Beginner's lathe advice needed

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Andy F

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I was thinking that I would like to buy a mini lathe for making small parts to compliment various woodworking projects. I think I would have a need for milling capability and thread cutting capability too
I don't have the space for a full size lathe and the parts I would be making will probably never be that big so a bench top lathe sounds like what I need.
The thing is that I have never used a lathe in my life and would need to learn from books or youtube as local school evening classes are not an option where I live.
I have searched the net and have found that many seem to be Chinese made, of varying quality.
Can anyone recommend any and also give me any advice on what extra capabilities, additions and tooling I should be looking at ? or is this a subject too large to be listed here? I really have no idea where to start.
Milling seems to be done with either a bed mounted attachment, a separate attached motor or a separate machine altogether. I don't know if one is preferable to another.
Also, can a metal lathe be used for the occasional bit of wood turning? (I don't know how to do that either, but might have the need for it once in a while)

Many thanks

Andy
 

cammy9r

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Hi, while I cant really offer advice on which brand is better I can tell you that stocks of lathes are running really low. I have been after a gearhead lathe and cannot get the 'old iron' as logistics and machine weight to floor ratio will be pushing it.
The axminster ones you pay a bit more for but get a 3 year warranty. Warco is 1 year but the lathes have (usually) higher specs but stock is always zero and they go quick. Chester hobby store have some and I was considering the craftsman model. But again like yourself I am unsure which to go for as it is a large purchase for me.
 

clogs

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go find ur'self the model makers club over there.....there will be somebody overthere that might teach u a little.....
also
get onto/enrolled model-engineering.co.uk.....a very good forum.....u'll learn a lot.....
homeworkshop.org.uk is a good place to look for used lathes.....there are a few "Dealers" listing on there...
not saying good or bad but I'd prefer a private sale......
all the ones listed above will set u back a lot of money.....
U don't need to spend big to start with.....often u can have ur fun and upgrade at a later date without looseing a load of money....
shipping there will be the next prob, well not really but it's best if u know somebody who'll look at the lathe for u.....
u dont want to buy blind with no experience.....
lastley best not to mix wood and metal although some do....and there's a bench mill thats an upgraded piller drill type of thing.....not a full on milling machine burt the next best thing.....if u can find one....they are always at a premium......
 

Droogs

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Just about all the mini lathes are made by a company called Seig. They build to the spec that the importer asks for. Aximinster machines are made by them as well and though they, in general do have better internal parts than a lot of them they are over priced compared to buying direct from Seig. Bear in mind that the usable length of these mini lathes is very much cancelled out once you start to use certain tools and accessories. Best to look to buy the biggest you can afford, wait 4 months save up some more and get a slightly bigger one if you can. Also you will just get the basic machine. all the goodies come at an extra cost.

remember - you can make small things on a big machine but you can't make big things on a little one
 

chaoticbob

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Grunty, it is indeed a big subject, to which books have been devoted. IFAIK the most recent (2016) is The Mini-Lathe by Neil Wyatt. I think £12 would be a worthwhile investment to give you an overview of these machines. I haven't read the book myself, but Neil is the editor of Model Engineers' Workshop and a frequent contributor to the model engineering forum to which Frank refers. Neil has a lucid writing style - I'd take a punt on it if I was in your position.

Milling is possible on a lathe using a milling slide which attaches to the lathe cross slide, but in my experience it's pretty painful - a dedicated machine (even a small bench mounted job such as a Sieg X2) is by far the better option.

I occasionally turn wood on my engineering lathe - it's not ideal because metalworking chucks are not best suited to holding wood, and the maximum spindle speed on metal lathes is typically less than half that of woodturning machines. But it can be done.

Robin.
 

TheTiddles

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What exactly are you trying to make? If you have a look at Clickspring’s videos on YouTube (especially his earlier ones) he’s an example of someone using very simple (and cheap) machines to make absolutely first class results, his filing technique alone is seriously impressive, so you don’t need much kit if you have developed skills.
I would like a metal lathe but I need workspace more
Aidan
 

AES

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+1 for the advice above on:

A) Join a local model engineering club;
B) Join the Model Engineer website;
C) Read Neil Wyatt;
D) Not "proper" but you CAN turn wood on a metal lathe - rather limited though, more getting a bit of wood to req size/roundness rather than "proper" wood turning (bowls, candlesticks, etc, etc).

Also:

Find on line (and YouTube).

E) Frank Hoose (Mini Lathe website);
F) Steve Jacobs (Chinese Mini Lathe and Myford ML 7).

There are others such as "This Old Tony" and "Clickspring" (to name but 2) but 1st, there's more than above for you to look at above, and 2nd, all due respect, probably a bit too advanced at this stage.

So I strongly advise reading (and talking at a club) BEFORE opening the wallet. You'll make a much better-informed buying decision after only a few weeks, AND on the way, learn a lot of fascinating stuff.

One word of caution: This really IS a very slippery slope and unless you end up with a "lucky" S/H buy which includes a good lot of tooling and accessories, DO reckon on at least doubling the purchase price of the lathe, whatever new lathe/price you choose. But at least that "2nd 100%" does not need to be spent all at once (what you need now/later's one of the things you'll learn from reading and talking, as above). BUT believe me, you WILL end up spending that double new price unless very lucky with a good lot of S/H stuff.

Good luck, it's a GREAT hobby AND a useful adjunct to a "general wood shop".
 
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sploo

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Good advice above. You may find my thread Milling attachment for a mini lathe of interest; mostly because it's got some examples of a novice metal lathe user (me) trying to do a bit of milling, plus a couple of examples of items turned on said lathe.

I've found that a quick change toolpost (and holders) has made jobs much more enjoyable, as has a set of the carbide insert tools (though I do still use HSS tooling). An ER collect chuck is nice too. As AES noted; be prepared to sink extra cash into the lathe for tooling!

BTW I think AES meant Steve Jordan (not Jacobs): Steve Jordan

Steve's videos are interesting for us mere mortals as the cutting is relatable; This Old Tony is great, but don't expect a 40kg mini lathe to take the sort of cuts a 1.5 ton monster will handle!
 

AES

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@sploo: Thanks for the correction, Yes, I did mean Steve Jordan (I must have been thinking about someone else when I posted that)! :( My apologies
 

hawkeyefxr

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I think screw cutting is not really worth it, taps and dies are best unless you cutting square threads or butress threads.
Lathes with vertical milling capabilities can be found but they are rare.
 

marcros

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Good advice above. You may find my thread Milling attachment for a mini lathe of interest; mostly because it's got some examples of a novice metal lathe user (me) trying to do a bit of milling, plus a couple of examples of items turned on said lathe.

I've found that a quick change toolpost (and holders) has made jobs much more enjoyable, as has a set of the carbide insert tools (though I do still use HSS tooling). An ER collect chuck is nice too. As AES noted; be prepared to sink extra cash into the lathe for tooling!

BTW I think AES meant Steve Jordan (not Jacobs): Steve Jordan

Steve's videos are interesting for us mere mortals as the cutting is relatable; This Old Tony is great, but don't expect a 40kg mini lathe to take the sort of cuts a 1.5 ton monster will handle!

I followed your thread on this Sploo. Now knowing both how long it took you and the results you can get from it, would you do it again? Or would you go for a small milling machine instead?
 

AES

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I think screw cutting is not really worth it, taps and dies are best unless you cutting square threads or butress threads.
Lathes with vertical milling capabilities can be found but they are rare.

Personally I disagree with the above first point. Granted that taps and dies are much easier, AND cover all the standard threads plus a lot of "funnies". But firstly, A) if buying a new lathe, finding one without screw cutting will be fairly difficult (and having self-act- which is at least half way to screw cutting - is invaluable, especially for beginners trying to get a good finish); B) unless getting "lucky" with a good job lot of tooling included with a S/H lathe, screw cutting comes "free" (in effect) on most new lathes; C) especially in the larger sizes, taps and dies are quite expensive; and D) with a bit of fiddling and thinking about it, you can cut just about ANY thread on a screw-cutting lathe.

NOT that I'm suggesting that a new comer should be thinking about screw cutting right from the start, but "good to know it's there" for the future (which typically, won't be so far away IMO).

Re a milling attachment, I agree that most lathes don't come ready-equipped for it (most new lathes don't come ready-equipped for anything much at all really (!) which is a point to look out for when comparing prices BTW - what's included/not included in the basic price). And again milling MAY be included if you get a lucky buy of a well-equipped S/H lathe.

BUT a milling "attachment" (basically it's little more than a stout Vee block plus a machine vice) is a LOT less money than even the lightest/cheapest mill AND IME, can do at least 50% of what said mill can do. For example, look at sploo's post here about the Steve Jordan's milling mods to the (in)famous Chinese Mini Lathe.

Of course by all means get a mill if you can afford it and have the space, but recognise you are introducing yourself to 2 often quite different and quite steep learning curves almost simultaneously, AND your budget for both the initial machine buys AND the tooling and necessary accessories.

The only thing I would add - even though I have no personal experience of them, but reports everywhere are consistently bad and disappointing - avoid the so-called combi Lathe-Mill machines which can be seen around - avoid like the plague. "Neither fish nor fowl" apparently.

But in the end Grunty, you've done the right thing IMO, namely ask for opinions here. You may not (will not?) always get agreement, as you've seen already, but at least you're picking up new info all the time, and as suggested in my own 1st post on this thread, the more you learn the better your final buying choice will fit your own needs.
 
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Andy F

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Thanks for all the advice. It turns out I can get into a night class here so I will go down that route first. Also I will soon be old enough and have enough time on my hands to join men-in-sheds which may be a good source of help.

I don't have a particular project at the moment, but just want to learn and make a few things to go with woodworking projects. Model steam engines have been on my wish list for many years too.

I have been known (often) to buy shiny tools without a thought of what I will actually use them for , which is fine for drill bits, digital measuring things, and gardening, but will be a bit of a pricey mistake if I get a bad lathe.

The only thing I would add - even though I have no personal experience of them, but reports everywhere are consistently bad and disappointing - avoid the so-called combi Lathe-Mill machines which can be seen around - avoid like the plague. "Neither fish nor fowl" apparently.

I saw this lathe at a recent local auction, it went for £510 although I don't know how far the winning bidder would have gone, but I don't have the space for a full size one and I couldn't get to see it. I think all the accessories were sold in separate lots. Is this what you mean by a combi lathe-mill?

If i were using bench top equipment, I think I would have the space and budget for a separate milling machine anyway.

IFAIK the most recent (2016) is The Mini-Lathe by Neil Wyatt.

Thanks for the link, I have ordered the book. Even if I don't buy anything, I enjoy these reads anyway.

Thanks again, and hopefully soon I will be posting on here asking how to finish off something very complicated and impressive.

Cheers

Andy
 

AES

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Grunty (or yet another Andy if your prefer!), yup, that's the sort of combi machine I meant - though that one looks a bit bigger than most I've heard about. All I've heard - NIL personal experience is give them a miss.

Great that you've found a suitable night school class. Wish there was one round here!

Good luck and come back with Qs as soon as you're ready
 

sploo

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I followed your thread on this Sploo. Now knowing both how long it took you and the results you can get from it, would you do it again? Or would you go for a small milling machine instead?
Good question. Physically mounting the vertical slide on the lathe wasn't much work (just a bit of drilling and tapping an adapter plate), and the two piece vice would have been applicable to either the milling attachment or a "proper" milling machine (so I don't really count the time/effort on that against the lathe).

From what I've seen of Steve Jordan's milling experiments with the mini lathe; he's managed to get better rigidity than I've achieved - though I haven't done all his mods to my lathe. The big problem is flex through the vertical slide/lathe cross slide/bed/ways. This can lead to carbide cutters breaking, and even if they don't; poor finish and poor accuracy.

The other issue is the lack of travel of the cross slide and vertical slide (both less than 100mm). This means it's hard to position a part for cutting, and you obviously can't mill very much in one operation. Oh, and trying to seat a pair of parallels in a vice that's mounted vertically is a pain.

I've just scored a used milling machine (looks to be Sieg SX2 "size"). Not collected it yet, but that may be the best answer I can give!
 

emlclcy

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I would recommend an EMCO V10P with a milling attachment. They are not made no longer but are super quality. Get a decent one for around a grand
I've had emco for ever, good Austrian made machines
Welcome to see mine if you are local
Carl in hampshire
 

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