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Ultra Precision PM Lathes- worth it?

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wildo

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#1
I have decided on my lathe upgrade. I'm definitely certain that I'm going to get the PM-1228VF-LB lathe. It has all the features I need, some really fantastic upgrades, and some really nice to have features (like digital tach) that I don't currently have. I'm only a few hundred $$ away from pulling the trigger.


........Then I spotted the PM-1236-T ultra precision model. It is missing some of those "nice to have" features like the digital tach, but adds in some others like the power control rod (whatever the third leadscrew for turning on the power is called). Not only that, but it's a whopping 360 lbs heavier AND has an 18" swing in the gap bed. I mean, this could be the type of lathe that lasts a person a lifetime. Add in the super thick spindle, tapered spindle bearings, etc- for a hobbiest could there be a more full featured bench lathe?

Yet I find absolutely zero information on it. I can't find any threads here or otherwise on these ultra precision models. I don't find any youtube hits. Really, it's only the product page itself on their website. It's funny- I started wanting the 1022V but talked myself up to the 1127VF-LB. Then I decided that actually the quick change gear box (and a few other things, but mainly the gearbox) on the 1228VF-LB was worth the upgrade. Here I am thinking about yet another more expensive model.

Is there a question here? Well... I'm not sure. Maybe just a discussion. Perhaps along the lines:
  • Do you think the "ultra precision" model is worth the $1K price difference?
  • Do you think my reasoning that while the 1228VF-LB is a great lathe, the 1236-T might just be a "lifetime" kind of lathe- again, for the hobbiest?
  • Do you know of any information on this lathe other than what's on the PM website?

Thanks!!
 

Doubleeboy

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#2
Nice looking lathe, if it were me I would want it with 3 phase motor, they run smoother IMO. If it is a lifetime lathe I would darn sure want to see it in person and turn a little on it before pulling the trigger, might be worth a trip to visit Matt.
 

richl

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#4
Everything right now is just speculation, you can ask matt. I have a feeling it is just a smaller 1340gt, they do mention on the specs if you are looking to push a lathe in a semi production level look at the 1340gt... I saw the specs after I made the purchase of my 1440gs. It sounds like a great lathe. Doubleboy does have a point though... nice to know what you bought before it shows up on your doorstep

Hth
Rich
 

Chipper5783

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#5
The 1236T is a nice enough looking machine. Be aware that terms like "ultra precision" and "highest quality" are just sales lingo - it really has no meaning at all. Definitely worth the extra money - just because if you own it for a long time, then the initial purchase price really doesn't matter - but basic design issues are difficult to change (actually you don't change them, you just get a lathe which has addressed those issues). I would caution you to put very little merit on "jewelry" - a tach is really a so what device. After even just a little bit of practice you'll set the speed based on how the machine is cutting. Put the money on things that will make a difference.

You still need to look at the performance window and decide if it will work for you.

- Yes, the extra weight is a good guideline - you are comparing against a very entry level machine (that 1228). I have an 11x24 machine (a good bit smaller than the 12x36) and it weighs in a good bit more than 2x what the 1236 (with stand). It is still a light duty machine.
- the gap is very much a nice feature and I would pay extra for that. I have one gap machine, and though I've only had the gap out a few times in 30 years - it does provide a material difference in what you can tackle.
- the spindle speeds on the 1236T would be an issue for me. The bottom end of 90 rpm is (IMO) too fast. My larger lathe goes down to 45 rpm and it is too fast (i.e. threading to a shoulder). My little machine will go down to 30 rpm - that is about right. Also, the top end is only 1600 rpm - that covers most tasks, but for a small machine, it is really nice if you can take it up to about 2500 rpm.
- the D1-4 is a nice spindle mount.
- the 1.56" spindle bore is very nice (larger would be good, but just over 1.5" is a very useful size).
- back splash and lamp - good
- splash lube for the headstock and apron, obviously a good thing (oil lube of the QC would be nice too).
- I'm not keen on it being single phase (per comments by others). Changing it to 3 phase and a VFD would be a significant improvement, as a way to address the speed range issues (however, buying a lathe with a better speed range right out of the box is perhaps the less expensive way to go). The speed limitations would be a show stopper for me.
- does it have a slotted cross slide? Nice for a rear tool post or bolting things down.

This is a good little lathe, and I am sure it would always be useful (regardless of how much your shop expands). The quest for a "little bit better" lathe is endless. Eventually, you just need to get on with it. If you stay in this game very long, you'll need another lathe anyway - the ideal lathe really does not exist. It seems you need about 4 different lathes to cover off most features (so I've heard - I only have 2 lathes and I'm looking at new ones nearly every day).

Let us know how you make out. Regards, David
 

qualitymachinetools

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#6
The difference in that machine and the others are that the ones we call the Ultra Precision are made in Taiwan. The others are made in China. There is a difference, for sure. Its hard to describe unless you have had both. Yes the Chinese machines are nice lathes, and we sell probably 75% Chinese made to 25% Taiwan made because of the price. But if the price isnt as much of an issue, no question, the machines from Taiwan are higher end lathes. When we use the ultra precision and highest quality, it actually means what it says. (Yes many others do that too and it is marketing, but with us, this is truthful marketing) The speed problem can easily be taken care of with a motor/vfd, but thats a little extra work and cost. I agree that 90 RPM is too fast for the low speed. Tried to have them change that, but then the cost goes up, and the difference we would have to charge for the extra geared speeds would almost pay for a motor/vfd so we left it alone.

This is the same factory as the PM-1340GT, mostly the same, but there are differences in them, just read the descriptions carefully. Mainly size, accessories and gear hardening. But its still a great machine.
 

davidpbest

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#7
I just took a look at the spec differences between the two lathes you're considering (1228VF-LB and 1236-T). I have owned the 1340GT for a year now, and the 1236-T looks to me to be a slightly smaller version of that machine, with headstock gears and shaft that are not hardened to save additional costs versus the 1340GT, hence the admonition about daily production use (" If it will be used daily, please select PM-1340GT, gears and shafts in the 1340GT are different, they are a hardened alloy steel, meant for daily use, pro gunsmiths, industrial shops, production, etc.").

The only functional benefit I see for the Chinese-built 1228 is the variable speed brushless DC motor and the lower speed attainable with that. In every other regard, the 1236 is a much superior machine. You can solve the low RPM need (if you discover it's that important) by converting the machine to 3-phase with a VFD. That process is very thoroughly documented on this forum and we have the absolute expert on doing these conversions right here on the PM forum (Mark Jacobs). Tachometer you can add later for under $100 if you feel you need one.

The weight difference between the 1228 and 1236 is very substantial and will have a direct correlation on the rigidity of the machine. I have been amazed at how aggressively I can drive the 1340GT compared to it's predecessor (an Emco-Maier Maximat V10P from Switzerland, similar in weight to the 1228). No question in my mind that for a "lifetime" decision, the 1236 is the way to go. Over time you can enhance it considerably, but you'll never be able to add additional weight and rigidity to the 1228 or banish the Chineseium out of it.
 

wildo

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#10
Thank you all for your replies! Looks like I just went from a couple hundred bucks away to more than a grand away... sigh. But that's going to be a fun lathe to work with!
 

richl

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#11
The beauty of the way the models are stacked, when you start getting closers to the money target of this lathe, you start looking at the next upgrade in size and performance and than you want that one lol hehehe:D
Have fun,

Rich
 

wildo

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#12
This is the same factory as the PM-1340GT, mostly the same, but there are differences in them, just read the descriptions carefully. Mainly size, accessories and gear hardening. But its still a great machine.
I forgot to say- thanks for chiming in on this thread! I forgot that you were a member here. Do you guys have a YouTube channel where you show these lathes in operation? That's probably a stretch, but it's worth asking. Thanks again!

Oh- and one last request. Since the linked manual is for the 13-40GT, can you provide the machine overall size (specifically benchtop depth) for the 1236-T so I can ensure my benchtop is deep enough for the machine to sit on. Currently the website shows only the dimensions WITH the cabinet:

Machine Dimensions, Assembled with stand: 51”H x 29”W x 66”L
 

qualitymachinetools

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#13
No problem at all, I try to check in when I have some time. No youtube channel from us, but there are quite a few people who have the 1340GT that are on youtube.
Dimensions are the same other than the height, without the stand is about 22-1/2" Also, if you dont include the cross slide handle, dimension from the back of the back splash guard to the front edge of the chip tray is also between 22 and 23", its only the cross slide handle that sticks out that much.
 

GA Gyro

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#14
I forgot to say- thanks for chiming in on this thread! I forgot that you were a member here. Do you guys have a YouTube channel where you show these lathes in operation? That's probably a stretch, but it's worth asking. Thanks again!

Oh- and one last request. Since the linked manual is for the 13-40GT, can you provide the machine overall size (specifically benchtop depth) for the 1236-T so I can ensure my benchtop is deep enough for the machine to sit on. Currently the website shows only the dimensions WITH the cabinet:

Machine Dimensions, Assembled with stand: 51”H x 29”W x 66”L
Not sure if it would be in the budget...
However the 1340GT is an excellent and durable lathe... probably one of the more popular new machines at this site.
IMO the 'Taiwanese' machines from QMT (PM) are worth the extra $$$!
 

wildo

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#15
No youtube channel from us, but there are quite a few people who have the 1340GT that are on youtube.
Ah! I keep forgetting these are VERY similar machines. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll check out some videos on that one.

Also, if you dont include the cross slide handle, dimension from the back of the back splash guard to the front edge of the chip tray is also between 22 and 23", its only the cross slide handle that sticks out that much.
Since I want to mount this on a sturdy bench, this is exactly what I was looking for. The 29" deep dimension on the website had me a bit nervous. 22-23 is totally fine as the bench will be 24" deep. Awesome.
 

wildo

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#16
Not sure if it would be in the budget...
However the 1340GT is an excellent and durable lathe... probably one of the more popular new machines at this site.
IMO the 'Taiwanese' machines from QMT (PM) are worth the extra $$$!
I'm sure the 1340GT is fantastic. But I'm looking for a bench lathe specifically.
 

GA Gyro

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#17
I'm sure the 1340GT is fantastic. But I'm looking for a bench lathe specifically.
There was a thread I saw a few days ago... guy bought a PM1340GT without the stand... and mounted it on a custom bench.
As I understand it... Matt will sell it to you without the stand if you want it that way.

IMO: order a 3 PH motor and get a VFD... lots more flexibility of use!
 

wildo

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#18
There was a thread I saw a few days ago... guy bought a PM1340GT without the stand... and mounted it on a custom bench.
As I understand it... Matt will sell it to you without the stand if you want it that way.

IMO: order a 3 PH motor and get a VFD... lots more flexibility of use!
Thanks. The 1340GT is far too large for my application or available space.
 

qualitymachinetools

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#20
Because of the price we have it at, its the economy version but still gets you in to a very nice machine from Taiwan.
 

BAMCIS

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#21
As the OP said, not much is out there on the ultra precision lathes. My two cents are that it seems odd that the Chi-com 1236 has a three year warranty and the 1236-T has a one year. Because we are discussing "lifetime" lathes, I would be hesitant to pull the trigger on a 1236-T if the manufacturer believes there is a greater chance of having to honor the warranty after one year. The promised max runout on the 1236-T is impressive and would be the reason for me to purchase it over the 1236, but if the accuracy should degrade after a year then it'd be a waste to spend the additional money.
 

Chipper5783

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#22
The warranty difference is not a big deal (so they should give the longer warranty). Generally if there is going to be an issue, it will show up pretty early. The speed range is pretty narrow (bottom end is still too fast and the top end of only 1600 on a small machine, nice if it was faster). However that fast bottom end seems to be very common on new lathes - I suspect there is a cost saving, and with VFDs being so cheap, it is easy make the conversion and dial down another 50% (which would be about right).

I agree, if you know you are going to stay in this game a while - get the better machine (in fact, step up from the 1236T to at least the 1340GT). When you get a better quality machine, you'll use it more, enjoy it more and when you get more machines, it will always have a good place in the shop. It will also sell well when the time comes. I spend $10,000 on my first lathe - it was nearly new, I was 21 years old. I spend every dime, I could not even power the machine. The only tooling I had was a 6" caliper and a set of drill bits. I figured it would be the only machine I'd ever buy, so I'd better make it a good one. Over the years, tooling was added. That was 34 years ago. I now have several more machines, and the cost of all the others put together comes to what that first lathe cost. Obviously I way over paid for that first machine, but I've no regrets - that was a great purchase and it is still my "goto" machine. The original purchase price is long forgotten (I've blown more cash than that on any number of stupid purchases). For a life time machine, don't sweat the price!

A 13" machine, with a gap is a very useful size for general type work. If you have the space, power and ability to move it - then anything up to 16" would be an excellent choice (still very capable of small work). IMO over 16" gets to be a bear if you are mostly doing small stuff (of course it would still work, just not as handy, everything is bigger and more expensive).
 
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