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Which mini lathe....?

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globalstar66

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Hi guys

New on here (from Canada) and about to make my first mini lathe purchase, but seriously confused with all that's available and all the positive and negative reviews of what's available on the market. I want to use it to make and modify small parts for various hobbies, and for aluminum parts for my airrifles too.

I was leaning towards either of these as they are all similar in price:
- Little Machine Shop 5100 7x16
- MicroMark 7x16
- DroPros Weiss 8x16
- Grizzly G0765

I also looked at a Proxxon PD 250/E which I could import from Germany for under $900, so again same price as the above more or less.

The Proxxon is really small, but bug enough to make the parts I would need - I'm just sceptical about it's very lightweight (under 30 lbs), although it seems to be a VERY well made, very accurate lathe....

I like the brushless motors of the MicroMark and LMS 5100....

Any thoughts would be appreciated - looking to spend around $800-$1000 plus a tool kit of another say $200 - so around $1000-$1200 all in.

I do not have the know-how to really rebuild a new machine with all sorts of upgraded parts, so looking for something what comes out of the box, pretty much ready to use. I don't mind disassembly to clean it all up nicely, but not looking to have to do major upgrades.

Thanks in advance, and sorry if this topic has already been covered over and over, but I cannot find anything specific that includes the Proxxon with the LMS and MicroMark.

Cheers

Robbie
 

Bob Korves

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#2
plus a tool kit of another say $200
Will barely get you started, even if you scrounge... Sad but true. You can save money by getting used machines, especially ones that come with tooling. Going that direction you need to know the difference between a great deal and scrap metal, and it is often not obvious. Finding an experienced local mentor to help with your search would be very helpful to you, whether you are looking for new or used stuff. Stick with this forum as well, so you get multiple opinions to weigh and choose from.
 

mikey

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I have used one of these Chinese 7" lathes a few times but do not own one. You have to live with a lathe to really have a worthwhile opinion of it. However ...

The Proxxon looks good but I don't see an option for an Imperial change gear set. If that is not available, that would be a deal breaker for me. It also has a die-cast Zinc saddle and I would look for reviews as to how that holds up before buying one. Proxxon makes good tools and they tend to engineer stuff well but to be honest, if I were looking for a lathe in this category I would buy a Sherline lathe.

Before the flames begin, allow me to defend my position. The 4400 long bed lathe is larger than the Proxxon, has a reliable DC motor that actually can turn most stuff that will fit in the chuck and you can cut more threads on it than any other lathe I've seen. It is also a very precise lathe when used with good cutting tools; taking a 0.0005" cut is routine on this lathe, and that is just using the hand wheels. Almost any accessory you can think of or possibly use on a lathe is available from Sherline, at a cost that is reasonable and of good quality. Every part on this lathe can be replaced at very reasonable cost and every part Sherline makes is backwards compatible to the first machine they made.

I have been on this lathe for more than 25 years and could go on and on about it but I won't subject you to that. I just wanted to put it on your radar screen because it is a good lathe for what you're going to use it for. I also have a larger lathe but when I need to make small precision parts, the Sherline is the lathe I opt for.
 

chips&more

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#4
Hi and welcome! What do you want to make? What kind of accuracy are you expecting? How much room do you have? Plan on using the lathe the rest of your life? How versed are you at the metal lathe? If answered, it can better help understand you needs…Dave.
 

globalstar66

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Hi guys

Thank you for the help so far. I will look at the 4400.

Chips&More, I think I have kind of given an overview of a few of your questions for what it's worth - I want to make small items for my airrifles from aluminum (not sure you'd even know what I am talking about, but things like sidewheels, windicators and levels) and I want to make myself some modified cases by drilling and tapping once fired brass cases. And as I mentioned upfront, I am looking for a lathe under $1k, meaning I'm not expecting massively accurate lathes, and not too big and heavy either, hence me mentioning the ones I am looking at.

I am really looking for advice as to which of the above machines (and ones I didn't look into like the 4400) are better than others.....

I am a complete novice (although I have worked on a friend's lathe with his assistance), but know nothing about what to look for...
 

Chip Hacket

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You Tuber named ShopDog Sam says his A number one tool is his Sherline lathe. I started with a Taig Micro lathe.... love the thing.
 

Ken from ontario

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#7
Hi Robbie, I have the LMS 5200, it's a great little lathe ,it took me awhile to get used to its size and limitations, (my only experience with metal lathes was when I worked in custom metal fabrication shop and on occasions used full size/ridgid production lathes),this little lathe has not let me down yet,the one I have comes with cross slide and compound slide DRO as well as a set of QCTP, you could get away without the DROs but if you decide to go with LMS 5100,I highly recommend you get their quick change tool post set.

looking to spend around $800-$1000 plus a tool kit of another say $200 - so around $1000-$1200 all in.
The cost of shipping to Canada is over $500! you may find better shipping arrangement, I used LMS to ship it directly to me ,everything went smoothly and don't forget , LMS has one the best customer service I'm sure many of the members who own tLMS lathes/mills can vouch for that.
BTW, welcome to the site and if there's any other questions you have ,just PM me and I'll get back to you ASAP.
 

RandyWilson

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#8
My first lathe was a HF 7x12. I purchased it because I was extremely space limited and a cheap SOB (paid <$500 shipped). Like Ken, above, my only previous experience was sneaking into the machine shop department and muckiing about with the huge LeBlond. I fought that HF in the beginning. Part of my problem was me overestimating it's real world holding capacity. But more of a problem was chatter and repeatabiliy. I got the production run I needed done out of the way, as tolerances were not at all critical on the parts. I then started reading the various websites, and figured out that what Carroll Smith said so long ago still holds true. He was speaking of the English built race cars of the 70's, but it's still accurate. "These things are assembled purely for the convenience of shipping. Upon delivery, the thing was be totally stripped and assembled cleanly and correctly". I took that HF lathe apart. Found that the gibs were not only out of adjustment, but the lock nuts were loose. The carriage bolts were loose. Things like. Once it was reassembled and properly adjusted, it cut much more accurately. Since I doubt any of the importers can take the time to do this, especially at this price point, I would strongly suggest doing it yourself.
 

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#9

globalstar66

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To all that have commented - thank you SO much for all the advice and replies, and to Ken, thank you for your insights too - much appreciated!!!

If I end up buying either the LMS 5100/5200 or the MicroMark, I will have them shipped to Montana and collect it, as it's only 250km from me and I have a commercial shipping address there.

I have spoken to Bill at LMS a few times over the past 2 days, and he's given some good advice regarding pros/cons between the 5100 and the Micromark. LMS, because of higher shipping and slightly higher price, works out about 23% more than the Micromark.

This from LMS: "There is one con to each machine. The con to the micro mark is that is comes with a 3” chuck vs our 5100 that comes with a 4” chuck. The con to our 5100 is that the leadscrew pitches for the cross slide and the compound slide are 1mm so it come out to about 0.040” per revolution vs the micro mark machine which comes with 20tpi screws with come out to a 0.050” per revolution."

I have also looked at the Sherline, and it seems I can get one from Quebec with free shipping for the exact same price as the US price once converted to CAD... I do think over the long run, I would MAYBE get more use out of a slightly bigger/stronger machine like the LMS 5100 or the Micromark??.... What I don't like about the Sherline, is it's pretty expensive for such a small machine.

Looked at the TAIG too, price seems pretty good, but I don't like the fact that it's all kind of "strapped" to a wooden base.... And the small motor worries me a little, although I cannot find too many owners complaining about it.

So I am kind of leaning toward the Micromark at this point. I will make up my mind in the next few days and buy whichever one "tickles my fancy".
 
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Aaron_W

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I'm still very much just learning with less than 50 hours on my lathe, probably more like 20 but I'll also plug the Sherline. I spent about 2 years researching mini-lathes before I finally settled on one to buy. I assume I'm not odd being reluctant to spend $1000+ without a lot of thought.

I've only diddled the knobs of the Harbor Freight version of the Chinese lathes in the store but compared to the Sherline they feel sloppy and cheap. Plastic handles, loose fit etc. Granted the HF version of these lathes is about as cheap as they get, and these were display models. The fit and finish of the LMS or Grizzly lathes may be much better, I haven't seen one in person. Most of the Chinese lathes are the basically the same piece of equipment, the major difference is the required standards and quality control of the importer.

The Sherline controls are largely aluminium and feel very solid and crisp. All of the Sherline tooling also has this very fine refined feel to it. If it matters to you, Sherline is based in Southern California and all its machines are made in the US.

The Sherline is a very small lathe though, 3.5" diameter and an 8 or 14" length.
That is well within my needs, but if you need bigger that will be an issue. They do offer riser to allow larger diameter work, but at that point you may be better off going with a larger lathe off the bat.

I ordered mine with their C package which gave me everything I needed and more to start with at just under $1300 + shipping so about your price range.

I have added more tooling since then but that has been more for the future. I really haven't felt limited with the tooling it came with.
Sherlines customer service has been excellent, I haven't had one issue. I bought their 5400 mill in October.

As far as set up I followed the instructions and was cutting metal within 24 hours of receiving it (had to go buy some metal first or it would have been quicker :oops: ). The instructions are very clear, it took me a couple hours to assemble it and I was ready to go. This last bit was ultimately what sold me on it. I heard too many people talking about buying a Chinese lathe and then having to take it all apart to fine tune it. Probably not a big deal if you know what you are doing but I knew I didn't so that was out.



It is a very good little lathe, but it is little.

Mikey is a font of knowledge on the Sherline lathes, pick his brain if you have technical questions about it.
 

Aaron_W

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#12
I'll add that I have no experience with Micromark related to their machine tools, but I have bought other things from them many times and have hsd only positive experiences.
 

globalstar66

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Thanks Aaron - my only issue is there are none of these machines anywhere near me to have a look at - only the TAIG is available locally.

I will have a serious look again at the Sherline - I like the fact that I can buy it in Canada from a Canadian dealer for the exact same price as the US price, but with free shipping to me, and have full CA warranty. That means a lot.

I recently bought a large commercial chamber vacuum sealer from a US dealer, and had it sent to Montana and collected it there. Got home, and it was DOA. Lots of broken parts inside the unit, and the manufacturer just shrugged their shoulders.... Thank goodness the dealer in Texas was amazing and got me a new machine. So a little wary buying such large items from the US with not too much backup in Canada.
 

mikey

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This will come down to what you need to do with the machine. Keep in mind that a 7" lathe has a swing of 7", which means 7" is the max diameter you can fit over the ways without hitting them. Many of them will come with a 3" chuck. The Sherline comes with a 3.5" chuck.

It may help you to know that a Sherline lathe can turn about 1-1/4" over the cross slide so you can potentially turn about 14-15" of that. I have turned aluminum, stainless and tool steels, semi-hardened steels, plastics, brass and bronze. With the right tools, a Sherline lathe can take cuts that would stall many 7" Chinese lathes so the motor has enough power to do some meaningful work. However, big cuts are not what the Sherline lathe excels at. It is a precision lathe with precision screws. Until you really have to cut something to very tight tolerances you don't really appreciate what this means.

Quite frankly, the Sherline lathe has taught me more about cutting metal than any other machine in my shop. I have a bigger lathe but everything I know about using it came from using the Sherline lathe. Everything I know about lathe tools and tool geometry was learned because of the Sherline lathe. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest small lathes made.

Okay, enough of this soapbox stuff. The best thing you can do is define what your work envelope is and buy a lathe that will enable you to work on that stuff.
 
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David S

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Welcome Robbie,

I have the Unimat SL1000/db200 that I purchased new back in the 70's, long before the internet and affordable Asian imports. It got me started and I did nice work with it. However it is a lesson in patience. With the options that are available today, I would not buy the Unimat.

My go to lathe now is the Atlas 618 and does everything that I want to do. Smaller parts and clock repair work.

If I was going to purchase one today for mostly clock type work it would be the Sherline. I have never used one but know folks that do have one and feel that is perhaps the best in its class.

However if you want a larger work envelope then one of the 7 x 16" would be my choice. From what I can tell the Micromark looks like it would do what I need.

Keep us posted on your decision.

David
 

Chip Hacket

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Warning! It’s a conspiracy to control your mind and wallet.

You come here asking normal questions about lathes and metal cutting. These guys give you facts and opinions about various pieces of equipment. They’ll ask what type of projects you intend do, and give insight as to what may work best for you. Pretty soon you’ll let your guard down, and they’ve GOT you. Yea, they seem all right now. Wait till you get your lathe. You’ll come back asking questions about cutting tools or speeds and feeds and they’ll lead you right along. You’ll see interesting projects they’ve done with explanation about how it’s done using this method or that. Then you’ll be asking about collets, chucks, carbide, tool sharpening, runout, fluids, gauges, drill presses, and milling machines. It never stops! You’ll lay awake at night trying figure out how to do an operation for a project you never intended, with a tool you never meant to buy. Then you’ll realize, there is no way out!!

I have to go I hear something! It may be Bob or Mikey coming!
 

ConValSam

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+1 on the service and support from LMS. I bought both my first lathe and mill from them; whether it was a foolish mis-order or question, they always stayed patient and helpful. Very, very ETDBW.

One other thought: small lathes are, well, small. I found it very difficult to operate my Sieg C3 because I have huge mitts and it seemed like all the controls were designed for a lilliputian.
 

ttabbal

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I agree! I was going to get a mini lathe, then Mikey and others gave me facts and knowledge!! I have a PM1127 on order now. And the tooling!!! So many tools, not enough money. And when I get them, I'll be able to make things for 10x more than I would be able to buy them!!!

Joking aside, there's a wealth of knowledge here and it's a great place to learn.
 

Aaron_W

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Warning! It’s a conspiracy to control your mind and wallet.

You come here asking normal questions about lathes and metal cutting. These guys give you facts and opinions about various pieces of equipment. They’ll ask what type of projects you intend do, and give insight as to what may work best for you. Pretty soon you’ll let your guard down, and they’ve GOT you. Yea, they seem all right now. Wait till you get your lathe. You’ll come back asking questions about cutting tools or speeds and feeds and they’ll lead you right along. You’ll see interesting projects they’ve done with explanation about how it’s done using this method or that. Then you’ll be asking about collets, chucks, carbide, tool sharpening, runout, fluids, gauges, drill presses, and milling machines. It never stops! You’ll lay awake at night trying figure out how to do an operation for a project you never intended, with a tool you never meant to buy. Then you’ll realize, there is no way out!!

I have to go I hear something! It may be Bob or Mikey coming!

This is no joke. :)

I stretched my budget of $1000 to $1400 last year and thought I'd be good. Here I am a year later and at least $2500 deeper (more lathe tooling, but mostly went to adding a small mill and tooling for it).


I've found that my interests are in fact well within the envelope of the Sherline tools, and still leaves me plenty of growth. I still read threads about other machines though and if I find myself wanting something larger I think I'll be looking at one of the PM 10-12" lathes. Those start at twice the budget of a Sherline or one of the 7x16 lathes though so probably not helping. :guilty:
 

globalstar66

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@ Chip Hacket - I laughed so much now I almost cried.... Hahaha. I have a TON of hobbies that do exactly that.... I cannot add another with a black hole where $1k bills disappear into. LOL.

I got a quote from the Canadian supplier of Sherline today, but now it seems they're out to lunch with pricing, so I spoke to LMS again, and as has been mentioned, they have been beyond awesome, answering a ton of questions, and never pushing me to buy THEIR units - just gave me honest pros and cons of a bunch of lathes.

I have narrowed it down to their 5100 lathe, mostly because of their helpfulness, and also because I found Frank Hoose's youtube videos (all 10 of them) about every facet of the 5100... I watched over 200 mins of his video on the 5100, and decided that would be the one. I was not able to find decent "instructory" videos on the Sherlines, and me being a proper NOOB, I would need some tutorial, as I don't have anyone anywhere near me to help me out, as we recently moved to Canada from South Africa, so still getting to know people around here.

Anyways, thank you to everyone that helped me with this, and for all the direction too.

I am sure I will still ask a ton of questions on here. I can only make it down to Montana at the end of January, so will only be ordering the lathe from LMS after mid January.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!!!!
 

tq60

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#21
For the money the harbor freight little lathe is hard to beat with coupon and on sale.

For its size it is stout enough and it will give you something to use.

They support it well with parts so good there.

Tooling depends on what you wish to do but look for machinery dealers as some have an odds and ends and used department where you can find many useful things fair priced.

Estate sales too.
 

Aaron_W

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#22
Good luck with your new toy.

I found these videos on basic lathe stuff very handy when I started out. He uses a Sherline, and some are specific to to that brand, but most are just general information that applies to any machine.

Mini Machining


There are tons of machining videos out there on youtube.
 

BobinOK

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The LMS lathe is probably a good choice. I bought one from Micro Mark thinking it would be better quality than one from Harbor Freight. If I had to it over I would have saved myself a couple hundred and just bought the HF lathe. The MM lathe had the same issues with quality, fit and finish as all the others and in my opinion wasn't worth the extra money. Weird lead screws can be dealt with by adding a DRO which is a worthwhile addition anyway. No matter which 7 X ?? you buy you will need to go through it and make adjustments and improvements.

I ended up selling the Micro Mark and buying a slightly used Grizzly G0602 10 X 22 off CraigsList. After adding 3 phase motor with VFD, DRO, building a reverse tumbler assembly and buying some additional tooling I have a really nice lathe with about $2,000.00 invested.
 

wrmiller

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The LMS lathe is probably a good choice. I bought one from Micro Mark thinking it would be better quality than one from Harbor Freight. If I had to it over I would have saved myself a couple hundred and just bought the HF lathe. The MM lathe had the same issues with quality, fit and finish as all the others and in my opinion wasn't worth the extra money. Weird lead screws can be dealt with by adding a DRO which is a worthwhile addition anyway. No matter which 7 X ?? you buy you will need to go through it and make adjustments and improvements.

I ended up selling the Micro Mark and buying a slightly used Grizzly G0602 10 X 22 off CraigsList. After adding 3 phase motor with VFD, DRO, building a reverse tumbler assembly and buying some additional tooling I have a really nice lathe with about $2,000.00 invested.
When I decided to get back into hobby machining, I too bought a MM lathe thinking that I was getting a higher quality lathe for my money. Ended up selling it shortly after buying it as I was having too many issues with it.
 

PHPaul

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#25
Chip speaks the truth. I haven't even made a decent dent in building my tooling inventory for my Grizzly lathe and I'm already trying to figure out how I can sneak a mill into the basement...
 

globalstar66

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#26
Thanks for all the input. I read all your suggestions etc, and did more research yesterday and today. I ended up pulling the trigger an hour ago and ordered the Grizzly G0765 7x14 mini lathe from Grizzly, for $754 shipped to my door in Canada.

I had already decided to buy the LMS 5100 in January, and have it sent to Montana. But after working the calculator, the LMS unit would have cost me $899 plus $165 in shipping costs to Montana, and another $30 to the place I have it shipped to in their fees, total of $1094. And then I would have to drive down to Montana to collect it, which was another 400 miles and $100 in gas, so about $1200 plus import tax.

I now paid $754 plus import tax, so saved $450. And I wasn't so sure the LMS 5100 was $450 nicer than the Grizzly. Maybe I will kick myself later, but there's $450 already to use for tools.

I am going order some tools from LMS in the next few days. Looking at their starter "kit" for about $198 and will order a 4" 4-jaw chuck with adapter for another $99 as well as a live centre and a few other odds and ends, for a total of about $350.
 

mikey

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#27
Heh, heh, like Chip said, now we got you!

Congrats on the new lathe. You are about to find out that hobby machining isn't really about machining; its about personal growth. You will learn about different materials, tooling, oils, hydraulics, physics, electrical work, mechanical design, etc, etc. You will become more self-reliant and far more capable, and this hobby will enable you to do more in your other hobbies. And you get to rub elbows with the HM crew and enjoy the knowledge and camaraderie found here. Yeah, we're going to try to get you to spend your money but it will be done with the very best intentions ... :laughing:

Welcome to HM, G!!
 

Ken from ontario

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I hope you have fun with your new lathe, I only joined the HM less than a year ago but soon found out that the old timers here are very good at spending newer members money :D so before they bring up other tools that you'll need let me ask you first, have you got a mill yet:big grin:
 
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