John, I picked up one of the import lathes on ebay. Mine was from Cummins Tools. Unless you need some really close tolerances, you probably don't need a Bridgeport or anything. I've been really happy with my lathe. I think it is a 7x12. Type in "mini lathe -wood" (do not type the quotes in the search). Be sure to type the -wood in the search string, otherwise you will get about a 1000 matches for wood lathes.
Some people bad mouth these as not "real" lathes, but some of us do not need .0000005 tolerances. They are going to need some adjustments out of the box, so there are some tradeoffs.
It is more than sufficient for your stated use and there are many accessories available for it. It is ready to go as-received and is quiet in operation. Look at the package deals with all the parts you need to get going.
John Emmons Nov 22, 3:17 pm show options Newsgroups: rec.crafts.metalworking From: "John Emmons" - Find messages by this author Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 20:17:49 GMT Local: Tues, Nov 22 2005 3:17 pm Subject: Watchmakers-Clockmakers Lathe Reply | Reply to Author | Forward | Print | Individual Message | Show original | Report Abuse
I have a Sherline lathe
and can hold
0.001 on a good day (when I'm careful) and the right setup. It has served me well and I'm happy with it.
In my opinion it is important to get a variable speed motor like on the Sherline. The reason is a little difficult to explain, but here goes: Basically for each type of metal there is an "optimal" speed for which the cutting tool leaves a good finish on the piece. When you're machining away metal, the diameter of the piece obviously gets smaller, and the surface speed of the piece changes. The variable speed on the lathe allows you to adjust the surface speed. As the diameter of the piece shrinks, I increase the rotational speed.
The surface speed means the speed at which a point on the edge of the piece moves in relation to the cutting tool. Usually in feet/min.
There are other things to consider to get a good finish, for example the depth of the cut and feed. I just prefer to keep those two somewhat constant and vary the rotational speed.
If you're going to do actual clockwork, you might consider a watchmaker's lathe, but if you're into model making or just need to make your precision parts, I'd go with the Sherline or the Taig. I have no experience with the Taig, but most people pick between these two for US made stuff, or go with the chinese 7X10 imports. (or 7x12, not sure what the numbers are)
A friend of mine ordered a Taig mill and it took weeks for it to arrive. I don't know how long their lathes take to ship.