Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

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dbfletcher
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Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by dbfletcher » Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:31 am

I'm about to purchase my first metal lathe. I am a total newbie but think this will be a great new hobby/skill for me.

I think i have narrowed it down between these two Little Machine Shop machines:

https://littlemachineshop.com/5200

and

https://littlemachineshop.com/3595

I'm most likely going to get the "deluxe" version of one of those machines. My question to you all is... is the slight increase in working envelope of the 3595 and the "double" the power of the motor worth the $1200 in additional cost of the 3595? Or would that money be better spent on tooling and accessories? I dont want to get something i'll outgrow quickly... but I'm also in the point of my life that the money isnt really the greatest factor. I dont want to spend money foolishly, but on the flip side... if the larger machine is worth it just in greater rigidity and power, i'd probably rather start there then get the smaller version and kick myself in a year or two for struggling with limitations in the smaller machine. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I also intend on getting a mill in a year or so.. and then anther year down the road convert it to a cnc machine (leading candidate for that is the Grizzly G0704 right now)

Thanks,

Doug

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:35 am

Mini-lathes are a pain to use. You can do good work with them, but you need to know what you're in for. You really want a quick change gear box for threading.

Personally, I think 12 x 36 is a good place to start, if you can manage the cost.

If you stick it out and go with a mini-lathe, you will want Lex Liberato's DVD's, from swarfrat.com. Excellent material. He actually made a quick change box for a mini-lathe.

A lot of people claim a lathe is the first machine you should get. I disagree completely. I find the mill a lot more useful.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

dbfletcher
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by dbfletcher » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:58 am

SteveHGraham wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:35 am
A lot of people claim a lathe is the first machine you should get. I disagree completely. I find the mill a lot more useful.
Well that just figures... A month ago I was sure I would be getting a mill first (Grizzly G0704)... but you comment above is what I kept hearing over and over... you should get a lathe first.

I'm not sure how much threading I'll be doing.. but it is something I want to be able to do. How important is a thread dial? I'm assuming that on machines that dont have one, your only option is not not disengage the half nut while your are threading.... ie.. make a cut... back your tool out, change feed direction.. go back to beginning of cut, reset you depth and make another pass... repeat until done. Or is there another way on machines with out thread dials?

Are VFD generally considered a plus or a minus with lathes? It seems most site that have them push it as a plus.. but i keep seeing other say a lathe with a gearbox is much better? It is hard to tell who is telling the truth. Is it one of those situations where whatever the persons uses first is what they always tend to recommend?

Thanks,

Doug

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SteveM
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveM » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:12 am

dbfletcher wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:58 am
Are VFD generally considered a plus or a minus with lathes? It seems most site that have them push it as a plus.. but i keep seeing other say a lathe with a gearbox is much better?
The upsides to the VFD is being able to run a 3-phase motor and being able to pick any speed.

The downside is that on slow speeds, you don't have the torque you get with a gearbox or pulley system.

If you are using a VFD on a machine with pulleys (e.g. a lathe with pulleys in the headstock) then you will have the best of both worlds.

If you don't, you might want to consider setting up a 2-speed countershaft for a high/low range.

Steve

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:27 am

I have a variable-speed mill and a 12-speed lathe. I don't find variable speed to be a big deal. Machinists lived without it for decades and did fine work. It's nice to have on a drill press, though. Changing belts gets old.

You will have to have a threading dial if you want to thread. Even mini-lathes have them. Without it, you will have to do a great deal of work on every pass to find the right location, and you will probably not succeed.

I prefer a mill to a lathe for a number of reasons. You can't make straight cuts on a lathe without a milling attachment, and these attachments are pretty feeble. If you want to drill things on a lathe, you have to mount them to the spindle somehow, and because you can't move the drill bit, you have to remount the work every time you drill in a new location. With a mill, you just move the table and drill.

You can make a lot of round cuts on a mill, using a rotary table.

I don't understand why people recommend lathes over mills. Much less versatile. I think it's one of those machining myths that appear for no reason and never get shot down, like, "A lathe is the only machine that can reproduce itself." You can't make a lathe with a lathe! No way.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

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SteveM
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveM » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:32 am

dbfletcher wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:31 am
I'm about to purchase my first metal lathe. I am a total newbie but think this will be a great new hobby/skill for me.
I think i have narrowed it down between these two Little Machine Shop machines:
https://littlemachineshop.com/5200
and
https://littlemachineshop.com/3595
For less than that "deluxe" model, I sold my dad's Clausing 5914 (12x36) in excellent shape, with four chucks, faceplate, dog drive, QC toolpost with more than 20 toolholders, a pile of insert toolholders (maybe 30-40 of them) and four cases with hundreds of inserts.

Only reason I didn't take it was that I couldn't get it into my basement.

I understand the "buy new" philosophy, but if you aren't looking at the used market, you might be missing something good.

Steve

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SteveM
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveM » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:35 am

Looking at that compound, it looks like an interrupted cut could snap the compound right off.

See the area circled in red:
3595.480.jpg
Steve

dbfletcher
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by dbfletcher » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:23 am

Thanks for the reply's all. I guess I will go back and revisit the Grizzly's. I was happy that I had it narrowed down to two machines... but after everyone's comments I'll probably throw the grizzlys back in the mix.

John Hasler
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by John Hasler » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:07 pm

dbfletcher wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:58 am
I'm not sure how much threading I'll be doing.. but it is something I want to be able to do. How important is a thread dial? I'm assuming that on machines that dont have one, your only option is not not disengage the half nut while your are threading.... ie.. make a cut... back your tool out, change feed direction.. go back to beginning of cut, reset you depth and make another pass... repeat until done. Or is there another way on machines with out thread dials?
Yes. make a threading dial. It's fairly simple.
Are VFD generally considered a plus or a minus with lathes? It seems most site that have them push it as a plus.. but i keep seeing other say a lathe with a gearbox is much better? It is hard to tell who is telling the truth. Is it one of those situations where whatever the persons uses first is what they always tend to recommend?
A VFD is a plus but it only provides a limited speed range so you still need gears or belts. A DC motor with a feedback controller is much better. Full torque at 20 rpm (with backgear) is nice.

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SteveM
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveM » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:26 pm

If you want to see what we sold for $2,500, go here:
https://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/m ... -ct-335075

For $2,000, I can get a nice South Bend heavy 10 that will take off in one pass what that grizzly will need five to do.

What you can get in your area may be vastly different - people from Texas and Washington have told me there's nothing there. I looked up lathe in Wisconsin and it came back with 10, 9 of them wood lathes and the last one, an old South Bend 9C for $2,000 (I sold one like if for $400).

You can tell that I lean towards the "buy a used one" side :-)

Steve

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:21 pm

Buying used only works when you have an experienced person to take with you. There is a lot of worn-out garbage out there.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

dbfletcher
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by dbfletcher » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:25 pm

SteveHGraham wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:21 pm
Buying used only works when you have an experienced person to take with you. There is a lot of worn-out garbage out there.
That very nicely sums up my reasoning. I'm fine buying used equipment when i understand it and feel very comfortable with how it works.

When it is something new to me... i dont want the machine to get in the way of me learning how to use it. If i buy a worn out machine or even a new one that needs a lot of TLC just to be usable... i'm not sure if I need to blame the machine or myself for sub-par output.

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