Input on hobbyist combination machine choice

CAG.Thompson

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Ladies, Gentlemen, actual machinists, and hobby type like myself,

I have a couple of machines I am comparing before making a decision on which one to purchase. Please please please, do not waste your time bashing on how combination machines are garbage because two separate machines are better and American machines from the 80s that are at least one ton are way more worth it and talk about how you've been machining since you're 10. I understand the legit arguments made against a combination machine, but I KNOW that it is the right path for me, for the time being. I would rather not bore any of you with details on why, but short and sweet because I know I will be asked: I am on active duty, moving every 1-3 years at most, will almost always have a single car garage loaded with stuff, and am a gunsmithing student (will be apprenticing soon next year depending on covid effecting this local business).

Option #1
A Bolton AT320L (12x36 Lathe with a vertical mill attached to the back guard, this is a clone of the Grizzly G0791 and it is a GREAT price all considered at $4200, with the stand, some included tooling/steady and follow rest, and another kicker to this option is that I can do local pick up and save about 2-300 bucks. It's got a 1.5" spindle bore which is noteworthy, and all specs can be found if you search "Bolton Tools AT320L"

Options #2
A Smithy Granite 1340 (These variants are newly updated as of 2020 I believe).
Now the reason why this is my number two is because it is, in my opinion, disproportionally more expensive. I think both machines are good bang for the buck, and both have at least a 1 year warranty, though Smithy has much better post sale service. I would also have to pay for freight outside of any free ship promotion.
Price for the machine is $5500 with 220v power and a "Basic tool pack"
I would then also need to purchase the stand for $500 and they have a factory DRO option for $650. For the stand and DRO (not saying I would buy it off the bat) I can get a 10% mil discount which is noteworthy I suppose, thanks smithy!
Spindle bore here is 1.6"

If I decide on the Bolton, I can have that as soon as next month and again, I can pick it up myself. If I go with the Smithy, I will more than likely have to wait on that for some more funds, until mid November, so about a 30 day difference. If you would like to bring some solid alternative to mind I am always willing to hear it out but I do NOT have room for two separate machines, I have a small shop, a motorcycle, a small gym, a very small office space and desk al set up in my single car garage, and some storage stuff, none of which is going anywhere. I would much rather be a proud owner of what some firmly believe to be a waste of money, and learn how to machine more, than just never get into it all due to the fact that I don't have room for individual machines. And I want both a turning and milling capability. Lastly, I fully understand that generally speaking I am buying the lathe specs and the milling capacity is very limited. I am aware of most combination machines out there now, I have been looking into this and debating with myself back and forth for about 3 months now while I continue to save some $ on the side for whatever I decide on. I appreciate all of your valued input, thank you!
Matt
 

Cadillac STS

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Looks like they are completely different choices and the Bolton is awesome!

The Bolton is really two different machines using the same bed! Key is the lathe and mill have their own separate motors. The Bolton is not what people usually criticize the combo for.

The granite is what people usually criticize th combo machine for. Not sure on the granite but some use the same motor for lathe and mill with a transmission between.

If you could post a pic of each it would let people what you are choosing between.

Bolton AT320L !
 

tjb

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My first piece of equipment several years ago was a Smithy 3-in-1 (lathe/mill/drill press). It didn't take long for me to be sadly disappointed in the machine. The tolerances were very loose, so precision machining was difficult to impossible. Unless you're looking at a different model, all three machines did, indeed, run on a single motor, so changing from one application to another was cumbersome. The machine seemed to be well constructed, but it didn't take more than a few months to realize it wasn't built to perform like I anticipated.

I know very little about the variety of small machines that are available (single purpose or combination style), but I've learned from some of our veterans that there are some very good ones out there. High quality in terms of construction and capability. I've seen some impressive work performed on such machines, but in my limited experience, it's unlikely that that level of production could be accomplished on a Smithy. Mine simply didn't appear to be built for it. Others may have had different results with a Smithy, so take their opinions into consideration. But unless you've already gone through the effort, I'd suggest considering more than just these two machines. You may find another product that suits your needs better.

Regards,
Terry
 

jwmay

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Does it have to be brand new? You can usually buy a little bit rusty, practically brand new combination machine for less than 1k. One ton machines are pretty cool...but anyways yeah...used machines of this type are either very cheap or not selling. Coworker got one for $300. Saw one recently for something like $550. Might hurt less if you um, y'know...regret buying one.
Anyways...I vote for the Bolton if you have to buy new. Reminds me of a big maximat V10. I don't consider it to ever be a waste of time to tell someone not to buy a Smithy Granite. We have one at work. I'm satisfied just by looking at it that I hate it. But I actually haven't used it so maybe it's great. It's just dog ugly and cheap looking. Actually it looks like the 80's. Yep. That's what it is. The 80's in machine tool form.
 
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matthewsx

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First, it has been discussed here but I must say thank you for serving.

I won't bore you with my experience with a combo machine, but I will say if what you buy has a decent lathe you will probably have a better experience than I had.

As for Bolton, I owned a 13x40 Bolton lathe which had been dropped on it's face. I wasn't very impressed with the quality but if you have the option of picking it up yourself and inspecting the unit before taking delivery you may be able to find a winner. Just realize there's a reason their stuff is cheaper than other suppliers so be prepared to do some work before it's what you need it to be. Also, don't expect much support so if it really is a clone of the Grizzly that would be good but the QCGB looks kind funky in their photo and it doesn't appear to have a separate feed rod. It is heavy enough to be fairly rigid but not as heavy as the Grizzly, the difference could just be in the stand however.

China built machines can look the same but actually be quite different in some important details. That's one of the reason Precision Matthews has such a good reputation on here, they actually work with their suppliers to ensure quality from the start.

If you can locate an Emco:

http://www.lathes.co.uk/emco/page4.html

You will be starting with a known high quality machine but they are not common and tend to fetch a fairly high price.

Again, I think the important thing here is to get something with a decent lathe attached. You can work around not having the best milling features but you need for the lathe to perform well or you will be frustrated. The mill being run from the same motor as the lathe is definitely a limitation and as someone once said on here "adding iron is difficult" so getting a heavier machine is generally better.

JOhn
 

hman

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Matt -
First off, welcome to the forum!

I can't add much to what's been said, as I've never owned or used a combo machine. But I can indeed understand your reason for wanting one. And you can learn from using it!

Bein's how you're in Phoenix, you might want to check out the local machinists' group, Valley Metal, at http://www.valleymetal.org I don't recall if any members have 3-in-1s, but it wouldn't hurt to ask around. Our discussion group is at https://valleymetal.groups.io/g/main/topics

Best to you, and I'll look forward to the possibility of meeting you in person.
 

BROCKWOOD

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Mine is similar to the Bolton. Being that it is a Grizzly 12 x 27 it may not be as robust as the Bolton. I am a hobbiest, so it fit my needs. I've started a Grizzly G0773 thread documenting improvements to it along the way. Also, there is a Facebook Group for Combo Machines that you may want to check out. They are a majority of Smithy type combo owners who love them.
 

MikeInOr

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I used a combo machine 30 years ago in the physics department at the university I attended. It was great for the little fixtures and stuff we needed. I specifically rememberr the professor telling me that he did a lot of research and chose the machine based on where the mill head was mounted in relation to the lathe head and the two interfearing with each other less. Darned if I can remember where the mill head was mounted with relation to the lathe head though. This is something I would research and ask opinions of combo machine owners about before buying.
 

Ultradog MN

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I know you tried hard to limit the scope of this thread to those two machines.
But I still keep going back to this:
You stated that you will need to move it fairly often and that my friend is a Big factor.
One large, Very top heavy machine will be much harder to move than two modestly heavy machines will be.
Secondly, I personally don't see much of a need for a DRO. They are nice but I can still do simple arithmetic in my head and believe doing so is good mental exercise. I can think of a lot of tooling I would buy before dropping $600 for a DRO.
Lastly, I too wish to thank you for your service.
Jerry
USN 1971-75
 

Downunder Bob

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A quality lathe mill combo, does or has in the past existed. A ship I worked on, built in the early 80's by Mitsubishi, had a very good combo machine in the engine room workshop. It was quite a large machine and would have weighed a couple tons. Not only was it a lathe and milling machine, it also boasted a small shaper. The milling machine was not fitted above the lathe but rather built on at the outboard end of the headstock. The mill was of the knee type, and was both a horizontal and vertical type so it was really very versatile. The only downside was that it was all driven from one 5HP 3Ph motor, A very capable machine, I'm not sure, but I suspect it was built by Mitsubishi, as the ship and everything in it was.

I know this doesn't help answer your question, but just reinforcing the fact that quality machines do exist.
 
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