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How Happy Are You With Your Sherline Lathe??

Discussion in 'SHERLINE, TAIG, TITAN & SIEG MINI-MACHINES' started by Takingblame, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. Takingblame

    Takingblame United States Iron Registered Member

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    Hi, I was just wondering how happy or pleased everyone is with their lathe purchase. I am in the market for a mini lathe and after about 20 hrs of research I have come to the conclusion that a sherline lathe is a good investment.
    But before I purchase I wanted to get feedback from the community about their sherline lathes. Would you buy it again?? Any problems?? How is the warranty service?? Do you wish you had purchased a different size sherline?? Did you purchase one of their offered package deals??
    Thanks for your feedback.

    Sent from my XT1097 using Tapatalk
     
  2. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    After over 20 years on a Sherline lathe, I figure I can give an opinion.
    • If you can afford it, get the long bed lathe. You may not need the capacity often but when you do, it helps. Even with the extra length, you can lift this entire lathe with one hand and put on the shelf.
    • If I needed a small, precision lathe I would definitely buy it again. The motor is durable, strong enough for the lathe capacity, smooth, variable speed and gets up near 2800 true rpm. I am still on the same motor and it runs the same as when it was new.
    • I bought the package, then added accessories over time. Back then, the package included the basics but I made an even more complete package and it was a mostly good decision. I highly recommend you buy Joe Martin's book, Tabletop Machining, and read it to see what these accessories do and to give you a better idea of what you need to get up and running. While it is a showcase for Sherline's stuff, it is well done and will teach you how their equipment is used.
    • The only design flaw on this lathe, at least in my experience, is the totally non-adjustable tailstock. To deal with this, Sherline sells an adjustable live center. This thing is a joke. You can spend an hour aligning things and get it to work but every time you put it back into the tailstock ram you will have to realign it. Better to make a good live center, index it to find the most accurate position and create witness marks so you can install it the same way every time. On the lathe itself, the tailstock is the one single thing I dislike.
    • To cut threads, you will need the screw cutting accessory package they sell - BUY IT! You will have to screw cut manually but it is capable of cutting Class 3 fits and I would not be without it.
    • Make, do not buy, a rear mounted parting tool post. The Sherline does not like to part from the front but it will part from the rear at very high speeds without a hitch. A P1-N blade is all you need to part anything on this lathe.
    You will repeatedly hear guys tell you that you cannot make big parts on a small lathe but you can make small parts on a big lathe. In my opinion, this is naive. I have an 11" lathe as well but if I need to make a small, precision part it is far easier and faster to make it on my Sherline. It is, however, true that there is an upper limit to what a Sherline lathe can do but anything that fits on the lathe can be completed. I have worked on pieces up to 2" OD and 1-1/4" over the cross slide, without using the riser blocks. To put this in perspective, I only stepped up to a larger lathe about 4 years ago and in all that time I rarely felt limited by the Sherline lathe. Even with the larger lathe - an Austrian made Emco Super 11 CD, which ain't no slouch - I still pull the Sherline out if the part is small - it is that good, that precise.

    This lathe can hold very tight tolerances; factory says about 0.003" but I know it can work into the low tenths with care. Don't think you're going to be taking big cuts but with the right tool you can easily take 0.050" deep cuts in mild steel. One nice thing is that the headstock swivels. Some might think this is a disadvantage but the Sherline headstock can be aligned precisely to the ways to produce extremely accurate cuts. Here, I'm talking about a taper-free skim cut down a 4" rod held just in the chuck. Oh, you can only get a 3/8" rod through the spindle so keep that in mind.

    You will need to learn to grind HSS tools. Like all lathes, carbide tools work but not nearly as well as HSS. The lathe is too light and slow for carbide but with a properly ground HSS tool it can surpass some larger machines.

    Sherline's customer service is said to be quite good. I don't know much about it - nothing I bought ever broke. Not all of their accessories are the best - that adjustable live center and their parting tool holders to name a few - but their stuff is well-made. I especially like their chucks. Don't forget that Sherline's philosophy is that anything they sell in the future will work on all their machines, which allows you to upgrade your lathe if necessary.

    I also like the ER-32 chuck from Beall Tools. With good collets it will work really well on the Sherline lathe and allow you to work up close to the chuck on pieces up to 3/4" OD - very nice tool to own.

    Sorry for running on and on about this lathe - those of us who know this machine also know what it can do - we get long-winded!
     
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  3. tomw

    tomw United States Active Member Active Member

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    I have had a Sherline 4400 for about a year. It is my first lathe, so I can't really compare it to other machines. That said, I really like this machine. I can get tolerances of +/- .0005 without too much trouble.

    You can get remarkably aggressive with your cuts without bogging down their little motor. It is a 90V DC continuously adjustable motor. Even at low speeds, it still has decent torque. And because it can go so slow it is very easy to use button dies in a tailstock holder to do threading under power. This is a real time saver.

    As Mikey stated, the tailstock is not adjustable, so if you are doing precision turning on a thin part (1/8"or less) it can be a pain. However, I have not found the adjustable centers or chuck that hard to set up. It takes some time, but as long as you always put the tool into the tailstock ram in the same orientation you don't need to reset them.

    I highly recommend the DRO option.

    I also highly recommend the QCTP from A2Z CNC.

    Their customer service has been great.

    Hope this helps.

    Tom
     
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  4. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    You are going to find that making tools to fit your Sherline machines is fairly cheap and simple, but you need a mill to do it for some tools. At some time in the future, look into a mill of some type. You don't need to go with a Sherline mill but if you do, you will find it just as capable as their lathes.

    These are small machines; they will not do large, heavy pieces but for work within their envelopes they are very accurate.
     
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  5. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Tom, build yourself a live center sometime. It will be far more accurate, more functional and simpler to use than anything Sherline makes. It would be wise to make the body of the arbor 1" longer than the MT to provide reach over the cross slide and it is a good idea to make an extended tip to accommodate small diameter work pieces. Such a project requires precision boring, turning accurate tapers and having more than a passing acquaintance with hardening and tempering so tackle it when/after you gain some experience. However, you will find this to be one of the most useful things on a Sherline lathe and it is worth the time to make it.

    Other things to make are a rear-mounted parting tool post, a good scissors knurler, a T-rest with gravers and a really good boring tool holder for your QCTP. None of these things are hard to make but they will greatly improve your work or make it safer to do that work. In fact, they work so well that I'm in the process of making larger ones to fit my larger lathe to extend that lathe's capabilities.
     
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  6. David S

    David S Canada Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Tom I guess before I could suggest answers to your question I would like to know what kind of work you will be doing now and in the near future.

    David
     
  7. Takingblame

    Takingblame United States Iron Registered Member

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    Wow!! Thanks for your input. I am glad to see that my choice of sherline is a good decision. I will definitely be getting a longer option sherline and the DRO. Good call on the package options. I figured there would be better options in terms of tool holders and chucks, but its good that the package accessories are decent quality. Thanks for all the good information mikey. And I just bought the book on amazon.
    Your replies definitely confirm my choice of NOT buying the HF 7x12. The option of buying it and taking it home the same day and machining something that night is very enticing, and sometimes I get a little impatient. But I am looking forward to getting my sherline in the mail!!
    Again thanks for your wealth of knowledge. Information here is way more helpful then the reviews l have been reading.


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  8. Forty Niner

    Forty Niner United States Steel Registered Member

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    I have the long bed Sherline lathe with DRO as well as the Sherline milling machine. I also have a couple of Boley watchmakers lathes. The cool thing is that I bought the WW collett adapter and can use my WW collets in to hold clock parts. I'm happy with the setup.
     
  9. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    What kind of work do you plan on doing with this lathe? I know this is a hard question to answer but it is a critical one that has to do with the expected working envelope. Be sure the Sherline will meet your needs before you jump. I'm not concerned about how the lathe will perform; only if it will accommodate your expected projects. If you plan to make model engines or smaller scale stuff, then no problem. If you plan to make stuff to enable other hobbies or interests then you need to really look hard at how big a part you can make on this lathe.
     
  10. Takingblame

    Takingblame United States Iron Registered Member

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    So I have found some projects online that I think a sherline could handle. Most of them are from youtuber Clickspring. I became obsessed with watching him work with brass and making a clock from scratch. Actually this is how I found about sherline. He uses one quite often in his videos. And my thought was if it is good enough for this experienced machinist, it must be a pretty damn good machine.
    I plan on working a lot with brass and some aluminum.
    My main goal is to make what are known as mods. Mods are battery holders for mechanical vaporizers. They are basiacally a metal tube that fits an 18650 lithium ion battery. The tube or mod is almost always 22mm exterior diameter. It's a standard size in the industry. And about 90mm long. About 1mm thickness of material. (Don't think I gave that dimension correctly) one end is open to the size of the battery and threaded inside to fit a button or trigger. The other end is closed with an about 7mm threaded hole.
    Forgive me I am not sure how to put into words some areas of the thing I am trying to make, I am sure I will become well versed as my adventures in machining progress.
    Also I am very interested in using the lathe as a mill. I haven't done to much research into this process but I have an understanding of the concept.

    There are some custom robotics applications that I would like to use the lathe for in the future but I will attempt those projects when I have a better understanding of lathes and machining.
    This is good example of what I will be attempting to make.

    970c849c3f2486b80cf4a237e62ad19d.jpg


    Quick backstory, most of the Mods were made in America with US materials, then Chinese factories started copying the designs and selling them for 70% cheaper. That is where the term 'clone' comes into play. Clones are basically knock offs. My mod is made in america, the real deal. I know I could just buy a clone and save a lot of money, but I like the idea of saying I made it. Just like how I enjoy telling people that I put a new clutch, water pump, and head gasket in my truck.


    Sent from my XT1097 using Tapatalk
     
  11. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Okay, Mods are no problem for a Sherline lathe. The body will fit the steady rest so you can machine the ends. When you do, you can put a piece of thick paper between the ends of the steady rest fingers (or rollers if you choose to make ball bearing tips) and the work piece, clip the paper in place so it doesn't roll off, oil the work and you'll be able to turn the piece without marking it up. The brass end cap is simple to make once you get the hang of it. None of the tolerances on Mods are really tight so they will be a good way to get into using the lathe.

    You might want to look into buying some 3M Scotchbrite finishing wheels for a small buffer - stainless steel likes to scratch, especially the Chinese variety. Foredom makes an ideal tool for this - a variable speed small parts bench buffer that works perfectly for this job.

    I think the lathe will also be fine for most robotics projects as they tend to be small. You are going to need a mill if you get into it, though.

    Good luck with your new lathe! Oh, remember that accessorizing the lathe will often cost as much or more than the lathe itself. Just wanted to let you know that this is a very slippery slope! Go slow, be sure of what you need and make what tooling you can to save costs.
     
  12. David S

    David S Canada Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Depending on your budget you may want to consider the Sherline Mill as well, rather than trying to mill on the lathe. A lot of the tooling will be interchangeable. I have the milling attachment for my Atlas 618 and it is a pain to go thru the set up and it is not nearly as versatile as a dedicated mill. However if budget is limiting it is better than a hacksaw and a file.

    David
     
  13. kvt

    kvt Active User Active Member

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    Mike, do you have some pics or drawings of some of the stuff you have made for your sherline's. I have the 4400 lathe and the 5400 mill, I do not have the DRO or anything, and I just upgraded the Mill to the 15inch column. A couple of the things I'm interested in is the rear mount cutoff and the knurler. I still have the original tool posts, and have though about the QCTP from A2z. Yes you can do nice things on the Sherline, in fact if you put get the Riser block, you can raise the head up for more clearance, but you need to also raise the tool post, and if needed the tailstock also. Like most things the Riser can also be used on the mill as well. Take a look at the Toms PM #7 steam engine build and you will also se some of what he has done with it, and how it looks. Sherline's customer service is good, I had some small problems and they have done all they could to make it right and then some. Pay close attention to how you mount it as it can cause it to be out of alignment, Just like the people say about leveling the big lathes, it will let the ways flex a bit and you will not be as accurate as you want it. I know I have seen something on here about that, and I know I had a problem when I was starting out with mine. The little thing seems to have more power than I thought it would, and is a lot of fun to work with.
     
  14. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Hey Ken, below are the accessories I think are important to make/have for a Sherline lathe:

    First, you need a rear-mounted parting tool. Parting from the front can be done but you will have chatter issues and resort to parting at ultra-low speeds. I normally part at about 3 times normal turning speeds - somewhere around 1200-1500 rpm for mild steel and higher for aluminum, brass. The extension of the blade in a rear-mounted post is not critical; it is from the front. A P1-N blade will cut anything from tiny out to 2" OD with no problem, as long as its sharp. If you make one, try to get the tip of the blade on center or a thou or two below center. Also be sure to make a ledge on the bottom of the post so it registers on the edge of the cross slide to prevent movement. You can find a detailed write up here: http://www.machinistblog.com/?s=rear+mounted+sherline&submit=Search

    p1.jpg p2.jpg p3.jpg p4.jpg

    This is 12L14 mild steel, 1-1/4 at the cut. I am making a groove. Note the extension of the blade - I was trying to see if I could get it to chatter but couldn't - check the finish in the groove. This was turned at 1200 rpm. I later parted this off about an inch from the chuck and it came right off, no problems.

    Next is an exchangeable tip live center. This tool is made from 1144 Stressproof steel, with hardended/tempered O-1 steel tips. The finish is as it came off the lathe. I made this for two key reasons - accuracy and accessing smaller diameter work. It has zero run out with the standard tip and much less than 0.00025" with the extended tip. As you can see, access to small diameters is no longer a problem.

    lc2.jpg lc1.jpg

    The next one is a boring bar holder. The standard holders with the set screws that mar or otherwise damage your boring bar are also the worst way to mount a bar - it will chatter more. This holder here holds a boring bar very solidly in a finely reamed, straight hole and I recommend you make one. If you do, be sure the length of the holder is 4 times the diameter of the biggest bar you plan to use in it. You can use sleeves for smaller diameter bars. This holder is made from 6061-T6 and can take a 3/8" carbide boring bar at full extension. Larger than that will be done on my bigger lathe. The third pic is a 0.010" deep roughing cut in 1144 steel using a 1/4" Circle Machine CCBI carbide bar. I have bored a hole over 4" deep with my 3/8" bar and it had a consistent diameter all the way down and a very fine finish. None of my bars chatter in this holder.

    b1.jpg b2.jpg b3.jpg

    I highly recommend you make or buy a Graver Tool Rest and make up some gravers. This was built from an article by WR Smith, a fine gentleman and a legendary Horologist. He wrote this one up in Home Machinist but plans can be purchased directly from him in the form of a booklet. He has done several books and videos that I highly recommend for all Sherline owners. The videos can be rented from Smartflix. If you ever wondered how well tooled a Sherline lathe can be, watch his videos.

    gtp1.jpg gtp2.jpg

    For those of you who are not familiar with gravers, these tools are used in much the same way that a wood turning tool is used. The tool rest adjusts for height, distance to the work and angle to the work. It allows you to cut balls, concave cuts, and almost any shape you can imagine and it will do it in almost any metal/material, including hardened steel. If you look at the pics of the live center above you will see that the edges of the tool and tips are gently eased with gravers; you wouldn't notice it if I didn't point it out but the tool feels good in your hand, with no sharp edges. Almost every piece that comes off my lathe has been kissed with a graver in some location and I would not be without this tool. You can work with gravers up near a spinning chuck but its a bit unnerving, which is why I also recommend an ER-32 chuck for this kind of stuff.

    You can buy a ready-made WR Smith tool rest from Sherline for about 5-6 times the cost to make one but it will get you up and running fast. The gravers are simply 1/8" or 3/16" square and round HSS tool bits. I recommend you only buy 1/8" bits; I almost never use the larger tools.

    Finally, the knurling tool. This tool is patterned after one by Chris Heapy of the UK - search. It is made from mild steel, has 1/2" thick arms and is rigid as heck. It indexes on the edge of the cross slide and will not turn in use. It will make a full-pattern knurl in most common materials in a single pass and I haven't mis-tracked with this tool in over a decade. The arms have zero side play, yet move smoothly and easily to accommodate diameters up to about 2-1/8" OD.

    kt1.jpg k2.jpg k3.jpg

    Hope this gives you some ideas. If you ask me, the most important tools will be your turning tools. This is a small machine that can cut like a much bigger one with the right tool geometry. I recommend 3/8" square bits for this lathe, not 1/4"; the larger bits are far more rigid and will cut better for you.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015
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  15. kvt

    kvt Active User Active Member

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    Mike, Thanks for the information, You just gave me several new projects. I have had problems doing parting from the front, and it seems that the one you made takes care of that. do you ever use the riser block to raise the head up for bigger parts. IF so what kind of item do you use to raise the tool post and cutoff etc.
     
  16. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    You're welcome, Ken. Once you experience a rear mounted parting tool you'll wonder what took you so long. I no longer worry about chatter when parting - in fact, I've never experienced chatter with this tool. The critical things are to get center height as close to dead on as you can and don't forget the ledge on the bottom of the post. Those two things will transform parting for you. Do not rely on Sherline's specs for center height - you have to measure your own lathe and get it dead on. Use a height gauge if you have it and then mill the bottom edge of the blade recess in the tool to that exact height.

    When sharpening your parting tool, grind it square and with a 7 degree relief angle. That tool will cut easily and the edge will last for a very long time. When parting, introduce the tool lightly to the work and then slowly increase feed pressure. When you get it right the tool will cut freely with just slight resistance to your feed. Then just maintain that slight positive resistance or feel until the part falls off. Trust me; this is going to make you smile when you part a work piece.

    I've only used risers once and found that while it works, it is a hassle to use. I had to fabricate a riser block for my QCTP that was fastened with screws to make a one-piece post. This results in a lever arm acting on the tool that requires lighter cuts or you get chatter. I did not like that but I got through the project successfully.

    My solution to larger work pieces is a larger lathe. :)
     
  17. premodern

    premodern United States Iron Registered Member

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    Mikey,

    I too have been contemplating the Sherline lathe. Your series of posts here was quite helpful. Regarding the tailstock, have you seen the modification by Luiz Ally? He has a 5 part series on YouTube. His reason for making it adjustable was for wear but I can see how it would be of value from the start.



    Hans
     
  18. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Hey Han, welcome to the HM Forum! And thank you for your kind words.

    I remember Luiz's videos from some time ago - very cool guy. I chose not to go that route but cannot recall all of the reasons, though I remember having reservations. I took a really long look at my tailstock and found it was about 0.0008" out of horizontal alignment and a few tenths vertically. In a non-adjustable tailstock, that is a lot but considering the tolerances of mass production Sherline did fairly well. Remember that this wear is in a tailstock that was about 12+ years old at the time.

    I found that I could rotate a live center to various positions radially and alter the runout, which told me that it might be possible to find one point where run out was minimal. I found it and I marked it. Then I made an exchangeable tip live center and rotated and tested it until I got the least run out and then marked the tailstock ram and the live center so I could install the live center the same way every time. It turns out that with my standard tip I get zero run out in any direction and what I guess to be about a fifth of a tenth of runout with the extended tip - maybe 0.00002. I say that because I had to interpolate readings but my tenths indicator needle barely moved off the zero with the extended tip. By rotating the center I was able to accommodate both vertical and horizontal runout to a degree that satisfied me and I never re-visited the issue.

    I acknowledge that over time the tailstock will wear and things may change but if it does I will readdress it then.

    I think it only fair to Sherline to mention that the tailstock, even on a stock machine, is not bad. It is no worse than most large lathes and certainly better than many. However, when you're working on a very small precision piece, even a little off seems like a lot so I fixed it.

    Back when I bought my lathe I had no idea how good it was, or wasn't. Now I know that with a good operator behind it, it is an outstanding lathe for work within its envelope and worthy of your consideration, Hans.
     
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