What can I do with a lathe?

I'm looking for some inspiration here... I've played with a bit of simple drill press wood turning, found turning addictive, and I'm planning to
purchase a lathe sometime soonish.
I have a small shop, and I favor small projects. I'm thinking of a "hobby lathe" since I'm more likely to turn spindles for doll furniture than people sized stuff.
The spread on the Taig lathe in the Lee Valley catalog got me thinking about buying a *metal* lathe instead of a wood lathe. I've since done a bit of reading about that one, and the similarly sized Sherline.
I'm always building things out of whatever materials I can scrounge for free (not much budget), and I constantly run into situations where I wish I could fabricate a bit of something. I have a $200 bandsaw, and have built a lot of things out of angle iron and bar stock (using fasteners... I can't weld), but that's about as far as my metalworking experience goes.
So what I'm looking to get out of this post is a sense of just what people *do* with metal lathes, and what I could learn to do on something like a Taig lathe. Other than issues of scale, what can I do with one of those big $20,000 industrial lathes that I couldn't do with a small hobby machine?
I've been googling around, but I just don't have much of a sense of this. Other than a few really obvious things, like the turned brass finials on my fireplace, I can't look at the world around me and say "that was made with a lathe."
Most of the FAQs for this group are just too far beyond my experience to make much sense. Bookstores have woodworking sections, but I've never seen diddly squat about metalworking. I've been thinking about taking some classes at the local community college, but I'm a truck driver, and my schedule is extremely irregular. Plus they don't seem to have anything that's geared toward the weekend swarf maker.
Anyway, I'm sorry I'm blathering on so. I've about decided to get a metal lathe no matter what, but it would be nice to have a list of things I can tell SWMBO I can make with the thing.
Thanks...
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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for tiny non-steel parts, preferably synthetics, these s/b okay.

well, you could actually reduce the dia. of a 1/2" steel rod, maybe even key it and thread it. that doesn't take a $20k tool, but the taig won't do it. ...>

my first project was to thread an acme nut to repair a dish mover. big grins and saved a dime. later i found out where to buy the nut and did so rather than make another. still was big grins, i really didn't know anything and that nut is still working. the replacment ones are fiber/Delron, mine is steel.
actually, that's the only "real" project i have completed, and it _could_ have been done in fiber on a Taig. mostly, i just grin everytime i walk past my (Grizzly 4015), more of a possession these days than a tool. --Loren
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Not that the Taig and Sherline machines aren't small, and relatively low powered, and as people have noted, and the Taig won't single point threads as it comes stock from the factory (The Sherline has a threading accessory though). Both will work steel with little problem though, as long as you keep within some reasonable size constraints. I have turned steel rod up to 1" dia. on the Taig, and worked discs of steel about 3" dia for certain projects. The work envelope is considerably smaller than a bigger lathe (no surprise there).
To see what people do with the Taig, go to my website www.cartertools.com and look at the pictures section, where I have pictures of various customer's work.
Join the various yahoogroups dedicated to the various lathes, taigtools, sherline and 7x10
Nick
wrote:

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I have a nice 6 inch Craftsman lathe you can have for $500
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wrote:

One thing you can do on even a $399 Harbor Freight lathe which you can't do on a Taig or Sherline is cut single point threads. To do that, the carriage has to be geared to the spindle so that the cutter's advance is timed to the rotation of the work. This is done either via change gears or a quick change gearbox (preferred) on most metal lathes.
Neither the Taig nor the Sherline are built that way. All cutter motions are achieved by manually advancing handwheels. This also means it is sometimes difficult to get a fine finish on the workpiece, ie because you aren't as smoothly advancing the cutter as a lathe with power feeds would.
Fortunately this isn't often a drawback because, for the size work the Taig or Sherline is capable of doing, ordinary tap and die sets are sufficient to cut standard threads (you're still in a bind if you need a non-standard thread), and a high finish can be obtained with a wrap of emery cloth applied by hand to the turning work piece.
Taig and Sherline machines are 1) very small 2) not very rigid 3) not very powerful 4) need to turn fast. But they are well made and as precise as you care to be. You can do just about any lathe operation on one of them that you could do on bigger machines, except threading. But the size of the work you can do will be *much* smaller.
Mostly, the advantage of larger lathes is that they *are* larger. The size work you can do on a Taig is really very small, considerably less than the published swing and center to center distance might lead you to believe. (Anything over about 1 inch in diameter will really be a challenge.)
I have a Taig, and I use it frequently for very small parts which need to be turned very rapidly, ie high spindle speed is needed for very small diameter parts to get the surface cutting speed up into the right range for good cutting performance.
But I also have a 13x40 2 hp bench lathe, and a heavy 15x60 7.5 hp lathe, so when projects won't fit on the Taig (which is often), I've got suitably larger and heavier equipment to handle them. These latter machines won't turn as fast as the Taig, and their chucks won't close down on as small work, so for the tiny stuff, the Taig is the machine of choice. For everything else, the bigger machines are better.
Bigger machines don't have to cost $20,000 either. My 13x40 came from MSC's scratch and dent sale for $1500 (new, dropped once). My big 15x60 Clausing I got in a trade for an import 3-N-1 machine and $650 cash. (Note that the Clausing *was* an $18,000 machine when it was new, but I didn't buy it new.)
Still, the Taig only cost me $500, brand new, with every (then) available accessory. I consider it a very good machine for work appropriate to its size, and the package I bought was a very good value (the cost of tooling will often double the price of the basic machine).
Gary
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That's true of the basic lathes as delivered. But Sherline sells a threading attachment that drives the leadscrew from the spindle just like any other change-gear lathe. (It is designed to have the work turned by hand crank, not under motor power, which is a problem in some cases). Sherline also has a power feed option that will give you consistent finishes but won't do threading. Or you can get the CNC-ready version of the lathe, put a stepper motor on the leadscrew, and control it either with Sherline's CNC linear controller or a computer and drive electronics. Again, this doesn't do threading, but it does provide controllable carriage speed (and distance) - all using Sherline accessories.
Then there is the Frog, for both Taig and Sherline. It's a stepper motor plus electronic controller. It drives the carriage via the rack on the Taig and the leadscrew on the Sherline. The Frog provides variable speed/distance power feed like the Sherline indexer. It also does threading, using a spindle rotation sensor to synchronize carriage movement to spindle rotation.
    Dave
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On Wed, 15 Oct 2003 17:23:52 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@cs.ubc.ca (Dave Martindale) wrote:

I was going to mention all that, but decided not to. All of what you say is true, but none of it applies to either basic machine as delivered, and requires retrofitting by the owner. For someone just buying a first lathe, I thought that was asking a bit much. OTOH, the HF minilathe will cut threads right out of the box, and it works the way all the lathes in the metalshop textbooks work, so the novice isn't confounded with concepts that are a bit unorthodox.
Gary
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    [ ... ]

    Well ... I believe (from what I have read here) that lathe does not have a tumbler to reverse the leadscrew, and I also believe that it is difficult to get it going slow enough to deal with cutting threads to a shoulder, but other than that, it is a choice.
    Enjoy,         DoN.
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I appreciate all the comments, folks. I've come to my senses and decided not to acquire another money-sucking habit just yet.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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hmmm, i think i responded earlier, but you describe it perfectly for many of us. still, i get big grins just _knowing_ i have some amount of machinery. maybe a macho thing? most likely tool "deprivation" as a young man. <grin> regards, --Loren
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Gary's post pretty much covered the differences between the big 'uns and the small 'uns.
FWIW I could say that I do two things with my metalworking tools as a general rule. First off they are used primarily to make parts for other metalworking tools. There, I said it, and if anyone tells my wife I'll be really unhappy.
The other think I do is tinker with vintage motorbikes, and having machinery to do so makes *that* hobby a good deal cheaper.
The lathe and mill allow me to do things like:
Re-work stripped exhaust port threads on cylinder heads
Repair stripped out idle air screw threads in carbs
Fabricate custom fasteners
Make special purpose tools and wrenches
Re-surface brake drums
Repair turn signal stalks
Repair broken carb bodies
That's a quick run-down on the types of jobs that get done in the home shop, just to keep the bikes on the road.
Jim
================================================= please reply to: JRR(zero) at yktvmv (dot) vnet (dot) ibm (dot) com ================================================
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Here's one thing you can do with a lathe:
One of my son's friends asked me to help him get his mower going last week. He mows neighbors' yards for extra money and was short on cash so I told him I'd see what I could do. It turned out the starter solenoid was dead. We could hear it clicking but it wasn't passing power to the starter. At first I suggested he buy one the next day but he had a couple of yards he needed to mow early and asked if I could do anything with the old one.
I drilled out the rivets and found that there was a plastic piece that had broken off inside. When energized the coil pushed a steel plunger down which pushed on this plastic piece. The plastic piece was supposed to be attached to the center of the washer that made contact across the two bolts that the wires were attached to completing the circuit to the starter.
I chucked the washer into my lathe and drilled a small hole into the center of the remaining part of the plastic. Then I took a brass screw, cut it down to the diameter of the broken plastic piece and then cut the end a bit smaller so that it would fit in the hole I'd drilled. I then cut it to length, put a dab of superglue on it and pressed it into the hole and put everything back together with pop rivets. It cranked right up and has been working ever since!
So that's one thing you can do with a lathe. :-)
The lathe's you're looking at would have done this job very well but there are a few other things that they would not be well suited for. You should take a look at this site for info on some alternatives:
http://www.mini-lathe.com
I have a JET 9x20 which is a bit bigger than the ones at that site but it's still small enough to fit on a bench. The JET is probably a bit overpriced for the JET name but you can get the same basic lathe from Harbor Freight for a bit less:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberE861
It's often on sale for $600-$700 and I believe it includes many extras such as a steady rest and a follow rest that cost extra with the minis. Grizzly and Enco sell their own versions of this same lathe too.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"

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Keith Marshall wrote:

Thanks for the food for thought. I can't afford to go in for much more than the Taig at the moment, but perhaps I should wait until I can. I've learned why having a real drill press is the way to go, even though 90% of the jobs I do could have been done on my old, small one. It's probably the same lesson here. Some day I'll need the extra capacity, so I should buy the biggest machine I can possibly manage.
There's tooling to consider too. I don't even know what I would need, but I'd imagine I could spend quite a lot.
I'm due to be allowed to buy a new computer soon. If I use this one for another four years (not really a problem, since I don't play games anymore, and I run Linux, where there's nothing exciting to do with high performance anyway), I could spend $1,000 on this wild hare.
I can already hear my wife screaming. :)
Are there any good books I should look for? Maybe go to the library...
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On Sun, 12 Oct 2003 02:11:36 -0400, Silvan

NO! Buy the Taig now and get some fun out of life, you will never learn younger. Whatever you are able to afford by way of a larger lathe in the future, I doubt that you will let the tiny lathe go as it is so handy when you need that small part done "just so" Gerry :-)} London, Canada
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but I'm a truck driver, and my schedule is extremely irregular.

One thing you can do on almost any metal working machinery is seriously mangle (or even kill) yourself if you don't KNOW what you're doing in regard to safe operating practices, proper machine usages, and the machine's basic capabilities.
Taking a class is an excellent idea for anyone needing a basic understanding of metal working machinery and that is where I would suggest that you start. After that class, you will have a much better idea of what can be done on a lathe, whether or not you should buy one, what size of lathe you might be interested in buying, and what types of tooling and additional equipment will be required to support your operations on a lathe, etc., etc.
Seriously...........take a class so that you reduce the probability that you'll injure yourself. Dave
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On Sat, 11 Oct 2003 01:19:27 -0400, Silvan
......and in reply I say!:
Sorry. "To every season: Turn turn, turn," ****************************************************************************************** Whenever you have to prove to yourself that you are not something, you probably are.
Nick White --- HEAD:Hertz Music Please remove ns from my header address to reply via email !! <") _/ ) ( ) _//- \__/
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|Most of the FAQs for this group are just too far beyond my experience to |make much sense. Bookstores have woodworking sections, but I've never seen |diddly squat about metalworking.
Check out the used bookstores, usually in the "Industrial" section. I've found a number of metal shop textbooks that have been invaluable. If you luck out you might also find a "Machinery's Handbook" Rex in Fort Worth
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On Tue, 21 Oct 2003 22:07:10 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@REMOVEtxol.net (Rex B) wrote:

Today at the DAV thrift store:
Fundamentals of Metal (looks like a highschool shop class book on basic sheet metal work and the like) $1,49 Welding, Princibles and practices $2.75
Gunner
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And lo, it came about, that on Tue, 21 Oct 2003 22:07:10 GMT in rec.crafts.metalworking , snipped-for-privacy@REMOVEtxol.net (Rex B) was inspired to utter:

    That's where I got one of my copies [the 7th edition (1940).]
--
pyotr filipivich
The cliche is that history rarely repeats herself. Usually she just
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|>If you luck out you might also find a "Machinery's Handbook" |>Rex in Fort Worth | |    That's where I got one of my copies [the 7th edition (1940).]
I noticed MH available for download in alt.binaries.e-books.technical I don't have a clue how one would reassemble all the files though Rex in Fort Worth
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