Thought I'd chime in here tonight...
IMHO, it's all about what you can afford.
The bed on the basic 7x10/12 lathe might be just a little too short for turning axles if you are building your CliShay for the 7.25/7.5" gauge. Once you account for length of the dead and live centers while turning between centers, considering considering the axle length, it might be just a little tight to get a carriage and tool post in onto the work. And remember, the ID of the headstock spindle will limit the diameter of round stock you can turn in your lathe (for facing and drilling).
Everybody's experiences with HF varies with the product they sell. Your mileage may vary.. I've had good and bad. Over ten years ago, I used a part of my tax return to buy a mini mill from them. Got a little rough and munched the gears in the head. Little Machine Shop (out of Pasadena, CA) sold me an external belt kit for the little beast and it worked fine after that. I'd recommend checking out their web page: www.littlemachineshop.com for what they sell.
As far as the base, bought a piece of plate at the steel supplier and had it cut to the my dimensions. Took it home, marked out my specs and hauled the base over to a welder that cut out the holes for me with his plasma cutter. In the original article, Bob Maynard used a drill bit, chisel, grinder, and file to cut out the material. Lot of work and I'd prefer to do the minimum it takes to get the job done.
Enjoy building your CliShay.
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