Mini lathe discussion

Dhal22

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I'm next in line. Of course I'm talking about mini lathe purchasing questions. I build radio control airplanes and have occasional needs for a mini lathe (and mill). Not that I wouldn't have regular needs.

Great reviews I see in lathes that interest me are the MicroMark 7x16, the LMS 7x16 and the LMS/Sieg 7x14. One timely question is are there Black Friday sales to consider?

Thanks in advance.
 

Bi11Hudson

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Be careful, your perspectives on which hobby is most important to you may change to machine work. My input may be a little off sided, I do model railroading and was an industrial electrical/motor inspector professionally. But models are models.

While my home shop is a 12X36 Craftsman and a 9X20 lathe (+ some other goodies), I needed a small machine for work. The Harbor Fright mini isn't much of a lathe, but it did well enough at work. I ended up giving it to a maker space in my neighborhood when I left the mill. Other than being cheap, there's not that much good to say about the Harbor Fright machine. But for a beginner that really isn't into machine work it does have that point about being disposable if it won't do for what you have in mind. Variable speed and threading were the selling points for me. The UniMat DB-200 wouldn't thread without some fancy attachment.

In my case, the 9X20 served me well as my first serious machine. The 12X36 was on hand and commissioned when I got into building some 1-1/2 inch scale wheels. I needed to swing something a fuzz larger (disk brake rotors) than the 9X20 could handle. For the application, model building, the work seldom exceeds a couple inchs out of the chuck. Rebuilding the Craftsman got me interested in machine work and it was down the rabbit hole from there.

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Dhal22

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Be careful, your perspectives on which hobby is most important to you may change to machine work.

.

:p

Probably a lot more metal parts to make in railroad modeling. We don't like heavy so not a lot of metal parts in model airplanes unless you are really into scale building. Which is what I need a lathe for. And probably a mill.

Even the little Taig is probably enough for me.
 

Dhal22

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Thank you for your reply btw.
 

mikey

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So, your only question is regarding Black Friday sales?
 

Dhal22

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No, that is one of many I'm sure. Lots of opinions out there but just thought I would start a conversation for my needs. I will post photos of rc airplane work that might be in my future.

Thx
 

Bi11Hudson

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Probably a lot more metal parts to make in railroad modeling. We don't like heavy so not a lot of metal parts in model airplanes unless you are really into scale building. Which is what I need a lathe for. And probably a mill.

Even the little Taig is probably enough for me.
You would be surprised at the number of plastic parts I make. Mostly as insulators, I model small scale two rail. Insulation is critical there.

The most common is a washer with a shoulder, 0.086" ID, 0.140"OD and 0.200" overall. The plastic I'm not sure of, I think white nylon. It may be something esoteric, Xerox used it for bearings waayyy back. I salvaged the cutoffs and stashed them.

For woodworking and light plastics, I have seen a number of lathes on eBay for less than $100. They don't do threading though. But are cheap, in build as well as price. Although they claim to be light metal working, I wouldn't want any serious work done on them.

Convertables, if you find the right ones. Milling as well as lathes. Again, disposables... ... A link: essentially a modern day UniMat DB-200. Which I used for years.


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Dhal22

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Would the white plastic be Delrin? I have a couple of sheets of that (2' x 2' x 1/2") and rods. EBay, McMaster Carr sell it in blocks and tubes.

Dang that's a cheap lathe on eBay. For $100 it might work on Delrin.
 

Bi11Hudson

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Would the white plastic be Delrin? I have a couple of sheets of that (2' x 2' x 1/2") and rods. EBay, McMaster Carr sell it in blocks and tubes.
It may have been. ACC glue doesn't stick that well to it. I always thought of delrin as being blackish, maybe just my "old school" memory. It has the same characteristics as a roller (for sheet Al) that I'm pretty sure is delrin. At 6" diameter and 8" long though, I'm "saving" it for something where the size is necessary. Normally, I don't keep track of what type of plastic something is. Styrene is soft and flexible and doesn't make good screws, acrylic and lexan are clear and more rigid and not so easy to cut, ABS and PVC make pretty good pipe.

I have a "gizmo" made out of Sched 20 PVC that I can climb on, at 230 lbs. (6' 3")
http://www.hudsontelcom.com/uploads/DomeAdv.pdf
I wrote the instructions with help from an associate in the "survival" business. Some of the left handed perspectives were his, with me doing the technical details. (I'm hiding out) Y2K got a lot of questions about the gizmo.

In any case, the machine I have listed has a metal frame and supposedly cuts Al and Cu. Brass is mostly copper, with some zinc added. Hardware store aluminium is softer than copper, the alloying materials can make it almost as hard as steel. I'm not too impressed with the theoretical accuracy, it certainly ain't a South Bend or Bridgeport. But for work with wood or plastic, should give results within most model builder's tolerances of a few thou. But again, no threading capability.

Mostly, I'm trying to make a point. You are not getting into machining as a machinist, you need to make parts for your models. Accuracy is more to the point of "TLAR", that looks about right. The part I mentioned before is to fit a 2-56 machine screw. When I make the screws, I usually cut the threads with a die. Sometimes by hand, some times on the lathe. As long as the die fits, it'll work. Most times a chunk of coat hanger, occasionally a brass rod. If it's a few thou undersized or over sized, the die does well enough, so long as there is a semblance of threads. 00-90 threads are a little touchier, but the same standards apply. Mainly, I'm trying to convey that you may not need a full blown machine shop.

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Dhal22

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I agree on not needing a full blown machine shop.
 

Aaron_W

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Great reviews I see in lathes that interest me are the MicroMark 7x16, the LMS 7x16 and the LMS/Sieg 7x14. One timely question is are there Black Friday sales to consider?

Thanks in advance.
All of the machines you've listed are essentially the same lathe being based on the Sieg 7x lathe. Most likely all built in the same factory. The differences come from the re-sellers setting quality control standards and in some cases different specs, included items and what color they are painted.

The good part of that is they have good parts availability and community support because a mod that works for a Harbor Frieght 7x10, likely applies equally well to a Grizzly 7x12 or LMS 7x16. The bad part is they will all have the same limitations and issues being based on the same base machine.

The main difference between the base Sieg C3 7x14 and the two 7x16 machines is the larger motor, and an additional 2" between centers. None of them come with much tooling, basically just a chuck, center for the tailstock and a (assuming) a cutting bit. You will want to factor in several hundred dollars more for tooling, at a minimum a drill chuck for the tailstock, more cutting bits, and possibly a steady rest.

Grizzly is another vendor to look at, their versions are the G688 7x12, and G0765 7x14.


I don't have any of their machines, but I've bought tooling and accessories from Little Machine Shop and have no complaints with their products or service. I've bought a few things from Micro Mark, never had an issue with them either, but never bought a machine or machining products from them.


For just a little more at $1295 the Grizzly 0768 8x16 lathe is just a little larger, and heavier but gives you more power (600w vs 500w / 350w), slightly larger working envelope and comes with a much larger collection of tooling, 2 chucks, a steady rest and follow rest, 2 centers. Personally I think this is a much better deal than either of the 7x16 machines you are looking at, the extra $200 easily being worthwhile for the additional tooling alone. You would still want to add a drill chuck.



As it sounds like you are very much at the small side, do not overlook the Sherline lathes. They are in my opinion, and most every modeler I've talked with (including those who own different machines) the best small lathe for model building short of some very high dollar instrument lathes (Levin). For $850 you can get the 4100 3.5x17 lathe with their "A" package which includes a much more comprehensive set of tooling and accessories than any of those 7x lathes. Their "C" package is $1282 but includes just about everything you would want to get started. Sherline has excellent customer service, a huge range of accessories and their machines and tooling come with good instructions. Some accessories have company made youtube videos demonstrating set up and use. There is an active user community and aftermarket for these machines.

If the majority of your interest is parts 1" and smaller in diameter, very occasionally reaching upwards of 2" the Sherlines are great. If you expect much work at the 1-2" size they are being pushed. 2"+ is possible particularly with the use of riser blocks, but if you want to do much at this size you probably want to look at something bigger.


If you do get the $100 lathe, please report back on it. I've had a lot of modelers who don't have the budget for one of the more traditional mini-lathe options ask about it, but I've found nobody who has actually used one, to know if it is really an option for small plastic parts.


As far as Black Friday sales? I don't know specifically but there are sales from all of these vendors at times. Grizzly is the probably the most likely to have a significant BF sale.
 
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Bi11Hudson

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Perhaps it's time to (re)define what you're looking for.

Think of a router and a milling machine as pretty much the same machine with different tolerances. The milling machine, depending on operator skills of course, can hold to 0.0005 or better. The router only can hold to 0.015 (1/64), again depending on skill and jigging. But is a hell of a lot cheaper.

The same applies, to an extent, to a lathe and a hand drill. There was a time that all I had was Pop's hand drill clamped up in a vise. With files and the like for cutting tools. But at 12 years old, I didn't have the skills I have today. The few parts I did succead in making weren't much good, but they worked (more/less) for what I wanted at the time. A drill press was way beyond my means in those days, but I wanted my models and figured out a way to do things.

Sanding was a piece of 2X4 and some sandpaper. Now-a-days it's a belt sander on a stand and a tool grinder. All a matter of desired tolerances and skills. And money~~~

A jig saw was a blade in a (home made) wooden handle. Now-a-days it's a scroll saw and a cute motor driven tool that's available at any hardware store for $50.

The machine shop capabilities aren't really important until you're building a small engine from scratch. Gasoline for you, steam for me. But years ago, the skills were there but the machines weren't. Yet the originals got built, even without the machines. Like a friend of mine, Carlos Rivas, calls a file a "Puerto Rican" milling machine.

Carlos was a mill motor inspector, like me. But the skills and knowledge were there, again, like me. We did what was necessary to get the job done. Often long before OSHA ever existed. I worked a UniMat DB-200 for years. Todays equivilent would be a Taig or Sherline. The cost of the machine is not so great as the cost of the tooling. You're looking to spend as much or more for that than the machine itself. Here it all comes down to the budget for what is at this point an experiment. All I can really say here is to use that budget wisely.

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Dhal22

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Kids, work, I'm still here. Unfortunately duo busy I just noticed a 3 day old post on Craigslist for a Taig mini lathe. I emailed the seller, hoping it's still available.
 

DavidR8

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Kids, work, I'm still here. Unfortunately duo busy I just noticed a 3 day old post on Craigslist for a Taig mini lathe. I emailed the seller, hoping it's still available.
Did you get the Taig?


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Dhal22

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No answer from seller. I'm still watching Craigslist and reading. I don't think I need a vey big lathe.
 

Dhal22

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Still reading and researching. Lots of recommendations from other rc airplane enthusiasts to look into larger lathes.
 

mikey

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You should look into Sherline machines. They are capable of far more than you might think.
 

Dhal22

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Thx, haven't looked much at that line. Will do now.
 

ThinWoodsman

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Having purchased a Micromark 7x16, my advice would be to skip the Sieg-style import lathes and either get a smaller, more precise lathe like the Taig or Sherline, or track down a used domestic bench-top lathe like a Logan, South Bend, Atlas.

People have done great work on the Sieg-style lathes but they are not a good first lathe, especially for someone with no prior machining experience (a detail that is often overlooked by those that recommend these machine).

It is often pointed out that the Sieg-style lathes are "a kit", meaning that they need some work done on them in order to achieve any sort of rigidity and precision, and this is very much the case. What this means is that the buyer of one of these lathes must:
a) be able to identify precisely what is wrong with the lathe
b) have the knowledge of how to resolve the issue(s)
c) have the skills to implement the solution
d) have access to machinery capable of producing parts required by the solution

When I acquired the Micromark, I met none of the above requirements, and was operating under the assumption that the Micromark was a turnkey lathe ready to be bolted down and cut some chips. It was not. After acquiring a 14x40 Logan, I learned how lathes are *supposed* to work, and then was able (with the help of a mill, either my Bridgeport or Taig would do the job) to get the Micromark to a usable state. It now will happily cut chips, though it is still a long way from being precise (the saddle is a huge weak point, even with new gibs).
 

chips&more

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The correct choice of machine is one thing. Another, is the savvy of the operator to operate the machine. You can put a seasoned operator in front of a crapy lathe and that person will work around the idiosyncrasies of said machine and make decent parts. There a people that can make better parts with a hand file than a person using a milling machine. Bottom line…it’s not all about "just the machine".
 

ThinWoodsman

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The correct choice of machine is one thing. Another, is the savvy of the operator to operate the machine.
Agreed, but this is a hobby pursued by amateurs, not a profession requiring an apprenticeship period. While there are many current and former professionals posting here, it is fairly likely that somebody asking advice about what to buy for their first lathe is not a seasoned operator.

There seems to be recurring advice on this forum to beginners to steer clear of cheap import end mills and such, because "they won't know if it's them, or the cutter". I'd say this is more true for the choice of machine than for the specific cutting tool - on a bad machine, you can break a good cutter just as easily as a cheap cutter.
 

Dhal22

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This is getting good. Thx guys.
 

Dhal22

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Any opinions on precision Matthew bench top lathes?
 

Aaron_W

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PM has a good reputation here.

I think the 9" and 10" lathes are a nice size. Bigger and heavier than any of those previously mentioned, but still quite manageable in a small space.

9" are typically the smallest fully featured lathes available with a quick change gear box and power feed. Many lathes in the 9-10" size are still light enough to be moved with 2 people without special tools or equipment, so not too difficult to get into a basement shop. At 200-300lbs though a bit much for one person to move and they really require their own dedicated space. No longer practical to use on a kitchen table like the mini-lathes.
 

Dhal22

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Decided to do 2 lathes. Found a good deal on a Sherline on Ebay and will probably buy a Precision Matthews lathe as well. I will report back on the Sherline when I receive it.
 

mikey

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Just so you know, everything you learn on a Sherline machine will transfer to a larger lathe. The Sherline lathe is small but it is a capable lathe in every other way. If you become skilled on that little lathe, jumping to a bigger one will be a smooth transition.
 

Dhal22

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I've got some small parts to make for a large radio control airplane sooner than later so the Sherline will be perfect. But looking forward to a larger lathe.
 

Dhal22

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I ended up deciding to buy 2 lathes, micro and larger. Probably the PM1030 for the larger but found a cute Unimat on eBay. Shot some oil here and there and turned a piece to test it out.

A die happened to fit on the finished piece so I ran some threads on it.

20200119_212548.jpg
 

Aaron_W

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Bill is definitely right about machining becoming its own hobby.

I'm very happy with my Sherline lathe and mill, and they have worked out just as I'd hoped. The one wrinkle was I was just looking at them as tools for my model hobby. I didn't expect them to lead to a whole new hobby and the machining hobby is what led me to wanting some bigger machines, not a failure of the little ones to do the job I bought them for.

It is addictive though. you will keep finding new stuff you didn't know about and then you have no idea how you ever got by without it. It starts with a tiny lathe and the next thing you know your basement or garage is filled with cast iron. :grin:

I think the Unimats are neat, that one should work well for you for the RC stuff you were wanting to do.
 
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