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cheapo mini lathe?

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  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
cheapo mini lathe?
Posted by Johnny1000 on Monday, October 02, 2017 2:00 PM

I've been curious about something like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Signswise-Motorized-Woodworking-Education-Modelmaking/dp/B00UL3J81S

Anyone have one/seen one in action? I can't find any real info. I get that it's more toy than tool, but is it complete junk, or workable for occasional light use with plastic, wood, and soft metals (brass, etc) and the like? 

Taig, Grizzly, Sherline, etc (or Unimat on ebay) is just a bit more than I can justify at this point. 

Thanks!

-J

Tags: lathe
  • Member since
    May, 2009
  • From: Poland
Posted by Pawel on Monday, October 02, 2017 2:37 PM

Hello Johnny!

I guess it all comes down to what do you want to do with it? I've bought a small lathe for 500€ like ten years ago. I use it like two times a year and mostly for some metalworking around-the-house or -car things. Most of the time I end up gripping a piece of sprue in my Proxxon and carving with a tip of the hobby knife - with a staedy hand you can do some nice detail, like those flash suppressors:

1:35 Dragon M55 Quad 50 by Pawel

Good luck with your modelling projects and have a nice day

Paweł

All comments and critique welcomed. Thanks for your honest opinions!

www.vietnam.net.pl

  • Member since
    January, 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Monday, October 02, 2017 3:07 PM

Johnny1000

I've been curious about something like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Signswise-Motorized-Woodworking-Education-Modelmaking/dp/B00UL3J81S

Anyone have one/seen one in action? I can't find any real info. I get that it's more toy than tool, but is it complete junk, or workable for occasional light use with plastic, wood, and soft metals (brass, etc) and the like? 

Taig, Grizzly, Sherline, etc (or Unimat on ebay) is just a bit more than I can justify at this point. 

Thanks!

-J

 

 

For use on what? I don’t see how that can be a “ must-have“ tool in this hobby. 

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Monday, October 02, 2017 3:29 PM

Thanks Pawel!

Those are fine looking muzzle suppresors. Do you mean that you just chuck the part in to hold it, and then don't use the motor to turn it, but turn it by hand using the knife as the cutting tool?

BlackSheepTwoOneFour: I'd use it for scratch building, cleaning up round parts, and then I'm not sure. It's certainly not a must have for scale modeling, but I'm thinking it could expand possibilities.

I was fabricating a small brass attenna post for a 1/48 F4F the other week, and trying to turn a length at the bottom into a pin using a cordless drill and a file to be able to seat it in the tail. It was a bit hard to control, but it worked well enough to cause a little light bulb to go off in my head.

Thanks!

-J 

  • Member since
    May, 2009
  • From: Poland
Posted by Pawel on Monday, October 02, 2017 5:45 PM

Johnny - no, I actually turn the motor of the Proxxon on, high rpms. And the hand-held takes it quite all-right. It also helps a lot with drilling centered holes in small round objects.

Hope it helps, have a nice day

Paweł

All comments and critique welcomed. Thanks for your honest opinions!

www.vietnam.net.pl

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, October 02, 2017 8:11 PM

There's a number of reviews on Amazon that basically say that you get what you paid for. And it won't turn metal.

My general criteria with machine tools is that accessories are everything, they can run to some bucks, it's always a good idea to see what is available.

I only occasionally wish I had a lathe. I'm sure it would be nice. But I'd consider a real one, that can cut metal and turn threads..

Used Unimats can be had for $200- $300.

  • Member since
    December, 2013
  • From: Orlando Florida
Posted by route62 on Monday, October 02, 2017 8:30 PM

I have one of these unimat Chinese knockoffs.  You do get what you pay for.  I knew this going in and decided that I would correct any issues and save a good chunk of change over a high quality unit.

I use mine mostly for plastic and soft metals.  Brass, aluminum and steel will be too much for these machines other than sanding.

Most of these do not turn true and you will have bad vibration and wobble.  This can be corrected by replacing the cheap bearings and getting a better more balanced arbor.  Also a speed control will allow to turn at much slower speeds for plastics.

The limitation of the knokoffs is in their mostly plastic contruction and poor tolerances.  If you are willing to improve the shortcoming and limit the use to soft materials, it can work.  I have been able to turn and mill several parts from plastic.

  • Member since
    January, 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Monday, October 02, 2017 9:20 PM

Johnny1000

BlackSheepTwoOneFour:  cleaning up round parts

 

 

 

You can use a Dremel tool for that.. Just sayin'... Cool

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 7:32 AM

GMorrison

Used Unimats can be had for $200- $300.

That's clearly the sensible way to go, except Unimats seem to be going for more $4-500 on ebay, which is a bit more than I can justify.

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 9:17 AM

There are basically two types of lathes, wood turning ones and metal working, or machine tool lathes.  This lathe seems to be a hybrid of the two- it has the tool control mechanisms of the machine tool lathe, but apparently cannot work metal.  That by itself is certainly not a fatal flaw.  About half the time I work mine I use wood or plastic rather than metal.  Big difference between the two types of lathes is that a machine tool lathe moves the cutting tool under control of a precision mechanism, whereas the wood lathe relies on manually moving a chisel, held against a tool rest to shape the part.

I think a very big problem is the small swing, the diameter of the biggest part you can turn.  So be aware this lathe will only turn small diameter parts, though the length of the part (distance between centers) is not as bad. 

Keep in mind that there are small wood lathes that are available for around this price, but the parts made from them will not be as precise as this one, though they may be larger.  So your main choice is between size of parts made, versus the accuracy/precision of the part.

 

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 9:17 AM

Pawell: interesting, thanks!

Route 62: thanks so much, that's really helpful info. And, about what one would expect, I guess. You couldn't turn even small radius (<1/4") brass? I'm okay with a learning experience, and with working within limitations, but if it's too limited, that sort of defeats the purpose. 

BlackSheep: perhaps. I'm not sure this is an entirely rational deliberation, exactly. And yes, if the usage was just assisting in parts clean up, a lathe would be certainly be overkill.

-J

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 9:27 AM

Don Stauffer

So your main choice is between size of parts made, versus the accuracy/precision of the part.

Super helpful. Thanks Don.

-J

  • Member since
    May, 2008
  • From: Wyoming Michigan
Posted by ejhammer on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 9:38 AM
The description indicates that the construction of this machine is "Aluminum Alloy + Zinc Alloy + ABS ". This info, plus the photo of the machine indicates to me that much of it is die cast parts of softer metals, and plastic (ABS). Decent machines are made of cast iron and steel, machined to close tolerances. I don't think this machine will be very accurate or stable, with vibration being an issue, plus the long term "life" of the machine is in question because of the softer materials it is made of. Exactly - you get what you pay for.

Completed - USS ESSEX 1/700 Hasegawa Dec 1942, USS Yorktown 1/700 Trumpeter 1943. In The Yards - USS ESSEX 1/700 Hasegawa 1945, USS ESSEX 1/700 Dragon 1944, USS ESSEX 1/700 Trumpeter 1945, USS ESSEX 1/540 Revell (vintage) 1962, USS ESSEX 1/350 Trumpeter 1942, USS ESSEX LHD-2 as commissioned, converted from USS Wasp kit Gallery Models. Plus 35 other plastic and wood ship kits.

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 8:25 AM

Thanks. Yeah, makes sense. Figured. Also, the lack of speed control can't be good. 

My sideline as a machinist might just have to wait until I stumble on an old Unimat or Sherline for cheap. 

-J

  • Member since
    September, 2015
  • From: The Redwood Empire
Posted by Aaronw on Thursday, October 05, 2017 12:13 AM

I've been through this from both sides. You have to take comments about cheap lathes and mills with a grain of salt and consider what you need / want from a lathe. I'm sure the comments about the quality are spot on.

I have seen people who have bought similar machines make positive comments about them because they had low expectations and those expectations were met by the machine they bought. Also lots of negative comments from people who had higher expectations that were not met.

You probably can do a lot of the things you describe by using a drill or dremel as a cobbled together lathe. I've made a few simple items that way.

 

Several years ago, I was becoming interested in getting a mini lathe. I initially looked at some like this one, maybe even a little better (my budget was $250-300). My needs were small and my expectations low. With more research I figured out these cheap ones probably weren't going to make me happy for long.

Then I started looking at the "cheap" ($500-700) Chinese lathes. Once I made the jump from $200 to $500, my needs and expectations changed. Issues I was willing to accept at $200, I was less willing to accept when I was spending $500+. 

At that point I was then looking at $800+, better quality chinese lathes, Taig and Sherline. With each jump in budget, my expectations grew. Each increase also led to more thoughtfulness on spending that much money (do I "need" it, will I actually use it, do I actually have he paience to learn to use it) and of course also more time setting aside the money to make the purchase. It seems like cars, pets and children all know when you have money burning a hole in your pocket. Surprise

 

Ultimately I did buy a Sherline, but it didn't end there. I was initially going to get the smaller (and cheaper) lathe with the basic package. Then I started to look at the longer 17" lathe, because you never know... and if I'm spending $700, it would be dumb not to spend another $100 to get one I know is big enough.

Then it was the extras, out with the basic package and in with the ultra deluxe package because those package deals really are good deals, so the price climbed from $750 to $1300. Then there was the need for a grinder to sharpen the lathe tools, and of course I don't want a crap grinder so another $200. The hand powered hack saw gets old quick, so another $150 for a chop saw...

Start to finish it took about 4 years to actually get the lathe. I've had it about a year, and it looks lonely so now I'm buying a mill to keep it company, with the various accessories I "need" I'm probably down another $1800.

 

So Grand total, I've probably spent $3500 and I've made some parts I probably could have bought for about $100....

Still I'm pretty happy about it, I've acquirred a new hobby that fits in well with my existing hobby. Also at this rate in 35 years these tools might pay for themselves. I probably would have just bought more model kits for the stash anyway. Stick out tongue

 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Thursday, October 05, 2017 12:19 AM

I bought the mini table saw of my dreams from micromark on a 30% off sale. Cost me

$ 325.00.

Now, if I get around to spending $ 175 for the zero out movable fence, I might even set it up and use it. Of course the $ 100.00 digital micrometer fence adjuster would be nice too.

  • Member since
    May, 2008
  • From: Wyoming Michigan
Posted by ejhammer on Thursday, October 05, 2017 8:59 AM

AHH Yes, the things dreams are made of. If I only had a (insert wish).

This is one of my favorite places to snoop around and, well, wish.

https://www.littlemachineshop.com/

 

EJ

 

Completed - USS ESSEX 1/700 Hasegawa Dec 1942, USS Yorktown 1/700 Trumpeter 1943. In The Yards - USS ESSEX 1/700 Hasegawa 1945, USS ESSEX 1/700 Dragon 1944, USS ESSEX 1/700 Trumpeter 1945, USS ESSEX 1/540 Revell (vintage) 1962, USS ESSEX 1/350 Trumpeter 1942, USS ESSEX LHD-2 as commissioned, converted from USS Wasp kit Gallery Models. Plus 35 other plastic and wood ship kits.

  • Member since
    September, 2015
  • From: The Redwood Empire
Posted by Aaronw on Thursday, October 05, 2017 3:39 PM

It is a little disturbing how little info there is on this thing, most of the posts I've found just link back to Amazon... It gives some vague specs and appears to come with a single cutting tool.

 

It would appear that it can handle material of a maximum size around 1" x 5" (25x135mm) although I wouldn't plan on more than 2/3 of that actually being usable. Still not a bad size for 1/24 scale and smaller model parts.

I found at least one on ebay for $100, which isn't a terrible risk. I've lost sunglasses that cost almost that much.

 

What I was getting at in my rambling post above is that all the people saying this thing is a crap lathe are right. It is not a precision tool, it can't reasonably be compared to something like a Taig or Sherline lathe. At less than 1/4 the price it would be foolish to even expect that though, so not really a fair comparison.

That doesn't neccessarily mean it is useless to a modeler who doesn't expect to be able to turn out large numbers of parts with high accuracy. Unless it is a total piece of junk it shouldn't be any worse than using a cordless drill or Dremel as an adhoc lathe, and it could potentially be better since it is actually is a lathe.

 

I just hate to see how questions about these kinds of tools immediately get pounced on for being junk. I mean they are, but that doesn't mean they can't be useful. I'd also hate to see someone buy one of these expecting to turn out high quality brass or aluminum parts.

 

If you can afford to lose $150-200 if it turns out to be complete garbage, it might be worth the risk. I would expect it could reasonably turn out simple bits like small gun barrels, if nothing else it might be good for sanding round objects...  

 

I've seen a few positive comments about these 6 in 1 lathe / mills or at least ones similar (probably all the same except the label anyway). Again positive in that the buyer wasn't expecting much from a less than $200 mini-mill / lathe / drill press, jig saw thingamajig.

https://www.amazon.com/KKmoon-Multi-functional-Motorized-Transformer-Multipurpose/dp/B073VNDVR4/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1507234961&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=6+in+1+mini+lathe&psc=1

 

So I'm not endorsing this thing, but if you are realistic about what it is, it might actually be something you find useful. If on the otherhand you want a real mini lathe, save your money and hope for a good deal on a used Taig or Sherline.

  • Member since
    September, 2015
  • From: The Redwood Empire
Posted by Aaronw on Thursday, October 05, 2017 3:51 PM

GMorrison

I bought the mini table saw of my dreams from micromark on a 30% off sale. Cost me

$ 325.00.

Now, if I get around to spending $ 175 for the zero out movable fence, I might even set it up and use it. Of course the $ 100.00 digital micrometer fence adjuster would be nice too.

 

 

I quickly learned the truth about the cost of associated tooling adding up to more than the machine itself cost. Mini table saw you say...  cute little bugger. Big Smile

  • Member since
    December, 2013
  • From: Orlando Florida
Posted by route62 on Thursday, October 05, 2017 4:13 PM

The issue with trying to turn brass on these cheap chinese machines like the one I have, is that the majority of the construction is plastic including the gear/ belt drive to motor and the much of the internals.  The machine can not handle the pressure and torque you need to apply to cut the brass.  It just bogs down and does not stay true so you can not get a clean straight cut.  

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Friday, October 06, 2017 2:02 PM

Really great perspectives all the way around, thanks.

Aaron: the incremental slide up in cost kind of gets to the crux of the hobbyist's dilemma, right? On the one hand, it's just a hobby, so going overboard on tools doesn't make financial sense; on the other, it is a hobby—definitionally an activity meant to give you personal satisfaction—so if you aren't enjoying working with the tools, what's the point? 

With respect to your latter discussion about the potential merits/shortcomings of the super cheap lathes, that all makes sense. 

And not being able to realistically work w/ brass puts it a step down from the kludgy cordless drill/dremel lathe proxy, even if you get a bit more precision.

Now I'm coveting 'real' entry level mini lathes/mills, and I'm not even really sure what I want to machine. Even if there isn't much immediate application to scale modeling, maybe I'll make small metal art objects and that will be satisfaction enough. 

Unimats in good condition with enough stuff (chucks, tools, etc) to get started are going for $500-600 on ebay, which is about what a new Taig bundle costs. And which is twice what I wanted to spend... thus that incremental slide up.

 

  • Member since
    September, 2017
Posted by Moparlover64 on Friday, October 06, 2017 10:19 PM

Got myx11x17 sherline on offerup used 1homade tool holder 10 cutting tools with the milling attachment and a couple basic tools 450.00 and it works great still learning though.havent used the mill attachment instead i bought a benchtop drill press and an x y axis vice again still learning at 53 but im happy with the equipment just bought me a scroll saw too but like they say ya get what ya pay for and if you do buy a used one dont just turn on a say it works have the owneror your self make a small simple piece. To make sure it does what it supposed to do figured 1more comment couldnt hurt to bad

  • Member since
    July, 2017
Posted by bartenational on Monday, October 09, 2017 10:59 AM

I say buy it!

anyime you can learn on something cheap you should. If you want to learn guitar and you run out and buy a martin, take it home put it in the closet and never touch it. You are wasting your money. If you go out and buy a Squire and play it everyday, you will realize why you want a better one!

How can you tell if you even will mess with a lathe if you don't have one? These are questions only you really know. 

I have given many people guitars over the years, books, lessons, and they never touched the guitar again. 

Learning to use a lathe effectively will take years. SO if you can't even make yourself learn on this low end, low investment lathe. You will save thousands of dollars from buying a "better" one. On the other hand if you buy this cheap one and use it so much you ware it out, then you are fully justified in spending 2 grand on professional one. 

I always get cheap stuff to learn on. Used, craigslist. Heck I am sure someone else out there has bought a nice lather they keep in thier closet and never use who would make you a really good deal on one. 

Now this guy I have been watching is like some sort of lathe maniac, if you want to see what can be done with a lathe watch this guy. AMAZING

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCworsKCR-Sx6R6-BnIjS2MA

https://photos.app.goo.gl/9efCAsT0e2u4laTA3


 

living the dream 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/0sUvBqbiFEMH99Dn1

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, October 09, 2017 11:40 AM

bartenational

I say buy it!

I tend to agree. It's gotta be good for something, and it's not expensive. It doesn't cost much more than a good electric drill, and hey I'd like to hear how you like it.

 

Bill

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Monday, October 09, 2017 5:17 PM

GMorrison

 

 
bartenational

I say buy it!

 

 

I tend to agree. It's gotta be good for something, and it's not expensive. It doesn't cost much more than a good electric drill, and hey I'd like to hear how you like it.

 

 

Bill

It is tempting...

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: NYC
Posted by Johnny1000 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 6:51 PM

Update: I finally decided that the lack of speed control on those cheepo lathes was a deal breaker. I was leaning toward just getting a Dremel workstation/faux drillpress. But then, my Dremel only has fast and super fast speeds, and doesn't really get slow enough for a lot of styrene operations, which is probably the main use case.  

But still having this irrational 'need' for some sort of machinist tool, I stumbled on this, for $65:

Gino Development 01-0822 0-8500 rpm TruePower Precision Mini Drill Press with 3 Range Variable Speed Control, 1/4"

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007FY0OQO/

It's small. I haven't measured the runout, but it's precise enough for my needs and is pretty stable. It doesn't take larger bits, but I'm not planning on drilling big holes.

So far I've used it to drill small (70-80 size bits) holes in styrene, brass and aluminum, and also as a cludgey vertical lathe, and it's been completely fine. I got a set of mini mill bits, but haven't yet had the need to mill anything. I know we're not supposed to put sideways force on a drill, but I figure if the material is soft enough (eg: styrene, maybe aluminum) it would be fine. 

The one thing, is that the slowest speed is still pretty fast. So, the whole rationale for why this over the Dremel thing didn't really work out, but I bet this is a whole lot more stable.

I'm saving up for a Taig mini lathe, probably, but in the meantime this soothed some of my machinist longing. 

cheers

-J

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