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May 27, 2024 - 7:40:23 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

I am looking to purchase a mini metal lathe to do small turning jobs. I have looked on line and viewed ones from China on Ebay.
Has anyone ever purchased and used one of these? What are your thoughts?

May 27, 2024 - 8:08:15 PM

247 posts since 8/31/2015

In my days working in an instrument repair shop we had a mini-lathe and it came in handy for many tasks. I don't remember the brand, but it was red, had adjustable speed, forward/backward switch, and said it was for metalwork (but I only ever used it for wood, plastic, or bone. Probably the most common use in a repair shop setting was for making custom dowels to plug holes, but I also used it to do things like turn dot inlay stock (ebony, etc.) and make 5th string nut blanks.

Now that I work on my own doing lutherie as a hobby instead of a dayjob, I get by chucking up pieces of wood in a drill (hand or press), but I have to admit that it was easier and more accurate with the mini-lathe.

-TD

May 28, 2024 - 5:49:06 AM
like this

RB3

USA

2039 posts since 4/12/2004

Don't get a "mini" lathe. Get the most massive lathe that you can deal with and afford for your applications. When machine tool components experience deflection, precision and accuracy are sacrificed. Mass increases the probability that those deflections will be minimized.

May 28, 2024 - 5:21:50 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by RB3

Don't get a "mini" lathe. Get the most massive lathe that you can deal with and afford for your applications. When machine tool components experience deflection, precision and accuracy are sacrificed. Mass increases the probability that those deflections will be minimized.


Massive lathes are hellishly expensive for what I need to do, Also I have limited space. 

May 28, 2024 - 11:33:16 PM

117 posts since 8/23/2022

I see you are in New Zealand, so I am not sure if used older lathes are available. If something like an older South Bend or Atlas lathe in good condition is available it would be much better than a newer mini lathe. Some of the South Bend and Atlas lathes were available in smaller sizes such as 8"x 36". These lathes will remove material much faster and be much more accurate.

Of course everything depends on the condition of the lathe. I am not sure if you are able to determine the condition, primarly the headstock bearings and wear on the ways. One way to get an indication of condition is to turn a steel bar over a length of may 10" and see if the finish and diameter along the length are good. Also cutting a thread is another test.

May 29, 2024 - 2:20:03 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by campandstrum

I see you are in New Zealand, so I am not sure if used older lathes are available. If something like an older South Bend or Atlas lathe in good condition is available it would be much better than a newer mini lathe. Some of the South Bend and Atlas lathes were available in smaller sizes such as 8"x 36". These lathes will remove material much faster and be much more accurate.

Of course everything depends on the condition of the lathe. I am not sure if you are able to determine the condition, primarly the headstock bearings and wear on the ways. One way to get an indication of condition is to turn a steel bar over a length of may 10" and see if the finish and diameter along the length are good. Also cutting a thread is another test.


Thanks for the input Scott. There are lathes available on various forums (FB Marketplace etc) but these are the ones that wouldn't fit. Also the money is the issue. Given what I want to use them for, the mini desktop ones would be ideal for me.

May 29, 2024 - 7:06:56 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

In an addendum to this post, the lathes I am looking at only have a single speed, usually 12K or 20K RPM. Could I connect a DC motor controller to it to alter the speed??

May 30, 2024 - 3:08:51 AM

1749 posts since 12/26/2007

Wayne -  a friend described using a Dremel moto-lathe.  When I needed to turn some small ivory (documented legal, pleistocene, Mammoth ivory)  banjo nuts / finials, I found one on eBay.  It's not really a "serious" lathe, but it works well for small pieces.  Not sure about varying the speed (3,450 rpm).




May 30, 2024 - 3:54:54 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Mark Ralston

Wayne -  a friend described using a Dremel moto-lathe.  When I needed to turn some small ivory (documented legal, pleistocene, Mammoth ivory)  banjo nuts / finials, I found one on eBay.  It's not really a "serious" lathe, but it works well for small pieces.  Not sure about varying the speed (3,450 rpm).


Thanks for the reply Mark. I am familiar with Dremel products (am still using my 1970's Moto-tool for inlay work).I have found a website that has reference to a modifying a desktop lathe with a motor speed controller. Will be investiaging this shortly.

May 31, 2024 - 7:42:35 AM

22 posts since 12/7/2009

Have you looked at Unimat lathes? I have a model SL1000 and they are very nice little lathes.

May 31, 2024 - 5:52:06 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by nantahala

Have you looked at Unimat lathes? I have a model SL1000 and they are very nice little lathes.


I am familiar with that brand here although I haven't seen one. We are very limited what is available here in NZ and it is next to impossible to find a second hand one much less a new one.

May 31, 2024 - 6:55:16 PM

22 posts since 12/7/2009

I understand. I would be happy to sell mine to you at a reasonable price but shipping would probably be off the charts. I have lots of accessories for it. It runs but it would would need some clean up as it has not been used in a long time




 

Jun 1, 2024 - 2:06:16 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

12062 posts since 6/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by nantahala

I understand. I would be happy to sell mine to you at a reasonable price but shipping would probably be off the charts. I have lots of accessories for it. It runs but it would would need some clean up as it has not been used in a long time


That would probably do me well but as you say, the shipping is the problem.

Jun 1, 2024 - 2:34:56 PM

steampunk

Australia

23 posts since 2/25/2019

G’day. I’m a retired machinist and currently own a cheap Chinese 13” bench lathe. It’s my second Chinese machine. It and the last one have both been great lathes. I’ve also owned two micro lathes a sherline and a taige and also a 10” atlas. If you choose a Chinese lathe with a cast iron bed and adjustable spindle bearings you can’t go wrong. I would have thought they would all come with electronic speed control in that size range. My sherline used a sewing machine motor with a pot to control speed from original with no dramas. Regardless, speed control is essential. I would stay away from old bench lathes regardless of price unless you are able to fully reco it yourself. Been there and done that

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