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"Beginner" Machinist Tool Set

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John K
Howdy,

I have really enjoyed the basic metal fabrication I have done so far; cutting, bending, welding, tap & die sort of stuff. I would like to get a little deeper into machining, and happened to win a drawing at work recently so I have a little money to throw at the idea. I am thinking the $1000 - $1500 range might be good, ideally on the lower end because then I can still buy some material to work with.

I found this on Craigslist, and it is pretty close to me. The amount of stuff included is both exciting and overwhelming.


I believe some of the folks on here do some machining, does anybody have thoughts on that post? Not just in terms of pricing, but the contents -- would something like that be a good beginner kit? Perhaps it is better to just build up your supply as you go -- that way you only have the tools you have really needed, though that means you are going to often be without the tool you need.
 

mgonitzke

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I'm pretty sure that lathe was made by Atlas. It will work, but those lathes are pretty light, and you'll have to work slowly taking light cuts, especially on steel. Most of the gears are some sort of cast pot metal that is not particularly strong, so one has to be careful not to destroy them. That 3/4 hp motor is possibly larger than what it originally came with, which won't help the lifespan of the gears.

It can still do a lot if you are patient, but you just have to understand and be able to work around its limitations. What sort of things are you wanting to do?

I have a 9" South Bend lathe, which is a bit sturdier lathe of similar size. If it were me, I'd hold out for one of those, as they are probably equally as plentiful as the Craftsman/Atlas lathes, but more durable. I have pretty bare-bones tooling for mine, which includes very little of what comes with that one. I occasionally get something new for a special project, but the following has done lots of shafts, bushings, spacers, and various other parts:

-Quick-change toolpost and TCMT tool holders and inserts (more rigid than the lantern toolpost, helps a lot on these smaller lathes, but a bit higher cost due to inserts)
-Two chucks for the tailstock, one with a center drill, other free for various size drill bits (plus a set of number/letter/fractional drills, plus a metric set)
-live center
-Boring bar set (mounts to above toolpost and uses same inserts)
-6", Calipers, a couple micrometers, bore gauges

There's probably a few other things in my drawer I'm not remembering, but that does 99% of what I need to do. Steady rest would be nice, but may be useless if you aren't doing any long parts.
 
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Thanks for the info Matt!

What sort of things are you wanting to do?
Honestly, I am not even sure yet, which is not very helpful when giving me advice :)

I think it would be super cool to make my own stuff out of metal beyond cutting and welding. Some "beginner machinist project" lists seemed to have some cool ideas, like slide hammer, machinist hammer, etc.

I came across an interesting looking horizontal mill as well, a Barker Model PM, 3C collet. 1/3 hp 110v. $825

Would a mill (vertical or horizontal) be a better starting tool if I had to pick one? Of course I don't have much idea of what I want to do, so that might not be a simple yes or no question. Any advice appreciated!
 
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The more I think about what I really want to do, the more I am thinking I might think about other tool additions that might get more use while waiting for a really good deal on a mill or lathe.

Plasma Cutter and Shop Press (Hydraulic) come to mind...
 

mgonitzke

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I had a lathe for awhile before getting a mill. Most of the things I use my mill for can be done slower with other methods. They are both useful and I use both quite a bit.

Horizontal mills have some limitations. I'd look for a vertical mill.
 

mfrade

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Yes, it is a Atlas - and a lot of guys with other lathes seem to look down at them. But Atlas made a ton of them and many are still purring along just fine. The gears and some of the knobs / handwheels are made of an alloy called Zamak, it's a zinc alloy .. I'm a Clausing kinda guy myself, Atlas later bought clausing, but my stuff is pre - atlas. A lathe like that with all that tooling would be a wonderful start into the machining hobby, And the price seems reasonable to me. A lot of the prices we see are based on the regions of the state/ country - some places are machining deserts and other areas seem to have everything, much like cub cadets. If you like to "tinker" and do small projects, that deal would be great to get started and if you later changed your mind, you'd probably recover what you spent.
 

dschwandt

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John,'
What, if anything, did you wind up doing?
I looked at that lathe as well, friend of mine says it's too much $$ for what is there.
I dunno, we all want to save on a purchase like this but I want something that is complete and reliable and not need a lot of refurbishment, like a lot of Cubs, to make it that way!
My gut tells me machines in that category are not going to be in the $1500 and below section of the store but then even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then I guess!!
There are South Bends out there and I think it best to expand my search and focus on one of those.
 
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John,'
What, if anything, did you wind up doing?
I looked at that lathe as well, friend of mine says it's too much $$ for what is there.
I dunno, we all want to save on a purchase like this but I want something that is complete and reliable and not need a lot of refurbishment, like a lot of Cubs, to make it that way!
My gut tells me machines in that category are not going to be in the $1500 and below section of the store but then even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then I guess!!
There are South Bends out there and I think it best to expand my search and focus on one of those.
I have not made any decisions/purchases with regards to some machining tools, but I am definitely still thinking about it. I am a bit limited with floor space in my garage so part of me is thinking any major purchases might wait until we move, which we plan on doing this spring to have more space (both home and shop).

I think I will setup some craigslist saved searches incase a killer deal comes up, and will definitely include South Bend in the search, thanks!
 

Neil Mullins

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Lifetime machinist here. Machine tools can become quite addictive. I started with a 9” South Bend as someone else suggested. &I agree if in decent shape good lathe.
I soon found the need for a bit larger & found a 14” Enco import. For about the same money used. It was 3 phase 220 power but a rotary phase converter isn’t a lot of money these days. Then that opened the door for a used “Bridgeport” type mill later on
 

bwstevens

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It is addictive as anything. I have a $150 10" logan that i turn bolts and pins on . I am putting together a portable lineshaft lathe and drillpress from the turn of the last century.
 

Neil Mullins

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This is a couple products I produce off this Vertical Turret Lathe. The first is an axle end for an underground mining "shuttle car" the steel 16 16" X 20" X 4" thick. I face the block down leaving a 14.875" dowel pin of .4375 height. The second picture is for another piece of underground mining equipment called a scoop. Same facing process leaving the ring.
 

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dschwandt

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I have to go to my shop & take a couple pictures. Most don’t know what “line shaft” is
Belt drive system for multiple machines.
Like the machine shop museum at Rollag, MN.
 

Neil Mullins

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This machine is a Niles-Beement-Pond Vertical Turret lathe. about 1919-1922 vintage This is an old line shaft machine. I converted it to a 20 HP electric. Paid 300$ for it sitting in San Angelo TX (ebay). Was part of an old train repair facility. Paid to have it loaded & moved to central WV apx 1600$ ... Clutch was bad in it & repair parts impossible so I made a clutch from VW Van parts to outfit on the end of motor & operate clutch with air actuator.
Necessity & imagination is the mother of all invention. Usually if there is a will there is a way. I have squeezed 20 more years of life out of this machine & is unbelievably accurate for what I do on it... I added the DRO readout to help cut down on reading micrometers & final accuracy. LOL a new mix of technology with really OLD-SCHOOL machine.
IMG_4918.JPG
 

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Neil Mullins

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IMG_4919.JPG


I have a 2 part "doghouse" screen I sit over all this bunch of massive moving parts.
 

dschwandt

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That's what Rolag is all about...STEAM POWER!!
If you like steam, that should be on your bucket list, every Labor Day weekend
The machine shop is loaded with machines and many are in operation for the show
 

Neil Mullins

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I’m old enough I have watched steam powered locomotives be retired for Diesel/Electric. I probably got off topic because I still use today an old “line shaft” machine to still make product today. The OP was asking for advice on buying a lathe. I hoped only to help there.
 

bwstevens

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On buying a lathe . It was asked if a mill would be better first choice. It depends on whether a person is in need of a drill press or making bushings is more important. A lathe can be used to mill slots so I can say lathe first and then mill but then I have several of each .
 

John DeBree

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I worked in an old three story factory in CT in 1980. The entire third floor used line shafting, all off of one huge electric motor. Each machine had marks on the floor to show the length of a new belt. We used flat leather belting, a Clipper belt lacer, and catgut pins to hold them together. Each machine had a clutch so you disengage the line shaft without shutting down everything to change a belt.
 

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