Setting up a shop

What should a shop have in it?

To narrow down that question a bit, let me put it this way: Assuming I didn't have any special connections or know how to find super-duper deals on used machines and tools, and I wanted to have everything I needed to turn scrap metal, raw stock, and trees, into a variety of simple or only moderately complex items, such as hand tools, a small steam engine (maybe 5 hp), simple spare parts, brackets, and various widgets, what would be the priority items to get and what might be the best source for them?

Related questions: assuming a budget of about $10k, what should be high on the list, what might be tempting for a relative novice but should be low on the list? Is it realistically possible to acquire a flexible setup for that little, or is just barely good enough to be a starting point? Are there things better to buy new, or to make (casting equipment for casting iron, bronze, and Al comes to mind)?

Looking at

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and a few other places for a possible list and prices: drill press ($200), lathe ($2000), milling machine (wood/metal $2200), band saw (wood $700), moderate assortment of wrenches, screw-drivers, hammers, and basic hand tools (to add to those I already have, $1000), arc welder ($300), and I am at $6k already. Throw in two grand for tax, shipping, and spare bits, cutting heads, blades, lubes and oils, a couple of good books (any "must have" recommendations there?), etc., and its up to $8k. Any suggestions for the remaining $2k, or a completely different list, or radically different prices where you shop, recommendations on equipment sources, or other useful comments?


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Rolf May I suggest that you go to google

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) and search the history of this group. This question has been discussed a few times, once in the last couple of months. Bottom line is that a good rule of thumb is that machines are 1/2 the cost of setup, tooling to make the tools usable comprise the other half. lg no neat sig line.

Reply to
larry g

Everything depends on how much time you have allotted yourself to become what degree of fully functional. Do you have the space allocated, lit and powered? What is your power constraint? How flexible is your budget? Is it worth it to you to establish "special connections or know how to find super-duper deals on used machines and tools" Where are you? Somebody here has connections close to you.

A basic lathe, mill, drill press and bench grinder along with your welder along with basic tools will do anything. Even more basic: A drill press, hack saw and a file. I'd rather own a good file than a crappy machine tool. DON'T BUY CRAP JUST FOR THE SAKE OF FILLING SPACE!!! You will regret it forever or until you replace it.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

I'd do: Stock, hardware, etc. Drill press Drills, files, hacksaw, optional bandsaw Foundry (less than $50 for cement, sand, etc.) Lathe (can even make this if you're patient) Maybe a mill

I've got everything up 'til lathe, which is in progress at the moment... A lot of "milling" can be done on a lathe with just a faceplate and creative use of bolts and clamps, and if you really want to you could make a miller attachment. Why get another expensive machine!

Iron is a bit off, but aluminum is real easy to do and bronze isn't that bad.


-- "I've got more trophies than Wayne Gretsky and the Pope combined!" - Homer Simpson Website @

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Reply to
Tim Williams

The answers are yes, no, maybe, and it depends. Only you know what you will build. Will you need machining machines, welding machines, bending machines ...................... ????????/

To try and have a well equipped shop is great, but only YOU know if you will use the tool once a day, once a month, or once a year.

I would not hazard a guess for you. I know what I would want, but that is only relevant to what I produce.


Reply to

This has been discussed many times and a seach of past articles will yield a number of discussions. But, I'm going to "stick an oar in" anyway.

A bit of background... I spent about 40 years building up a really nice home wood & metal working setup. Like many, I started with inexpensive and worked up to professional quality equipment. About four years agoa, as a result of a precipitous move I had to make a choice between keeping the wood working tools (which I had room for) or keeping the metal working tools. Since the house is a 1900'ish structure in a a historic district, it wasn't too hard to figure out which was a "must keep".

After an eight month wiggle through the bureaucracies I'm about to have room for some metal working equipment again. Not as much as I enjoyed in the past, but enough for a modest collection. I was fortunate in only having to dispose of the machines & their attachments and still have my cabinets with all the bits and pieces (mikes, calipers, taps, dies, cutters, boring heads, collets, hold downs, and the like). I've never figured it up, but I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't around $5k or better in there. So my shopping list will look a bit different than yours.

My minimum set includes a 13x36 Geared Head lathe with a D1-4 spindle and the usual 3/4 jaw chucks, steady rest, etc. Buying new I'd be looking for something along the lines of the Enco 110-2078, say in the $2500 range. I'm space limited, so a lathe of this size and a full sized mill is going to be my best choice.

For a mill I want a knee mill. The mill-drills don't have the stiffness or capacity, nor the range of available tooling and accessories. I'd go for something along the lines of a Jet JVM-836 at about $3200 as a minimum. A

9x42 vertical mill similar to a Jet JTM-2 at about $4200 would be ideal. At least in this area, or within a couple of hundred miles, I should be able to find a good used 9x42/48 mill in the $3000 range and that'll be what I'll buy (and it will almost certainly include a power feed).

And I want and AC/DC welder of at least 150A capacity that includes AC/DC TIG, probably something in the $1500 range similar to a Miller Econotig.

Miscellaneous stuff would include a horizontal bandsaw, milling vise & rotary table. And for decent quality stuff would probably be in the $1000 range.

So lets see, it looks like:

Lathe $2500 Mill 3000 Welder 1500 Misc 1000 Total $8000

That's not everything I'd like to have. And after shipping & taxes there might be enough left to get a decent Oxy/Acetyline torch set and a decent machinist's vice. Given a full sized mill I can live without a Drill Press.

Reply to
Jim Levie

You'll need an arbor press. The bigger, the better. All the best, Uncle Lucky

Reply to
Uncle Lucky

THis depends more on what you want to do than anything else. Some people wouldn't be happy with a full industrial setup, and others can get along nicely with nothing more than an old Unimat. However,

First, the horiz/vertical bandsaws are cheap, and probably the one tool you will use more than anything else. Doesn't matter who you buy it from, with your first machine, order one of these. One or two cuts through two inch barstock with a hacksaw will convince you of the need. Hacksaw, by all means, but spend the bucks for a GOOD one, not the four dollar special. $20 bucks or so sounds expensive for a hacksaw frame, but for the improvement, they're well worth it.

Mill, I got along nicely for more than ten years with one of the mill/drills. Pain in the ass sometimes, but they can be made to do good work if you have patience with them. I now have the smaller knee type from KBC, about $2500 now, and well worth every penny of it. With a mill/drill, you're going to spend a lot of time re-indicating if you have to raise the head, and balancing the tooling isn't always possible. IF you need the size of a full size mill, then you're looking at lots of weight and floor space.

Lathe, the only project you mention is going to take a serious machine, a five horse steam engine will have some pretty healthy parts. Geared head is nice, but not an absolute need, mine are all belt driven, step pulleys, and I get along ok with them. Sooner or later someone is going to jump in with the mantra of "buy old American iron", but only if you know what you're looking at when you buy it. I am working on an old South Bend, and if I do it the way it should be done, I'll have as much tied up in that as I would in a new 12 X 36 from any of the imports, and still have only an old machine.

Drill press, I have several, don't use any of them often, but find them handy when I have something that's not critical.

Welder, other equipment, suit your needs. I have a cheap MIG and an oxy/acet torch that serve me nicely most of the time, and access to better equipment when I need it.

Measuring, you can't machine any closer than you can measure, don't cut the bucks here. Micrometers to 3 inches, good ones, and a good caliper, digital, dial, vernier, for things over three inches. Inside and depth micrometer are nice, not always needed, but usually more accurate than can be done with a caliper. Some other things I have, and use, but aren't high on the list, granite table, vernier height gages, gage block set, nice to have but unless you get them like I did mine, used, very pricey. The instruments I use the most are all Starrett, I have the chinese and VIS from Poland, but when I want to be sure of my measurements, I use the Starretts. To be fair, I've done full calibrations on both the VIS and Chinese micrometers, finding them accurate when new, but don't know how they would stand up in daily use. It may be that they're ok, or they may lose their accuracy, I don't know. Dial indicators, buy good ones, but use some common sense, if you don't need .0001" resolution, don't buy it. Most of mine are Federal, I have several "Last Word", and they serve me well. Combination square, (square, center head, protractor), buy a good one. They're too handy not to have.

Most of these are available at flea markets and rummage sales, and if you know what to look for, they are sometimes cheap. 4" micrometers and bigger can sometimes show up, may need relapping, but it may be cheaper to go that way. Starrett, Lufkin, Brown and Sharpe, all good names. Some General, Union Tool, if older were reasonable qualilty. Stanley is carpenters stuff, accuracy isn't there in any of it. Antique tools are nice to have, but seldom what you want for use, time has taken it's toll from them. Show and tell stuff.

Drill bits, if you need them right away, buy the cheap sets, and replace the ones you use with good ones as fast as possible. It's not that they might break, they will, and instead of buying a cheap replacement for a broken cheap drill, buy a good one. It usually doesn't take long before you've replaced all the cheap ones and have a good set.

You can go nuts on tools and cutters, but some common sense will avoid a basement that looks like mine. Three of my ten lathes are imports, and using a little sense with them, they do what I want them to, but only on their terms, meaning what they want, not what I want. Find out what they will do, what they'll stand, and they can do nice work. Push them beyond that, and like any other machine, they make junk. Almost always, the controling factor of the quality is the man standing in front of the machine.

Reply to
Lennie the Lurker


Yup, figgured as much, but my google searchs either came up with gazillions of hits (most of which were obviously not very close to the topic), or virtually none. can you ID any good thread titles or key words I might have been missing so I can find some good past threads?



That's about what I was looking at from Grizzly. Same for the mill.

I've some experience with arc, so I was going to stick with that to start with.

Yup, that's pretty close to my starting list, too. Good to know I'm not totally off the South 40.

Any particular reason to go with the Enco or Jet over Grizzly (other than "buy US")? Part of the reason I'm thinking of Grizzly is they have a showroom / distribution center within about 90 minutes drive from here, so I could pick the stuff up myself (well, me an a forklift :-), and save a kilobuck or so in shipping.


Reply to

Hmm ... I've used patience and gotten mostly used US-made tools. It helped me to keep the costs down, and to spread them out over a few years.

Note that a wood-working lathe is significantly different from a metalworking lathe, both in workholding and in toolholding features. And some wood dust is rather corrosive (acidic) and abrasive (minerals), so you really don't want to turn wood on a precision metal lathe.

I also did not notice a grinder (needed for shaping HSS tool bits for the metal lathe, and a belt sander.

You also will want a metal-cutting horizontal bandsaw -- probably a $200.00 one will do fine for most things.

I don't see any precision measuring tools listed there. You will want/need Micrometers -- from a 0-1" up to the maximum metal workpiece you may turn. I've got a 12" lathe, so I've eventually collected enough micrometers to cover from 0" to 12" (the last four are an interchangeable anvil micrometer covering 8-12" total.)

Also -- get a slide caliper. The most convenient, if you are working in both inch and metric units is the digital one, which can be switched from one mode to the other at the press of a button. I've got both 0-6" and 0-12" in my shop, though the 0-6" is used a lot more often, there are times when the 0-12" is the only one which will work for the task. (There are are also neat tricks with the digital ones, such as the one for measuring the distance between the centers of two holes of the same size. You measure the ID of one hole, and hit the zero button while it is measuring that, Then you shift the jaws to measure between the far sides of the two holes, and your reading will be the center-to-center distance.

Again -- if you are going to work in both inch and metric, at least the 0-1" micrometer -- and the 1-2" as well is nice) are available in digital, so you can switch between inch and metric again at the push of a button. For the rest of the micrometer set -- just keep a calculator in a Ziploc baggie to keep oils, cutting coolants, and chips out of the calculator, but to allow you to push the buttons and read the display through the plastic.

Did you plan drill bits in your collection? For metalworking, go for one of the complete indexes (115 drill bit, IIRC) containing fractional sizes (1/16" through 1/2"), Number sizes (#1 through #60) and letter sizes (A-Z) -- all in one index. The index by HUOT also has a clip to hold a much smaller index for drills from #61 though #80, if you need to do tiny work. *Don't* get the import sets. Some *might* be good, others are terrible, and you can't really predict which is which until too late. Get at least a "Made in USA" set. (The import sets also tend to have cheaper construction indexes, which are harder to access.)

For woodworking, you probably know better than I, but I would suggest a good set of brad point drills, and a Fostner drill bit set -- and perhaps an expansion bit for strange sizes.

Get a good quick-change toolpost for your lathe, if it does not come with one. For my 12" lathe, I prefer the BXA/Series-200 size, and I prefer the wedge style, not the piston style. Dive into google and you will find lots of discussion about this, and I don't feel like making this any larger than it already is. :-)

As for books -- I don't know about woodworking, but for metalworking, I find the following to be quite useful:

0) The MSC catalog. This one is free, and will give you a place to order many of the things which you will need. I usually start an order with the things which I really need, and then thumb through the latest set of flyers (several per month) to add some other things of interest which may have had a lower priority. This catalog is well over 4000 pages, and is a wonderful resource. (Although it is free, it *is* a money sink. :-) And just in case you are in danger of wearing it out, they send you a new one each year. :-) 1) _Machinery's Handbook_ (just about any edition, current is the 26th or perhaps the 27th by now.) You don't read it to find out how to do things very much, but you *do* use it as reference for dimensions of things like threads, machine tapers, dividing head index tables, metal characteristics, proper tap drills for both normal cutting taps and thread-forming taps (a different size). 2) K.H. Moultrecht's two-volume _Machine Shop Practice_. It will tell you about how to use just about any machine found in a machine shop. 3) The _The Machinst's Bedtime Reader_ set. I've so far got only volumes 1 and two, and still need to get the third volume.

Now to see what everybody else has suggested.

Good Luck, DoN.

Reply to
DoN. Nichols

Most TIG sources can be used as a stick welder and give you the option of learning TIG at your convenience. Something to consider if you think you will ever want/need the capabilities of TIG welding. No point in having to buy another welder later, unless you can find a used stick cheap.


Reply to

The welders I referenced, while being more expensive than a straight stick welder of equivalent power, have the advantage of being able to do stick or tig. And, since tig is more sensitive, the current control on a tig welder will be better than the ordinary stick welder. There are things that are quite easy with tig (welding stainless, aluminum, copper, and thin materials) that you either can't do with rods (stainless, AL, or Cu) or or that are extremely difficult (thin material). The ones I referenced also include remote power control, which is pretty much necessary with tig and nice for some stick welds. I'd rather buy one good tool once than two or more.

I mentioned those only because I've had personal experience with both brands and know what the quality is. I've never had a chance to go "hands on" with any of the Grizzly machines, so I don't know what their quality (or lack of it) might be. And as a side note I've seen a number of Enco and Jet machines in local machine shops in light-duty service, ut never seen any Grizzlys there. Ones of this class proably wouldn't stand up to an 8x5 production schedule, but they're plenty good enough for a commercial shop to use for less than full time production as a secondary mill or lathe (and are considerably cheaper than the likes of Lagun, Bridgeport, Vectrax, etc).

One thing that I failed to mention is a good bench or tool grinder. I was able to keep my bench and carbide grinders, so I forget to mention those. At the least you'll need a green wheel to be able to grind carbide bits.

Reply to
Jim Levie

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