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Lathe recomendations please


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I am thinking of getting a lathe suitable for making astro components. It needs to be smallish and it should be able to machine aluminium. I want it so that I can make items like adaptors from solid bar and cut internal and external metric threads. Any ideas welcome.

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The most popular these days are the so-called "mini lathes" of around 90mm centre height (you can swing a diameter of 180mm - about 7") and a between centre distance of 300mm. They come in new at aro

I have a Chester Conquest Super (I think the non-Super model might be too small). Unless you're thinking you'd need to machine large parts I'd say its about the right size, as Roger suggests. It was

aaaah....can't even read this thread, the three things I ever lusted after. (besides my telescope).. a) a toolmakers lathe, and the skill to use it: a boat like "spray", and the skill and time to sai

The most popular these days are the so-called "mini lathes" of around 90mm centre height (you can swing a diameter of 180mm - about 7") and a between centre distance of 300mm. They come in new at around £450 - £600.

They are generally made in China and you need to be aware that, whilst thaey may look identical, there are big differences in quality and "accessories" between them. Reputable dealers like http://www.warco.co.uk/metal-lathes-metalworking-lathe-machine/302922-mini--hobby-lathe.html (This is the "super mini" which has an extra 50mm between centres and some veru useful features like a lever lock on the tailstock - this alone is worth the extra!) or these http://www.arceurotrade.co.uk/Catalogue/Machines-Accessories/Lathes/Model-C3-Mini-Lathe/Model-Super-C3-Mini-Lathe who supply an even longer - 400mm - bed and lever tailstock, or these http://www.chestermachinetools.com/conquest-lathe-3965-p.asp who also do a "super" version.

Hope this gets you going (there is also a second hand market but these cheap lathes don't often come up!)

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I have a Chester Conquest Super (I think the non-Super model might be too small). Unless you're thinking you'd need to machine large parts I'd say its about the right size, as Roger suggests. It was exceptionally tight when turning a few millimetres off the outside of the adaptor I made for my PST<->SCT focuser mod, but otherwise it's been perfect.

These Chinese lathes (there's the Sieg C3 as well, I think) could all do with a little fettling as shipped and each vendor seems to do their own little tweaks, but Arc (see Roger's link) offer a service at extra cost where they pretty much sort it all for you. There's nothing particularly hard, but it saves time. The one thing I don't think anyone does normally, but is recommended if you're going to use a 100mm chuck regularly (I find I use my 100mm independent 4-jaw chuck more than anything), is to replace the headstock spindle bearings with roller bearings.

You'll probably also find you end up wanting a whole pile of extras such as a chuck (or even two) for the tailstock, turning tools, dial gauges, dial gauge stands, another chuck and so on. It's very similar to having telescopes, but you can use a lathe when it's raining :)

The digital readouts that come as an option with these lathes look nice, but don't bother. I bought my lathe second-hand and it came with them, but actually they're more of a pain than they're worth and if I did it again I'd have one without.

These lathes are actually surprisingly small in the flesh. Big enough to do the job, but I think mine is only about 90cm long. I find it's often easier to work with the tailstock removed because even at the far end of the bed it can still get in the way. It's not a great picture for getting an idea of size, but this is mine:

lathe.jpg

James

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Forgot to say - there are a couple of decent books you could get to help you: http://www.myhobbystore.co.uk/product/59628/book-48-mini-lathe-tools-and-projects-by-david-fenner-wps http://www.myhobbystore.co.uk/product/19257/book-43-the-mini-lathe-by-dave-fenner-wps In fact any of the series: http://www.myhobbystore.co.uk/browser/149/workshop-practice-series are worth their weight in gold! All are written by amateur authors most of whom have many years professional experience. Another "must" is http://www.myhobbystore.co.uk/product/17824/the-amateur's-lathe written in the 1940's and still a best seller or http://www.amazon.co.uk/Amateurs-Workshop-Ian-Bradley/dp/1854861301 again written a long time ago but still selling well!

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I'll second Roger's recommendations. David Fenner's Mini Lathe book is based around the lathes mentioned above and is really useful to read if you're thinking about getting one. Sparey is perhaps still the definitive amateur's guide despite the book being written in something like 1948, though as someone with no formal workshop training I did find in places that he'd assume skills or knowledge that I just don't have. I've gone on to read a fair few of the other Workshop Practice series -- I'm currently halfway through "Gears and gear-cutting" :)

James

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I have a German lathe, WABECO D2400. They said is made in Germany, not China. Is a good one and it works with all kind of materials, is powerfull enough.

- this is the film with my machines.
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The trouble with Wabeco is that in the UK their equivalent to the mini lathe in size starts at over £2600.00 !!!

Its a bit like British made Myford lathes (which stopped production and closed down a couple of years ago) where they were charging over £10,000 for a lathe without any basic attachments like a 4 jaw chuck and steadies etc and the Chinese imports were selling for under £1000 for the same capacity lathe with all the bits and bobs supplied!!

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@ Roger: When you say you can swing a diameter of 7", does that mean you can work on a 7" tube or bar. I might want to make an adaptor for my LS60t to fit on the C6-R. That would mean machining a lump of 7" diameter bar.

@ James; Whats the max diameter that you can turn in your chuck.

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Theoretically you could put a piece of 7" diameter stuff on the lathe and turn it (on the outside to make it less then 7"!). However you would almost certainly be overstretching the lathe if you did that. First - how would you hold it? You would most likely have to drill some holes in it and mount it on the lathe faceplate, the chucks being too small and there being no room for the jaws to grip on the outer diameter even if they could reach. Secondly, depending on the material you would need a slow speed to be able to cut at all. For steel maybe 50 rpm and Aluminium around twice that - both assuming you would be using HSS (High Speed Steel) lathe tools.

You may want to look at this sort of thing: http://www.warco.co.uk/metal-lathes-metalworking-lathe-machine/302920-wm-240b-warco-lathe.html which is generally a bit bigger and has the capacity you need.

(PS Stick to HSS tools. Carbide tipped tools look good until you realise that you need specialised sharpening gear for them! HSS can be sharpened on an ordinary bench grinder.)

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The largest diameter I've managed to turn on the edge is 3.5" aluminium bar. The limitation is running out of travel in the cross slide and lack of room for the toolpost. Some sort of bespoke toolpost arrangement would probably give another inch to inch and a half.

As Roger says, in theory it's possible to work on the face of a 7" diameter workpiece if you could fit it to a faceplate and it were stable enough.

If turning something that large was going to be a fairly rare thing and most workpieces were smaller I'd think about paying someone to do the larger job and still have the smaller lathe, but if you're wanting to turn workpieces that big regularly then obviously a larger lathe would make sense. Larger lathes do come with their own little problems though. Mine is relatively easy for me to pick up and carry all by myself. The one that Roger linked to is heavier than me :) It would need a much heavier stand or bench (in fact they sell one specifically for it).

James

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Ah, I understand now. That one is a bit too much and probably overkill for what I have in mind. Its basicly for small stuff so I will not worry about the big stuff. At that price I would have to make a lot of astro parts to justify it. The super mini might fit the bill though.

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The limitation is running out of travel in the cross slide and lack of room for the toolpost.

Yes thats something else to bear in mind. In general, 3.5 - 4" would be max i would be turning. The thing I want to make is less than 3", but may want to make an adapter for the pst as you have.

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The PST adaptor was right on the limit of what I could do. I only wanted to shave a little off the outside to tidy it up and I just had enough room for that, but to do anything larger I'd really need to get a bit creative and look at some different sort of arrangement for the toolpost. I'm sure it would be possible to work on a larger diameter, just not with the kit I had available. I wouldn't even be surprised if it were a problem that's already been solved if I knew what I should be looking for.

James

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Have a look at Model Engineers Workshop full of adverts and useful tips there are also in the back editions articles on choosing a lathe and more than one series on beginners guides. I've worked with lathes and other machines for almost 50 years and still find the mag informative. Also have a look for a model engineering show may be one you could travel to. But like astronomy you may get the need for something larger, On my Warco bh1600 I have turned a grinding / polishing tool 20 inches in Diameter.

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I did like the look of that one Pete. That is top of my budget. It would be hard to justify anything more expensive at the moment.

We have a local model engineers club WoodBob. maybe I'll go down for a chat.

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Allan,

I see on the Warco web site they are having an open day in November. If you havn't already bought something by then it might be worth a visit as they say they will have some special offers, I think their place is not too far from Basingstoke.

Pete.

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aaaah....can't even read this thread, the three things I ever lusted after. (besides my telescope)..

a) a toolmakers lathe, and the skill to use it:

B) a boat like "spray", and the skill and time to sail it;

c) Mistress X, leather-clad Goddess from Hamburg....

P

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