Mini lathes?? opinions?

I've been looking at these mini lathes that Harbor freight sells...7X10 and 8X12...has anyone bought one of these?? I'm thinking
that I'll be sorry if I buy one. I don't really *need* a lathe, but I don't really *need* 3 welders either... (hehehe)
Would I be better off buying an old Sears 109 model lathe or similar??
I just want to be able to turn some small, mild steel and aluminum prototype parts.
Thanks
J
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Crap is crap, and crap in machine tools is a total waste of time.

Almost undoubtedly.
--
Cats, Coffee, Chocolate...vices to live by

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Check this site out for a pretty good review of the cheap mini lathes:
http://www.mini-lathe.com/Mini_lathe/Reviews/Reviews.htm
And here for a side-by-side comparison:
http://littlemachineshop.com/Info/minilathe_compare.php
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"

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From what I have seen and from what I have heard they are just junk. Look for a good used lathe and you will be much happier and have much better resale. I am also looking at getting one, not sure why. I am going to look at a 9" southbend lator this week. They seem to run from $100 to $1000 in this neck of the woods. I looked at one a few weeks ago not sure on the make but it was a 4 foot bed, more than I need and more to move than I want. You are up near the finger lakes right? There must be alot of used machines in that area. Its hard to find that great deal and boy have I pasted on a few I shouldn't have.
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I would have to agree with a previuos poster - junk is junk. I have made enough mistakes like this to know that this is like flushing money down the crapper.
I had a freind named Tom. His remark about these machines is that "they are an insult to a machinist", and I agree completely. Do not reward their poor craftsmanship with your hard earned U$D. Dont be fooled by a slick paint job, there's junk in the trunk.
My advice to you, if you want a high quality machine, and the experience, BUILD ONE. It is not as difficult as it sounds. You need some good large bearings, or a shaft to hold a chuck. You can weld some things together and hook up a motor to it, or even put a tredle on it. I've got a crappy one in my garage for wax only, and it really does the trick.
Use some old hydraulic shafts as ways. You can easily find material to make a temporary flat faced chuck. The only difficulty would be your cutting tool. You really gotta be careful here because you dont want it to blow up on ya, but I do not think that it would too difficult. You can obtain all of these materials of superior quality from a scrapyard. You dont really need carbide inserts either - you can use abrasive wheels as your cutting wheels if you like (motorized). I'll bet I could do it for less than $100 and get much higher quality than that mini-thing.
Maybe you'll get hooked on building machines and people will start buying from you instead of all this Chineez garbage.
Let me know if you need any castings.
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Everyone who has replied so far has been really negative, but they also appear not to have any first hand experience with these machines. In fact, these little lathes are pretty good (within their limits). I'd say that they're definitely better than an old Sears 109 (had one of those back when they were *new* Sears lathes).
It might be a good idea for you to ask people who actually have and use these machines what they think of them. You can try asking your questions in rec.crafts.metalworking. A number of people there have them. Also there's a Yahoo group devoted to these machines.
Now don't expect a Hardinge HLVH or a Monarch 10EE. These are *little* machines. They aren't very rigid, so you have to go easy with them. But they are a pretty good value as long as you understand and respect their limits.
Gary
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Well...I spent a few hours reading at www.mini-lathe.com and in the Yahoogroups minilathe forums. Sounds like in 1999 these machines were pretty bad out of the box, but now they have gotten a pretty good reputation, if used within their limits. Almost all are made at the Sieg factory in China and the price can range from $299 to $569 for basically the same lathe, just different color.
The latest reviews on these are quite good and people that use them everyday for the last 5 years or so report that if you take the time to clean them and set them up right, they are reliable and accurate (.0001 runout on the spindle out of the box) enough for the stuff I want to do. I'm thinking that I may take a chance on one of the Homier 7 X 12 units at $299.
The www.mini-lathe.com site has some excellent info on tool making and modifications that have been done to improve on these small lathes as well as the 4 X 6 import bandsaws. Some of you might find this site's reading very interesting. I did.
I have a small area that I can allot for a lathe footprint, so the mini-lathes really are appealing to me. From what I've read, they seem to be a option.
Thanks
Jamie
wrote:

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$299.<<
Probably a good choice but if you're deciding based on price remember that Harbor Freight has free shipping on orders over $50. I just checked their Inside Track Club price for item number 33684 and it's only $329.97 now. That may only be good through the end of the month (today!) though. :-(
OTH Homier does a travelling truck-load sale so if they happen to come to your area there won't be a shipping charge. :-) Go to their site and get on their mailing list and they'll let you know when they'll be in your area.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
wrote:

say
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Maybe one of these would finally make it possible to build Ernie's tubing bender. You can make all sizes of rollers. He used some sort of plastic mentioned in the text. I wonder if just one big V-roller could be used as a one size fits all? Maybe at least for the larger radii bends.
http://metalworking.com / http://www.metalworking.com/dropbox/_2001_retired_files/Roller__0_Explaination.t xt
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Don't forget to take a look at Sherline lathes (sherline.com). A bit pricey, but well made, and made in America.
John
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wrote:

Sherline does make a nice *micro* lathe. It is aluminum, and it is very small. Another excellent micro lathe is the Taig. It is a bit more rigid than the Sherline, and a good bit less expensive. Neither of these micro lathes is in the same class as the heavier and larger cast iron mini lathes we're discussing, however.
Gary
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Have you seen the new "micro" lathe that Harbor Freight now sells? I just noticed it in a new catalog a few days ago and it looks pretty good for the price of $200.
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber@19
It doesn't look like they have any accessories like a steady rest, etc. available for it yet though.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
wrote:

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I did look at that one. It has no power feed, no electronic speed control and those are 2 features that I really want.
wrote:

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and those are 2 features that I really want.<<
I couldn't tell from the picture whether it has crossfeed or not. There's room for it with change gears but not having it would definitely be a problem!
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
wrote:

very
rigid
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Oops, I had a senior moment. I meant to say power feed instead of crossfeed. :-)
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
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I forgot to mention... I have a 109. It was my first lathe and I had fun with it but one major shortcoming, IMO is that it does not have any index markings on any of the handwheels so I had to measure EVERYTHING! :-(
I have a JET 9 x 20 now so I'm hoping to sell it soon because it's in the way but it has an unusual headstock so I may be better off parting it out on eBay.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
wrote:

very
rigid
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wrote:

I totally agree.
I *do* have one of these units and they are certainly a significant step above the little Unimats and other baby lathes that many associate with such small machiner.
These lathes are heavy and robust -- you won't find any aluminum in them, they're cast iron and steel.
So long as you remember that they *are* a small lathe then they are very much worth the money.
However, like most machinery coming out of Asia, they do generally require a little "finishing" to realise their full potential. It doesn't hurt to strip them down (not that there's much to strip) and give everything a clean-up and lube.
I regularly turn 304 and 316 stainless in mine -- including pieces up to 4" diameter - although I have to admit that this is really getting near the limits of these machines.
As far as accuracy goes I regularly turn stuff to +/- 0.0005 or better when necessary.
The constantly variable electronic speed controller is also an excellent feature -- no messing with belts or gears -- just dial up the RPMs you want -- you can even wind up the spindle speed when facing as you move towards the center of a workpiece if you want to.
-- you can contact me via http://aardvark.co.nz/contact /
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say
There is nothing inherently wrong with aluminum. If it had been in greater supply in 1940, then you'd be seeing alot more of the old style equipment made of large aluminum castings. Fact is that it all went into aircraft, and so all machinery in those days got made from cast iron.
If you dont believe me on this, then try ripping into an old hard drive. You wont find a bit of steel indisde of it, yet it is a very high precision instrument.
Most of the shortcuts on these items are invisible until you try to use them. I am reminded of a guy who bought a chineez vise for $40. He it it with a hammer and it shattered into pieces.
I have no problem with the chinese people, my wife is 1/2 chinese. But I do have a problem with losing jobs and getting repaid with crappy merchandise.
My nephew came home with some chinese jackstands - and they will be going in the garbage very soon, soon as I can find time to cut them up.
Here's what you do. Get yourself and old motor and weld a plate to the shaft. You can easily rig this up for making things out of wax and cast anything you want. Got one in my shop right now.
QuickFact : If you can weld, then you can free yourself from cheap imports forever.
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and
You
I doubt it.
Cast iron has better damping characteristics than aluminum. It's also much cheeper, easier to cast, doesn't preferentially corrode when coupled with steel and gives you more mass.
Hard drive frames are small and can be easily die-cast which holds better tolerances and reduces the amount of machining required to finish the part.
Kind of comparing apples to oranges here aren't we?
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