Help a newbie out?

I know this question gets asked a lot, but most of the answers I found
wer from '97-'98. Things change...
I've been working on electronics for robotics applications for a
while, and I am now ready to start working on the hardware. I decided
to buy a lathe and mill, and after a few days of searching, have my
sights set on Sherline.
I'm going to need to make small parts, mostly out of aluminum, as well
as gears and threads. Will the sherline machines be adequate for
I was looking at the Emco machines as well as the ones sold by harbor
freight, but most of what I read about them had them dismissed as
"toys". While I have heard a few people dismiss Sherline as "toys",
it is not nearly as often as the other machines I've been looking at,
and Sherline is at about the maximum of my price range.
Has anyone successfully made gears on a Sherline, or is that just a
ridiculous proposition?
I'm also interested in the CNC capability. Any comments on that? Is
it worth it?
Can anyone suggest a better machine for around the same price as a
Any help, suggestions, or insights would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance...
Reply to
Brad Brigade
Loading thread data ...
I don't have any direct experience with the Sherlines but I do know that they're more of a "micro" lathe and are very limited in what you can do with them. I'm also fairly sure that you can't cut threads on them.
As for the Harbor Freight and other mini lathes take a look at this site. I think it might change your mind about them.
formatting link
Also, when you say that the Sherline is at about the maximum of your price range it's probably worse than you think because you're probably not figuring in the cost of tooling. As a general rule of thumb most people say you'll spend about the same for tooling as you do for the lathe. Of course that varies depending on where you buy your tooling and what jobs you plan to do but you will definitely have to spend a fair amount on tooling.
I have a JET 9x20 myself and it's kind of like a larger version of the Harbor Freight mini so I don't have any direct experience with the minis but it looks like the best deal out there is the Homier 7x12. It's only $299 and they do a travelling truckload tool sale so if they come to your area you won't have to pay shipping. Go to their site and sign up for them to email you whenever they'll be in your area. They don't post a schedule so that's the only way you'll be able to find out.
formatting link
If they won't be in your area anytime soon watch for a sale on the Harbor Freight lathe. I think it was only $329.99 last month for Inside Track Club members (or maybe it was $369.99) and they ship any order over $50 for free. Of course if you have a local store that's even better because you can go and look at one yourself. :-)
Best Regards, Keith Marshall
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
Reply to
Keith Marshall
The Sherline won't do threads unless something has changed (haven't been to their site for a while) so that lathe is out. I'd go with something larger anyway as you will always like the additional cap. of a larger lathe. A 10" or 12" Craftsman or Atlas lathe is usually a good lathe to have and are often available for fairly cheap. I might also note that I'm not a fan of the multimachines as they tend not to do any particular chore very well.
-- Bob May Losing weight is easy! If you ever want to lose weight, eat and drink less. Works evevery time it is tried!
Reply to
Bob May
Sherline sells a thread cutting attachement which works with a hand crank.
I have two atlas(craftsman) 12x36 lathes FS in the chicagoland area.
Reply to
Charles A. Sherwood
How small? The Sherline is *tiny*. It is really a *micro* lathe rather than a mini lathe. They're fine little machines, and there's a ton of accessories available for them, but they are *tiny*. A similar machine is the Taig (which I own). Neither will natively cut threads, though there are ways around that.
Emco or ENCO? Big difference.
The Taig is a bit less expensive than the Sherline, and a bit more robustly built too.
Well, lets just say it would be a *challenge*. Straight spur gears are possible, but any other gear form is going to be very difficult. I'd strongly suggest you consider *purchasing* gears, or salvaging them out of other equipment, rather than trying to make your own with a micro lathe. You might have a bit better luck making them with a mill and rotary table.
I think that CNC would be more helpful on the little mill they sell than it would be on their lathe.
You really need to tell us more about the size work you're going to do. If you're familiar with Battlebots, give us the class closest to the size of the robot you're building. That'll give us a better idea what sort of machinery to recommend. I'm thinking that unless your robot is going to be a flyweight, you're going to need bigger machinery than Sherline.
Reply to
Gary Coffman
Then I'm guessing it won't do. I'll have to find something else.
Had no idea there was Emco and Enco. I was referring to the modular lathe/mill/drill unimat thing. But from what I heard, it's pretty cheap, so I dismissed it.
Well... I actually WANT to make the gears. Any of the stuff I've made over the years I could have bought for far less money, but that was never the point. And I wasn't suggesting doing it on the lathe, but with the mill and rotary table as you mentioned. But forget the Sherline, is there ANY mill that can make decent gears for around $600? If not, then screw 'em.
My aim is to build a small, two-motor, autonomous robot, probably one foot long at most, ten pounds maybe. No saw blades, or cannons, or spiked balls, just wheels. I also would like to be able to machine parts to modify paintball guns and other small mechanical devices. And then, in my search for a lathe I've also come across various examples of small steam engines and so on, built with small lathes and mills, and I now have an itch to try that out too.
I really want to be able to make threads and gears. If I can't do that, it's not worth it for any price. And I mean to make gears on a mill. I'm actually in the market for a lathe AND mill, I've just been saying lathe a lot cause I'm lazy. Sorry.
So I'm gonna back away from Sherline. Now I'm thinking of getting an Atlas or Craftsman as suggested by Bob May, or a Grizzly 7x12. I read somewhere that the Grizzly and Harbor Freight 7x12 were almost the same machine, but the Grizzly has more features. So any recommendation there?
And as for the mill. Grizzly and Harbor Freight have a mill too. Any comments on those?
I'm hoping to spend about $2000 on a lathe, mill, and tools.
Thanks to everyone for the help, I really, really, reeeeeeally appreciate it...
Reply to
Brad Brigade
I really like my Emco Compact 5 with the milling attachment, had two of them about 7 years now and have made everything including gears and done threading. They're slightly smaller than the 7x12 Chinese machines but are much better built and can do more accurate work from what I've seen.
I have a buddy that's converted a manual machine to CNC and Don Nichols on this board has one of the factory CNC versions he seems very happy with. Here's a link:
formatting link
I see them on e-Bay regularily at half that price.
Terry Keeley
Nothing improves until someone stops and questions an accepted assumption...
Reply to
Terry Keeley
Amen! I've got an Emco-Maier Compact-5/CNC, and for its size, it is a really nice machine. Austrian precision.
Has anyone here ever made herringbone gears? :-)
Also agreed. You'll need some form of index head in combination with the milling machine to cut the teeth, and the lathe to turn the gear blank to dimensions before cutting the teeth.
Well ... on the lathe, it could add threading capacity, given a proper index plate and sensor on the spindle.
Better for what? New or used? The Taig is about the size of the Sherline, and is more rigid overall, and probably has a more powerful motor than the Sherline (at least mine does, I believe), but there are more accessories for the Sherline (many of which can be used with the Taig just as well.)
For just a bit larger, in the used category, I would suggest watching for an Emco-Maier Compact-5. (Note that there are three things called Compact-5. One is the manual lathe with thread cutting gears. One is the CNC version with built-in computer (which I have), and one is the Compact-5/PC which requires a PC and a special interface card and software to use it.
My preference is for the Compact-5/CNC (since that is what I have), but it costs a lot more than the manual one -- even on eBay.
Good Luck, DoN.
Reply to
DoN. Nichols
I went through this whole process myself a few years ago. I don't have any recommendations on specific tools, but I have some general advice:
Go to and sign up for their flyer. You'll get a new one every month, and its always got almost all the same stuff in it month after month, so don't be worried that you have to "act now" or miss the sale. Anyway, the reason I say to get this flyer is so that you can see what kind of tools/accesories are available. Lots of the stuff that enco sells is not the best quality, but it will do for hobby use.
You don't have to buy everything at once. In fact, you probably can't. I bought one machine and some tools to start with, then seemed to be ordering more tools about every other month for quite some time. Its one of those situations where you make something, then later you're looking in a catalog and then you see *why* you might want bore gauges or roughing endmills or whatever.
Don't buy the imported 116-pc drill set. Instead spend your money on a good set of number drills. You can get fractional drills anywhere, and you can go a whole lifetime without *needing* a letter drill.
Cutting threads on a lathe may not be as important as you might think. You can also cut threads with a die. Speaking of which, Grizzly sells an excellent HSS tap & die set for only $55. I think I use that tap and die set on just about every project I make.
You don't need a full set of reamers. Sets are too expensive. Just buy what sizes you need as they come up.
Get a cheap, expendable scientific calculator for the shop. You'll use it ALL THE TIME.
You can make a lot of usefull stuff on a small lathe, but be carefull about getting a mill that's too small. IMHO, I think that some of the small mills on the market are just too small to be usefull. You have to consider how you are going to attach your work to the mill's table. Clamps, vises and rotary tables take up a lot of real estate on the table. I really think that anything with a table less than about 7x20" is going to be very frustrating to use.
Start going to flea markets. You never know what you might find, but I've found something usefull (and cheap!) every time.
Make sure to also budget for some Socket Head Cap Screws with washers and nuts. If you're making robots, you'll need a good supply of them in a few different sizes. Keep in mind that if you buy long screws, you can trim them down to whatever size you need. Also get an assortment of set screws. You'll use set screws in your robots, and you'll also need to replace set screws in many of the tools you buy (new imported tools often come with really bad set screws, used tools have worn-out set screws).
Reply to
Mike Miller
Not new price, but perhaps you could find used equipment for that amount. What you really want for gear cutting is a horizontal universal mill with a gear driven index head. That'll let you cut helical gears as well as straight spur gears. Used horizontal mills are often pretty cheap because most hobbyists want "something like a Bridgeport", even though a vertical mill often isn't the best choice.
Reply to
Gary Coffman
in for a penny? how about a pound? the 9x20(?) is very interesting, too. s/b avail for about 200.00 more than the 7x10(12?) products when they are both on sale. --Loren
Reply to
Loren Coe
I'd suggest making a list of all the threads you need to cut, and figure out how to make those parts on the lathe you intend to buy. For instance, I needed to buy an extra 100 tooth gear to cut coarse threads on my Sherline, while cutting metric threads (39x1mm) wasn't a problem, even with a 20tpi lead screw. (127 tooth gear is standard :-) )
Zack Lau W1VT
Reply to
Zack Lau
I believe that one of our resident gurus, Leigh at MarMachine (catruckman@aol) has a very nice Emco (not Enco) for sale. IRRC, it uses 5c collets, and his asking price was VERY reasonable.
"You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass." --Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
Reply to
I have some Myford acessories for sale.
"You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass." --Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
Reply to
Horizontal?? Now thats something I never thought of. I've yet to come across a horizontal mill in all my searching.
If I got a horizontal mill for gear making, would it be any more annoying to use it for general milling as opposed to a vertical mill? And if the index head could stand vertical, then would a horizontal mill be unneccessary?
Reply to
Brad Brigade
very big snip-------->
Judging from your updated description, I would suggest that it would be a mistake for you to buy small machines. I strongly encourage you to buy a knee type mill and an engine lathe, quick change equipped if possible, no smaller than a 9", with at least 20" between centers, more if possible. Otherwise, once you have the machines, you'll kick yourself almost daily because they won't do the size work you want to do.
I wouldn't go overboard on size, especially on the lathe, for large machines don't do a good job on small parts, but small machines have a difficult time with average sized work, even if you can get the part in the machine. For example, you wouldn't want to buy a 17" lathe to make ½" diameter parts, for which you would need much higher spindle speeds. My personal choice were I in your position would be a lathe around 12", but with "modern" speeds. Old machines tend towards slow spindle speeds.
Good luck, sounds like you have some great projects in mind.
Reply to
Harold & Susan Vordos

Site Timeline

PolyTech Forum website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.