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Looking For A Mini Lathe/mill

MemorY

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#1
Hey guys!

First post here and looking for some guidance. I'm looking to add some metal work to my prop making and armor construction. I've mainly been using 3D printing for both of these as well as resin casting. I would like to get a mill and add a 4th axis to it, but I'm not sure if that's ideal. So I've been focusing mainly on lathes. Any help is great appreciated! Thanks!

In my research I've come across a lot of things, and just want to know what you all think of these manufacturers and their products.

So here is what I've come up with:
Grizzly G8688 mini metal lathe
-Available on Amazon
-Relatively inexpensive
-Upgradable to CNC (based off of a review)
-7x12" work area

Little Machine Shop HiTorque
-Looks clean
-7x16" work area
-Lots of add-ons through their store
-Haven't come across any bad reviews on Little Machine Shop products

Micro-Mark MicroLux 7x16 lathe
-Really similar to the Little Machine Shop
 

JimDawson

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#2
Welcome Aboard!

I can't offer any advice on any of the machines that you have listed other than they will all work. Hopefully some of the other members have some experience with them.

Any lathe, milling machine, or any other machine tool can be converted to CNC if desired.

I think you are going in the right direction. In general some milling work can be done on a lathe, and conversely, some lathe work can be done on a mill. Normally a lathe will do lathe type work much better than a mill, and the opposite is also true of a mill. Adding a 4th axis to a mill opens up a whole new world of posibilities and functionality, but still is not a lathe.

We would love to see some pictures of your projects:)
 

MemorY

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#3
Well now that I've posted a few time on the forum I should be able to share some of my projects.

This is a lightsaber prototype that I've been working on. Designed in Fusion 360.
Lightsaber%20Prototype%202%20ISO_zpswxy66fbs.png

Screen%20Shot%202016-10-11%20at%2010.49.01%20AM_zpswtb5bc2h.png

Screen%20Shot%202016-10-11%20at%2010.48.39%20AM_zps76sqzjtn.png

Screen%20Shot%202016-10-11%20at%2010.49.09%20AM_zpsrc2qaq4c.png
 

JimDawson

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#4
WOW! That's cool! :encourage:

Mmmmmmm......Yeah, I think I see a 4 axis CNC mill in your future :) (along with a lathe ;))
 

MemorY

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#5
WOW! That's cool! :encourage:

Mmmmmmm......Yeah, I think I see a 4 axis CNC mill in your future :) (along with a lathe ;))
Thank you!

Haha! Yes. That's why I've been thinking about going for a 4 axis mill. And I tinker enough that I'm sure I could make it CNC. :)
 

JimDawson

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#6
You should be able to do that just fine. Your design skills and your skills in Fusion 360 will be a big help.

My mill started out life as a 2 axis machine, and it's now 4 axis. So not really too hard to do, I built both my Z axis drive system and the 4th axis. My avatar picture is a side view of my 4th axis, with the ''smiling'' motor mount. Also built my own control system from the ground up.

If you have the room, a used full sized knee mill CNC mill with a bad/older controller might be a good option. That way you get all of the CNC mechanical hardware already in place, the control system is the easy part. But IMHO, you want one that has both manual and CNC capability.
 

MemorY

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#7
That's awesome!

I just am not sure what mill to go for. And I'm more familiar with lathes, so I figured that'd be better to start with. But I'd be able to do more with a mill, projects, then a lathe at this current time.
 

JimDawson

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#8
No problem starting with a lathe, that's what I started with about 45 years ago. About 2 weeks later I bought a mill:)

Your space and budget will dictate what to buy. For most purposes a 13 or 14 x 40 lathe would really be the ideal size. It's easy to do small work on a larger lathe, but a bit of a challenge to do large work on a small lathe.;)
 

MemorY

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#11
Ya. That looks awesome, but is too big for what I can accommodate. lol That's awesome though!
 

JimDawson

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#14
I just looked at both the lathe and mill from Little Machine Shop, looks like they would be fine for your needs based on your specs. Read the reviews, and maybe some members here will chime in also. Both machines are adaptable to CNC.

Would make a nice setup. :encourage:
 

MemorY

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#15
Ya. Just wanted to check and see what people here thought before I did anything. :)
 

kingmt01

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#16
I'm late to the party. Did you get something yet? I have a 7x from Harbor Freight. I wasn't happy with it & bought bigger but it still sees some use. Usually nothing that needs done closer then eyeball tho. There is tons of info & mods out there for these 7x machines. I've seen many how to blogs for CNC conversions.

I can't speak about the exact machine from any of the dealers you listed but I can speak about other products from two of them.

My lathe (14x40) came from Grizzly. It is the gun lathe model & I'm very happy with it. I have no regret about it. I've bought other things from them. Singer things are a good value while others were junk but their customer service has always been second to none. They are just slightly higher then other places but well worth the extra for the CS.

Little Machine Shop is another with great CS. I've never bought anything I wasn't happy with. The only reason I've spoken to them has been to locate parts or technical help which they were always happy to help.

I have nothing bad to say about ether of the two companies. I believe you'll be happy with ether you decide to do business with. However I'd probably look hard at the packages offered by Little Machine Shop & it's likely you'll consider them for a few upgrades where these 7x's fall short.

Good luck & welcome to the bottomless hole we call a hobby.
 

MemorY

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#17
I'm late to the party. Did you get something yet? I have a 7x from Harbor Freight. I wasn't happy with it & bought bigger but it still sees some use. Usually nothing that needs done closer then eyeball tho. There is tons of info & mods out there for these 7x machines. I've seen many how to blogs for CNC conversions.

I can't speak about the exact machine from any of the dealers you listed but I can speak about other products from two of them.

My lathe (14x40) came from Grizzly. It is the gun lathe model & I'm very happy with it. I have no regret about it. I've bought other things from them. Singer things are a good value while others were junk but their customer service has always been second to none. They are just slightly higher then other places but well worth the extra for the CS.

Little Machine Shop is another with great CS. I've never bought anything I wasn't happy with. The only reason I've spoken to them has been to locate parts or technical help which they were always happy to help.

I have nothing bad to say about ether of the two companies. I believe you'll be happy with ether you decide to do business with. However I'd probably look hard at the packages offered by Little Machine Shop & it's likely you'll consider them for a few upgrades where these 7x's fall short.

Good luck & welcome to the bottomless hole we call a hobby.
No I haven't bought a lathe/mill yet. I ended up spending the money I was saving up for a mill and laser cutter on another 3D printer... lol But since my first posting I am leaning more to the Little Machine Shop mill. :) Plus after seeing a what a lot of people can do with a 4th axis (most likely my first upgrade) just blows me away! Like you said, I am considering the Little Machine Shop more due to the tons of upgrades already available for it.
 

kingmt01

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#18
I've wanted a 3D printer for a while but I'll probably just keep on wanting.
 

MemorY

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#19
I've wanted a 3D printer for a while but I'll probably just keep on wanting.
Ya. I have 3 right now and have a few more on order from Kickstarter. But I've been wanting to branch out to other forms of manufacturing and making for quite some time now...
 

kingmt01

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#20
Is this a business that you run?

I tried 360 but my PC wouldn't run it. I'm not to sure in my ability to run it ether. I'd love to learn tho.
 

MemorY

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#21
Is this a business that you run?

I tried 360 but my PC wouldn't run it. I'm not to sure in my ability to run it ether. I'd love to learn tho.
I don't run a business. I work for my Father's company doing marketing, but am doing a lot of CAD work for our trade show booths and making custom parts. I love Fusion, I've tried a lot of CAD packages out there, and to me it's the most intuitive and easiest. Plus they have 1-2 live webinars a week that go over different content of it which are recorded and then posted to their Youtube Channel. So they have a ton of content on how to get started with it. I've done a few commission projects for some people with it and it's been great!
 

kingmt01

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#22
Might talk Dad into buying a milling machine for the business. After all it's tax deductible. Lol
 

MemorY

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#23
Might talk Dad into buying a milling machine for the business. After all it's tax deductible. Lol
Why not add a 3D printer to that as well?! :D lol There are some great printers out there that don't break the bank... too bad... lol
 

brav65

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#24
My advice would be to think about upping the size for both machines. I have a 7x12 and am saving for a larger machine. Fortunately I got a slightly larger mill, a PM-25, so I will be ok for a little while. This hobby is a sickness and you should just give up now and start upgrading or do not jump in the pool!
 

MemorY

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#25
My advice would be to think about upping the size for both machines. I have a 7x12 and am saving for a larger machine. Fortunately I got a slightly larger mill, a PM-25, so I will be ok for a little while. This hobby is a sickness and you should just give up now and start upgrading or do not jump in the pool!
Right now, I don't see myself needing something super big. I'd use it make lightsaber props other small projects.

This is another example of a project I'd like to do. http://www.volpinprops.com/combat-shotgun-fallout/
 

kingmt01

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#26
I really can't tell you what size you'll be happy with. I can say that something about the size of a 2x D cell flashlight I'd want a 14x lathe to work on.

In case you don't know already you can't spin a 7" part in a 7" lathe. I put a 6" chuck on mine which I'm happy with but have to remember I can't open the jaws all the way out they will hit the ways.

When I got my 7x I thought I'd do most anything I'd have need for but found out not much of anything I went to do would fit. Same thing happened when I bought my milling machine. I thought a 26x7 one mill would do anything I needed. Truth is the mill might do most of the things but was a real passion in the butt to keep repositioning things much over 4". I would have to clamp to the table instead of the vise & keep repositioning the part & finding center again. Even after going to a 14x40 with a removable gap lathe I still run into jobs I can't do or isn't worth the setup involved. In face I think it was the same week I set it up I had a break rotor that wouldn't fit unless I pulled the gap insert, used a face plate, & shimmed it out over the gap. All of that plus I thought about having to clean up the mess so I took them to town & paid the guy $7 to do it for me. Best $7 I've ever spent but point being my lathe want the right tool for the job.
 

Subwayrocket

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#27
The shortcomings of smaller machines become very apparent when you try to mill steel . They will do fine in aluminum , like butter. Yes, smaller machines will mill steel, but rigidity becomes a problem fast...
I have not been milling very long ...and all I heard in the beginning was "Get a Bridgeport" ...well, the advice was right. For a mill, get a bridgeport , Taiwan bridgeport clone or something in the same class if possible.
As you try to do lighter or slower cuts, you can reach a point where the tool is rubbing the steel and not cutting. I'm sure others with more experience will chime in and help you out. This is a very helpful forum.
Keep in mind, whatever you spend on a machine, you'll spend at least half or equal that in tooling, fixtures, etc .
Good luck !
!Steve
 

MemorY

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#28
I really can't tell you what size you'll be happy with. I can say that something about the size of a 2x D cell flashlight I'd want a 14x lathe to work on.

In case you don't know already you can't spin a 7" part in a 7" lathe. I put a 6" chuck on mine which I'm happy with but have to remember I can't open the jaws all the way out they will hit the ways.

When I got my 7x I thought I'd do most anything I'd have need for but found out not much of anything I went to do would fit. Same thing happened when I bought my milling machine. I thought a 26x7 one mill would do anything I needed. Truth is the mill might do most of the things but was a real passion in the butt to keep repositioning things much over 4". I would have to clamp to the table instead of the vise & keep repositioning the part & finding center again. Even after going to a 14x40 with a removable gap lathe I still run into jobs I can't do or isn't worth the setup involved. In face I think it was the same week I set it up I had a break rotor that wouldn't fit unless I pulled the gap insert, used a face plate, & shimmed it out over the gap. All of that plus I thought about having to clean up the mess so I took them to town & paid the guy $7 to do it for me. Best $7 I've ever spent but point being my lathe want the right tool for the job.
Yes. That's true. Ideally a lathe that would allow me to have a working area of 12-13" length and 4" DIA would be idea for me right now, and for a mill would be similar, in length, X:12-13" Y:5-6" Z:??? I'm not sure about the Z axis due to wanting a 4th axis, and I'm sure that height comes into play for that.

In my opinion, yes the bigger machines are nice, and have their benefits (working area, added features, accuracy), but I'm still in college. :) I took a manual machining class and loved it so much! I learned a ton about manufacturing and it even changed the outlook on how I design in CAD. But long story short, I don't need "the best with all the features". :) I'd like something decent that I can use to make some money on the side, and not have to spend hours on fixing, and aligning centers (for lathe) and whatnot.

The shortcomings of smaller machines become very apparent when you try to mill steel . They will do fine in aluminum , like butter. Yes, smaller machines will mill steel, but rigidity becomes a problem fast...
I have not been milling very long ...and all I heard in the beginning was "Get a Bridgeport" ...well, the advice was right. For a mill, get a bridgeport , Taiwan bridgeport clone or something in the same class if possible.
As you try to do lighter or slower cuts, you can reach a point where the tool is rubbing the steel and not cutting. I'm sure others with more experience will chime in and help you out. This is a very helpful forum.
Keep in mind, whatever you spend on a machine, you'll spend at least half or equal that in tooling, fixtures, etc .
Good luck !
!Steve
At this point I don't see any reason why I'd need to work with steel. Aluminum has all the properties that I need.

Do you have any link to the bridgeport machines that you're referring too? All that I've found are the huge machines that look to be heavy duty industrial grade. All encased and larger then my fridge. lol

The main reason as well why I'm wanting something smaller is that I don't have a ton of space available.

By the way, thank you everyone for the comments! I really do appreciate all the help! :D Keep it coming!
 

Subwayrocket

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#29
No prob . If you're only doing aluminum you'll have alot easier time with smaller machines. When i was looking into getting a mill , a guy i know told me whatever I get, it's never gona be big enough or heavy enough...so be forewarned of what youre getting into. Once you see what you can do, you're gona want to do more. If you get something like a $1-2000 bench mill , you can have alot of fun in aluminum. Then if you want to upgrade, you can sell it without losing a fortune. You being a student, I would find something $1-2K with good reviews. From someone who hasn't been doing this a long time, I would say either start small and cheaper ...or get a bridgeport or Taiwan bridgeport clone (Knee mills) . I have a PM-935 which is a 2/3 Bridgeport clone . In it's price point it's pretty rigid, full featured and not too huge. It is around $5500-$7K depending what you get with it...and it is BY FAR , not the biggest and best as mills go. Matt at Precision Matthews sells it. On occasion he also has used machines and he sells small machines too. He's a straight shooter if you call him ...have him call you back if he's not there. I also saw a nice Acra in similar price range. Most of the machines, even smaller ones will require borrowing an engine hoist and 2 guys to place the machine . You're in the right place if you want info. Alot of very helpful people on this forum . Also check out (if you haven't already) the youtube channels of mrpete222 , oxtoolco , etc . Good luck in school and finding machines !
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKLIIdKEpjAnn8E76KP7sQg
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZC9LGZLfyjrKT4OZne-JNw

and this series
 

kingmt01

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#30
This is my small one I was referring to.
content://com.android.chrome.FileProvider/images/screenshot/1478634247541-1947428658.jpg
It's not bad & can do the work you was referring to if you bolt it to the table. It will only hooks a 4" vise tho. I do mist of my work from a vise. A 6" vise is big & heavy. It will take a big mill to Mount it to.

4x12" of work in a lathe is pretty big as well. It kinda depends if you are working with tube or round stock to say what size chuck you need but I don't think you could spin ether in a 7x12.