Hobby shops with micro lathe and mill equipment?

Howdy,
I've been thinking about buying a micro lathe for some projects, but it is a fairly large buy for something that I don't need all that
often. I'd like to find a hobby shop or somewhere that I can go learn to use these micor lathes and mills so I can get a feel for how often I'd use it, and what I really need.
Obviously accessability will depend on location, but I'm wondering if this is something that is common, and what kinds of places I'd want to look for to get access to this kind of equipment.
And on the off chance that someone might know about my area, I'm near Omaha, Nebraska, so if you happen to know a place nearby lemme know.
Thanks! DK
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says...

Probably your best bet is to investigate local voc-tech schools in your area. I was able to find a program for adult education where I could take a machine shop class during the evenings, very inexpensively.
Another plus with this is it allows you to meet other folks who share your hobby, and you can compare notes etc.
Jim
================================================= please reply to: JRR(zero) at yktvmv (dot) vnet (dot) ibm (dot) com ================================================
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On 15 Jan 2004 13:14:54 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@cox.net (David Knaack) wrote:

The big question is what sort of project are you planning on doing..and what is your definition of a micro mill.
Shrug..for me..a micro mill is any mill that swings less t han 6" and weighs under 250 lbs.
Gunner
"Aren't cats Libertarian? They just want to be left alone. I think our dog is a Democrat, as he is always looking for a handout" Unknown Usnet Poster
Heh, heh, I'm pretty sure my dog is a liberal - he has no balls. Keyton
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snipped-for-privacy@cox.net (David Knaack) wrote in message

In addition to the voc-tech school class route, you might see what's available in the area for vintage/antique engine enthusiasts and maybe live steam railroad guys. If you have a lathe available, it's more apt to be used for a lot more than you think right now. The larger, the better. About the largest one that can still be shuffled around and put on a shelf is the one of the 7x imports and they can be had fairly cheaply. Some need more attention than others out of the box, that's one reason they're cheap. HF is one importer, Homier is another. There's sites and mailing lists on the 7x lathes, Yahoo hosts one of the lists. Besides schools, nobody I know has do-it-yourself machine time available on a per-hour basis with or without tutoring.
If you've got the room, think about getting something larger than the Sherline/Unimat/Taig-class lathes, you can always do small stuff on a large lathe, but it's really hard doing large stuff on a small one.
Stan
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snipped-for-privacy@americanisp.net (Stan Schaefer) wrote in message > snipped-for-privacy@cox.net (David Knaack) wrote in message .

I've read that doing very small stuff, I'm thinking on the order of a few mm in diameter and a few cm long, can be difficult on larger machines because they don't necessarily run as smoothly as the good micro-lathes.
Obviously this is going to depend on the quality of the lathe, I don't mean to imply that the big ones can't handle this kind of stuff, just that the larger lathes that are likely to be in my price range may not have the ability to do very small precision work.
Thats just what I've read while doing my research into this. I'm not sure I believe it, it seems to me that any problems that would make tiny work difficult would likely wreck a large piece too.
Does this sound like a reasonable point against getting a larger lathe?
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On 20 Jan 2004 06:53:27 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@cox.net (David Knaack) wrote:

What the little machines can usually do that the large machines usually can't, is turn faster. That's important for small diameter work because to get up into the range of surface speeds you want for good cutting action, you have to spin the small diameter stuff much faster.
But otherwise, the larger machine has to be just as precise if it is intended to do precise work. You can use collets, or even a pin vise, to hold work too small to hold normally in a big chuck, so that's not a real limitation for the larger machine either. The main thing is speed. Big machines with big chucks are dangerous at high speeds (can grenade), their bearings often aren't designed for high speed use, drive trains often aren't designed for high speed use, etc.
Gary
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I have a similar question and was browsing newsgroups looking for somewhere to post it:
I have various RC aircraft and other hobbies for which I need custom metal parts built from various commonly-used metals and milled/lathed. I dont understand much about these industrial equipment except that (1) I cant afford them (2) I will require higher-precision milling machines for the purpose.
Has anyone used 'outside resources' for hobby purposes at a low cost? I work at a manufacturing company in Toronto, and I know how much such resources can cost, plus they have a minimum amount they can take else the cost skyrockets. I could probably fool some of those companies (not through my company) that I'll send them much more business after the first round of free 'samples' but I wont choose that path.
Anyone with experiences and suggestions? I specifically have small engine parts, small rocketry parts and possibly parts for small helicopters in mind...
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Small casting runs in aluminum might be a viable alternative. I've got a buddy who's a professional blacksmith. We've been using his forge and petrobond sand to cast aluminum and bronze. If the part is relatively simple (in the 2D sense) and you can supply a pattern then it becomes economical, especially if you've got a few parts to make all in one pour, not necessarily multiple copies of the same piece. I've even used broken parts as patterns to cast new replicas.
I've used it to make a replacement handle for a Devilbiss pressure tank in 6061 Al plus a bunch of 1/4-20 thumbscrews in bronze. His website is www.highlandforge.ca but he doesn't have much of anything up on casting yet.
Usual sort of disclaimers - I have a part interest in the foundry operation but it's all at the hobby level right now. For some things it's a good idea, for others, probably not so smart.
Regards,
Matt Turner Turner Racing Shells Ltd. www.turnershells.com Kingston, Ontario
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Hey thats pretty interesting and I'll look into that. I had mechanical parts in mind, upto even a simple combustion engine, and the gear and clutch system of a small helicopter. I'm not gonna finish all my projects but thats the scale of things I'm interested in covering.
So although aluminum is too soft for some of the jobs, it does make for good structures especially in model airplanes.
On a side note, I'm wondering how much would the cheapest low-volume high-precision lathing and milling machines cost. Given the largest part is 10cm x 10cm but steel might be used...
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    First -- let's clarify the terminology.
1)    Yes -- a milling machine does milling.
2)    But -- a lathe does "turning". That is the understood term,     and "lathing" is not normally used, and can lead to confusion.

    Hmm ... another thing is that in machining, the common units of measure (an capacities of the machines) are given either in inches (and thousandths), or in mm, not cm. (It is a more reasonable size of unit for precision work.
    Now -- for both the mill and the lathe, the answer to "how much dose it cost" can be anything from $50.00 (lots of luck on a used machine), to several thousand (or perhaps tens of thousands of) dollars for a quality *new* machine.
    Now -- for the lathe, assuming that your 100 x 100 mm is length and diameter, you would want a 100 mm swing lathe (maximum diameter), or perhaps twice that to allow the workpiece to pass over the carriage -- needed for machining the whole of the length to those dimensions). 100 mm is approximately four inches, so an eight inch swing lathe would do nicely, and that probably means in reality a nine inch as a standard size. (They seem to jump from seven inch to nine inch). And in the UK, you would want half the specified size, because they specify the maximum radius, not the maximum diameter. :-)
    Do you really intend to work purely in metric units? If so, that limits your choices to mostly imported machines. and if you want to cut threads as part of your operations, you really want a machine which was made as metric from the ground up. This probably means Austrian, or perhaps UK. while the Chinese import lathes tend to be partially metric (such as all of the fasteners used), the leadscrews and handwheels are most likely calibrated in inch mode.
    Chinese lathes in that size range can be made to work, but ideally they require someone who knows how a machine should behave, and can did into the machine and fix a lot of the things which weren't done properly (such as de-burring corners, cleaning out casting sand, and proper adjustment. And while you're about it -- replace the screws with US-made ones in the same (metric) sizes. The metallurgy of Chinese screws tends to be rather poor. (Note that once you get to the 12" swing or larger, the Chinese lathes tend to be somewhat better -- simply because the customer base expects more, and will return machines which don't measure up.
    However, used US-made machines, which probably started as better machines, may be worn enough so they will need some rebuilding -- or at least replacing of things like cross-feed leadscrews and nuts or similar things. Again -- this requires someone who knows the machines to evaluate the quality vs the cost. My Clausing (12x24" size) was a very good one, and only needed a replacement cross-feed leadscrew and nut to become a very serviceable. machine. (I was lucky -- but I was dealing with someone who I trusted.)
    Now -- you haven't really specified what kind of precision you really need for these projects. What is precision to one individual is very loose tolerances to another.
    Any lathe in good condition should be capable of cuts to +/- 0.001" over a short distance with care -- and will need careful initial setup to maintain that over a longer distance.
    However, if you need tolerances in the range of +/- 0.0001", you're going to need a much better (more expensive) machine -- and more personal skill in the machinist -- you or someone else.
    With lots of patience, skill in following classified ads, and luck, you might be able to find the machines you need for perhaps $200-$300 each. The more of a hurry you are in, the more it will cost you.
    To put a bit of perspective on it, I paid about $1700.00 for my 12x24" Clausing lathe about four years ago -- and it was made in 1957.
    The Horizontal spindle mill which I got about a year later cost only $200.00. The shipping cost more. :-) But you need more skill and imagination to use a horizontal spindle machine. Most people prefer vertical spindle.
    However -- the machines are only part of the cost. Each machine will need tooling to make it do what it needs to do, and you will need measuring instruments as well. For a machine obtained at a good price (not a steal, as you would like), you need to expect to pay as much again for the tooling as you paid for the machines -- though this can be stretched out over a long period -- buying what you need when you need it.
    Do you have room to set up a couple of machines weighing somewhere between 500 pounds and perhaps 1500 pounds? Obviously, this should be on the ground floor, with easy access to bring them indoors.
    This weekend would have been an excellent place to look around and perhaps even get some of the machines you need -- at the Cabin Fever expo in Pennsylvannia. There are some other similar gatherings in other parts of the country -- so you need to specify where you are -- at least to the state, and perhaps the part of the state if a large state.
    And, of course, you might be in one of the industrial areas currently suffering a downturn, and thus be able to buy the tools quite inexpensively.
    There is a lot to be settled upon before you can be given good advice.
    Good Luck,         DoN.
--
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I picked up my lathe at Darbert Machinery in Toronto. It's a Mashstroy Troyan lathe (Bulgarian) and is metric and english - the parts are all metric, it will cut both threads etc. It ran about $4,000.00 but included quick-change milling attachment, vertical slide for milling, full change gears for threading, plus a full set of collets for the milling attachment. 4.25" (or, 8.5" if you prefer) swing with 8" faceplate etc. No gap bed.
On the other hand, I wish I'd got quick change threading, and the collets are all metric, and of a really off-size. Plan on spending a whole bunch more on tooling. The milling function is pretty limited, but certainly works.
Lee Valley in T.O. has the Taig lathe in their store, and Busybee also has a bunch of larger machines.
If you're making engines, start looking up the properties of silicon-aluminum. It's the grey stuff many cylinder heads are made from, as well as pistons, transmission housings etc. and it's supposed to have excellent casting properties.
Regards,
Matt Turner Turner Racing Shells Ltd. www.turnershells.com
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Thanks Matt. I'll visit Darbert Machinery because I needed to check out mini lathes personally.
I found these two interesting: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?ItemnumberF199 http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberD142
The smaller one along with a good saw should be a complete metalworking set for me. I really dont understand much about lathes, except I need something like this for my projects and will have to learn it. I'm not too used to the terminology but I can compare the machines and know the dimensions of materials I'll be using. I will also have to research materials much further.
I found your website interesting on building sculls. I used to be in a scull + kayak club in Quetta, its a small town in Pakistan close to Afghanistan border. Been looking for tranquil lakes here in Canada to get the practice up...
snipped-for-privacy@turnershells.com (Matthew Turner) wrote in message

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says...

I think that your situation is the exact reason why folks become interested in hobby metalworking - their jobs are simply too small, or too intricate, to be jobbed out to a local shop at any decent cost.
So it becomes cheaper for the hobbyist to purchase the machines to to do the job himself, and learn how it is done, on the fly. (no pun intended...)
The other approach is to learn the skills at a local voc tech school, in a formal fashion. This is nice because there is often time devoted to individual projects after the material is covered.
Jim
================================================= please reply to: JRR(zero) at yktvmv (dot) vnet (dot) ibm (dot) com ================================================
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jim rozen wrote:

Speaking of vo-tech, I keep trying to check if my local tech school had a machine tool program, but they seem to be gone. The website doesn't even have a DNS entry. In fact, it's a state-wide system and NONE of the sites respond, I think the domain is gone. Does anyone in NH know what happened to the NH tech school system?
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On 15 Jan 2004 13:14:54 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@cox.net (David Knaack) wrote:

I don't have any suggestions for where you might get some hands on experience with these micro-lathes, except maybe to meet someone who has one, probably at a hobby club meeting. However, I do have a Taig lathe, and even though I have 3 other larger lathes in my shop (up to a 7.5 hp 15x60), the little guy sees a good bit of use.
The micro-lathes are very good for very small parts. That's because small diameters need to turn fast, and most larger lathes can't turn as fast as these little guys. Figure about the largest thing you'd use one for would be about 1 inch diameter and about 6 inches long (you can fit bigger pieces on them, but you're asking a lot from the little machine to turn them).
Mostly, you'd use them for parts a good deal smaller than that, though I have done 2 inch aluminum wheels on mine. Aluminum and brass would be the work materials of choice, though the Taig is quite capable of turning small steel pieces as well.
Gary
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(David Knaack) wrote:

That explains why I've been seeing comments that the large lathes are not as good for small parts.

I can't think of anything I'd use it for that would be that large. Thats nearly an order of magnitude larger than what I'm after :)
Thanks to you and all who have responded. I think the Taig-sized stuff is about what I'm looking for. I just hope I can find enough projects to justify the expense :)
DK
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snipped-for-privacy@cox.net (David Knaack) wrote:

Then you might want to to look for a watchmakers lathe, rather than the Taig/Sherline sized ones. My own inclinations are towards much larger lathes, but I did have fun playing around with a watchmakers lathe which a friend who has gotten into that line of work encouraged me to try. The entire setup fit in a smallish breifcase, and may be more suited to the size work you're doing. New, they are rather expensive, but used ones can be had more reasonably, and they ship well.
--
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