3-1 Machine purchase, what to get?!

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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3-1 Machine purchase, what to get?!

Post by Bartman2017 » Sat Dec 31, 2016 10:48 am

Hello, I am stuck between two machines. A Bolton AT520 and a Busybee B2229, can get either one for $2000 with stand and some tooling. Used but both claim to have very little use. Can someone tell me which of the two are the better machine, and what one has the other doesn`t. Thanks!

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Re: 3-1 Machine purchase, what to get?!

Post by Torch » Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:29 pm

I've never seen the Bolton in person, so I googled it. From the specs and a youtube video I would say it is pretty typical of the type. It may well have been made in the same Chinese factory as the Craftex B2229. The two are very similar in size, with slightly greater swing over bed offered by the Craftex and very slightly greater mill spindle to table by the Bolton.

I notice that Bolton offers several accessories as optional that seem to come with the Craftex as standard. Given that you are buying used, you would want to take stock of what else is included (and what's been lost!). "Some tooling" really doesn't tell us much, and you should bear in mind that the machine is only half the cost of setting up shop -- the tooling often costs as much as the machine! At the minimum, make sure all the change gears are there -- you can't single point threads without change gears.

One thing I noted in the Bolton video -- it is possible to run the lathe motor and the mill motor simultaneously. I believe the Craftex is wired to prevent that (but can be re-wired to allow both). The big advantage of running both motors is you can use the lathe motor as a power feed when milling. This is how my machine is configured and how I prefer things. The downside is you need heavier wiring and fusing. Plus there is a potential safety hazard in having the lathe chuck spinning while one is focused on milling.

Looking at specs: the Bolton lathe only has 6 speeds -- but the top speed is higher than the Craftex even though the B2229 has 7 speeds. So the steps must be bigger on the Bolton. Conversely, the Bolton mill has only 9 steps, from 400 to 2500rpm. The B2229 has 16 that provide a lower low (120) and a higher high (3000). Much better range. I think the Craftex has the advantage overall with regards to speed selections.

I don't know what it is like to get parts for a Bolton. BusyBee is pretty good about stocking common wear parts for their machines.

Without looking at them in person, I'd say the machines are very close in capability. I think ultimately the better value is going to come down to what tooling and accessories are included with each. Good luck in your purchase!

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