes on machines come in and machines go out. I LOVE, yes, I said love my machines. The good, the bad and the ugly.

        Plain and simple, you gotta be happy with what you have until you can find something else. But until that something else grows legs and steps into your shop its ALWAYS better to enjoy what ya got

        Sounds like you do!!! JR
        My old yahoo group. Bridgeport Mill Group


        • #5
          I've wanted a lathe since I was 14 when my Dad took me to a machine shop to get a Briggs & Stratton crankshaft turned down to fit a washing machine clutch for a home made mini bike. After that my first "lathe" was an electric drill and a bench grinder. Not too accurate but it was all I had and really all I could consider until I was well into my 30s and had enough expendable income to buy a 1943 Logan lathe owned by a man my Dad met after he retired to NC. I paid $500 for it sight unseen and drove up to get it. Any lathe is better than no lathe and a worn lathe can be compensated for in many instances. If it does what you need it to do it's good enough. When it ceases to have the ability to make parts accurately enough for your purposes look for less worn or new machine. Few of us here have the need to turn parts to the nearest .0001", even if we enjoy making the attempt.


          • #6

            If I may, without seeming to jump on anyone in particular..... It seems that the "if there is wear, pass" folks are *mostly* (not all) either the fairly new folks, or people who appear to have 3 years experience, repeated 10 times.... Folks who have never calculated what actual problem in terms of error that 5 thou of wear will produce.

            A few are just trying to save the new folks trouble and frustration, and that's perfectly fair.

            A few are looking at it as a case of buy it, and expect to use it as-is without problems.... and that is perfectly fair also, if perhaps unrealistic both for used AND for at least some chinese.

            That said, I know people who have relatively inexpensive chinese round column bed mills (no knee) and use them with great success.... And folks with larger JET lathes and B-P clones who make a quite decent living using them.

            Most all my stuff is used, in some cases VERY used, and I have no problem re-conditioning it, IF the piece is worth it, OR I feel like doing the work. Not all are like that.

            OK, I DO have a point..... which is that either can be correct in a given situation. The case may call for a new machine to avoid the NEED to re-condition, OR the case may call for a fixer-upper in order to let "sweat equity" bring a machine to the point of performance which money could not reach.
            Finally, the person may just be onry enough to recondition a machine "just because", in which case all the opinions can go hang.

            Basically the arguments come when one person projects their needs and opinions onto another, and expects that other person to be just like them, with the same goals, wants, resources, skills, or whatever.
            Last edited by J Tiers; 06-15-2012, 12:09 AM.

            Keep eye on ball.
            Hashim Khan


            • #7
              In your two examples of common claims there are two conveyances of thought behind them. One is simple prejudice - no attempt at rationalizing the claim - it just is.

              In the second you have an attempt at shared wisdom - it is true of course that a worn out machine cannot do the quality of work of a new one. The wisdom part can actually come with justification. A clapped out machine may be beyond justifiable rehabilitation, or it may be a project machine restored for the experience of restoring a machine and not so much because the restored machine will have great value in your shop when completed.

              There is no honest way to make the general claim that Chinese machines are crap. Anyone who does so is sharing their prejudices. That is not to say that particular brands or even examples from within brands made in China are not crap, but that can be said about junk no matter where it is made. The standing advice for centuries has been and always will be "buyer beware".

              As to how to react to such claims, friends are people we know well but like anyway. Even when they make unsupportable claims. This place is no exception. If you feel compelled to "refudiate" what you read then be of good cheer and expect nothing to change for your effort.


              • #8
                I still think it's 80% machinist/ 20% machine as it is with most things in life. Look at what they produce in 3rd world places with almost nothing.
                "Let me recommend the best medicine in the
                world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant
                country, in easy stages."
                ~ James Madison


                • #9
                  this is what i started with

                  figured i was doing pretty good at first, couple years later i couldn't stand to even look at it lol

                  lucked out on this beauty. this is what it looked like when i first got it home.
                  the bed looked pretty beat but the price was right

                  few years later she looks like this

                  I love her and she loves me. It will hold a thou over 4" depending on how hard i squeeze the calipers


                  • #10
                    browne92....amen. I don't claim to be a machinist, but I am of the opinion that worn/junk machines will teach you more about machine work quicker than the finest of the fine. The first lathe I ever ran would make almost anyone who knows anything about machine work cringe. My self included at this point. But I made chips and mistakes and I learned about overhangs, backlash, rigidity, and a host of other other topics. I would have learned the same things on a nicer machine, but I can't imagine that it would have been as fast. I really haven't moved up the machine tool ladder a lot, but I have moved up in skill a bunch. While I envey a lot of the machines that show up in the pictues on this bbs if I had to buy them I would not do any machine work and would not learn anything. and that would be bad. Besides, if you started with the perfect machine what are you going to blame your mistakes on


                    • #11
                      I'm a hellova machinist -or I was before rocking chair got me. I get better in my youth as time passes and my witnesses die off. Sooner or later I used to leap tall buildings with a single bound.

                      My classmates and I served our apprenticeships on worn-out machines. The journeymen hung onto the best ones and that was the way it was. As an apprentice I had access to endless top quality mentoring. Isolated home shop guys may as well live on Jupiter.

                      The OP is right. You can get good results from a worn machine but "worn" covers a lot of territory that needs some discussion. There is "worn" like an older maching well maintained and there "worn" where a rusting machine tool having missing and damaged important parts is rescued from a bramble patch.

                      Often noobs in home shops have to follow books of sketchy instruction and re-invent the wheel every few minutes to make even a little progress. I can't think of disillusionment and discoruagement deeper for a would-be machinist than to try to make good stuff by battling the faults of a worn out machine tool. The guy hasn't a chance. His purchase decision was based on bad advice a know-it-all industrial Jingoist. He bought a junker; once one of the primier brands but after 50 years of hard use and neglect when it came into his hands it was a candidate for the foundry ladle. He doesn't know the tweaks and tricks for working with worn machines and by not knowing whether the trouble is up his sleeve or with the machine he sees himself a failure. He's spent money and time all he got out of the investment frustrated. Put the same guy on a machine that's at least tight and he'll have a fighting chance.

                      Several years ago, I spent a couple of days of email and hours on the phone with a guy who was trying to make new leadscrews. He had a junky SB9, no experiece, and no follow rest. If he had a better quality import machine he would have the follow rest and a reasonably straight machine to work with.

                      The above is my reasoning for encouraging home shop noobs to consider new Asian imports and steer them away from really worn-out American iron and ignore self-appointed experts full of principled nonsense. The import machine is at least predictable and comes in a well equipped package. So "worn" covers a wise spectrum of deficieency. If a guy can firmly wiggle the carriage or the cross slide and oil pumps in and out to the dovetails you can bet there is a problem.

                      Some older machines may be jewels in the rough and that's the kind of "worn" to take a chance on. An older machine tool missing ANY essential part no matter how otherwise pristine it may be is something to walk away from as are lathes found in a field, rusting in a shed, etc. Machine tools are not kitties or puppies. They are no-nonsense industrial equipment undeserving of sentiment or affection. They are a means to an end.

                      Buy no machine tool unless you or someone knowledgable surveys it. BTW a "survey" is a comprehensive and systematic series of tests and inspections taking several hours. It is not casual look-over accompanied by cranking the handwheels and shifting a few gears.
                      Last edited by Forrest Addy; 06-15-2012, 07:31 AM.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Forrest Addy

                        Buy no machine tool unless you or someone knowledgable surveys it. BTW a "survey" is a comprehensive and systematic series of tests and inspections taking several hours. It is not casual look-over accompanied by cranking the handwheels and shifting a few gears.
                        Damn................................wish I had known this 50 years ago.

                        Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Forrest Addy
                          If a guy can firmly wiggle the carriage or the cross slide and oil pumps in and out to the dovetails you can bet there is a problem.
                          But WHAT problem.......? Is it "worn out"? Some folks would say that proves it IS "worn out".

                          I have seen people turn down a machine for just that sort of problem..... And after I bought it, I adjusted the gib a little and all was well.........

                          Which one of us was stupid?

                          Originally posted by Forrest Addy
                          Machine tools ..................... They are no-nonsense industrial equipment undeserving of sentiment or affection. They are a means to an end.
                          Quite true..... but the opinion tends to change a little after you have either:

                          1) used the machine enough to know its oddities and know how to get high quality work out of it.


                          2) Spent some serious time on a quality rebuild

                          Keep eye on ball.
                          Hashim Khan


                          • #14
                            Machine tools are hard to find in Central Texas - most of the available ones are too big for home shop use. Fortunately for me, I have always worked in manufacturing so come across "deals" from time to time.

                            My first lathe was purchased from my cousin, who was a machinist at Kelly AFB in San Antonio and did gunsmithing on the side. It was a Sheldon 10x24 that he had purchased from Air Force surplus sales in the 1970's and put a tail stock extension on to thread barrels. It had some wear on it by the time I got it but it was a good learner lathe. I kept it for a long time and eventually sold it to another HSM a couple years ago.

                            A few years after that, I picked up two old but cherry Bridgeports from a company I worked for at the time. They had been in the maintenance departments and had little use. I sold one and kept the other - it's still in the shop and works a charm.

                            Later on, I started working for a company who did production machining and got to see what brand new machines will do. A year or so into my tenure there, management decided to get rid of an old 1963 Clausing because an operator crashed it and they chose not to rebuild the drive train. I got it for almost nothing and hauled it home then did the research to find an HSM in Washington state who was able and willing to fab the broken parts for me. That same company later picked up an older Jet that was in very good shape which had been in another shop they acquired so they let me buy that one also because it was an oddball for their production shop. Both of these lathes and the mill reside in my current home shop...but what I just described above took 30 years to transpire so I'm nothing if not patient.

                            Sometimes you just have to earmark the money and resign yourself to waiting for the right thing to come along.


                            • #15
                              Any lathe or mill is better than none! Even HF's 7X10 will let you make a simple bushing to some degree of accuracy. Lots of the stuff we make is not very high tolerance and we don't need a Hardinge to make it. Bob.