3 in 1

This forum is dedicated to those hobbyists with the 3-in-1 metalworking machines. Mill-Drill-Lathes. Tips, techniques, modification and use of these machines is topical.

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kuzcokelly
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3 in 1

Post by kuzcokelly » Sat Oct 01, 2016 10:25 am

I'm guessing this subject has been pounded to death on this forum but faced with the want to do metal work in a small space and faced with a 3 in 1 being my only option, which is the best overall brand. I want to be able to turn a gun barrel as well as the artwork I want to make. I was looking at the Smithy 1230 LTD and then I found this forum. With all the experience here it's like a brain trust that could save me either tons of grief or quite a bit of trouble and money. I was under the impression the Smithy was American made but it seems as though all machines are made elsewhere...I'm overwhelmed and not sure which way to turn..Any help would be appreciated....

Thanks,

Kuzco

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warmstrong1955
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by warmstrong1955 » Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:35 am

I'm sure you are aware then, that you are making a compromise, and most of that is with milling capabilities.
And you have heard and read, much better to make some more space & buy dedicated machines.
I'll leave it at that.

I still own a Smithy 1340. It's an OK little lathe, less so a mill, but that's not to say I haven't done a lot of good work with it. I chose the 1340 as it was the heaviest of all the 3 in 1's out there. They all suffer from a lack of rigidity, much due to a lack of mass.
I had the same problem as you when I bought it.....not enough space, so I understand.
As far as Smithy, mine is made in China, and I'm sure the 1230 is as well.
Good bunch at Smithy though. Never had a problem getting info or parts when I needed a few from 'em.

Bill
Today's solutions are tomorrow's problems.

toddalin
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by toddalin » Sat Oct 01, 2016 12:47 pm


kuzcokelly
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by kuzcokelly » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:26 pm

warmstrong1955 wrote:I'm sure you are aware then, that you are making a compromise, and most of that is with milling capabilities.
And you have heard and read, much better to make some more space & buy dedicated machines.
I'll leave it at that.

I still own a Smithy 1340. It's an OK little lathe, less so a mill, but that's not to say I haven't done a lot of good work with it. I chose the 1340 as it was the heaviest of all the 3 in 1's out there. They all suffer from a lack of rigidity, much due to a lack of mass.
I had the same problem as you when I bought it.....not enough space, so I understand.
As far as Smithy, mine is made in China, and I'm sure the 1230 is as well.
Good bunch at Smithy though. Never had a problem getting info or parts when I needed a few from 'em.

Bill
Hey Bill,
First off, thank you for taking the time. I read that there is compromise but I don't understand why as I have never milled anything.I built Spiderman for the Spiderman ride at Universal Studio's plus many other features. I built many architectural artistic pieces for malls from Texas to Puerto Rico. I was even blessed enough to build the monument for the Paralympics at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. I have a lot of experience with steel, Aluminum, and stainless steel but have yet to mill a part. I got interested in engraving and guns and found myself needing small tools that aren't off the shelf so I started looking at Mills. The 3-in 1 looked like a great idea to have it all in one small space in the garage. Then I started reading and see the 3 in 1's just bashed to death even at the 3,000 dollar price range. It smashed the idea for me but my funds and space are limited since I broke my neck in 2012 and became disabled. I can't work to earn so I get an allowance of sorts from my wife. I'm just not sure which way to go. Toddalin pointed out the Shopmaster and it looks incredible for what it is but it's 6,000 dollars.. That's a bit out of my price range. Are these things just not accurate so the work is sloppy or is it just too weak and light duty for steel work?

Again I appreciate your help and your time..

Thank you,

Kelly

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warmstrong1955
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by warmstrong1955 » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:54 pm

Main problem with 3 in 1's, especially the mill, is rigidity. At best they are similar to a round column mill.
Another problem, with mine & most, is no powerfeed on the quill. Anything you bore, you turn the feed by hand.

That's not to say you can't build some accurate parts with them. It just takes longer....lighter cuts basically.
About all the parts I built with mine, were steel, and generally alloy steels, including 4140/4142 Q&T, and AR400 & AR500. Tough stuff.
I also do some parts with bronze, aluminum, and plastics....which always seems like a cake walk. :)

Check out the stuff Dale Detirch built with his Smithy: http://daledetrich.com/

Lack of space, limited budget, they will do some beautiful & accurate work, with some tweaking & patience.
And, keep in mind, that the initial cost of the machine is not as much as the tooling you will get....even eventually. You can buy as you go of course. :)
I still use mine as a lathe all the time. I bought a Jet knee mill some time ago, and I don't remember the last time I milled or drilled anything on my Smithy. No comparison to a stand alone mill.

When I bought mine, I had to move stuff out of the garage just to use it. That, and I wasn't sure how much I'd really use it, or for how long.
And for small parts....they can do a good job.

Bill
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spro
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by spro » Sun Oct 02, 2016 1:14 pm

Man! Please understand that guidance was not intended to be slamming the door when you are across the threshold. Valid points are made but another isn't mentioned. If you have one instrument, you learn to play it very well. You play it like nobody else can. You know its "feel" and limitations. So then read here about different 3 in 1 machines which don't cost near that money but beg some improvements along the way.

Torch
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by Torch » Sun Oct 02, 2016 3:20 pm

spro wrote:If you have one instrument, you learn to play it very well. You play it like nobody else can. You know its "feel" and limitations.
+1
spro wrote:So then read here about different 3 in 1 machines which don't cost near that money but beg some improvements along the way.
+1 again.

I have had a 3-in-1 for 5 or 6 years now. I had no real prior machining experience. I paid around $2500 for the machine with taxes, shipping, etc. etc. and have made a number of improvements and tweaks to the basic machine, starting with a Chinese DRO and QCTP. Along the way I have learned it's limitations, and ways to get around many of them.

Compared to a small lathe + separate small mill, the machine can be set up for milling or turning but not both at the same time. To some extent, one can try to plan a project to group all turning steps separately from all milling steps, but sometimes there's just no way to avoid swapping back and forth. It would be so much more convenient to have two separate machines at those times.

On the other hand, for the same (or slightly smaller) footprint as the small lathe + separate small mill, the 3-in-1 offers larger capacity in either mode. It can be more economical to purchase -- not just the initial purchase price, but sometimes other desirable features. For example, a dual-motor machine can be rigged to use the lathe motor as a milling table power feed. A single 3-axis DRO handles both milling and turning -- all that is required is a simple software setting to change one axis from "Diameter" to "Radius" when switching from turning to milling.

So, after all these years: Would I prefer 2 separate machines? Yes. Would I settle for 2 small table-top machines that fit in the 3-in-1 footprint? No. So since I cannot make more space at present, I'll be keeping the 3-in-1 for the foreseeable future.

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BigDumbDinosaur
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by BigDumbDinosaur » Sun Oct 02, 2016 5:25 pm

I've been largely unimpressed with 3-in-1 machines. Of course, if space constraints are severe you go with what will fit in the available space. However, I concur with the others that the lathe functions are okay, but the milling and drilling features tend to be mediocre.
Science makes it known. Engineering makes it work.

kuzcokelly
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by kuzcokelly » Mon Oct 03, 2016 6:32 pm

Thanks for some positive outlook on some aspects of these machines. There seems to be a pretty big market for a tool that is complete crap but it wouldn't be the first time...People bought Yugo's! I'd just like to know what to really step up and buy. Seems like a dual motor unit is necessary. A DRO is very nice to have and the motorized runouts for precision would be very nice. I don't know if that tool exists but it gives me a goal.

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juiceclone
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by juiceclone » Mon Oct 03, 2016 6:49 pm

Yeah.. Unless this is for a business and U need the best, don't worry about the doomsayers . U have a certain amount of space and money and can live with it. There are limitations to any tool you use, and of course there is always a better one somewhere. U will learn what to do and what not, and how to get the best results from what u have. I'm on my second 3 in one, the first was a HarborFright model. This one has the mill midway down the ways, and behaves very well. U can make mods as it suits U. DRO (pretty easy), better tool-holder, good mill vice, etc. etc. .....It's yours and U will tame it.....

sicivicdude
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Re: 3 in 1

Post by sicivicdude » Mon Oct 17, 2016 12:15 pm

I have a Smithy Granite Max 1340 in a small (read: small engines AND small shop) engine machine shop doing mostly ATV and lawnmower work.

I would agree with the assertion that the lathe functions are ok but the mill and drill functions are, lackluster. That is coming from someone who has used proper machine tools (bridgeport, hardinge, more recently HAAS and Fryer) and knows the difference sheer mass can make in a machining environment. If I were spec'ing a new mill or lathe for a machine shop where any sort of throughput were a consideration, I would NOT consider a 3 in 1.

There were a few considerations at home though;

First, most industrial machines run on 3 phase. A VFD or rotary is a power hungry and expensive monster. Some would argue that the price on VFD's has fallen tremendously (I would agree but we are still talking ~$1k all setup for a 3 hp model to run a 2hp mill) but those pieces of machinery are above and beyond the cost of the machine. Most of the 3 in 1 machines run on either 120VAC or 240VAC. My Smithy has a 2hp DC variable speed motor running on 120VAC which has more than enough torque to smoke belts, break tool bits, throw metal across the shop, etc etc.

Second, most industrial machines weigh a ton. Professional shops are setup by millwrights (hence the name....) with specialized equipment for moving these monsters. Even "basic" machinery like a 13 x 40 lathe or a 9 x 42 knee mill can weigh a ton and a half. The machines destined for home use are specially designed for lifting by a single person and some basic equipment. My Granite has pegs built into the base of the lathe bed that extend to hook lifting straps to. There are instructions in the manual on how to use a 2ton engine hoist to lift and set.

Third, industrial machines require a ton of space to set up properly. You need to be able to access all sides, the table must extend completely with enough room at the end to pass by. My shop is tiny, if I had a knee mill set up, it would be the only machine I could have in my shop. I wouldn't have any space to work on anything else.

Fourth, cost. My machine, brand new, cost my $4,900 shipped with a few odds and ends. I have since put probably about $1,500 in tooling with it (vise, ER collets, hold down kits, etc etc) to make it really usable. A quick search over on the local Craigslist will reveal series 1 bridge ports selling for $3,500. Most of the "in use" priced machines will include nothing. You add the same $500-$1k for the VFD or rotary and you're all of the sudden in the same ball park range of the purchase price for the 3 in 1. The same tooling needs apply so you're still at $1,500 for that. A used knee mill from the mid 50's will cost you $6k to get setup and have NO lathe capacity at all. You will need basically the same amount again to setup a similarly sized lathe.

Everyone downs the 3 in 1's but only when one compares them to a "proper" machine shop. It's like comparing a Ferrari to an Accord without considering that the Ferrari is a 2 seater that costs $300k while the Accord will carry 5 people and costs $30k. If you are pressed for money, power, or space then a 3 in 1 may make a LOT of sense.

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