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Lockie

Mini Lathe and Accessory Advice Please.

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Hi folks,

I've been thinking of buying a mini lathe for making astro bit's and bobs that you either can't buy, or that are quite expensive if bought. Also it would be handy for slightly more substantial ATM work if I get one with good enough capacity. Maybe I can also do the odd job/favor for people if I get good enough at it.

Spec wise I would like to be able to turn down 4" ali billets, and cut external/internal threads.

I'd would prefer to buy as a package including useful stuff like safety equipment, Vernier caliper, micrometer, tooling etc as I have nothing other than household and woodworking tools at the moment.

Reliability and size are quite important, I need to get it through the house and out the back.

I've Googled around a bit but I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, even despite being a CNC turner about a decade ago. I've not touched a manual lathe since I left school in the early 90's and I get the feeling that it's NOT like riding a bike.  :grin:

Any ideas on what lathe, accessories, books, website, would be very helpful.

My budget is a bit variable depending on whats needed, say 600-800 pounds.

Many Thanks.

Chris 

  

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Gina had a massive thread on the pros and cons (mainly cons from what I saw!) of buying a cheap mini-lathe.

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With £600-£800 to spend on everything, I think you will be looking second hand. 4" is a fair diameter to turn and not spend weeks taking tiny cuts. These are useful factors to help you decide

Richard

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It might be better to consider a secondhand small production lathe than a new mini lathe. Cheaply produced new lathes are barely rigid enough for precision work and specially screwcutting.    :smiley: 

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For your budget this lathe:  http://www.chesterhobbystore.com/920-lathe-3968-p.asp is as good as you will get for the money (it is also on a decent offer at the moment! :grin: !).  The 920 has been in production since the 1980's and has remained virtually unchanged in design since then.  It will cope with just over 9" diameter and has sufficient distance between centres to cope with work up to about 10-12" long (if you also want to fit a drill and chuck in the tailstock!).

Many of the suppliers are now switching to variable speed lathes so the 920 is not as freely available as it used to be.

Downsides - the lowest speed is 100rpm which is a bit fast for powered screwcutting!  but a mandrel handle is easy to make and solves the problem.  The tailstock is clamped via a bolt which needs a spanner to undo - a good starter project is an eccentric clamp to avoid this.  Other than that (neither of which are deal-breakers) it is a good little lathe.

The typical "mini lathes" like this one: http://www.chesterhobbystore.com/conquest-lathe-super-3966-p.asp  and all its clones from other suppliers are OK but they have a considerably reduced capacity - both in centre height and distance between centres. (This is the type in Gina's thread)

The 920 comes with two chucks, centres and a fixed and travelling steady so all you need to buy is a decent drill chuck for the tailstock and a set of lathe tools.  HSS tools will be all you need and a set will set you back around £40 for a set:  http://www.arceurotrade.co.uk/Catalogue/Cutting-Tools/Lathe-Tools  These will last for years if you keep them sharp on a simple double ended bench grinder.  Carbides are a waste of money on these little lathes and you need specialist gear to sharpen them properly (hence they are often considered "disposable" - which they are if you are rich!!)

Hope this helps (usual disclaimers all round)

P.S. A British built Myford Super 7 (about the same capacity as the 920 but now made by a different company under the same brand name) will set you back in excess of £10,000 + VAT new!!  And it does not have most of the basic equipment like chucks and steadies supplied as standard with the Chinese lathes!!

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the lowest speed is 100rpm which is a bit fast for powered screwcutting

Coward!

Richard

(so am I)

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And.......................................................................................................STOP!!!

And.......................................................................................................STOP!!!

And.......................................................................................................STOP!!!

And...............................................................................................................STOP !!!

Oh Bother!!  :eek: 

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I got this model from this seller over 12 years ago and it's still going strong despite me abusing it using pitiful home made tooling to turn stainless & mild steel http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mini-Lathe-Brand-New-7x14-Machine-with-DRO-4-Chuck-/360344827331?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item53e639b5c3

As with anything mass produced to a budget some tweaks are required to get better performance but this is all covered here http://www.mini-lathe.com/

It is worth remembering that lathes of this size are more geared towards model building hobbyist and light metal working. They are better suited to soft metals like brass and aluminium but will with patience give results even on stainless steels with good quality tooling.

Unfortunately your going to need a good sized lathe to turn down a 4" billet as that will be beyond the capability of most mini lathes.

Edited by spaceboy
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You can turn a big lump of metal on a small lathe (as long as it fits within the available space!) but you will have to take your time, maybe making several passes with a light cut.  However you will get there in the end.  With a big industrial lathe you may get to size in a couple of passes - they are built to work fast and to work for 12-14 (or even 24) hours a day, seven days a week.

As a hobbyist does the few extra passes and the extra hour to finish the job really matter?

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I used to have a mini lathe and soon got frustrated with the limitations, bought myself a Chester 920 a few years ago, much nicer. Worth having a look at the Chester range of lathes. I bought chester mini milling machine years ago as wel but havent got round to upgrading that yet, not sure I will now

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Darnit! just spent 40 minutes writing a big reply to everyones individual comments and somehow managed to lose the whole lot copying a link over :(

Sigh! I'll try again tomorrow.

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4"is fine on a mini lathe as long as you can hold it securely. I suggest a good faceplate and clamp set for that.. A 4"Chuck is an expensive and large item.

Mike

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I remember trying to do a 4" job on my clarke mini lathe, just facing the piece took forever, any cut more than about 10thou would stall it.

They have their uses for small widgets but even doing 2" extension tubes was a faff. It all depends on what you want to do on the lathe if your just after doing small bits then fine it wont take up much room and they are fun to use. But once you start playing I sure, like the rest of us, you will want to try bigger stuff then it gets frustrating

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I agree with Phil. 4" is way beyond most budget mini lathes. For one the chuck on them are often only 4" - 5" so really only hold material of say 2"- 3". Even clamping a 4" billet to a faceplate the swing over then bed becomes the restricting factor. They work well for what they are intended, a cheap hobbyist lathe. They can go beyond their capabilities but only if you have lots of patience and good tooling. If it is something you intend to use on a day to day basis turning large material then there is no substitute for a more purpose built lathe. Although it is worth mentioning that such lathes weigh a ton and is not something you can easily handball about.

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 such lathes weigh a ton

It's worth saying, this is a Good Thing

Richard

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Gina had a massive thread on the pros and cons (mainly cons from what I saw!) of buying a cheap mini-lathe.

Hi, I remember contributing to Gina's thread at the time, but before all the problems appeared. I've now re-read the whole thread and I won't be buying the Warco Super Mini lathe that Gina has. As usual, tenacious Gina did a great job sorting it all out!

Like you said on the thread these are the GSO f/4 newts of the lathe world :) 

I'd like to buy one a bit better than Gina's if possible though, and she did say at the end that the Sieg Super C3 would be a better compromise.

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With £600-£800 to spend on everything, I think you will be looking second hand. 4" is a fair diameter to turn and not spend weeks taking tiny cuts. These are useful factors to help you decide

Richard

I should have probably mentioned that I live in a terraced house, so the lathe will need to be transported by me (60kg) through the house down the garden and into my ex- obsy warm room which measures 3.5' x 6', so it's going to be a bit of a mini workshop with my bench grinder and pillar drill on the other side. I would also like to take the lathe with me when we move in 2-3 years.

My bad, I should have probably have mentioned all this.

There were a couple of jobs that I would have liked to do with 4" ali bar, so I stated this as my top limit, I guess mostly it would be 2.5" ish? 

I got the idea that a mini lathe would be ok for 4" ali from here though:

http://www.mini-lathe.com/

it says the designation 7x14 means that you can machine bar upto 7" diameter and 14" long, but says realistically it's more like 4" with fine cuts.

Unfortunately I think SWMBO would hang me by my ***** if I turned up with one of those production lathes but I appreciate the links :) 

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It might be better to consider a secondhand small production lathe than a new mini lathe. Cheaply produced new lathes are barely rigid enough for precision work and specially screwcutting.    :smiley:

After re-reading Gina's lathe thread I must admit I'm worried about screw cutting on a cheap hobby lathe, but due to size and weight constraints I'm going to need to make some compromises. I'm hoping to get a slightly better spec lathe than Gina's and I'll have to be realistic about what I can achieve by the looks of things. 

Maybe if I find that I'm using the lathe a lot, and I'm frustrated by it's limitations, I can get a small production lathe when I move to a house with a garage :)

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For your budget this lathe:  http://www.chesterhobbystore.com/920-lathe-3968-p.asp is as good as you will get for the money (it is also on a decent offer at the moment! :grin: !).  The 920 has been in production since the 1980's and has remained virtually unchanged in design since then.  It will cope with just over 9" diameter and has sufficient distance between centres to cope with work up to about 10-12" long (if you also want to fit a drill and chuck in the tailstock!).

Many of the suppliers are now switching to variable speed lathes so the 920 is not as freely available as it used to be.

Downsides - the lowest speed is 100rpm which is a bit fast for powered screwcutting!  but a mandrel handle is easy to make and solves the problem.  The tailstock is clamped via a bolt which needs a spanner to undo - a good starter project is an eccentric clamp to avoid this.  Other than that (neither of which are deal-breakers) it is a good little lathe.

The typical "mini lathes" like this one: http://www.chesterhobbystore.com/conquest-lathe-super-3966-p.asp  and all its clones from other suppliers are OK but they have a considerably reduced capacity - both in centre height and distance between centres. (This is the type in Gina's thread)

The 920 comes with two chucks, centres and a fixed and travelling steady so all you need to buy is a decent drill chuck for the tailstock and a set of lathe tools.  HSS tools will be all you need and a set will set you back around £40 for a set:  http://www.arceurotrade.co.uk/Catalogue/Cutting-Tools/Lathe-Tools  These will last for years if you keep them sharp on a simple double ended bench grinder.  Carbides are a waste of money on these little lathes and you need specialist gear to sharpen them properly (hence they are often considered "disposable" - which they are if you are rich!!)

Hope this helps (usual disclaimers all round)

P.S. A British built Myford Super 7 (about the same capacity as the 920 but now made by a different company under the same brand name) will set you back in excess of £10,000 + VAT new!!  And it does not have most of the basic equipment like chucks and steadies supplied as standard with the Chinese lathes!!

ok, third attempt at writing this post, hopefully I won't lose it by forgetting to open another tab to attach a link this time  :rolleyes:

Thanks, the Chester 920 looks like a great lathe for the money, thanks for all the advice and the pros and cons. Unfortunately I've gone and measured the space and it won't quite fit, if it wasn't for that I might have got round the 125kg package by dismantling the lathe on the front and taking it through in stages.

I'm going to have to be realistic about what can be achieved on a lathe which is less than 100cm long and around 70-80kg I think.

With this in mind this is a shortlist I've made

http://www.arceurotrade.co.uk/catalogue/machines-accessories/lathes/model-c3-mini-lathe/model-super-c3-mini-lathe

http://www.warco.co.uk/metal-lathes-metalworking-lathe-machine/15-wm-180-variable-speed-lathe.html

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Amadeal-Mini-Lathe-Brand-New-7x14-Machine-with-DRO-4-Chuck-Metal-Gears-/261740534866?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item3cf0f39c52

http://www.chesterhobbystore.com/db7vs-lathe-3969-p.asp

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Warco WM180. Simples.

Why?  Very similar in many ways to the Chester alternative but it has a lever locking tailstock as standard - an extremely useful feature. These two (Warco and Chester) are both reputable companies with around 30-40 years trading in the UK behind them.

Why not?  The ebay lathe is an American import and has no sales backup - that's why its cheap! - No spares in the UK.  The Arc Euro lathe is yet another clone of the "mini lathe" that all the main suppliers sell - it is significantly smaller than the others

My only concern with these lathes is that they can only accept 12" (300mm) between centres.  By the time you have a chuck on the headstock (2"), a drill chuck in the tailstock (3") and a drill in the chuck (3-4") there is precious little room for your piece of work  :eek: !!

If you can step up to the 920 (also referred to as a 918 sometimes) you get an extra 200mm (8") between centres - very useful extra capacity.  Aditionally the 920 has a t-slotted cross slide which is very useful for bolting work down or using a vertical slide so you can mill in the lathe as well as turn.

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I have an old Myford 7 it is of 1949 vintage. I bought it a long time ago now. It is OK for brass and some steels up to 30mm say after that it just does not have enough power. It can cut S/S but very small diameter.  I really suggest if you do want to go down that route look at a Harrison. Yes I know they are beasts and very heavy. But they do the job if looked after they will last for ever and can usually turn at about 300mm even bigger if the bed is removed. You say you used to do CNC, then you must know the basics. If possible as you said through the house can it be lifted over a wall of fence. That would be the only way. The old lathes were the best you could get as the bed casting was usually cast then left out in a yard for several years before being machined to size and finished. This allowed any warping to be absolutely minimal as it was a form of stress relieving. More modern lathes do not have that finesse. If you can get a lathe that has been well looked after, especially if it has come from a university workshop (physics etc,.) it should be the bees knees.

Derek

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I have an old Myford 7 it is of 1949 vintage. I bought it a long time ago now. It is OK for brass and some steels up to 30mm say after that it just does not have enough power. It can cut S/S but very small diameter.  I really suggest if you do want to go down that route look at a Harrison. Yes I know they are beasts and very heavy. But they do the job if looked after they will last for ever and can usually turn at about 300mm even bigger if the bed is removed. You say you used to do CNC, then you must know the basics. If possible as you said through the house can it be lifted over a wall of fence. That would be the only way. The old lathes were the best you could get as the bed casting was usually cast then left out in a yard for several years before being machined to size and finished. This allowed any warping to be absolutely minimal as it was a form of stress relieving. More modern lathes do not have that finesse. If you can get a lathe that has been well looked after, especially if it has come from a university workshop (physics etc,.) it should be the bees knees.

Derek

Honestly, when we move to somewhere with a garage I can look at getting a proper lathe if I find the need. There is no way a proper lathe would fit in my 3.5x6' warm room section of my obs even if I took it to bits to get it there. 

So the options are wait for 2-3 years until we move to get a proper lathe, or get a mini lathe which I can use now? 

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Warco WM180. Simples.

Why?  Very similar in many ways to the Chester alternative but it has a lever locking tailstock as standard - an extremely useful feature. These two (Warco and Chester) are both reputable companies with around 30-40 years trading in the UK behind them.

Why not?  The ebay lathe is an American import and has no sales backup - that's why its cheap! - No spares in the UK.  The Arc Euro lathe is yet another clone of the "mini lathe" that all the main suppliers sell - it is significantly smaller than the others

My only concern with these lathes is that they can only accept 12" (300mm) between centres.  By the time you have a chuck on the headstock (2"), a drill chuck in the tailstock (3") and a drill in the chuck (3-4") there is precious little room for your piece of work  :eek: !!

If you can step up to the 920 (also referred to as a 918 sometimes) you get an extra 200mm (8") between centres - very useful extra capacity.  Aditionally the 920 has a t-slotted cross slide which is very useful for bolting work down or using a vertical slide so you can mill in the lathe as well as turn.

The Warco WM180 does seem like the one then, just with the compromise of having only 300mm between centres.

The lighter lathes have the advantage of having an extra 50mm between centres, but I'm guessing the extra rigidity of the 180 will outweigh this on the whole? 

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