Planning to buy a modellers lathe

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John Bateson
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Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby John Bateson » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:06 am

Can anybody on here please recommend a reasonable lathe for a modeller as a starter machine. I want to be able to do the usual things like chimneys and domes plus a few others such as bearings and crankpins.
Are the Chinese Sieg machines (rebadged by Axminster and others) useful?
John
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DougN
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby DougN » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:06 am

John I have a friend here in Melbourne who has a C1 and is very happy with it. I am not sure howmuch use in anger it has seen but it looks to be a nice peice of kit.

It is on my "one day" list.... retirement is way way way too far of to think about!
Doug
Still not doing enough modelling

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Tim V
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Tim V » Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:19 pm

They have had good write ups on RMweb, have a search on there.

Lathes can be used for a host of things other than your suggestions, soon you'll wonder how you got on without one......
Tim V
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Wizard of the Moor
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Wizard of the Moor » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:13 pm

If you are interested in a Seig lathe then be prepared to do some work on getting it set up correctly. This site gives a very good idea of what you are likely to face. There is also a Workshop Practice book on the Mini-Lathe by Dave Fenner that is good on the set up and making accessories for the lathe. This book started out as a series of articles in Model Engineers Workshop, which is always worth a read for the part-time swarf collector.

Having researched the mini-lathes myself a few years ago, I opted to go for a Peatol (Taig in the US) lathe instead. This was very easy to set up and accurate from the start. It has done everything that I've asked of it, which in 4mm scale isn't very much :D

The only real downside to the Peatol is that it has no thread cutting ability. The latest version has a leadscrew, and there could be a CNC conversion kit in the pipeline. It also is inherently imperial and all of the bolts have UNF threads.

A couple of good sites for seeing what the Peatol is capable of are Carter Tools and Dean Williams

Usual disclaimer...
James Dickie

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grovenor-2685
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby grovenor-2685 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:52 pm

John,
You might like to read here, several of our members involved in the discussion.
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=100143
Regards
Keith
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Keith
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Philip Hall
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Philip Hall » Fri Nov 12, 2010 3:59 pm

Thanks to the efforts of Vincent (Camden Bank) Worthington, I now have a much rejuvenated Unimat SL lathe. You can tell it's old because it's got Selecta Unimat on the motor housing. The 3-jaw chuck was well past its sell by date, although there was no play at all in the headstock bearings. I know the SL has its limitations, but I'd had it for years, not being used, and it seemed a shame to keep it in mothballs. So Vincent took on the repair for me, and fitted it with a Sherline chuck, which is very accurate (1- 1.25 thou) for such a small machine. I like Sherline products as they are made in their own factory in California and are clearly made by people who care. It's true that they're the only people who make a decent chuck for a SL, which has a 12mm spindle, but if you pay £120 - odd for a chuck then I guess you're pretty sure it's going to be half way accurate. I did try for one of the cheaper ones and the best I could get was 8 thou which was a waste of time.
I've looked at their website and they have some interesting stuff on there: http://www.sherline.com/lathe.htm

If I was in the market for a new lathe I think that is one of the ones I would be going for. Another one would be Proxxon:
http://www.proxxon-direct.com/acatalog/ ... _230e.html

This small lathe is more expensive but a friend has one of these and is very pleased with it.

Philip

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grovenor-2685
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby grovenor-2685 » Fri Nov 12, 2010 5:55 pm

But if you don't have £700 or £800 for a new one you could try for something cheaper
Unimat SLon eBay
or Unimat 3
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Keith
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Tim V
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Tim V » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:30 pm

Got more bits than I have!

Seriously, the Unimat 3 is my choice, I bought mine new in 1988, and never regretted it. In January '89, it cost £270, what would that be in today's prices!
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martin goodall
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby martin goodall » Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:38 pm

Like Tim, I have a Unimat 3, but I am occasionally tempted to write an article on "Tools You Don't Need - No.1, The Lathe".

I do use my lathe occasionally, but I don't think I have ever really justified the cost of buying it (about 25 years ago now). I also bought quite an impressive range of tools and accessories, few of which I have ever used. I did once turn up a GWR safety valve cover, but was not satisfied with the resulting shape,and bought a lost wax casting instead, which was spot-on.

The vertical milling and drilling attachment has proved useful occasionally (good for stirring paint!), but I don't think I would be seriously inconvenienced if I had never had a lathe. Some sort of vertical drill stand would be very desirable if I didn't have the vertical milling and drilling facility of the Unimat 3. Some improvised turning could also be done with an electric drill and a suitable fixture if one didn't have a lathe.

All small lathes have their limitations, and you can't take heavy cuts or do any really 'heavy' machining on them. You would need something rather bigger and much more expensive if wanted to do some serious engineering.

So that's why I say that the lathe is a tool you don't need, even if you think you do. One of my friends once referred to possessions of this sort (lathes, expensive photographic equipment, etc.) as "male jewellery", and I can see what he meant.

Get one if you want one, by all means, but it won't improve your model-making or speed up the prodcution of models to any signifcant extent.

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Paul Willis
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Paul Willis » Fri Nov 12, 2010 10:16 pm

Tim V wrote:Got more bits than I have!

Seriously, the Unimat 3 is my choice, I bought mine new in 1988, and never regretted it. In January '89, it cost £270, what would that be in today's prices!


Hi Tim,

Roughly £531.90, since you asked... I spend a lot of time at work messing with FX rates, historic pricing, and suchlike.

The last one to sell (used) on Ebay reached £255, so you could say that you could sell it now and get virtually the same financial return as investing the money in Premium Bonds, albeit without the incidental chance of becoming a millionaire.

Also, given that a current Proxxon lathe in the "basic metalworking" vein is about 800 quid to start with, you got a bargain by buying when you did...

Flymo
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Tim V
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Tim V » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:49 am

Sorry Martin, I don't agree.

A lathe/small milling machine/precision drill is in my book a must have. I spent a lot of money back in the 80s on buying one, having been impressed by John Palmer's machine. I have never regretted it. OK it isn't in daily use, but then I don't model daily. It does get a lot of use and I wouldn't be parted from it.

If it's such a useless gadget Martin, why not get rid of it? As you can see second hand Unimats go for a lot of money - someone wants them....
Tim V
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John Bateson
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby John Bateson » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:49 am

I've been down this path a few times before and always had better reasons to spend my pension...
I've ruled out the shed and the garage. While the shed is solid and waterproof it is downhill from the house and gets extremely damp due to the heavy Buckley clay just 6 inches down. The garage houses the car - which stops the junior mountain climbers using it to practise their Saturday night hobby of dancing on the garage roof. And that also stops the local cats sliding down the bonnet using their claws as a brake - took me a while to work that one out!

The Domestic Authority & In-House Planning Consultant has always been amenable to such a purchase subject to a few minor items such as an expensive bookcase and some minor (sic!) redecoration to make more space in what is loosely termed the office.

I suspect I will be using the November Heating Allowance to fund about half of this (howls of outrage?) in the next couple of weeks but do please keep any suggestions coming.

John
Slaving away still on GCR stuff ...
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nigelcliffe
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby nigelcliffe » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:48 pm

My experience of using a lathe in the house is "don't". The little curls of swarf get into carpets and are a pig to remove. ( I moved house rapidly from that place !). The current house has an outside workshop where the small Cowell's lathe lives.

I think other machines might come first - a decent drilling machine for example.

For cosmetic features, such as domes, chimneys, etc.. most things can be made with a mini-drill and a graver. If wanting extreme budget lathes, see the articles I wrote describing the "Fonly" on the 2mm website.

The major disadvantage of owning a lathe (or milling machine) is the amount of tooling one ends up buying (budget at least what the lathe costs you if buying new!), followed rapidly by the amount of time spent making tooling to hold things which will allow you to make a tool to make the thing you wanted in the first place.

I'd recommend a Cowell if you can find one at a good s/hand price. New, I think that Proxxon may be better value than Cowell, and Peatol would probably be my starting point for a brand new small machine.

- Nigel

Terry Bendall
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Terry Bendall » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:36 am

Whether or not you have a lathe depends very much on what you do in your modelling. For anyone who does scratch building or who modifies kits extensively then probably it is fairly essential. If course you can get by without one, but it is surprising how much you use one if it there waiting to be used. On Thurday I spent a happy hour or so turning up some new air horns for a lorry kit since the ones supplied were very poor and that is just one example of how it could be used.

I would disagree with what Martin has said. Using a lathe will enable you to do more accurate work than doing things by hand or trying to bodge something by using an electric drill and once you have grasped the basics it can and does save time. Like any other aspect of modelling there are skills to be learnt and learning skills need practicing. There are limitations on what small lathes will do but on my Cowells lathe I have taken a 3mm cut off a mild steel bar. What you need to do is to grind up the tool to the appropriate angles, make sure that it is really sharp by oilstoning it, use a slow speed and plenty of cutting oil. Anyone who doubts this can make an appointment to come and see me do it at home. It is the same with parting off, slow speed, sharp tool and cutting oil. The picture on page 33 of Scalefour News 166 is not faked - the lathe really is parting off 13mm dia. silver steel and in brass it is much easier.

And to answer John's question - in my view the Cowells lathe is very good and well worth while considering but those sold by Axminster Power Tools are also a good buy. I have not seen the C2A in use but I have seen the larger C4 and that is a good machine and has the advantage that there is a milling attachment for it. If I was buying a lathe today I would probably go for an Axminster machine but they were not around when i bought my Cowells lathe 25 years ago. There is no need to buy lots of bits to go with it - read what I wrote on page 18 of Scalefour News 155 and then buy extra bits when they are needed.

Probably lathes will not be a good idea in a room with a carpeted floor but there are other types of floor covering. I like to have everything that I need for my modelling in one place so my workspace is a timber building in the garden with 2inch insulation behind the lining. There is an occasional problem with superficial rusting on the table of my milling machine but a smear of oil stops that happening.

Terry Bendall

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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby martin goodall » Mon Nov 15, 2010 3:20 pm

I confess that I had my tongue slightly in my cheek, and I have found my Unimat 3 quite useful from time to time over the years. But I still don't think I will ever truly get my money's worth out of it. That said, I long ago mentally 'wrote off' the cost of buying it, so it is not going to appear in the Members' Sales section any time soon.

But I think it is worth bearing in mind that there are alternatives, which will perform quite a few of the tasks which we might otherwise do on a lathe/vertical milling machine/vertical drill (like the Unimat 3). As I mentioned, a vertical drill (e.g. from Expo) and a DIY-type electric drill with suitable fixture to hold the workpiece can be used to do quite a few turning and drilling jobs. If cash is short, these alternatives would be worth considering.

Before I bought my Unimat, I was under the illusion (like many others) that I would be able save time by machining things, but as all lathe-users will agree, it takes a lot longer to set up a job than it does to do the actual turning. The result will probably be more accurate than you could achieve using hand tools, but you won't really save any time by using the lathe.

One thing I did do at the time I bought the Unimat was to book myself in to a weekly Model Engineering evening class, so as to get some hands-on tuition in the use of machine tools (having had what is jokingly referred to as a 'classical' education - i.e. Latin, Greek, etc., which left me totally untrained in any form of engineering, or even basic woodwork). I was the only person in the class not building some sort of large-scale live steam model, but it was neverthelss an extremely useful opportunity to get to grips with a variety of machine tools, and I still use the small set of toolmaker's clamps I made there.

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Bob Ellis
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Bob Ellis » Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:44 pm

The problem with a thread like this is that most of us only have experience of one or perhaps two different lathes, so it is very difficult to draw comparisons. Mine is a Sherline and I think it is brilliant. I bought it partly because of glowing praise for Sherline from a couple of friends who already had Sherline lathes, partly because of the very informative Sherline website, which has hundreds of pages of advice about using their lathes and milling machines, and partly because I was very impressed by the book Tabletop Machining, written by Joe Martin, the owner of the Sherline Company.

I have discovered three other advantages since buying my Sherline lathe and milling machine:
1. They are well-engineered, accurate and robust;
2. The Sherline Company, which is in California, provides excellent support. When I have e-mailed the company with questions about accessories I have bought from them or that I was contemplating buying, I have had quick, courteous and helpful replies from Joe Martin himself and from Craig Lebuse, who is his right-hand man.
3. There is a very active Sherline webgroup that provide helpful and informative responses to any questions posed there about using Sherline components.

Since this reads like a eulogy, I should make it clear that my only connection with the company is as a very satisfied customer.
Bob Ellis

Modelling Hawes (NER/MR) c.1905

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John Bateson
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby John Bateson » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:08 am

Bob,
I had heard some good reviews about the Sherline lathe but I believe the current status is that they are only built to order in the States, there seem to be no UK suppliers.
John
Slaving away still on GCR stuff ...
Avoiding the soaps ...
https://www.greatcentralmodels.co.uk

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Bob Ellis
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Bob Ellis » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:17 pm

John Bateson wrote:Bob,
I had heard some good reviews about the Sherline lathe but I believe the current status is that they are only built to order in the States, there seem to be no UK suppliers.
John


For many years, the UK representative for Sherline has been Millhill Supplies. This firm has gone through several changes of ownership and I have not traded with the latest incarnation, so I cannot comment about it. However, the details listed on the Sherline website are:
Millhill Supplies Ltd.,
Unit 37, Broton Drive,
Halstead,
Essex
CO9 1HB
tel. (01787) 472236
e-mail: sales@millhillsupplies.co.uk

There is nothing on the Sherline website to suggest that these contact details no longer apply.

However, I tend to deal direct with Sherline in California via their website and e-mails and I have had no problem in doing so.
Bob Ellis

Modelling Hawes (NER/MR) c.1905

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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby grovenor-2685 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 4:52 pm

Regards
Keith
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John Bateson
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby John Bateson » Wed Dec 01, 2010 4:50 pm

After a lot of work and a day spent in Leighton Buzzard with a gentleman who put me right on many things, I have decided to get the ChesterUK 'Conquest'.
While I was tempted by others this is the only one that seems to guarantee an almost instant startup, the HQ is 2 miles down the road and they have an active Forum - and we all know the value of an active forum.
And it is on special offer until mid-December - and such things always interest me.
So, for a little over £500 I can now begin to mangle lots of brass rod ...

John
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Avoiding the soaps ...
https://www.greatcentralmodels.co.uk

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John Bateson
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby John Bateson » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:47 pm

New Addition.JPG
The new lathe on its workbench - hoping the kids don't come back ...
Christmas Present to self has arrived - plus some attachments - so I know what I shall be doing over the next few weeks in furtherance of a small enterprise of mine.
Slaving away still on GCR stuff ...
Avoiding the soaps ...
https://www.greatcentralmodels.co.uk

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Tim V
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Tim V » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:31 pm

:mrgreen:

It won't look that clean for long :!:
Tim V
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Philip Hall
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Philip Hall » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:45 pm

Makes my ancient Unimat SL look tiny!

Philip

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Paul Willis
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby Paul Willis » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:48 pm

John Bateson wrote:Christmas Present to self has arrived - plus some attachments - so I know what I shall be doing over the next few weeks in furtherance of a small enterprise of mine.


John is being characteristically modest about what he is up to...

The first fruits of his endeavours are described here http://www.scalefour.org/press/press_download.php?f=GC-kits.pdf, and are available through the public e-shop as well as the Stores.

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Paul Willis
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grovenor-2685
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Re: Planning to buy a modellers lathe

Postby grovenor-2685 » Thu Dec 16, 2010 11:57 pm

The first fruits of his endeavours are described here http://www.scalefour.org/press/press_do ... C-kits.pdf, and are available through the public e-shop as well as the Stores.

Mentioning that here may be a good idea.
Regards
Keith
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Keith
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