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  1. #1

    Default Need some help picking a lathe and mill

    I have read up on most of the threads I can find on here, and some on practical machinist but I just want some up to date opinions on some machines I've been looking at.
    I need to register on a machining forum but for now since I plan on making motorcycle stuff I'll just ask here.

    So for starters I dont know much about machining in general but I've got a little knowledge from watching youtube and reading. The whole power phases thing confuses me a little as well. I just need something I can plug into my 110 outlet and turn down a spacer just little stuff maybe make some risers or just small motorcycle parts.

    I've found a Southbend 36" lathe for sale, kinda near me (Delivery available) says it's in excellent condition, garage looks nice and neat from the pictures. pretty sure it's a 9"x36" old belt drive model. Anyway he's asking $750 I'm not sure about any tooling that comes with it I'd have to ask. I'm not really sure what all tooling I would need in the first place. Is this a good price? Or should I hold out for something else.

    Also there is a old 1980s Central Machinery vertical mill in the next town over he's asking $1250, seems kinda steep to me but comes with a vice and maybe some chucks I would think not sure what else. I'm not sure on the quality but I dont see a lot of milling machines around here cheap. Would you pass or get it?
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    I dont have the room or power to run Industrial size stuff, nor a way to transport anything huge. Also money Is a factor but I'd really like to get into more fabrication and maybe machine some parts to sell after a few years of practice.

    For my measuring devices I'll probably hit up ebay and find some used higher end stuff. Mitutoyo is a name that's come up a lot.

    I appreciate any advice cause I'm brand new at this but would like to learn.

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    Go get the southbend right now today. Forget the central piece of shit. I've been a machinist for 40 years. Old american will run all over imported junk if it's in decent shape. You can get parts for the southbend if needed and there are thousands of people that are familiar with them. As far as electrical do some research on converting 3 phase into single. It is easy to do nowadays with the right equipment. As far as a mill go's you could find a good usable Bridgeport for 1200.00 that would eat that chinese placebo for lunch. Calling that thing a mill is like calling a bb gun a big game rifle. You're right to search ebay for older mics and such, find an old copy of machinerys handbook too. It will help you with the math and material selection. Once you learn how to thread on that lathe a whole new world will open up for you. Enjoy the journey, it's a fuckin blast.

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    Also there is a old 1980s Central Machinery vertical mill in the next town over he's asking $1250, seems kinda steep to me but comes with a vice and maybe some chucks I would think not sure what else. I'm not sure on the quality but I dont see a lot of milling machines around here cheap. Would you pass or get it?
    I don't know a lot abut machining, but if this is the combo lathe/mill thing? Like a dollar store version of the old Smithy deal? I have one of these. I like it. It does a lot, but it doesn't do anything really well. I think I paid 1500 for it brand new, a couple of decades ago. For the money it can't be beat.

    It looks like this:

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    You won't be doing any serious engine work with it, or with any other budget machine. That's right out. But, you can do spacers and little things. No threading. No powerfeed. It is a very basic tool. I like it in spite of this, but you're very limited. Like you, I needed something basic to turn off transmission drums and to sand them, and I didn't know a lot about power or machining, and I could just plug it into the wall. You can move it around easily with an engine hoist.

    I've been looking at used lathes and mills too, actually. The prices are fabulous right now. They're giving them away. So, I dunno if I'd be in a huge hurry.


    In your garage, power, weight, space is what it is all about. There's a fuckton of stuff out there for cheap that you probably don't want. Machinists drool over it, but a lot of it is just too big to be practical for the occasional user in his residential garage. 9x36 is a good size for a lathe and I wouldn't want to move and power something much, if any, larger than that. I'll get yelled at for saying that, but it is true. I wouldn't take a 6 or 8 foot long lathe if you gave it to me.

    Power is more complicated. Everyone's house has 220, but you may have to run an outlet to use it. It is two single phase legs from each side of the box. Your dryer has 220, for example. So does your water heater. So, it is there if you want it. 110 and 220 are Single Phase Power and everyone's home is wired for this.

    Three phase is a different matter entirely. That requires a weird adapter to run with single phase but there's advantages with older machinery here because of a thing called a Variable Frequency Drive. This allows proportional speed control and it gets a little complicated, but not too expensive. Again, you can get a machine so big and with current requirements that are so high that you cause yourself problems. It is an area you should research carefully if you want something much bigger than what you are looking at.

    Weight is a big deal if you don't have a garage with a concrete floor. You can't put a bridgeport in your laundry room and you couldn't move one in there anyway.

    As I said, i've been looking at larger machines lately and I will get shunned and have my man card taken away for saying this, but the truth is - I also have a Chinese mini lathe and I like it a lot. I've done a ton of stuff with it.

    The powerfeed makes for a nice finish. It takes the patience of a saint to use it, but it was new. It plug into any outlet I want. I've made some really, really nice parts for my bike with it and I did it with carbide index tooling from Amazon and Harbor Freight that the real machinists say isn't good for small machines like mine. It is a larger one (7x14) and most of what I want to do or tune fits in it. They do threading.

    I wish I had bought a slightly bigger one (like a 16 or a 20 inch) with power crossfeed now, but that's it. I won't get rid of it if I buy a bigger machine because it is just too handy and the proportional speed control makes it fabulous. I have no other regrets about buying it. It is perfect.

    There's a kid on youtube named "Tim Nummy" who isn't a machinist either, and he does a lot with one.. Including motorcycle stuff, if you want to see someone new really use and modify one of these on the cheap. It may be edifying?

    You just about have to posses some kind of machining capacity to deal with old bikes and there's a lot of ways to get that now, and the prices are great.

    Measuring stuff is cheap, and the quality is good. I rebuilt mine with an "anytime tools" micrometer set and bore mic. Again, nobody else will agree but I like that stuff new. 99% of the time, the guy using the mic is more important than the brand of the mic itself.

    Good luck, bro! Let us know what you end up doing! This kind of stuff fascinates me.
    Last edited by confab; 08-14-2021 at 7:23 AM.

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    PS: One of the truly great things that was lost with the server crash was Farmall's thread on moving heavy machine stuff.

    I wish he'd redo it, but if you have any issue moving your craigslist treasures? He's probably got a method for that.

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    The little South Bend, Atlas, and Craftsman bench top lathes are decent for the rather low prices they bring. They are all old now, so most are pretty worn out, since they do not have hardened ways. You will occasionally find a hobbyist's home lathe with low hours that will give you good service.

    For tooling, a 3-jaw and a 4-jaw chuck would be the minimum. A faceplate would be good, and a collet closer with collets would be Cadillac stuff. The lathe should have a tailstock, and a drill chuck and live and dead centers to fit it would be good to have. You also need a tool post for the cross slide, and a box turret or quick change tool post would again be Cadillac stuff. A steady rest or follow rest is also a nice accessory and needs to be supplied for that particular machine. If it has a lead screw, change gears should be provided, for thread cutting. A lathe without most of the above is not much of a bargain at any price. Do your homework so you know what the above terms mean, and what the pieces look like, before you even go look at the machine.

    And skip the POS Chinese "mill."

    Jim
    Last edited by JBinNC; 08-14-2021 at 7:59 AM.

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    750 is excellent since small lathes tend to go high and you can always resell for more. I'd grab it. The small lathe shown in the following pics is comparable and you can see how I handled mine but the following info explains the principles. Lathes are deceptively heavy and tip easily. I got the small lathe on a crude wooden box cabinet I didn't want so I welded the frame you see, but the SB you're looking at presumably has the stock cast legs so the following info should help you handle it easily.

    Read about VFDs (cheap and run your three phase stuff off 240V single phase) . Little placebo junk will just piss you off. VFD + the stock three phase motor is smoother than single phase (relevant to cut quality) and VFDs allow electronic speed control throughout the cut so you can increase RPM as you get to the center of a cut.

    Here are some of my pics from a PM thread. Google "moving a Bridgeport" for many ways to move machinery. It's easy to put any machine on wheels or roll on pipe.

    https://www.practicalmachinist.com/v...2/#post2641882

    I don't pay riggers and do move lathes/mills/other tools in a very safe manner by bolting "axles" or plain beams or pipe beneath them so they cannot tip. See the milling machine pics above. Heavy llthread permits easy lifting of heavy machinery (buy the good industrial stuff, I use my local hydraulic shop as they've all sorts of goodies cheap).

    Spend an evening reading. I built my "kit" and add to it. The method even impressed my jaded pro machinist bros. I'll poke around for the pics but I just swapped PCs so they may be buried.

    Note how lathes are built. They have anchor bolt holes beneath the headstock and tailstock ends. I use a variety of jacks and wooden blocks (I fucking love wooden blocks and even bought a 6x6 to saw into ~2ft sections as I use those instead of jack stands etc) to support all sorts of stuff (including 40ft shipping containers) for moves. I use the steel channel shown under the mill (and lathe but welded to pipe skids) but any suitable shape will do.

    Jack one end of lathe just high enough (use wood between jack and lathe bed because it doesn't slip like steel on iron and offers good grip for the jack) to bolt the crossbeam to the lathe base. With that attached the lathe cannot tip over. (I'm big on "cannot" when it comes to tipping or falling.) Then jack it further and block beneath the outboard ends of the crossbars leaving room to bolt on heavy industrial casters (or have simple pipe sockets welded to the beam for scaffolding casters which are only about a hundred bucks for four). Don't attach the casters yet. Lift the other end of the lathe and bolt on that beam first. Then attach casters.

    Your lathe, mill or fat chick is now stable, safe and mobile. Because you chose a beam width to suit a car trailer (and brought smooth steel ramps made from whatever was handy) you can easily winch the machine onto the trailer manually (I use a Wyeth-Scott puller but whatever works, and snatch blocks are your friends). Tie it down securely with 2" cargo straps etc and KNOW don't guess how to tie it down without damage to the machine which is simple if you think first.

    The result is better than conventional rigging because you can winch your machine into areas forklifts cannot reach. (BTW machinery skates rely on gravity and require perfect floors. They're famously dangerous and I don't use them. )

    I'm old and nearly crippled (not from moving machinery) yet move all sorts of stuff easily for cheap. The big lathe we moved for my gunsmithbro was forked onto his borrowed trailer with a rotten wooden deck and safely moved off that (spreading loads using pipe skids ain't just for the oil field) across a weak wooden shop floor to its well-supported destination by simple manual rigging. We took advantage of one doorway by bridging it with pipe to anchor to. The method scales of course and for something big enough I'd use old mobile home axles or rear spindles off a front wheel drive car. Rims roll fine without tires and rims don't go flat.

    Take a close look at the pics. The mill was lifted and blocked (long pry bars or "Klien" bars and shims will get ya started) then I bolted downward-facing angle to that (an old trick) with enough clearance for my pallet jack (cheap used and can be rented) for final positioning. The angle extends beyond the mill and beneath the channel. Threads have plenty of leverage allowing easy lifting of the mill until firmly secured to the angle.

    When we go to move machinery we bring cordless drills and impacts because we have them but one corded drill is fine for adding holes as needed. I carry lots of small pilot hole bits (1/8" to start) , larger bits and a Unibit or two because they work so well.

    Once ya have the idea it's not high effort. Don't get rid of your kit since you'll eventually want to move other stuff or rearrange your shop. It's a lifetime tool.

    You can rent hydraulic drop deck trailers for even more convenience: https://dropdeckdepot.com/our-trailers/

    Study pays off so study. New steel is cheap enough for the cross beams but Fecesbook Marketplace and Craigslist often have deals on used steel shapes you can mod to suit. Since you're ready for machine tools you either have a basic welder (not strictly required but handy to mix odd shapes of steel) or access to one and crude metalworking is familiar.

    You certainly CAN move heavy machine tools over a dirt floor then place and level them. I'd leave them on their dollies and block with wood then shim with (for example) pieces of steel sheet. Imagine a deck of playing cards with cards removed or added to suit. Some early industrial lathes were fitted with large cast iron wheels for mobility.

    Visit South Bend groups and hobby machinist forums, and the glorious Practical Machinist forum (the metrology and VFD sections are excellent).

    I'll add pics and edit the post better later on but this should get ya started.

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    Here's some reading that may help
    http://www.mermac.com/advicenew.html

    And I agree with Hubbard on the Southbend, grab it, if it's in decent shape it's definitely worth it.

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    PSS: I dunno where you're shopping? But failbook is LOADED with stuff right now. I mean there's a LOT.

    Look in the "Marketplace" and you can drill down by distance with the filters.

    I've never seen so much machine crap, so close, for so cheap.

    It's totally a buyers market.. Anything you want.

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    As far as moving heavy shit keep in mind the egyptians built the pyramids with nothing more than desire to please the pharaoh. a little fore thought and some old forktubes can move some heavy ass shit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by confab View Post
    PSS: I dunno where you're shopping? But failbook is LOADED with stuff right now. I mean there's a LOT.

    Look in the "Marketplace" and you can drill down by distance with the filters.

    I've never seen so much machine crap, so close, for so cheap.

    It's totally a buyers market.. Anything you want.
    One of the nice things about cnc and lazy people is there is not much demand for anything that requires thought or physical labor, so the things that built america are fairly cheap now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hubbard View Post
    One of the nice things about cnc and lazy people is there is not much demand for anything that requires thought or physical labor, so the things that built america are fairly cheap now.
    Oh yeah... Totally agree.

    I see brands like Clausing, and they look very good. Obviously not production machines.. For a couple thousand bucks. It's absolutely lousy with Bridgeports. Surface grinders. Power hones. Anything you want!

    Something has clearly changed, and changed a lot.

    I dunno what, exactly? I am suspecting a generation gap.

    I'm GenX and some of my generation, and most of every generation which came before, had a basic understanding of how things worked and basic skills which were almost imputed from one generation to the next. This was true even if they didn't use them daily.

    My father was an engineer. But he could do plumbing. He built a garage. He could do roofing. Upgrade the service in the house. Etc.

    That is not the case now.

    While there are a good number of very talented GenM and Z people out there, more are not and couldn't care less. Even if they did care? They lack the prerequisite skills necessary to make learning things like this hobby easy for them.

    That is my theory, anyway. The evidence is anecdotal, but it seems to hold true thus far.
    Last edited by confab; 08-14-2021 at 9:36 AM.

  12. #12

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    Thanks for the advice everyone! Here are some pictures of that lathe.

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    Some good info from everyone here. As you can see he's got it on a wooden table not the cast legs. My dad has a trailer and he said if I ever need help picking up a bike to ask so maybe he'll help me move a mill. My garage is roughly 20'x25' and concrete floored, right in front of the driveway so easy access. If it doesn't sell I will try to pick it up here soon. It's kinda closer to Ohio but it's just a couple hour drive for me.

    As for the mill I just saw that it was a little bit bigger than the other Harbor Freight mini mills floating around here and figured it might be worth looking at for the price. I have lots of HF tools and they work good. Everywhere I look about the Harbor Freight mills its 50/50 with people saying buy them and the other half saying they're junk.

    I can hold out for a better deal on a mill as I'm in no rush I've still got lots of work to do building shelves and workbenches for the garage.

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    PSSS: More on the Chinese mini lathe and mill. I feel like I didn't do it justice with the description.

    Nobody ever describes these well and I didn't either.

    I think people see them and they have a small mill head and a lathe chuck and a tailstock and they don't know why this wouldn't be a good choice? It looks like it should be? Right? It's got all the stuff? So WHY isn't it a good choice? And then they're confused.

    There's never enough said about these. Frankly, I think so few people own them that nobody knows what to say to someone who doesn't know machining and has never used any machine tool.

    The Truth: It's good.. It may be a good choice, depending. I know I'm not selling mine! But it is not a not a machine tool.

    They're great for shaping things. They're a shaper. Machinists look at something and they think: "I want to take a thou off that shaft." "I want to mill that warped head flat." etc. This is not the machine for that.

    But sometimes I look at something and think: "I want an axle locator for my new round swingarm, with a hole in the center and a square section to fit into the adjuster recess." The tolerances of the part aren't particularly important, so it is perfect for that and it is quick.

    The specific reasons it is not a real machine tool:

    1) They lack the rigidity to do precision work.

    2) They lack the production tolerances and the engineering to do precision work.

    3) They lack things like powerfeed and threading capability to make nice parts and complex parts.

    4) The materials used are low quality, so they may wear quickly.

    Their capacities are also relatively low compared to dedicated machines.

    Because of these shortcomings, you will outgrow them quickly and will want better, more precise, machines. (Which are cheap now)

    The cheap combo machines are good for roughing out shapes. And if the shape you want is the axle adjuster example above? They're fabulous.
    Last edited by confab; 08-14-2021 at 10:09 AM.

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    This thread survived: http://www.chopcult.com/forum/showthread.php?t=49394

    Machine tool prices are highly regional so be happy when ya live where the early variety are long obsolete for production. My bros WWII era American Pacemakers make him money every week because of their size but the small manual stuff isn't profitable enough to keep except for specialty toolroom lathes and much of it doesn't spin fast enough for modern tooling in production use where time is money.

    OTOH I live in the Southeast which never industrialized except in a few small areas and prices remain silly though we did well scoring during the last recession.

    Re shelving and benches, it's worth making the benches roll tool (wood prices are silly these days but steel remains reasonable, get multiple quotes when buying new). If everything that touches the floor is mobile it makes life much more convenient. Shelves work better with lips so mine are upward-facing angle with plywood inside (you can have steel sheared to size where it's worthwhile).

    Study how machine shops store tooling, which is usually on carts near the machine. Also note typical practice for power is drops from the ceiling (add outlet then use a drop or a cord reel as ya like). SOOW cord is typical for drops. Refer to electricians for advanced info.

    Keep an eye out for used forklift jacks. They're easy to rebuild and the very common OTC style works great for machinery. Ya can rent them if ya need one immediately.

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    I have the same lathe. as long as everything works, grab it. Thats a good price. I also have the same mill you're looking at. Ive added a table feed to it. Between the 2 machines I can do more than most people. I live in British Columbia Canada. It not like living in the US where machining stuff is always for sale. But Ive done quite well between Craigslist and FB when it comes to tooling, fixturing and measuring. As far as the mill goes, grab it and start learning how to use it. Save your pennies until a bigger mill comes up for sale. As far as moving any of the 2, I use an engine picker. Works absolutely fine for these sizes of machine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hubbard View Post
    As far as moving heavy shit keep in mind the egyptians built the pyramids with nothing more than desire to please the pharaoh. a little fore thought and some old forktubes can move some heavy ass shit.
    And a whip.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by confab View Post
    Oh yeah... Totally agree.

    I see brands like Clausing, and they look very good. Obviously not production machines.. For a couple thousand bucks. It's absolutely lousy with Bridgeports. Surface grinders. Power hones. Anything you want!

    Something has clearly changed, and changed a lot.

    I dunno what, exactly? I am suspecting a generation gap.

    I'm GenX and some of my generation, and most of every generation which came before, had a basic understanding of how things worked and basic skills which were almost imputed from one generation to the next. This was true even if they didn't use them daily.

    My father was an engineer. But he could do plumbing. He built a garage. He could do roofing. Upgrade the service in the house. Etc.

    That is not the case now.

    While there are a good number of very talented GenM and Z people out there, more are not and couldn't care less. Even if they did care? They lack the prerequisite skills necessary to make learning things like this hobby easy for them.

    That is my theory, anyway. The evidence is anecdotal, but it seems to hold true thus far.
    cell phones and facebook will wipe out an entire generation of people . think I'm wrong? next time you're in a crowd of people look around.I bet in 15 years babies will be born with their heads tilted toward their chest.

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    Interesting that you mention generational change. That concerns me very much, actually. Not just the lack of ability and chopper skill, but the void of ignorance about basic things that accompanies it.

    Much can be said about the Boomers, and a lot is. It has even become a term of derision among the internet GenM's and Z's. "Okay Boomer"

    Like that.

    It is an attempt to paint the entire generation of boomers as backward and unable to understand the high tech nature of the world we live in today.

    But if there's one thing I have learned about the boomer generation, it is that you can't fuck them on a deal. They won't let you.

    You propose something stupid and they just know too much to fall for it. They know how the electricity arrives at the switch. They know how the water gets into the house and out of it again. They know they have to commute to work, and what a silly idea will do to them on a weekly basis. They understand inflation and why too much of it is very, very bad. I could go on and on about this, but it is sufficient to say that they know a lot about the world around them and how things work. Their calculus is measured in the gas tank and on the dinner table.
    It is hard to fuck them over because of this.

    I do not see this level of recognition about basic things among large segments of the Gen M and Z population.

    Their mindset is almost revolutionary and when you couple that with sheer ignorance of the type I touched on above? I'm concerned about a future with them running it.

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    And PS: A bunch of that slick, new, high tech stuff? Isn't really new tech at all.

    It is old tech that programmable logic gave a slick, new interface. So it looks much more revolutionary than it really is.

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    could any of this have to do with the fact that us boomers didn't spend every waking hour trying to get noticed on a chinese communication toy? I spent my childhood making models and building other shit using my imagination as a tool. From what I have seen from the new crowd at work they have no imagination whatsoever.

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