LAthe Advice?

I have a small 1000 sqr foot shop behind the house and have a lot of basic metal working tools, I'm interested in learning how to lathe some of my own parts, mostly small car, motorcycle and some custom parts. I have a degree as a Computer systems guy and was wondering if I should be looking at just a basic Lathe 3' - 4' or something with CNC capabilities?

1) What type of lathe would you recommend? I need something that I can still sue as my skills advanced. 2) Since the Lathe is mostly a toy cost is an issue. 3) Where is a good place to get the "bits" I need? I've heard of people making their own bits from "Key stock" is this possible? how? 4) If I can find something used what type of price range/s am I looking at? 5) Is CNC worth the money for 1 of parts (no production here)
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You might post this on Rec.crafts.metalworking to get a bit more exposure from those that use lathes. Better yet google for info as this has been discussed a lot.

I would try to plug into any local groups and meet some people that have the same interests as you do. In Seattle there is a yahoo group devoted to local folks that do metalworking.

You can't use key stock for lathe bits. Starting to sound like a troll, with that question. Try Enco, J & L, MSC, or in the Seattle area, Boeing Surplus.


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I've made special-purpose bits by silverbrazing bits of HSS to keystock.

Reply to
Don Foreman

That wouldn't really be quite the same thing, now would it? If that were the case, then brazing a TC tip to a mild steel shank would be using mild steel for bits, no?


Reply to
Lloyd E. Sponenburgh

CNC adds an entire layer of cost. There are lots of resources online about very creative CNC. The more plug-n-play you get, the more spendy it gets.

In addition, I think that a CNC mill would be a higher priority than a CNC lathe. Even more so, gaining experience in machining would be a great benefit before launching into CNC. Vital I might even say.

You mention 3' or 4', typically a lathe in the USA is measured in swing and represents the theoretical largest diameter piece you can turn. (you turn parts on a lathe, you don't lathe parts on a lathe). For example a

9" Lathe would be expected to turn a 9" diameter part over the bed. On the smaller lathes that's really impractical, but there you have it. IMO a 9" lathe is as small as you would want to go. Bed length has never been an important issue for me.

For tooling, HSS bits are inexpensive, why even try to skim a few cents? I prefer carbide tooling, usually insert tooling, but brazed carbide tools are also reasonably inexpensive and do a suitable job.

For starting:

1). A 9" or 10" swing lathe with a quick-change gearbox. 2). A turret tool post with right-hand & facing tools. 3). A parting tool holder, parting tool. 4). 3-jaw scroll chuck 5). Live center

Others may chime in with their own different preferences & such, with good reasons behind them. For instance a 4-jaw lathe chuck will be more versatile, potentially more accurate, more cumbersome. If you can find/afford a quick change tool post I'd recommend it. Depends on your personality, but I can't imagine using my lathe without it.

HotRod said the following on 5/9/2005 8:19 AM:

Reply to
John Hofstad-Parkhill

I agree that this sounded funny, but I was discussing getting a lathe, with a fellow who has a lathe, and he was saying he was thinking of getting rid of his because it has a lot of play in it. When I asked if he had any of the "bits" he said No but that he heard you could grind your own from "key stock". I told him that I would find out if this was possible pretty quick. look forward to all of the comments.

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As someone mentioned here they suggest a mill over a lathe. What are the benefits of the one over the other? I'm I correct when I assume that mill is a lot like a vertical drill press? I will be trying to get some "professional" training but I prefer to have the tools first so I can practice at home as I go.

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You certainly can grind your own tool bits from key stock, and they will cut very well as long as what you are cutting is substantially softer than key stock. Things like butter, styrofoam .. oh, you want to cut METAL?


Reply to
Grant Erwin

Depends on what you want to machine with it, plastic & aluminum small parts, you might look at a Sherline.

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you might look at used American iron ( Atlas, etc.) or { much to the dismay of many in the group} Asian stuff ie: Harbour Freight{ Fright?}
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' s expen$ive. Homemade bits? You mean cutters? Just buy them, they're cheap enough, carbide inserts, as previously mentioned, are a good way to go. I'm happy (not super impressed, but just happy) with my asian lathe/mill (Busy Bee/ HF B2229), but then I'm certainly not a pro, nor do I have the real estate and budget for separate American made iron. My 2 cents anyway.

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You could add cnc to your machine after learning how to use it by making your own retrofit or conversion.

Lathes are classifed by swing diameter by length between centers in inches or mm (8x14 or 210x320). What type of car/motorcycle parts are you wanting to make? motorcycle axel= small lathe like a 9x20 bench top(

200-300 lb machine) , car axel = 14x40 or bigger (800-1000 lbs)

Benchtop lathes in the 7x range are cheap (under $500) you can learn on one but are limited on the size work that can be done.

HSS tool bits look alot like key stock but are much harder and can be ground to many different shapes for cutting features on the parts being made.

I found a guy who needed floor space for some new machinery and wanted $500 for a 16x36 leblonde. That was a 1500 lb. machine and the cost of moving one and the space it takes up is large. something to think about, What if you decide you don't like machining?

Yes and No

Machine types, if you need to make brackets, valve covers or stuff not round a mill is nice. If you want to make round stuff the lathe will work.

I just got a 8x14 lathe and am wanting for my mill to come in next month. They will complement my sd180 nicely.


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Just to get a better idea. My first project will be some new forward controls for my motorcycle and some other "turning" work, I'm wondering if I can use a Mill to "turn" pieces?

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How big will the pieces be that are round?

You can turn stock on a mill by two methods: 1) rotory table 2) turning using the spindle.

1) on the rotory table you can turn larger parts by mounting workpiece to the table and use end mill to cut the part.

2) if the parts are small enough to be mounted in a collect in the spindle you can mount a lathe tool in a vise and turn parts round using the spindle quill feed.

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One other method I forgot:

You can use a boring head to turn round item by turning the boring bar around 180 degrees and cutting around the outside of the workpeice.

I used that method to turn a piston crankrod pin on a model plane engine.

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Surely you jest? Besides all the trouble to do that, such a bit would be "bendy" to say the least. Okay, it would take you beyond the butter/styrofoam/jelly domain, perhaps into aluminum and soft brass .. but steel? Unless of course, your usage of HSS/keystock bits had some sensible, albeit arcane purpose to it. I'd have to be pretty hard-up for a piece of HSS tool bit to go that route. We should point out to Hot Rod that in most locales, it is against the law to sell a lathe without proof of ownership of a bench grinder. Some other points to note:

  1. Is this a troll? He has a "small", 1000 sq. foot shop behind the house. I'm scraping by with 15 x 20 and many of us, I know, would kill for 10x15.
  2. While one mills things with a milling machine, shapes with a shaper, and drills with a drill press, one does not "lathe" things with a lathe, one "turns" them.
  3. Your computing skills won't help you much. It will help only with the easy stuff, which is to say, CNC programming languages. It won't help with feed and speed, type of bits to use, and not crashing the tool into parts by attempting to pass through solid metal or to the other side of the tailstock, or attempting other impossible operations. One should learn something about machining metal before going into CNC. Unless, of course, you consider your CNC lathe as a disposable tool.
4) What type of lathe would you recommend? I need something that I can still use as my skills advanced.
  1. The biggest lathe you have room for and can afford. I would suggest a
12" a x 48" or so: but a 9x36 will probably do for you also. The biggest decision is buying new or used. Used is fine, but you don't seem to have the experience needed to tell a good one from junk. If you can get some expert hands-on advice, that's the way to go. 5) Since the Lathe is mostly a toy cost is an issue.

Don't think in terms of making parts for a car or motorcycle on a "toy" lathe .. at least not functional parts. As for cost. The lathe is half the cost. Expect to spend as much on tooling as on the lathe before you have something you can really use. (e.g. a bench grinder, various chucks, collets, tool holders, etc. etc.)

5) Where is a good place to get the "bits" I need? I've heard of people making their own bits from "Key stock" is this possible? how?
  1. You buy new bit blanks at any machine-shop supplier such MSC or Enco. That's the expensive way. The cheaper way is to buy used tool bits (often by the pound) at flea markets and garage sales. Whover suggested key stock was either 1) pulling your leg, or 2) only works with soft woods such as balsa and pine, or 3) really hates you , or 4) is a total ignoramus.
6) If I can find something used what type of price range/s am I looking at?

Depends on where you live. Generally, a decent 9" x 36" (e.g., a 9" South Bend) in good condition with a quick-change gear box can be had for about $750. But that is probably stripped of all tooling. As for range on a good

9" lathe, expect a minimum of $500 (good luck) to $4,000 (e.g. a Schaublin). The question is about as sharp as asking "What does a motor vehicle cost." and you'll be including everything from a micro-motor scooter to a 500 ton earth mover truck. 7) Is CNC worth the money for 1 off parts (no production here)
  1. Not really. It generally takes as long to program the tool as it would be to make it manually. Probably longer because it is much easier to make mistakes with a CNC program than with a manual tool. I was in the computer hardware and software business for almost 50 years before I retired..Including designing hardware and software for CNC machines. My tools are all manual. It is only when I do a limited production run of something (e.g., 25 or more pieces) that I wish I had a CNC setup.


Reply to
Boris Beizer

You "turn" things on a lathe.

IMHO, don't buy new, don't buy CNC.

There's a good buyer's market out there at the moment in good ex-industrial non-CNC lathes that are being replaced by CNC equipment. They're not cheap (twice the price of a new Chinese lathe), but they're bigger and they're a much better deal. If you _can_ afford one, go for one of these.

If you're turning car parts, you want a bigger lathe than the usual new Chinese "model engineer" models.

CNC is a great thing for milling machines, but much less useful for lathes. You can turn most things in a short time anyway, so there's just not the time saving to be had. You can do most turning by hand, when there's a lot of non-square CNC milling that you'll never be able to do without. So if you feel the urge to try CNC, then go to it - but do it on a mill first.

CNC lathes dont really count for much unless you're doing repetitive work, and they have automatic stock feed.

Lathes are cheap. Tooling is expensive. An "expensive" deal for a complete rig with all the tooling is a much better deal than a cheap deal on a bare lathe.

Reply to
Andy Dingley

OK despite what some think I am not trolling, and I know you might think that because of my stupid questions and apparently "LARGE" shop but you have to understand that my last shop was 4 times this size, YES I do have two large shoos. One for wood working and one for just metal and automotive work but that doesn't mean I know anything about milling or using a Lathe. I'm just asking questions based on what I think I know or what I've heard. I'd like to buy a lathe to practice on and learn but I'm looking for something that I can grow with.

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Can anyone recommend some good location in Ontario to hunt for a used Lathe, or websites? I think from all of the comments a lathe is the way to go and then when I need it a milling machine down the road. I appreciate all of the advice, THANKS

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I don't know what types of car and motorcycle parts you have in mind, but there is another dimension to consider when looking at a lathe. That is the size of the hole through the headstock. Frequently with long parts you are only going to be working on the ends, and then the best way to do the work is with most of the bar sticking through the chuck and out the back. This only works if the work is smaller than the hole through the spindle. For many of the older American machines in the 9" or 10" size, the spindle is going to be MT#3 and the through hole will be a little larger than 3/4". If you were doing gunsmithing that wouldn't be acceptable, but unless you are going to be doing axles for motorcycles you may be able to work within that range.

I would also respectfully dissent on the use of carbide tooling for small lathes. Carbide really likes to take fairly agressive cuts, but it doesn't like vibration or chatter. On my small (9" Logan) lathe, I find that it is really easy to chip the edges of carbide tools. I suspect that with more experience I would be able to get more rigid setups and would have the confidence to hog some material off with carbide, but for most of what I do, high-speed steel tools are cheap, and I don't have to get special grinding wheels to sharpen them or to grind new tooling.

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Ontario Canada, or California?


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