"Small" is a relative word. Perhaps you should give some max dimensions for
the size of parts you wish to make.
But assuming you mean parts that are no more than several inches in any
dimension, you should look at the mini-lathe and the mini-mill reviewed on
this Web site:
You should also pay a visit to LittleMachineShop.com:
It's not recommended to try to use the same machines for both metal and wood
(although metal and plastic are usually fine). Firstly, a machine that is
designed to work metal, will not have the features and proper speeds needed
to work wood (and vice versa). Secondly, the oils/coolants used from
metalworking will stain if they get on your wood. Thirdly, the chips, dust,
and pitch from working wood may gum up your metalworking machines.
Search on ebay for "mini mill -wood". Type it in the search block
without the quotes. Make sure you type in the -wood, otherwise you will
end up with a gazillion wood lathes in the search. I found mine from
the Cummins Tool Company. I think it was $299 and shipping. I've been
extremely happy with it so far. Granted, it probably isn't as precise
as a higher dollar machine, but for me just learning, it works great.
Thanks everyone for the links.
I'm a total newbie also. And since I will be working with a variety of
materials, I thought I'd attempt to get a begginers all-in-one machine
for small projects.(I know that that is asking for a lot).
I was looking at the Central Machinery(Harbor Freight Tools) and
MicroLux(Micro-Mark) lathes, but if recommendations(brand & model) for
a mini lathe that can take a milling attachment would be appreciated.
Thanks a lot.
Staten Island, New York.
Some of the machines sold by Micro-Mark appear to be identical to those
sold by Harbor Freight, except for the brand name. Harbor Freight
usually has more variety and lower prices. I own a micro-mill from HF
that I use for making small parts for scale models, and other
miscellaneous jobs. It works OK for the type of parts I make
(detailed, but not necessarily functional), but I'd want something more
accurate and with less backlash in the table for making high-precision
Even though you say space is at a premium, make sure you get a machine
with enough capacity for the parts you want to make. My lathe is
limited to 7 inches between centers, which sounded more than adequate
for the type of parts I was planning to make. However, when you take
into account the length of holding fixtures such as a steady rest for
turning slender parts, or the chuck and drill bit for center boring,
the length of parts you can actually make can be very limited. Again,
think about the type of parts you plan to make and how they need to be
fixtured before you commit to a machine.
There are many small lathes and mills out there. Be aware though that
these machines are often poor choices, even for "small" parts. They lack
the mass and rigidity of larger machines, and by the time you purchase
tooling for them, the savings is not that great. If at all possible, I'd
recommend you look at a step up in size, or maybe even purchase
something used, before spending several hundred dollars on what is
essentially a toy.
Well, this won't be for commercial use. Just to make parts for some
ideas I've been working on.(I'm an amateur inventor).
(And I was looking for used ones, on Ebay).
Also, space is a really big issue, so going big wouldn't be plausible.
Staten Island, New York.
I'm not suggesting you buy a 5000 pound bed mill. But it might be wiser
to start with a bench top mill-drill instead of one of those Sherline
mini-mills that weigh about 10 pounds soaking wet.
Another option is to forget about making the parts yourself, and instead
find a machinist who will do them for you. There are lots of experienced
people who have their own shops and can make parts at reasonable prices.
Your time is a valuable commodity -- don't waste it unnecessarily.
Darren, there are a glut of choices out there now, and witn most of
them, you will probably be able to do most small work. The mini
lathes, which I take to mean the 7X10 and similar can do very
respectable work but require a lot of work to set them up properly
before you can take the first cut. I'm guessing about three hours,
maybe more for someone that isn't familiar with lathes and how to make
them run properly. Doesn't really matter who you buy them from, the
only difference is in the color and the prices for the most part.
Mills, there are more than a few choices, and while the Sherline,
Taig and similar are very small, those two are also very precise. The
sherline maybe a bit more power than the machine itself can handle,
but that can be lived with easily enough. They're small, but you're
knocking right around 100 pounds and handling them by yourself isn't a
good idea, they weren't made to be carried around. Others, the China
mini mills, with R-8 collet system can be made to do very good work,
but only if you can get the thing squared up, which sometimes isn't
really intuitive. They're somewhat larger than the Taig or Sherline,
which isn't bad, and cheaper, but the price doesn't include the
collets and a vise, the former which it's useless without the later
which is the one you'll use the most. The mill drill is still larger,
you're looking at between 300 - 700 pounds and 1 - 2 horse motor, if
you're an apartment dweller, both would be considerations.
I've been that route, running back and forth from the machinist to the
project can eat a lot more time than making it yourself. Owning your
own machine is only 1000 X better. Machinists also enjoy getting
paid, something I consider a more valuable commodity than my time.
Bed length is a common difference -- The HF version is 7X10 while
Homier's is 7x12 IIRC at the same price except for shipping, and
http://www.varmintal.com/alath.htm mentions a MicroLux 7x14.
To claify what I need a small lathe and possibly mill for, my first
project will require that I work with corrosion resistant materials
that tend to retain their shape over time.
I'll probably go with stainless steel, because aluminum tends to warp.
And Delrin would be my choice over nylon, because it is easier to
The goal is to create a 3" diameter circular trough in the center of
the 4" x 4", 3/8" thick metal plate. THis trough will be 3/8" wide, and
1/4" deep, so that it can hold 3/8" ball bearings.(A smaller 1-1/4"
hole all the way through the plate will be created in the center of
As for the Delrin, which will also be 3/8" thick, I'll need to be able
to create strategically placed holes and slots all the way through it.
Thanks a lot.
Staten Island, New York.
I certainly would not recommend SS as the first material you learn
to machine! There are many different types of SS; Some machine a
little harder than regular steel and some are just plain nasty!
Mcmaster Carr has some pretty good info in their catalog.
I also think it would be wise for you get get some advice on what
is the best material for your project before deciding that you
Why do you say aluminum warps? Are you subjecting it to thermal
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