Which Lathe for Beginner?

I'm wondering what brand and model of lathe and milling machines someone starting out should consider? I want to make parts for automotive,
motorcycle and gunsmithing use. I'm not talking about engine boring here, just bushings clamps, brackets. I see a lot of Chinese machines at Grizzly, Harbor Freight and Jet are they worth it? Thanks
Fred
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Think about the used market. You'll find better iron for the buck and there is a HUGE glut of machines since actually producing things in this country is so politically incorrect.

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Tom's observation about the politics of being a producer in this crazy world is spot-on. However, I still have much to learn about machine tools for the automotive and gunsmithing hobbyist. Hows about some advice on brands and types of machines? Just a basic lathe and milling machine to start with. Size? I'm not sure. I'd like something bigger than a "mini-lathe", but, not something too big to get down the basement stairs. Gear drive or belt? Got me. What's the real difference? Maybe I need to be pointed to some kind of FAQ for machining newbies. I'm open to any help.
Fred

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from what I've read here, the Jet lathes tend to be better than other brands (I don't live on your continent, and have a Myford lathe, so cannot really knww these answers. ymmv etc etc)

9x20? for automotive you'll probably be happier with a 12x or 14x (that's 12 or 14 inch diameter workpiece capacity), because at some point you'll want to face a brake drum or clutch plate (-:
for gunsmithing.... mostly your size requirment there is being able to put the barrel through the headstock. now you're looking at the 14x to 16x range (BIG lathes) because no-one makes a small lathe with a big spindle hole. why? we don't know....but they sure would be useful

the 9x20 is easy enough to carry down afaik.

gear is (more) powerful and gives more speed options. belt is quiet and can give the same options. my Myford has 6 belt ratios and I seldom move it out of the highest speed (640rpm). but nice to have 30 rpm when you need it!

swarf, steam and wind
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Thanks for the advice. I'm eager to start making stuff like bushings and spacers for my 4x4 off road vehicle and motorcycle projects. I also hope to be able to make a firearm, or at least the regulated bits :-), from scratch someday.
I'm mostly a mechanic with some welding skills. I also have woodworking skills, but, I've never used a metalworking lathe, milling machine or other precision metal shop tools. I have a set of Mitutoyo micrometers, Indise telescoping gages, a dial indicator gage and a nice Browne and Sharp 0 - 12" caliper.
I am planning to use the American Gunsmithing Institute's lathe and milling video courses to get started.
http://www.americangunsmith.com/mill_lathe.html
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What you want in a lathe is a tool large enough to do the kind of work you think you may want to do in the future (swing diameter of 3 times the work diameter is the usual ratio stated), is popular enough to have accessories at cheap prices and is known to be a sturdy workhorse that is easy to keep going.
This means if you think you will stay away from turning automotive crankshafts, that a 9 inch lathe (which means work diameter up to 3 inches) is probably appropriate. I think used is the smartest way to go. One lathe that fits all the criteria here is the South Bend. I am a watchmaker so I am biased toward the Swiss toolroom lathes. I happen to own a Habegger. While I love that machine, it was more trouble and money to tool up than a South Bend. And from what I have seen, I could probably do most of the same work on the South Bend. And remember, there are still times when you use the lathe for "big" things. I have made 6 inch jigs on my 8 inch lathe. It is just if you were doing this on a regular basis that a larger lathe would be much "friendlier" in the setup and work.
For mill, I own a used Select Vertical mill. This is the same pattern used in the Enco and Grizzly mills that sell for about $2000. The main reason for using a mill of this pattern is once again, cost of accessories. Standard machinist accessories (R-8 and such) are much easier and cheaper to come by. I put a Sony Millman package on it I purchased new on eBay for $800 and I see little difference between it and a Swiss mill when all is said and done. But for the work I do, this mill is way overkill to begin with.
I can't speak of the range of new stuff and what I said above should be interpreted as my own biased opinion. But I hope this helps.
--
Regards,
Dewey Clark http://www.historictimekeepers.com
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From a former machine shop instructor, my advice is buy a couple of used machines. I have no clue what your current capabilities are for running these machines, but you want something pretty tough....hehe... You might find a used Bridgeport mill for fairly cheap. These are tough mills, and will take quite a bit of abuse. I like SouthBend for a lathe for about the same reason. Plus...these are popular enough that parts can be found for them.
--
Anthony

You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make
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I like the idea of finding something like a South Bend 9" lathe to get started. And go from there. I'm a Toyota 4x4 enthusiast though, so I might like to be able to cut some metric threads.
I've never operated any such machine tool and I'm not too keen on taking regular classes. I'm hoping I can learn from the American Gunsmithing Institute's 30 hour video course.
http://www.americangunsmith.com/mill_lathe.html
They've got lots of cool stuff for gunsmiths too.
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On Fri, 21 Nov 2003 01:33:01 -0600, F. Hayek wrote:

That may be difficult, depending on the particular thread pitch, without modifying the lathe (i.e. replacing one or two of the gears). The old South Bend lathes (and most American made lathes of that vintage) were designed to work in the inch system, not metric. Some metric threads have inch equivalents, or are very close, and can be made on old American lathes unmodified, but not all of the metric threads can be.

To get yourself oriented with machine tool basics, you might want to skim through the US Army's "Fundamentals of Machine Tools" training manual:
http://155.217.58.58/cgi-bin/atdl.dll/tc/9-524/toc.htm
I found this to be very helpful when I first decided that I wanted a lathe, etc.
Another book which is always recommended by people here is South Bend's "How to Run a Lathe," which was produced long ago but is still in print from a few sources:
http://www.lindsaybks.com/bks/lathebk/
This a classic primer on lathe anatomy, basic operation, and etc. I've never read it myself, but so many people here recommend it that I feel I can too.
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South
South Bend sells/had a conversion gear for the 9" SB and other lathes -- called a "metric transpose gear". It replaces one of the big gears in the drive train. It is a two part gear with 114 on one wheel and 110 on the other, giving a 110/114 ratio -- or something like that. Anyhow, you put this gear in the gear train and voila, the lathe is now metric. Many other older lathe manufacturers had/have similar change gears. However, be prepared for sticker shock. Typically, old lathe gears go for about $1/tooth-- putting this into the $225 + cost category. Even so, the gear is so rare that that I've heard it go for more than the price of the lathe. The Lindsay publications reprint of the 1934 SB catalog lists this gear for sale at $30 for a 9" up to $55 for an 18" lathe. At the time, the basic 9" SB was priced at around $150 -- so the gear's price was fierce even then. If you are going to be really heavy into metric, you might consider a lathe that does both -- it might have to be a new one. As another alternative, there are always taps and dies -- lot cheaper than a new lathe.
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Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
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says...

I think the transpose gear was a 127 tooth item. IIRC Scott Logan sells a pair of gears that gets to within a few percent of that ideal gear, and he sells them for a lot less than what the 127 sells for.
I would point out to the original poster that for smaller threads, one can still use taps and dies.
Jim
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Boris Beizer

Yeh -- that was one of the teeth count. I remembers. When I gave away my 9" SB to my son, I gave him the precious transpose gear. Now on those rare occassions (once in the last four years) that my metric taps and/or dies (either in the shop or to be bought) doesn't do the trick, I have him cut the thread on "his" lathe. Re Scott: I'm sure if he sells them it will do the job to within government work tolerances.
Boris
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Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
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Beizer says...

Hmm. I wonder.
I've got a dividing head, I wonder if it's would be a going proposition to simply start manufacturing 127 tooth gears to fit SB machines?
Jim
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jim rozen wrote in message ...

I needed a set for my Logan. (I run into a lot of wacky metric threads an antique French lamps) So I cut a 37/47 pair on my horizontal mill (too small to swing a 127).
It has become my philosophy, that when making parts for my more common machinery, to make a few extra and ebait them out.
I ganged a stack of aluminum blanks and milled out nine sets.
They sold quite well. Paid for materials, tooling and shop time.
I think that, if some one was round up a small hobber and the necessary tooling, they could probably make a decent part time job out of hobbing out change gears.
Paul K. Dickman
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Ah. Aluminum. I would have gone to steel first. But for this application obviously Al is a better choice. You did this with a form cutter?

That would be the way to make money at it.
Jim
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jim rozen wrote in message ...

The yield strength of many Al alloys is certainly within the range of gray iron. The aluminum will wear faster, but these were metric transposing gears, I probably use them 2-3 times a year.

Ya, a standard Polish gear cutter. It only took one cutter. That and a 5/32" keyway broach were the only special tooling I had buy.
Paul K. Dickman
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On Fri, 21 Nov 2003 19:32:11 -0600, "Paul K. Dickman"

If any one needs hobbers..Im sure I can round up a machine or two.
Gunner
"The British attitude is to treat society like a game preserve where a certain percentage of the 'antelope' are expected to be eaten by the "lions". Christopher Morton
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    [ ... ]

    First, you might want to check the tables for your dividing head, to see what you have to do to get 127 teeth.
    *Then* come back here and offer to make them for people. :-)
(I've already checked mine.)
    Enjoy,         DoN.
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my answer to that is 'fit a stepper motor and an old 486 laptop with TurboCNC software'. even hand entering the G codes for a 127 tooth wheel is trivial compared to any set of tables/hole plates (-:
swarf, steam and wind
-- David Forsyth -:- the email address is real /"\ http://terrapin.ru.ac.za/~iwdf/welcome.html \ / ASCII Ribbon campaign against HTML E-Mail > - - - - - - -> X If you receive email saying "Send this to everyone you know," / \ PLEASE pretend you don't know me.
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I'm almost to the point where I am thinking of letting go my 9" South Bend. I'm doing an increasing amount on the big lathe. If someone wants a really super-clean 9" South Bend Model A, longest bed made, please contact me by email. It's in the Seattle area. It will come with basic tooling and the buyer will get first crack at every bit of advanced tooling I own (basically everything except metric conversion kit) at reasonable pricing. I'm not going to bundle it all with the lathe because no one would pay what it is worth. If I sell the lathe and the buyer doesn't want some or all of the tooling then it will all become available - steady/follow, taper, milling attachment, faceplates, special chucks, MLA cross-slide table, Aloris AXA tooling, the works.
This is an exceptional lathe. It was made in 1949 and is still in excellent condition.
I'm getting sick of people whining they can't find a decent lathe.
I'm willing to consider shipping.
Grant Erwin to contact me see http://www.tinyisland.com/email.html - doing a "reply-to" to this message will NOT WORK even if you remove the NOSPAM
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