Input on hobbyist combination machine choice

Uglydog

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I've never used a combination machine. However, I applaud your purchase of a machine which fits your needs, interests and work envelope.

You wrote: "I would then also need to purchase the stand for $500 and they have a factory DRO option for $650. ..."
I will suggest that there is considerable value in learning to use the handwheels and then add DRO.
Depending on your welding/bolting skills and the price availability of steel in your area, a shop made stand might be less money (item and shipping). And possibly better quality. That's not a comment on the manufacture, merely that some shop made stuff might be better than factory.

If you are thinking about a need to move it around inside your shop and relocations, then would integral wheels on the stand make sense? Add screw machine pads to level and stabilize. If so, remember that larger wheels might be easier for long term and loading.

This hobby doesn't need to be expensive to be fun, safe and sometimes profitable.

Daryl
MN
 

mksj

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I would not consider the Bolton, I have worked with a number of people that have bought them and the build quality has been poor with no post sales support. Forget about parts if something breaks. There is also a general lack of information on their models, so people do not really know what they are getting. Many people have been very dissappointed because of very limited threading (pitch) options. As far as I can tell, the Bolton has a single speed feed/thread gearbox, so everything is change gears. Chuck mount is bolt on which typically means you are limited to the crappy chucks they sell. At least the Granite has some gear/feed selections and a more standard D1-4 chuck mount. Granite uses a 2 HP BLDC with variable speed, vs. Bolton 1.5 Hp gear head. Granite has a 2 year warranty, Bolton (and lack of part availability)? Granite would be a better choice in my opinion.

A suggestion also might be two smaller separate machines which may take up a similar amount of space, you could also put the mill on roller feet and move as needed.

 

benmychree

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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.
Somewhere, I have an article showing a machine like that, I Am pretty sure that it was made in Sweden.
 

jmkasunich

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I have had a Shoptask 1720 three-in-one since 1999 and have used it quite a bit. I bought it with an eye to CNC conversion and finished the conversion in 2007. My comments are based on my 20+ years of experience with that machine and the very limited info I've been able to gather about your two candidates.

Bolton: I found very little info online about that machine. Bolton has nine photos but only one shows the machine. The others are either the tooling that the machine comes with, or motor terminal block pictures that should be in the manual. Can't really tell much about the machine itself. Do you know if the head moves on the column (like some mini-mills) or if it has a fixed head with a quill?

Granite: I'm very surprised to see that the granite (which uses one motor for both spindles) is more expensive than the Midas (which has separate motors for each spindle). My machine is very much like the Midas. I've never used a one-motor machine but I'm pretty sure I would not like it.

So on to my thoughts and opinions:
These machines are called "3-in-1" meaning lathe, mill, and drill press. In reality, they can be decent lathes. As mills they are modest at best, and as drill presses they are terrible.

The reason they are terrible drill presses is the lack of Z travel. My machine has just barely over three inches of quill travel and no head travel. The Granite looks to be the same. Can't tell if the head on the Bolton moves or if it is also stuck with only quill travel. Think about the difference in length between a 1/2" drill bit in a chuck, a 1/16" drill bit in the same chuck, and a 1/4" end mill in a collet. Now think about how you are going to mount your work so that all three of those tools can be used with only 3" of quill travel. On a real drill press, you unlock the table, slide it up or down, and re-lock. Takes seconds. With these machines you are constantly messing around figuring out how to raise or lower your work. On a drill press where changing hole sizes should only take a few seconds this can be infuriating. You're going to need a full set of screw-machine length drills as well as jobber length drills because jobber length will be too long for big holes and screw-machine too short for small holes.

The milling function also suffers from the lack of Z travel. The only difference is that milling usually takes longer than drilling a hole, so the extended setup time is _slightly_ less frustrating than it would be for drilling. But compared to a mill with either a knee or a movable head you will still find it very slow and frustrating.

The other problem with milling is that milling needs more rigidity then drilling. That's why a drill press can get away with a simple and easily raised/lowered table. The milling heads on these machines are NOT rigid. Add in the tool extensions or crazy fixturing that you need to bring the work up to the quill and it gets worse. So you find yourself taking lots of light cuts. I can live with that now because I have CNC and I can program it to take lots of light cuts. But if you are running manually it will suck.

Finally, the lathe function isn't bad. Both of these machines look like they have traditional lathe carriages with rack-and-pinion feed for turning and half-nuts for threading. That is probably good (at least for lathe work). My machine has a permanently engaged lead-screw nut, which is good for CNC and for milling, but a bit annoying for lathe work. Before the CNC conversion I only cut a couple of threads in seven years - it's just a pain in the rear. (Of course, after CNC conversion is another story - any pitch, left hand or right hand, no change gears and no problem.)

As an indication of how well (or badly) these machines work in their various modes:

Within a year of buying my machine I found a Clausing drill press and almost never drill holes on the shoptask. When doing a CNC project, I'll use a short spotting drill to locate the holes relative to other features on the part, then take the part out of the machine and finish the holes on the drill press.

After about two years, I found a Van Norman #12 milling machine. Unlike the shoptask, I couldn't get it down into my basement, so it lives in the garage and I fight the seasonal rust battle. But for any milling that involves significant metal removal and non-CNC shapes that is my go-to machine. (Much more recently I acquired a Bridgeport, which is so much nicer than either the Shoptask or the Van Norman. But due to size and weight it is currently at a shared shop space 20 minutes from my home. So I still use the other two machines as well.)

After 20 years, I still haven't gotten a separate lathe. The shoptask works well enough as a lathe, and CNC makes threading nice. If I hadn't done the CNC conversion, I probably would have gotten a real lathe and retired the shoptask completely.

So that's my story. The Shoptask got me into home shop machining. It cost me $2000 in 1999. It remains the most expensive machine in my shop because I as I learned more I was able to get better deals on used machinery. The Clausing cost me $300, the Van Norman was $900, and the Bridgeport was a little under $2000 (the bridgeport was bought in 2019, so not the same dollars as the late 1990s/early 2000s). Only the Clausing and the Shoptask were able to come down the basement stairs.

Hope this info is helpful,

John
 

Larry$

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Some very good replies. Too bad you are choosing to ignore the obvious milling issues. Z travel on a mill is a major concern even for very small parts because of the tooling size variations. Changing tooling while the part is mounted may negate the use of the milling function. A real mill can easily take the place of a dill press but not the other way around. Moving two small machines will be easier than one combination machine & can be had for about the same $ you are considering. And they will be easier to sell when you decide to up grade or get out.
 

jmkasunich

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A couple other things I forgot to include in my earlier post:

Check the tailstock quill travel. The Shoptask has a miserable 1-1/2", which drops even lower when using tooling with a tang on the end, sometimes as low as 1". I think the various makers have improved this over the years, but check to be sure. Trust me, short tailstock travel is very annoying. When you have to repeatedly unlock and slide the tailstock just to clear chips while drilling a single hole you will understand what I mean.

The expensive stands sold by the manufacturers aren't the best way to spend your money. You pay even more for shipping what is mostly a box full of air. Homemade metal (if you can weld) or wooden benches work fine. The key for a rigid wooden bench is to have structural skins, not just a frame. A five sided box is pretty darned rigid. Six sided is extremely rigid, but doesn't let you use the interior for storage. My bench has double 3/4" plywood on top and single 1/2" ply for sides, back, and bottom, with 2x4 frame. Dadoing the plywood into the frame and gluing it makes a very rigid and solid base. And wood actually absorbs vibration better than metal.
 

benmychree

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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.
A machine that fits that description was made by Lein Weber, I think built in Sweden.
 

markba633csi

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The combo machines with the mill portion mounted to the rear of the bed are better than the other style with the mill head mounted over the headstock
in my opinion. And be leary of Bolton is my advice.
-Mark
 

ArmyDoc

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No personal experience with these machines.
Looking at some other combination lathe/mills than than the two you listed, it seems like many of these machines have round columns for the milling heads. The round column could be problematic for precision/repeatability. The Grizzly G0791 an example of this type. In the two you posted I can't tell from the photo for the Bolton, but the Granite looks like it swivels. This could be good to get it out of the way when using the lathe, but might also be less precise / repeatable in setups because is not a square column.

Also, just to further complicate your decision process, have you looked at the Baileigh MDL-1022, the Palmgren 11x27 or the https://www.kingcanada.com/en/products/metalworking/metal-lathes/kc-1620clm-16-x-20-combo-lathemill?

Wish I could be more help. Let us know what you decide, and how it goes.
 

CAG.Thompson

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Thank you everyone for your feedback and opinions, and I appreciate the support. I only bring up the active duty thing to really reinforce the fact that I will be moving frequently and limited on space, otherwise I would be open to, or definitely getting separate machines. Based off of some more reflection, and some of the input here, I think I am going to go with the Bolton and I think I will end up happy even knowing that it might be a bit of a project needing some fine tuning or better parts along the way. I am totally okay with that. In fact I have a machinist friend of mine who I used to serve in the same platoon with who lives an hour north who is willing to come with me to receive the machine when I do order it, so that will be nice to have a knowledgeable set of eyes on it. It seems as though a lot of these parts are swappable (if need be, past the one year warranty) with the grizzly version which is nearly identical, and I can also look to Precision Matthews for some good parts and tooling. Not to get too ahead of myself here, I also would love to install a 2-3 hp lathe motor from baldor when that time comes, likely not until at least a couple years after buying it. Question on the mill:

This mill machine is a dovetail column on the rear portion of the lathe, and I am curious if it is even possible to remove the mill head and swap a different mill head using the dovetail column. No, I would never do this right off the bat, or if it were a simple replacement part needed. But, It might be something to consider down the road if a more powerful, perhaps powerfeed Z axis and dro equipped already machine out there could fit on this same column. The question is, dimensions of the spindle lining up to the table, and actual fitment onto the dovetail column. Are these chinese dovetail columns the same size for these bench-type mills?
Again, thank you all for your feedback.
Matt
 
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