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any suggestions for mini-mill/lathe machines

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#1 rgpalmer

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 07:44 PM

Does anyone have suggestions / experience with mini-mill / lathe machines for ATM parts?  I am contemplating buying a Smithy.

 

Thanks



#2 dmcnally

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 08:33 PM

I suggest taking the 'intro to machining' class at your local junior college.  You'll get to learn the basics on their machines.  One huge benefit of taking a class is that you'll be a more knowledgeable, or informed, buyer.

 

Clear skies,

Dave


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#3 polaraligned

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 08:36 PM

I started with a Smithy 1220XL 30 years ago.  Nothing bad to say about it.  It has long since been replaced with 10,000+ pounds of mill and lathe because I needed a lot more capacity. 


Edited by polaraligned, 24 March 2020 - 08:36 PM.


#4 Beeham

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 08:52 PM

I have a fairly-ancient Smithy in my shop.  It's not a substitute for a Bridgeport or a South Bend, but I've made tons of parts with it.  If you're patient and willing to spend the time to get to know the machine, its limitations, and how to work around them, you can make some really nice parts.

 

Customer support from Smithy is, in my opinion, on the high end for these types of machines, which is nice.

 

I wish you the best.  Amateur machining can quickly blossom into as big a time- and resource-consuming hobby as astronomy.

 

Cheers!


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#5 gmussman

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 08:53 PM

Yeah I have one of those, an older version but looks almost identical. It’s not useless but it’s a pain in the butt. The newer machines have a thread dial and half-nut as well as a carriage positioning wheel, but otherwise looks the same. The carriage and tail stock leave a lot to be desired. I have to change out the gears to turn cut threads, and mess with pulleys to change speeds.

For what a new one costs, you can do a lot better. You can buy a serious lathe like a clausing, probably with tooling. With any of these machines the tooling can be as much or more than the machine.

My machine was free. I wouldn’t pay more than that for what I’ve got but maybe the new ones are better.

#6 phonehome

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 09:36 PM

I was about to pull the trigger on a Smithy Granite all-in-one but then I started reading and learning from the machining forums.  I took their overwhelming advise and instead obtained a smallish lathe (12x28) and separate mill.  The increased flexibility, clearances and setup time with separates make all the difference if you have space to accommodate them in your shop.


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#7 gregj888

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 09:36 PM

I have a Harbor Freight Mini Mill and old Atlas lathe.  For ATM stuff and a home shop it's been great.  I do have access to a Bridgeport type mill but not sure I've used it out of need (at our clubs workshop location).

 

I did scrape the mill, so it's now a very different animal than out of the box.  I like the mill quite a bit, but most of what I do is small stuff and you have to work it over.  I've added a  belt drive a pretty good set of tooling and an Air spring lift of my own design.  

 

The Atlas now sports a 3 phase motor and VFD.  It's a bit worn and needs a trip to the surface grinder.  I can get to 0.001" but not by the dials.  The Atlas is lighter than Ideal, but for a hobby lathe it's works.  Would be nice if it had quick change gearing but it doesn't.

 

I agree with Dave on the shop class.  There is also a ton of stuff on YouTube...


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#8 don clement

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 10:15 PM

I have a Sherline 8-way  benchtop mill and 3" lathe. I used the mill to make my prototype moving mirror focuser for an 8" mak-Cass. 

 

Don


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#9 ShortLobster

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 06:34 AM

I'm considering the same problem, but leaning toward a CNC machine instead of a mill / lathe. Any reasons why a mill would be better?



#10 rgpalmer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 09:58 AM

thanks all for the suggestions.

 

Seems like all my local jc's and vo-tech start their machining ciricula with CNC classes. at least in their online listings.  guess I will have to call around and talk to live instructors about class suitability.  YouTube does have lots of info.

 

are there any smallish lathes or mills made in the US?  



#11 phonehome

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 10:07 AM

 

are there any smallish lathes or mills made in the US?  

 

Not in the size/capacity range suitable for most hobbyists.

 

Another good resource are the machining forums.  Here's one that I've used frequently and is similar to CN (free to view, register to post, etc):

 

https://www.hobby-ma...ion-section.11/


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#12 dmcnally

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 10:35 AM

Seems like all my local jc's and vo-tech start their machining ciricula with CNC classes. at least in their online listings.

Minnesota State College Southeast has an interesting course.  I've attached a pdf course description.

 

Good luck,

Dave

Attached Files



#13 MitchAlsup

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 10:43 AM

I started with a 3" Taig micro lathe and a drill press.

 

After a decade o use, I went with a 1,200 pound 12×36 lathe and a 1,000 pound floor standing knee mill.



#14 rgpalmer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 10:54 AM

yep, that is one I looked at.  About an hours drive away not too bad when I completely retire.  thanks

Minnesota State College Southeast has an interesting course.  I've attached a pdf course description.

 

Good luck,

Dave



#15 rgpalmer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 11:12 AM

I am playing with aluminum milling with a shop fox drill press with the oscillating spindle figuring maybe the bearings are a little stouter for lateral pressure.  seems to work ok with shallow slow feeds on an xy vise.

I started with a 3" Taig micro lathe and a drill press.

 

After a decade o use, I went with a 1,200 pound 12×36 lathe and a 1,000 pound floor standing knee mill.



#16 Oregon-raybender

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 11:47 AM

Some old sage advice.

 

If you can, I strongly suggest taking a class. You can learn the basic skills needed just to run the machines. I taught a high school machining class (Yes I was very brave) as a volunteer for (2 days a week) for 3 years. I have my teaching cert for industrial tech. There is so much to learn on your own, the tooling, types, speed, materials, layout, and of course SAFETY. You can learn a great deal by watching videos. I suggest looking at ones that are from colleges or schools. Also check out various machining books like Technology of Machine Tools. My question to you is how much machining are wanting to do?  Could you make what you want out of wood or plastic first using simple hand tools. Is just a few parts or major mount? Is it just for small scope or large one. That will also give you the idea of how much effort and machine size it would take to complete. I have a 9 inch South Bend and Grizzly mini mill. I am able to make parts for a 12 inch scope and smaller. But for the 22 and 30 inch fork, that required a Bridgeport and 12 inch lathe. Both were at the school or work (I was able to use the R/D machines, after the master machinist tested me, wow!) 

 

I think it's wonderful that you want to learn machining, it's fun and at times, "How am going to do this?" Also learn

how to make simple drawings and most important and not mention, how to read and use measuring tools. This is just as

important if not more the skill needed. I posted last year a course series from a manufacturer on how to use them. and finally SAFETY please, always read, understand and follow and and all safety requirements on the machine and tooling, PPE, Safety glasses always.

 

The other issue is cost, machines, tooling and measuring equipment is pricey. I built up my shop over the decades as I need the equipment. Most I brought at local second hand stores, conferences, from friends and family. But many times I had to break down and buy new. Avoid crap, if you can find US, Japan or Tiwain made (old stuff) the better.

 

Have fun on your quest.

 

Starry Nightswaytogo.gif

 

https://www.cloudyni...ning-textbooks/

 

https://www.micromark.com/

 

https://littlemachineshop.com/

 

https://www.grizzly.com/

 

https://www.woodcraft.com/


Edited by Oregon-raybender, 25 March 2020 - 11:53 AM.

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#17 rgpalmer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 02:58 PM

Thanks Oregon-Raybender

 

Some great sage advice

 

I am getting back into ATM as I near retirement.  currently working on a 16" equatorial fork mounted newt that will eventually end up in a permanent observatory here on my farm in Wisconsin.

 

I had downloaded the texts on measurement when you first posted back in Feb 2018.  thanks

 

Yes, machining looks fun.  I have a notion of just having fun making shiny metal objects as well as useful parts.

 

As a long time woodworker and also as an Architect for a major medical center in southeastern Minnesota I can concur on the importance of safety and PPE.  I still have all my digits and they still work well enough to play the Great Highland Bagpipes!

 

Thanks again

 

Richard



#18 grzesznypl

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 08:31 PM

Some time ago I was looking into topic of learning machining and not only for ATM. I was leaning toward buying this machine. I am sure Smithy is one level better but much bigger and twice more expensive. However, will be moving soon so that have to wait a bit. Anyway, anyone of you have any experience with Shop Fox machines?



#19 piaras

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 09:19 PM

Quality Machine Tools the seller of Precision Matthews branded machinery does carry made in Taiwan as well as other sources. 
 

One issue with a 3 in 1 is the working envelope. I do prefer lathe and mill machines, as this does open that envelope when making a part that requires some imagination for work holding or mods to the machine to get the job done.

 

You have lots of good advise already given. The biggest one is the tooling budget is always bigger than the machine budget!

Pierre


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#20 m. allan noah

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 06:22 AM

I've been an amateur machinist for a number of years, and actually had a bit of real instruction in the craft many moons ago. There are lots of opinions on how to get started, the following are only mine:

 

1. Two machines are far better than one. A separate lathe and mill means you don't have to tear down setups as frequently, you can work on two things at once, etc.

2. Used machines can be a real bargain if you can find a good one. Be prepared to travel a bit, watch craigslist, etc.

3. Tooling costs as much as the machine: steady and follower rests, chucks and collets, vises, rotary tables, indexers, boring heads, metrology, etc. (sometimes this stuff comes with a used machine)

4. The initial cost of a CNC machine is higher, but the tooling costs are lower, because you don't need things like rotary tables, ball turners, taper attachments, DROs, etc.

5. The learning curve is steep for both manual and CNC machining, but the latter is steeper.

6. Buy machines bigger than you think you will need. You will end up using it, trust me :)

 

allan


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#21 brave_ulysses

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 07:47 AM

check out an area makerspace

 

minneapolis:

http://www.mplsmake.com/

https://nordeastmakers.com/

https://tcmaker.org/

 

madison:

https://making.engr.wisc.edu/

 

good luck!

 

 

Does anyone have suggestions / experience with mini-mill / lathe machines for ATM parts?  I am contemplating buying a Smithy.

 

Thanks



#22 rgpalmer

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 08:00 AM

Actually I think Smithy has a similarly priced machine.  Also do a google for Sherline as Don mentioned.  I have a Shop Fox benchtop drill press with oscillating spindle for sanding that I am using as a makeshift mill for now.   only on aluminum with an end cutter from amazon.

Some time ago I was looking into topic of learning machining and not only for ATM. I was leaning toward buying this machine. I am sure Smithy is one level better but much bigger and twice more expensive. However, will be moving soon so that have to wait a bit. Anyway, anyone of you have any experience with Shop Fox machines?



#23 rgpalmer

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 08:02 AM

Some time ago I was looking into topic of learning machining and not only for ATM. I was leaning toward buying this machine. I am sure Smithy is one level better but much bigger and twice more expensive. However, will be moving soon so that have to wait a bit. Anyway, anyone of you have any experience with Shop Fox machines?

 

check out an area makerspace

 

minneapolis:

http://www.mplsmake.com/

https://nordeastmakers.com/

https://tcmaker.org/

 

madison:

https://making.engr.wisc.edu/

 

good luck!

that is another option.  the contractor who built my house is now the shop teacher at my local high school, small town, who would let me use the school's metal shop machines


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#24 Starsareus

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 08:50 AM

After some research, I bought a Harbor MiniLathe. Seems most are Chinese,need dis-assembling/clean/adjusting. I did do some of this, not all. Lots of good points. Google will help. My Astro friend, Len, has a much bigger old but nice South Bend.  I searched fora long while for one affordable for a retiree, no luck.  He seems to be able to do work  with much less effort & naturally handle larger work. Mine has less precision, and can do only the small stuff (regretfully).  I would have preferred an older, but larger American lathe. Still!   



#25 BGRE

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 04:47 PM

Just check that the correct fasteners are used in the right places.
The screw length and tip shape can be critical to safe operation in some locations.
A good manual complete with exploded assembly diagrams and a comprehensive parts list is helpful.


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