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Bills72sj

Ordered a mini lathe today

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I have been wanting to machine my own rims for some time now. Over the years, I have acquired one FULL model box of rims and 3 Full model boxes of tires. My problem has been that most of the rims do not fit most of the tires. Add to the fact that I build day-two rides that really need wider rims for bigger tires in the rear. For awhile, I sanded the backs out of some deep dish spares to add to a pair of wheels to accomplish the look. The problem is I keep running out of deep dish donors to sacrifice. Way back, I got a set of after market wheels with aluminum hoops. I had a hell of a time gently changing the depth of the step inside to obtain the desired offset with a rototool (what a PITA). I really wanted a mini lathe but had a hard time justifying $650 (and up) for a decent start and am very wary of the cheap chinese one with a 24W (or less) motor. Well today I ran across one with a 60W motor with enough features to get me started for $261. Since all I basically want it to do is turn short chunks of aluminum tubing into wheel hoops, I hope it is good enough. We shall see.

Mini lathe.jpg

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It took only a couple minutes to find an unboxing and review of this exact same model on youtube. (60w mini lathe unboxing)

It was a little shocking to see that the overall length of the machine was about the same length as the reviewer's hand.

It was sitting on one of those green mats with 1" squares. It looked to be 9-10" long.

The review speaks for itself. The comments below the video were brutal.

In closing, the Chinese distributor for this lathe probably became a millionaire because of this product alone.

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I bought the 7 x 10" version from hf 10 years ago and I haven't even plugged it in yet.... ? I bought it on sale for $369. and some change.....

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I reckon that you Guardian Angel intervened. You dodged a high-speed projectile. This lathe was a POS. See the video.

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You get what you pay for when you buy cheap from an unknown manufacturer. 

Here are some thoughts on what to look for.  Motor:  Watts is only one factor.  For consistent machine speeds and torque you are best off with a variable speed DC motor.  It also helps to be a belt drive with at least two different size pulleys.  Some times you need high RPM.  Other times you need torque.  Also, an infinitely variable speed controller is necessary to control the rotation speed.  On smaller parts you need more RPM and less on large diameter parts.  Think of it this way.  At a given rpm, the outside of a circle is travelling as a faster speed than the inside.  A variable speed unit that you can control on the fly means you can turn across the face of a large piece.  Start at the edge with a speed that gives you a good chip and increase the speed as the diameter gets smaller.  This way you get a smooth face.  All of this changes when you change type and grade of metal.  If you are going to use aluminum only, it is very important.  There are literally hundreds of aluminum alloys and all machine differently. 

Second is size.  Having a bed that is longer than any part you can imagine making will give you room to work around all your pieces. Remember, if all you make are rims, you will need to be able to bore the center with a drill bit and finish it with a boring bar.  This means you need to mount the piece in the chuck and the drill bit in the tailstock and have a bed long enough to handle all of that.    As your skill grows, I can guarantee you will want to make more than just rims.   While you are considering length of bed also consider the travel of the cross slide.  Some tools work better on the back side and others on the front.  Being able to mount a tool on the front and back at the same time, can save setup time.  Example: when I cut off a series of discs, I have a parting tool that works on the back side. I keep it mounted because that saves me the hassle of changing tools after every cut. 

Next is the accessories. No lathe will ever come with every possible tool and attachment you need as your skill progresses.  Having a manufacturer with a broad range of tool and jigs Is a plus in the long run. This also begs the question of how long the manufacture has been in business.  Will they be there when you want other tools or parts that may ware out? By the way, over the last 10 years I have spend more on accessories than I did on the original lathe.  

So, I guess what I am saying is the machining rims sounds easy and simple.  It isn't.  It takes some skill.  Those skills are easily learned but if you buy a cheap machine you are quite likely to give up in frustration and you will have wasted your money.  Save your money and get a good machine.  It will make the job easier and you can grow with it.  

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Pete hit the nail right on the head Bill. 

Also if you buy an off brand, when you go to unload it for a better one you might be stuck. 

Edited by 1930fordpickup

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38 minutes ago, Pete J. said:

... if you buy a cheap machine you are quite likely to give up in frustration and you will have wasted your money.  Save your money and get a good machine. ....  

I count my blessings every time I use it, my late father (a pro machinist since 1937) gave me one he put together, including the two-drawer little bench it's bolted to. Variable speed and with a huge variety of cutters he carved from scratch. The motor is bolted to a door hinge, so it can be tilted up to change the belt from one diameter setting to the other two options (I've never switched to those), but it's heavy enough to hold itself down while running. Nothing in this lathe's workings are a frustration, glad for that!

homebuilt minilathe.jpg

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Thank you gentlemen for the advice. I can see where I could grow into more tooling to make a larger variety of parts. It is just right now I do not have the budget or the space to get a larger and/or nicer one. An alternate short term option would be to find someone who has a lathe to make a custom set of hoops from time to time. But I don't know how I would go about that. Is there a machinist community like there is for 3D printing like Makerbot?

Edited by Bills72sj
grammar

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You guys ever check this place out????... 

www.Mini-Lathe.com 

 

 

Edited by Deuces ll

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8 hours ago, Russell C said:

I count my blessings every time I use it, my late father (a pro machinist since 1937) gave me one he put together, including the two-drawer little bench it's bolted to. Variable speed and with a huge variety of cutters he carved from scratch. The motor is bolted to a door hinge, so it can be tilted up to change the belt from one diameter setting to the other two options (I've never switched to those), but it's heavy enough to hold itself down while running. Nothing in this lathe's workings are a frustration, glad for that!

homebuilt minilathe.jpg

Your dad gave you a gift with great love. I can see him in my mind working long hours in a machine shop to create a gift for his son.   That is an amazing looking tool.  I see many of the traits of some of the best built machines I am familiar with.  I am especially taken by the drilling attachment.  I may try and copy that for my machine.  Your father was a true master craftsman. 

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12 hours ago, Pete J. said:

You get what you pay for when you buy cheap from an unknown manufacturer. 

Here are some thoughts on what to look for.  Motor:  Watts is only one factor.  For consistent machine speeds and torque you are best off with a variable speed DC motor.  It also helps to be a belt drive with at least two different size pulleys.  Some times you need high RPM.  Other times you need torque.  Also, an infinitely variable speed controller is necessary to control the rotation speed.  On smaller parts you need more RPM and less on large diameter parts.  Think of it this way.  At a given rpm, the outside of a circle is travelling as a faster speed than the inside.  A variable speed unit that you can control on the fly means you can turn across the face of a large piece.  Start at the edge with a speed that gives you a good chip and increase the speed as the diameter gets smaller.  This way you get a smooth face.  All of this changes when you change type and grade of metal.  If you are going to use aluminum only, it is very important.  There are literally hundreds of aluminum alloys and all machine differently. 

Second is size.  Having a bed that is longer than any part you can imagine making will give you room to work around all your pieces. Remember, if all you make are rims, you will need to be able to bore the center with a drill bit and finish it with a boring bar.  This means you need to mount the piece in the chuck and the drill bit in the tailstock and have a bed long enough to handle all of that.    As your skill grows, I can guarantee you will want to make more than just rims.   While you are considering length of bed also consider the travel of the cross slide.  Some tools work better on the back side and others on the front.  Being able to mount a tool on the front and back at the same time, can save setup time.  Example: when I cut off a series of discs, I have a parting tool that works on the back side. I keep it mounted because that saves me the hassle of changing tools after every cut. 

Next is the accessories. No lathe will ever come with every possible tool and attachment you need as your skill progresses.  Having a manufacturer with a broad range of tool and jigs Is a plus in the long run. This also begs the question of how long the manufacture has been in business.  Will they be there when you want other tools or parts that may ware out? By the way, over the last 10 years I have spend more on accessories than I did on the original lathe.  

So, I guess what I am saying is the machining rims sounds easy and simple.  It isn't.  It takes some skill.  Those skills are easily learned but if you buy a cheap machine you are quite likely to give up in frustration and you will have wasted your money.  Save your money and get a good machine.  It will make the job easier and you can grow with it.  


Although I have no plans to ever do my own machining, I appreciate Pete’s answer here. It was an interesting read. Thanks for taking the time to write it. It is this kind of sharing of knowledge that makes this forum so great!

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13 hours ago, Pete J. said:

Your dad gave you a gift with great love. I can see him in my mind working long hours in a machine shop to create a gift for his son.   That is an amazing looking tool.  I see many of the traits of some of the best built machines I am familiar with.  I am especially taken by the drilling attachment.  I may try and copy that for my machine.  Your father was a true master craftsman. 

In doing a Google search for just the words on the spindle, it appears to be an older version of the "Taig Micro Lathe II" kit with a lever-acting Taig drilling tailstock and a Black & Decker power adapter (identical to the box item shown here). Looks like he supplied one of his own motors (he had a ton of those).

Yep, my dad was absolutely the pro at this kind of work. He did the rear wheels for my Lambo 300 which cured the hideous plastic sink area problem with that kit's rear wheels, and he did the outer rims for my Lambo Flambé.

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I've had a Sherline lathe for a number of years now.  Nice machine.  I use it mostly for turning sirens and extinguishers for my apparatus models but I have done some other minor stuff with it as well.  Sherline is US made.

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I wish I knew more about machining. I made something in metal shop in high school over 50 years ago, don't remember any of the processes. I bought a small lathe with a mill attachment and it sat for years and I traded it for a computer part. Always regretted that. A few years ago a friend asked me if I wanted a mini lathe that he was not going to use, he has a nice CNC machine. So I took this little lathe and once again I have not used it. It came with some tools and stuff, all of which are alien to me. 

Not planning of letting this one go but I also have no idea when I will ever learn to use the thing. My friend with the CNC machine is not a machinist either and all he uses his CNC for is all programmed out and all he does is secure some material into it and press GO. Pretty amazing actually.

The crazy part is that when I was 19 I worked in a machine shop. I started sweeping and maybe cutting off stock on a large band saw. They were just beginning to train me to set up some actual machine work when I got a draft notice. It was 1966 after all. 

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2 hours ago, Bill J said:

I wish I knew more about machining. I made something in metal shop in high school over 50 years ago, don't remember any of the processes. I bought a small lathe with a mill attachment and it sat for years and I traded it for a computer part. Always regretted that. A few years ago a friend asked me if I wanted a mini lathe that he was not going to use, he has a nice CNC machine. So I took this little lathe and once again I have not used it. It came with some tools and stuff, all of which are alien to me. 

Not planning of letting this one go but I also have no idea when I will ever learn to use the thing. My friend with the CNC machine is not a machinist either and all he uses his CNC for is all programmed out and all he does is secure some material into it and press GO. Pretty amazing actually.

The crazy part is that when I was 19 I worked in a machine shop. I started sweeping and maybe cutting off stock on a large band saw. They were just beginning to train me to set up some actual machine work when I got a draft notice. It was 1966 after all. 

Bill, what kind of lathe is it.  Sometimes it can be converted back to manual.  Using manual to start is a good way to learn how the machine works.  Later you can get into the CNC stuff.

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I bought one of those cheap lathes. Pluses it has a nice bed and feed movements, problems are the chuck is extremely small and the single speed it will burn plastics because it turns too fast.  So I hooked mine up to a old train transformer so I can adjust the speed.  The lathe is very weak in motor torque though and you can really only turn plastics and wood

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As with many things these days, there must be high quality model-sized used lathes from individuals becoming available. Here are a few questions:

1. Would they be available at reasonable prices since there is probably declining demand for them now than in the past?

2. Has anyone created a guide to desirable brands and what to look for? I have no experience with this but is there a way for a newbie to evaluate whether parts are excessively worn?

3. Are there commercially-used ones that become out-of-spec for their high precision needs but would be just fine for us model builders? How would we find them?

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1 hour ago, chepp said:

As with many things these days, there must be high quality model-sized used lathes from individuals becoming available. Here are a few questions:

1. Would they be available at reasonable prices since there is probably declining demand for them now than in the past?

2. Has anyone created a guide to desirable brands and what to look for? I have no experience with this but is there a way for a newbie to evaluate whether parts are excessively worn?

3. Are there commercially-used ones that become out-of-spec for their high precision needs but would be just fine for us model builders? How would we find them?

 

I purchased my Sherline lathe on eBay six years ago for $500 or so shipped, so perhaps recent pandemic influenced events have made more available on the secondary market. Prices will vary, so check the usual places in your area. I recall two being available via craigslist locally when I purchased mine, but one had full electronic controls and was priced in the $800+ range IIRC.

Sherline makes an excellent quality product, and the old adage "you get what you pay for" certainly holds true in my experience with my (used) lathe.

This topic has been discussed quite a few times, so perhaps a moderator could merge them all for easy future reference:

 

Edited by Casey

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Harbor Freight is good for disposable stuff, but in most cases you cannot get replacement parts from them for tools.  The tools drift in and out of availability, they probably switch manufacturing facilities often and when they do the "new" facility redesigns the item.  I wouldn't buy anything there that rotates at high speed, or supports a lot of weight.

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Just now, Mark said:

Harbor Freight is good for disposable stuff, but in most cases you cannot get replacement parts from them for tools.  The tools drift in and out of availability, they probably switch manufacturing facilities often and when they do the "new" facility redesigns the item.  I wouldn't buy anything there that rotates at high speed, or supports a lot of weight.

Bingo!  Last year I did an equipment assessment for Facebook Labs in Redmond, Washington. This is a huge multi building complex where they are inventing and designing a new generation of optics for the online experience.

Anyway, we went through the labs and shops cataloging all the equipment and assessing if it was fit for use. There was one large shop full of equipment sourced at Harbor Freight. I couldn’t believe the stuff there was actually available for sale in the USA. Not UL certified, missing electric shut offs and safeties and even physical guards. I red tagged nearly the entire shop for removal!

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Believe it or not, on occasion you can find USA made items at Harbor Freight (a guy I knew used to call HF "Snap-On East").  A while back, they had Mag-Lite flashlights there.  My older brother wheeled and dealed in used tools, he gave me a Mag-Lite out of a bunch of stuff he bought.  Best flashlight I ever had, and you can get parts for them.  I should have snagged another one when HF had them.

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9 minutes ago, Tom Geiger said:

Bingo!  Last year I did an equipment assessment for Facebook Labs in Redmond, Washington. This is a huge multi building complex where they are inventing and designing a new generation of optics for the online experience.

Anyway, we went through the labs and shops cataloging all the equipment and assessing if it was fit for use. There was one large shop full of equipment sourced at Harbor Freight. I couldn’t believe the stuff there was actually available for sale in the USA. Not UL certified, missing electric shut offs and safeties and even physical guards. I red tagged nearly the entire shop for removal!

You have to watch, sometimes employees take the guards off of tools because they "get in the way" or are "too much trouble to bother with".  When I worked for a construction company in the Eighties, we used to joke that you could tell the carpenters from the laborers by counting their fingers.  But it wasn't funny...most of the carpenters were minus at least part of one finger.

Edited by Mark
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10 hours ago, Pete J. said:

Bill, what kind of lathe is it.  Sometimes it can be converted back to manual.  Using manual to start is a good way to learn how the machine works.  Later you can get into the CNC stuff.

Pete the one i have is a manual lathe. My buddy had bought it, used,  to try some machining and ended up buying a CNC machine. Since he was not using the manual lathe he gave it to me. I sure can't complain but I need to find way to learn how to use it. 

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