I want to get a new mini lathe (7"-12").I'm totally confused about the specs on all these machines.I know they are all made in Asia,they all look the same except color.I can't figure out why the Grizzly costs more than the other brands.I'm open to suggestions,thanks.BTW can anybody tell me why 40 year old Sears mini lathes bring go for so much on Ebay
The difference in cost is *generally* an indication of the type of support you'll get after you buy it. For the most part they're all the same product otherwise so you're pretty safe to go for the best price.
As for long-term support, Little Machine Shop now stocks ALL parts for them, including the bed, headstock and tailstock castings, and for the many varieties of mini-mills that are out there as well, so after the warranty ends you can count on them no matter where you bought your lathe.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall email@example.com
Can't tell you for Grizzly, but certainly for a local (Germany) dealer making a similar business. I have phoned with their boss several times. An importer either buys containers with whatever crap the factory stuffs in or he is in China and making his own inspection and modifications and requests tighter specs. You might get lucky and get a good one from the el-cheapos or you play save and buy it from the more expensive ones. In the second case, they (at least mine) reacts when something went wrong (BTDT) and you're a happy customer in the end. Doesn't mean that Grizzly does it that way (I simply don't know) but if others say that they act this way, it is money well spent.
I know this "old iron is better" discussion. And I do have old iron (mill:
1946, shaper: 1966) but you simply can't always wait until the right old iron comes along that fits perfect.
I had two of them at different times. I think they work pretty well for their size.
-They are a known quantity. I don't blame you for being confused about those Asian mini lathes. They are an unknown quantity because there are so many sellers of them, unless you have one. Thousands of people have those 6 X 18 Atlas/Sears lathes. Just go to the Atlas/Craftsman newsgroup and ask your question if you want a serious answer.
-At least with an American lathe, you know you'll get inch size dials and inch size fasteners, etc.
-You can do inch threading.
-By looking at E-bay, you can see that you can get any part or accessory you need right away.
-You know you won't be stuck with a headstock size that you can't match with anything else.
-40 years old isn't a problem if the machine hasn't been mistreated.
-The handles and cranks are at least made of metal.
I don't think I'd ever buy a lathe without having my hands on it first. Even if you are buying it new, I'd at least want to turn the cranks on the same model and mfr that I was going to buy. You may have already done this, but I'd spend a lot of time writing down the features that I want/need. Then I'd examine that list, ask others about it, adjust it, worry about it, etc. before buying. At least, never buy the machine without talking to a human or 2 at the company. Might even be a good idea to call that company, get their service department on the line and ask them what features people complain about not having. If you can't reach the service department, or it they are impolite, you may have a good clue about your future happiness with that machine.
Low end price is Homier(or used to be), you get a 10"(nominal) bed for the least money. This translates to about 6-8" between centers by the time you get a chuck and tailstock center involved. Little Machine Shop provides support for most of the minis, you can even get stretch bed kits if you buy a shorty used and want a longer bed or get a great deal on a shorty. Usually price is an indicator of importer QC, but not always. I got mine from HF in town, if it was a dud, it would have gone right back for a swap. With coupon and 50%-off sale price, it ran a little under $200. I'd expect a Micro Mark branded one to be perfect out of the box, you'd be paying enough for it. Over the years I've added the longest stretch bed(14") and have a metric leadscrew kit, it still can be slung on the shelf when done but it's a lot heavier now. Get one cheap enough and things like that seem a little more reasonable to do.
I have NO idea why those old Sears AA lathes have such an attraction, they're a lot less capable, parts are harder to find and the spindles are, well, spindley. None of those really small lathes has anything larger than a #1 MT in the spindle, the 7xs have a #3. Same deal with Atlas 6" lathes, one bozo here in town wanted over a grand for one, with one chuck and no tooling. They DO have a longer bed, but the thin spindle kind of restricts what you can do with it.
If you go for a 7x, see if you can get it from either a HF local store or one of the Homier roving sales. If it's a dud, you can swap it easily then. Not quite as cheap as they once were, HF sale price locally is around $360 right now and there's a 15% off coupon in one of the fliers good until the 9th.
There's several mini-lathe groups over on Yahoo, of late, though, the
I would look for a used lathe with all the tooling. Save yourself lots of money in the long run that way.
I have both a Craftsman and a Chinese six inch and they both have their strengths. I use the Chinese like a speed lathe. The electronic speed control and ball bearing spindle make it very handy for a variety of operations on small parts. The reversing switch is handy for threading oddball pitches where you can't disengage the halfnuts. The weaknesses are the lack of a faceplate or four-jaw chuck option and the inability to set the tailstock over. It is however sometimes very difficult to get a fine feed on it.
My 50 year old Craftsman is a real sweet machine. With a big motor and the backgear in you can really take a bigger cut than you should on such a small machine. Mine has the handwheel option on the feed screw which is perfect for taking very fine cuts. I can set the tailstock over for cutting tapers and the threaded spindle can take a wide range of chucks and faceplates. I have to admit I baby the Craftsman though, mostly it just sits on the shelf looking pretty. I prefer to abuse one of my other machines instead.
Buy the small Sherline, later you canbuy the verticle column attachment and make it a milling machine, The Sherline is light, you can easily move it to a bookshelf when it is not in use. For heavier use (IMHO) I'd save up my green stamps and get a Smithy for about a grand.
I acquired a like-new minilathe last year for cheap - $100 w/tooling. Cool. Played with it a bit, then sold it. It was useful, but a bit ... soulless. About the same time I ran across a neglected 618, rusty, missing lots of the tooling etc. A lady was selling off her deceased uncle's tools. I think I paid $300. Came with some shop-made tooling, including a custom punch with the original owner's initials. Today it looks like new, and I don't know that I'd sell it for $500. I also have a couple of the earliest AA lathes. They aren't useful, but after restoration they look good atop the bookshelves at home. Lest you think I'm of the "USA-made or die" variety, I have a variety of import and US tools - Enco 10" lathe and mill-drill, Homier minimill, Logan 9" lathe, Atlas 10" lathe, Burke #4 mill.I tend to use the import tools more, mostly because my biggest lathe and mill are imports. And we all know bigger is better :)
Decide if you want a hobby cutting metal, or fixing old machine tools.
That'll sort out whether to buy a old or new lathe.
Grizz gets a bit more money because they offer slightly better support, and that costs. In theory, they might have even spent a bit more per sea can of lathes, to get slightly better finish or bearings, but maybe not.
The old Atlas lathes use a lot of zamac die cast gears and parts, all of which rot like an old Hot Wheels car, if they sit without being coated in oil (or just not in enough oil) for extended periods. The parts that have survived this long, are part of a thinning, and non replaced, parts pool, and are getting more expensive all the time. The gears are also really easy to destroy by improper meshing. This is one reason that there are lots of parts on ebay. They are machines that were worth way more if they were sold of in pieces. The similar sized AA lathes (Atlas and AA both made minilathes for Sears) are pretty basic machines, with even spindlier headstock spindles. Kinda cool in their own way, but unless you get really lucky, you'll probably decide on a different hobby if you try to start out with one.
Try not to get caught in the "old American iron is better" thing. It's only better if it is in better nick than a similarly priced new machine. Clapped out old American iron is still clapped out. Not that you cannot make decent parts on a clapped out machine. It's just harder. Condition overall is worth way more than county of origin. Unless your chosen path is restoring machine tools.
That is the internal taper. What about the spindle nose as it mounts a chuck? Some are metric threads, some (the Jets) have had the original metric thread turned off, some steel shrink-fit onto the spindle, and re-turned with inch threads, so you can at least cut the same thread on the lathe's threading gearing that the spindle nose has, so you can *make* things to fit.
And some have flanges which you have to feed screws through into the back of the chuck -- a real pain to do, and likely to discourage changing chucks when it is called for, such as when a 4-jaw would do a better job than the 3-jaw already on the spindle.
Atlas Service center (some)
E-bay (from parting out old machines).
And at least the threading gears are all metal (even if they are only Zamac on the Atlas/Craftsman lathes). Since I've got a 6x18 Atlas/Craftsman, and a real Clausing 12x24", I know the difference.
Not screws- the chuck has studs that go through the flange and it is not a big deal to change chucks. Flange mounting has the added benefit of being able to register the chuck and face plate.
And there's a problem- that parts supply is finite and at some point the number of parts machines will be less than the number of fixable machines. It's also an unreliable source whereas parts for the Chinese machines are a phone call away. I know I've seen repairable machine tools going cheap because the parts source has dried up.
The MicroMark is the Cadillac of the lot with the extra features. I think it also had a metal main drive gear. (not plastic) If you examine the parts on LittleMachineShop you can see the cost of upgrading to the longer bed, etc.
One down side of the MicroMark is the 90 day warranty. I think Grizzley has a 1-year warranty. Last year they had a sale in February. I haven't seen one this year.
I was pretty certain that the 6-18 Atlas had a 1"-10 or 1"-8 tpi . If it were 1 1/2"-8 it would be able to mount all the same chucks as it's larger bretheren from so many sources, as well as being able to fit a Morse 3 in the spindle.