Mill or lathe?


This question is probably akin to: "How long is a piece of string?".
However, having done as much research as I reasonably can and with no local
resources to fall back upon I feel compelled to ask this here:
If you had to equip a small workshop dealing mainly with hobby manufacture
of small parts, space being at a premium as well as finances, would you:
a) Buy a lathe first
b) Buy a mill first
c) Buy a combination machine
Then, of course, the question is which ones. Here is a current crop of
lathes available on EBay:
formatting link

formatting link

formatting link

formatting link

formatting link

formatting link

Forget for a moment issues like shipping from Australia etc. I guess I am
trying to get a better handle on what I should be focusing on in future. I
tried to find courses locally on either milling or lathe but without
success.
For instance if I understood some of the recent threads correctly, a big
lathe is not necessarily the way to go as it will not handle small work.
Then of course the question is how small is big enough etc, etc.
I shall be grateful for any advice.
Reply to
Michael Koblic
Loading thread data ...
It really depends on the parts you are going to make. Are there more mill parts, or lathe parts?
You can mill on a lathe sorta..and you can turn on a mill..kinda sorta
Combination machines give you the worst of both millers and lathes.
This is actually a decent enough lathe...
#1 question...what is the biggest part you are likely to very turn on a lathe, both diameter and length?
Id say that for most hobby work...a 12x24 or 13 x 36 would hande 99.99% of everything most folks will be doing.
Next big question..are you needing to work in metric, or English units? Many lathes wont do metric and if they do...they dont do English.
Since the value of the dollar is low now compared to the Canadian...lots of lathes available in California, if you are in BC..its entirely doable.
Gunner
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality", John F. Kennedy.
Reply to
Gunner Asch
Good shit, Maynard.
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality", John F. Kennedy.
Reply to
Gunner Asch
Nice looking lathe, shame about the butchery around the collet closer. It may be cosmetic and hopefully doesn't indicate the regard held for the rest of the lathe if any other work has been done.
Reply to
David Billington
...
To oversimplify, a lathe makes moving parts that transmit power and a mill makes the stationary structures that hold them. The small companies I've worked for typically made their structures on a mill and bought the round moving parts, or occasionally had a small local shop make them. I've seen very little lathe work within those companies, even the one developing ink-jet printers. OTOH the clock and model engine makers seem able to do everything on a lathe.
I've used a Smithy lathe, an RF-31 mill-drill and the smallest Enco knee mill, 100-5100, which Grizzly now sells. While they weren't nearly as well made and nice to operate as my old Clausing mill and South Bend lathe they did the job well enough after I figured out their peculiarities and weaknesses. I also used a Prazi lathe clone which was OK for small parts and the Sherline mill and lathe which were ridiculously inadequate even for the electronics parts I was making.
I originally learned machining on a 15" lathe and Bridgeport. I think they are the right size for an inventor or commercial research and development, the maximum for a hobbyist and difficult to stuff into a basement. Smaller machines like mine are more fun to use.
I could have made the parts for my front end loader and sawmill with a bandsaw and drill press by redesigning them and buying new valves and cylinders instead of adapting used ones. Otherwise I mainly used the mill to drill accurately sized and located parallel holes, the lathe for grease passages in the pivot pins. Usually I visit a local supply house first, buy whatever shafting, bearings or hydraulics they have or can order, then design the machine to fit them. All I need to know beforehand is what size shaft will handle the horsepower and speed. I can figure out the details at the counter.
Tell us what you're doing. Are you building new stuff (mill) or replacing worn parts (lathe)? Depending on your interests there may be ways to do the work of a lathe on a mill or vice-versa. For instance you can turn a snap-ring groove on a short shaft by chucking it in a mill collet, or machine flat surfaces on small parts on a lathe face plate. You can thread the end of a shaft to attach something, or drill and pin it. These substitutions can let you live with only one machine tool if you can adapt to them.
Jim Wilkins Clicked 'Send', results inconclusive.
Reply to
Jim Wilkins
Hey David,
Yeah. Makes me think that they may have had, or tried, a power collet closer at one time.
Webb is pretty good stuff, but I'd question the 1-1/8 spindle bore. Doesn't seem quite as big as it needs to be for 5C collets does it? And the chuck mounting is quite a bit rarer than the D1-4's common on this size and so easily found available used.
No tooling either, although I would trust Reliable to give you everything that came with it.
Take care.
Brian Lawson, Bothwell, Ontario.
Reply to
Brian Lawson
Tell us roughly where you are. Who knows, one of us may live a mile (km?) away or closer!
How small is "small"?. If you are going to make parts for a bicycle, then any lathe you listed is small enough. If you are going to make parts for a watch, then that's a different story. You have listed quite a variety of lathe sizes here. I have an old Atlas 10 inch lathe and I can turn a sharp point on a piece of 1/18" diameter tool steel. I seldom use speeds of over 1000 rpm. But if you are constantly turning tiny things, sure, smaller is better. If you see yourself every turning things a couple of inches in diameter or bigger, I'd go with a 10 inch lathe. But if you get a used one, then you immediately have the issue of chuck quality, collets, etc.. You can easily pay as much for a new 3 jaw chuck and a set of collets as you did for the lathe. As you probably know, you can easily invest more in the tooling than you have in the original piece of equipment. I know I did.
I don't have any personal experience with the combination machines. They have always looked like a neat solution to your problem, but they certainly are a "compromise" machine. If you consider getting one, I'd try to get a feel for the rigidity of the one you want. The tool posts are always so high in the air that I can't see how they can take very large accurate cuts on steel parts.
I know I probably will get a lot of heat for this, but if you get a small lathe, you can forget about carbide inserted tooling for the most part. You will need sharper tool geometry than carbide will permit to minimize springiness and the lack of predictable accuracy that follows.
You can mill on a lathe, but you can't do much turning on a mill.
Consider putting an adverstisement in your local papers to look for others in your area who do what you want to do. I'll bet there are people not far away who could help you in this area. If there are any secondary schools in your area that do have machine shop facilities, how about contacting the school and talking to the shop teachers. Maybe you could make a connection there?
Finally: Nothing is forever. Get something and get started. Save the mill for later.
Pete Stanaitis ---------------------------------------
Michael Koblic wrote:
Reply to
spaco
A piece of string is precisely 12.203452345928345623762358697 inches long. A-nuther piece of string may be a different length.
Reply to
Bob La Londe
On Tue, 19 Aug 2008 01:56:24 -0700, with neither quill nor qualm, Gunner Asch quickly quoth:
I wonder how many of those 32 bids are shills, given the bidders' histories of zero and minus one auctions. =:-o>
-- It is pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed. -- Kin Hubbard
Reply to
Larry Jaques
No, there is ONE correct answer to the string question, but the lathe/mill answer is "it depends on what you make!"
Answer C is definitely out, unless your shop is limited to the floor of a small closet. They are awful, I could write a long article on why, but generally there are big limitations on workpiece size and adjustment of height range of the head. We have one of those combo machines just like your 3rd link at work, it is abominable. No head height adjustment at all! It is not a REALLY bad lathe, but nearly worthless as a mill. I take work home to do because I'd rather do "work work" in my free time than use that klunker. It is also just a poorly made piece of Chinese crap that will give you a lot of maintenance headaches if you use it a lot. Just dumping on this particular item as I know how bad it is. (Also calling it a 16" lathe with a 3" chuck is quite funny! Maybe you could turn wooden bowls on it, but no way could it turn a 16" piece of steel.
If you make a lot of round parts, then a lathe is a good choice. If you make a lot of rectangular parts, a lathe is the wrong tool. Either machine can serve as the other in a pinch. I made some serious lathe parts on my mill when I needed spherical ends, basically I was making ball joints, and didn't have a radius turning attachment. But, I had a CNC mill. Put work in spindle, mount lathe tool in mill vise, and go to it.
So, I can't go further without knowing what you need to make. I make a lot of machine panels and electronic cabinets out of sheet metal, a mill is clearly the tool of choice for that. So, years ago, when I started out, I bought the mill first, then the lathe. The only advice for the mill is check the X-Y travels and think carefully about the biggest work you will need to make, and also avoid those round-ram "mill-drills" as the head loses the X-Y alignment any time you raise or lower the head.
Reply to
Jon Elson
much research as I reasonably can and with no local
Actually one can do quite a bit of turning work on a horizontal mill, even turning between centres. I have a small Japanese H mill with vertical head and it is ideal for me. Son and I regularly re-machine brake rotors for our RX7s.
As was pointed out above you have to decide what work is most prevalent, precision turning ie. fitting round parts together for sliding, press, or transition fits. Ability to turn accurate dia. and holes is vital if you plan on using commercial items such as ball bearings. If this is the case, get a lathe first. A decent sized lathe, say a robust 10" lathe and larger equipped with a good milling attachment will permit milling of smallish parts with reasonable accuracy.
If your parts have many flat features and bores of various sizes then a mill first is the way to go. Here I am swimming against the stream in advising a horizontal mill which for my money is more VERSATILE than a vertical mill. By placing a faceplate or chuck in the H spindle it makes a pretty decent lathe for short parts. Add a boring head and you have a small horizontal boring mill.
A horizontal mill will do everything that a vertical mill will do, but NOT VICE VERSA! It is agreed that a vertical mill is more CONVENIENT for many milling operations... That's why I have a vertical head on mine. But if we are talking about versatility, my advice/opinion stands.
Although there are many here advocating "bigger is better", on a lathe that isn't necessarily so. Turning small dia. on a large lathe is a royal pain because the top speed is too low for efficient chip flow. Even though my 10" lathe has a top speed of 2500 rpm, I also have a watchmaker's lathe with a top speed in excess of 10,000 rpm. For turning and drilling small parts it is a real joy to use.
I build models, the largest of which is a 3/4' scale (1/16" to the foot) Hudson steam locomotive. And we turn brake rotors. Repair stuff, make custom components for whatever, build stirling/hot air engines.
My equipment, backed by a full complement of attachments many home- built, is a 10" EMCO-MAIER lathe of 1976 vintage. A Japanese H mill 6" x 20" table with V head, 1960's vintage. A post type vertical mill built from a robust X-Y table and the milling head that came with the lathe. 1950's bench type drill press, Atlas 7" shaper, 12 Rockwell bandsaw converted to metal cutting, small gear hobbing machine, homebuilt blade welder and EDM machine, brazing/silver soldering equipment, and lately a home-built tig welder Son built from my father's old Lincoln Tombstone.
With this equipment there is very little we can't do, and except for the welder, it all fits into a 13' x 14' basement shop suitable for 2 people working, 3 if they are good friends :-)).
Decisions decisions. Perhaps if you could elaborate on your interests we could give you more specific answers.
Wolfgang
Reply to
wfhabicher
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
Per the tenor of the group, a string is as long as it is.
If I were just making car parts I'd go with a mill. Every bit of car-part stuff I've made has been turned, and it all would have come out better on a mill.
Since I'm (very slowly) teaching myself how to build small engines, I bought a combination machine, which was a big mistake. I wish that instead I'd spent my money on a lathe and a milling attachment -- if you choose your designs carefully, you can build working engines on just a lathe.
One day I'll get a mill, then I'll get a real lathe, then I'll have a party when I dispose of the damn Smithy.
Reply to
Tim Wescott
you would do much better to describe the work, materials involved, quality needed, quantity of parts...
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
formatting link
Forget for a moment issues like shipping from Australia etc. I guess I am
Reply to
Jon
Actually pretty common. Thats an aftermarket collet closer, probably a Royal or JFK, and that sort of cutout is pretty common on most lathes Ive seen that had an aftermarket CC installed. In fact..most look FAR worse...shrug
Its only a fiberglass cover. Machine shops have drill motors (sometimes) but they seldom have a sabre saw.
Gunner
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality", John F. Kennedy.
Reply to
Gunner Asch
Thats about the average size for 5C bores. Allows you to sometimes use a 1 1/16th collet.
What they did was measure the ass end of the spindle bore, made a best guess, and not the front. I know how Reliable does things.....
Still common enough.
KDK 100 series or Nix (KDK clone) set of tool holders have been pretty common on Ebay recently. A KDK 150 series MAY..MAY fit...probably not, maybe ...on this lathe.
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality", John F. Kennedy.
Reply to
Gunner Asch
I started with a Wards (Logan) 10X31 lathe , and recently added a benchtop mill (RF45 clone) . I also have quite a bit of other stuff , a fairly well equipped metalworking hobby shop , all in a shed that's 8 X 12 . Organization and wall cabinets/shelving are the key to maximizing small spaces .
Reply to
Terry Coombs
Its Reliable Tools...think they woul shill bid?
Its been alleged quite widely...that yes...they do indeed.
As has been my experience in dealing with them on some items, "sold" and found sitting in their warehouse a year later...ebay sticker still attatched....
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality", John F. Kennedy.
Reply to
Gunner Asch
I'll give you that as you have far more experience with these things from what I read here. I would make it clean and neat or it would annoy me but that's not really a problem if it is functional. I do work for myself and others and try to maintain a high standard that I am happy with or they can get someone else to do it. Regarding the cover, I had assumed from the picture that it was cast aluminium, or aluminum for the US market, due to the apparent finish and as the collet closer looks to be mounted to it so a hefty piece of fibreglass if so like old corvettes.
Reply to
David Billington

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.