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The Mini Lathe Thread


hendie
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Following some discussion in one of my builds, we discovered that there are a few mini lathe users on this board.  Several of us are quite new to the lathe business, so we thought it would be worthwhile to start a thread focusing on lathe topics.

Tips and tricks are welcome, along with any useful tools, accessories etc. Also welcomed would be some photo's of the parts produced from your lathe - ideally with some description of how you achieved the final product.

 

I'm starting this thread as a place holder. Hopefully we will see some lathe users (and some potential lathe users) contribute to the information here. 

If you have questions - ask and hopefully some of the more experienced lathe users can help out

 

 

If there's enough traction, perhaps this could be made a sticky.

 

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I have a unimat 3 that I need to sort out and get up and running. I have done small amounts of turning, many moons ago and would love to improve my skills. This could be a great thread, good idea.

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Thanks Hendie, very timely.  I need to fashion a new spinner.  Without being quite ready to commit to a lathe, I had been contemplating either:

 

- finding a way to pin down a power screwdriver as a makeshift substitute lathe, to turn a balsa master to then vacform,

 

or

 

- same set up as above but cutting out a process, instead turning a block of styrene.

 

I'd welcome any advice from others who've succeeded with such an interim lathe arangement.

 

And regardless of setup, is turning styrene even plausible?  Can it be done without melting?

 

thanks again Hendie.

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I have a small-midsize Craftex i just got.

It came with a lot of tooling , one of the main reasons for buying it.

My main purpose was for the wheel work I do in 1/8 scale.

I am classically trained (not CNC ) on a lathe in machine shop environment and a custom Harley chopper shop.

Wheels:

IMG_0882_zpsly8zwr6i.jpg

Lathe:

IMG_0438_zpstsacz6sl.jpg

Feel free to ask me any machining question.

Edited by krow113
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Thanks although I do admit that I had completed those wheels before getting the lathe.

IMG_0936_zps8cymj0cb.jpg

 All I can see using the lathe for is to drill out the hub centers. I use the kit parts for masters , casting the hubs and rims , as the tires work then.

I have also used a lathe to 'put miles on' tires , turning slowly and using a sanding pad.

I have a small Sherline mill (CNC) that gets some use as well in the wheel making.

I used the mill to machine out the groove in the main body of this 1/32 Becker 2 cm cannon:

IMG_9335_zpstynxup7k.jpg

 

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17 hours ago, greggles.w said:

Thanks Hendie, very timely.  I need to fashion a new spinner.  Without being quite ready to commit to a lathe, I had been contemplating either:

 

- finding a way to pin down a power screwdriver as a makeshift substitute lathe, to turn a balsa master to then vacform,

 

or

 

- same set up as above but cutting out a process, instead turning a block of styrene.

 

I'd welcome any advice from others who've succeeded with such an interim lathe arangement.

 

And regardless of setup, is turning styrene even plausible?  Can it be done without melting?

 

thanks again Hendie.

Hi Greggles

 

I just bought my mini lathe in the past year but before that made many parts on cobbled up machinery.   The screwdriver might work but probably lacks enough torque to counter the tool cutting.   My first "lathe" was an old electric motor from a furnace that I secured to a block.   I jury rigged a chuck to the shaft and made up various toolrests.   For tools I bought packets of cheap Chinese wood carver tools and ground them to the shapes I needed.

 

Original Lathe

 

Not suggesting you go this route but it shows what can be done when machining soft materials.   

After a while I got a good deal on a hobbyist wood lathe and moved the clutch to that one.   The moveable tool rest was a real treat after what I went through with the first.

 

xxxx_0582

 

Used this for many years again just using hand held carving tools.   This rig was capable of machining anything up to and including soft aluminum.

 

Here are some of the hand held carving tools I used.   These are easily shaped with grinding tools on a Dremel.

 

20160111_140118

 

However, now that I  have a "proper" mini lathe I really appreciate the accuracy and the control that the tools now have.

 

There's a lot to be said for a rig like my wood lathe because of the flexibility you have with a hand held tool when making a contoured cut.    That's now more difficult to do with a machine that is designed to move in two axes.    The wood lathe is about 1/5th the price of a mini lathe and a chuck is reasonable too so give this some thought.  

 

Here's a sampler of some of the pieces I made over the years on the wood lathe ...

 

Looking at ... (left to right top to bottom)

anchor windlass for a sailboat model

turned piece to become a knock off for a wire wheel

gas filler cap

Jaguar wheel and headlight rims

Lola T70 deep dish wheel (made from computer hard drive chassis)

Ferrari 375MM wire wheel

Aluminium rim for Flying Scotsman locomotive

binnacle and compass for sailboat

self tailing winch for same

Triumph TR6 wheel

 

Untitled-15

 

Not trying to discourage you here.    The mini lathe is wonderful but many of the pieces above would have been difficult (if not impossible for me) to do without the flexibility of a hand held tool.

 

Cheers

 

Frank

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Frank - you brought up a good suggestion.   I was talking to one of my cohorts at work and he informed me that he had bought a wood lathe, as you say, they are much cheaper. He then bought an X,Y vise and fitted that to the wood lathe giving him a lot more capability.

It's certainly one way to go

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22 hours ago, greggles.w said:

Thanks Hendie, very timely.  I need to fashion a new spinner.  Without being quite ready to commit to a lathe, I had been contemplating either:

 

- finding a way to pin down a power screwdriver as a makeshift substitute lathe, to turn a balsa master to then vacform,

 

or

 

- same set up as above but cutting out a process, instead turning a block of styrene.

 

I'd welcome any advice from others who've succeeded with such an interim lathe arangement.

 

And regardless of setup, is turning styrene even plausible?  Can it be done without melting?

 

thanks again Hendie.

 

 

Balsa is way too soft and grainy.

 

A few years ago wanted to make a 1/48th Hurricane Rotol 'bullet' spinner,   I used a end piece of a round wooden spoon handle,  which was about the right diameter, it was firm wood with a clean even grain, but would shape easily'

I cut off a short section,maybe an inch and half.

 

 and then stuck it in the chuck of an electric drill, which I  wedged either between my knees (I  think,it was 6/7 years ago) , used a low speed,  and shaped it with just sandpaper, maybe a foam sanding block, finished up with finer grades to polish.

the drill did have a lock button,which made it easier,  but it was just an old DIY two speed hammer drill. 

Really, it was surprisingly easy!  

 

I used this  to smash mould a spinner, it worked fine.     

 

You can certainly shape styrene like this as well,    easiest thing is  to experiment,  try thick piece of sprue,  and have a go.   

 

Though rather than styrene,  you might want  to look for some perspex  rod,    I suggest rod stock as it a lot easier to start withsomething round,and approx the right size.

 

HTH

T

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Balsa is used for the ease of working with it. There are diff grades I think.

A spinner could be made with a pocket knife.

Balsa needs to be sealed and smoothed to finish it properly , this removes the grain and readies the part for paint.

Real traditional modelling.

 

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13 hours ago, albergman said:

Not trying to discourage you here. 

 

Not at all Frank! I did wonder after my post whether the answer most likely would be .. stop trying to cut corners!  But this wood lathe suggestion is a good middle ground. Such a diverse range of output you have there - most productive!

 

9 hours ago, Troy Smith said:

A few years ago wanted to make a 1/48th Hurricane Rotol 'bullet' spinner,   I used a end piece of a round wooden spoon handle,

 

Very resourceful Tony! Thanks for detailing how you made do with the drill .. & the various other suggestions .. food for thought (if I can find a spoon!)

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I got myself a mini woodworking lathe from Proxxon (called DB 250) for the price reason as well:

http://www.proxxon.com/en/micromot/27020.php?list

I works nicely with wood, epowood and plastic, is not occupying a lot of space and easy to handle as long as you do not need mega accurate dimensions. So far I used it for masters of drop tanks, a sea fury racer spinner, Saturn V engines and a Canberra nose for a special radar.

When using wood as a master for vacuforming I seal it with thin super glue, which must be sanded smooth afterwards of course. The nice thing about superglue is that the heat of vacuforming does not damage it so easily as other fillers.

That said I still would love to have a mini lathe for proper metal work. Only the price and my little knowlege puts me off.

 

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4 hours ago, Caerbannog said:

I got myself a mini woodworking lathe from Proxxon (called DB 250) for the price reason as well:

http://www.proxxon.com/en/micromot/27020.php?list

I works nicely with wood, epowood and plastic, is not occupying a lot of space and easy to handle as long as you do not need mega accurate dimensions. So far I used it for masters of drop tanks, a sea fury racer spinner, Saturn V engines and a Canberra nose for a special radar.

When using wood as a master for vacuforming I seal it with thin super glue, which must be sanded smooth afterwards of course. The nice thing about superglue is that the heat of vacuforming does not damage it so easily as other fillers.

That said I still would love to have a mini lathe for proper metal work. Only the price and my little knowlege puts me off.

 

What was the price of that rig?

 

 

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5 hours ago, Caerbannog said:

I got myself a mini woodworking lathe from Proxxon (called DB 250) for the price reason as well:

http://www.proxxon.com/en/micromot/27020.php?list

I works nicely with wood, epowood and plastic, is not occupying a lot of space and easy to handle as long as you do not need mega accurate dimensions. So far I used it for masters of drop tanks, a sea fury racer spinner, Saturn V engines and a Canberra nose for a special radar.

When using wood as a master for vacuforming I seal it with thin super glue, which must be sanded smooth afterwards of course. The nice thing about superglue is that the heat of vacuforming does not damage it so easily as other fillers.

That said I still would love to have a mini lathe for proper metal work. Only the price and my little knowlege puts me off.

 

That's a neat little machine you found!   Never seen one of those before.

 

Doesn't look like there would be any place to attach a chuck however and that could limit the kind of projects undertaken.

 

Speaking of chucks ... those jaws can really hurt when working on  a tiny piece and you just have to be cutting really close ... believe me, I have the scars to prove it,

 

To minimize the carnage I got the bright idea to dismantle an old battery powered drill that still had a perfectly good chuck in it.   I'm the kind of person who rarely throws stuff out ... it might just come in handy some day.   You can dismantle them and get the chuck out along with a shaft that is an integral part of it.   Now, when I work on a tiny piece, I lock it into the drill chuck then fasten that into the 3-jaw.   This gets me safely away from the dreaded steel jaws.

 

Here's a tiny sailboat winch in the drill chuck ... well away from danger.   

 

20160115_153108

 

Just a suggestion.

 

Frank

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13 hours ago, hacker said:

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/252032533650?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

 

Been eyeing this one but unsure of the quality and such but l think it is a good starter piece but then again l am no machinist 

 

 

 

I read a lot of reviews on these - I was considering one a while back.  The general consensus seems to be that they are not very good - but most people seemed to be trying to cut metal.  My concern would be that you have a high rpm motor with very little torque to resist the forces of cutting.

 

I ended up being very close to buying one of these "bead" cutting lathes but thought they may have the same issues, so then started looking at buying a motor, controller and all the bits to make one. In the end it wasn't much cheaper, but a whole lot more work, so took the plunge and bought the mini lathe - and have to say that I am glad I did. (getting a 25% discount did help!)

 

I wouldn't let experience prevent you from buying a lathe. I'd never touched one in my life before, but am learning as I go along - which is one of the reasons for starting this thread - so we can all ask questions and learn from each other. - And, it's fun !

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In keeping with Hendie`s suggestion of tools and tricks based around the mini lathe here are a few other ideas I`d like to share.

 

I have an extremely small workshop so space is at a premium.   My two `large` power tools are a 9 inch bandsaw and the new mini lathe.

 

Here`s the shed ...

 

Shed 1

 

Right after I got the lathe I realized I needed something to shape tool bits with as I had bought a small stash of blanks in various sizes.    There was no room to install a bench grinder so I adapted one of my many (9) Chinese Dremels.   (By way of explanation ... when these appeared on the Canadian market they were sold for $18 including a flexible shaft!!    I couldn`t resist that as a REAL Dremel was over $80 with NO attachments.)  

 

For modelling purposes I can`t stress too much how important it is to use a tool attached to a flexible shaft.    It gives you control that you just won`t have holding the electric tool.

 

Here`s a few hanging up.   Each has a different tool in the flex shaft.

 

IMG_0008

 

So, back to my bench grinder replacement ... needs no explanation I suppose

 

20160807_143140

 

The metal plate is ramped at about 15 degrees which is the approximate face angle required for a lathe tool (feel free to chime in any real machinists).    The Dremel is fitted with a grinding disk that works wonders on high speed steel (HSS) stock that I use.   I don`t need carbon steel bits as I only work in soft materials.

 

For further shaping of a tool bit I make use of these `stone`disks you can buy in a tub of 25 or so ...

 

100pc-25mm-cut-off-wheel-dental-metalworking

and grinding stones ...

 

grinding-stones-3

 

There are other types of Dremel disks that are very handy too ...

 

For metal cutting and shaping

 

diamond-cutting-disc-for-dremel-tools-accessories-mini-saw-blade-diamond-grinding-wheel-set-rotary-tool

 

I use these to cut slots for the loom of my wire wheels

 

20161124_163025

 

Lastly (yes, I will shut up!)

 

5x-32mm-metal-cutting-disc-dremel-rotary-tool-circular-saw-blade-dremel-cutting-tools-for-woodworking

 

These saw blade disks are wonderful for cutting panel lines ... and any other fine cuts

 

20161013_162456

 

OK, that`s a lot of info.   If you don`t have a flex shaft (or even a Dremel) I highly recommend them.   There are many after market brands out there for the tool and the flexshafts that are all interchangeable I`ve found and are much cheaper than the big name one.

 

Hope this is helpful.

 

Frank

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Look at the prices . toys go for more than that!

The smallest for metal work would be the Sherline series. Unimat if you can find one.

I would recommend these for you hobby guys. Lots of tooling , availability , expandability , workability all fall within the hobbyist's needs.

One of the best bits of advice for this thread would be to determine your needs , the 'heaviest' of your needs and get a tool to cover that need.

More power or capability than you need is the best advice. within reason of course.

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A 'decent' lathe is very tempting.  If you are going to turn a lot of metal, then the best quality you can afford is surely the way to go.  The cheaper end have beds that are less than rigid, and you have to be certain that they are easy to centre properly and reliably because the smallest deviation is going to be magnified when doing fine work.

 

I am lucky to have access to a very solid 'full size' woodworking lathe and have been looking for something small, decent and affordable for the amount of use it would get (I'll probably be looking forever with that combination!).  Back in the day Minicraft did a lathe attachment for their drill, was it any good? My current Heath-Robinson set up is an old mini drill in a pipe clamp run from a model railway controller to vary the speed.  Limited of course, but it's useful in its way.

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May sell my Myford ML10 lathe to get a mini one, the Myfords a lovely bit of kit but takes up too much room in the garage and for what I turn it's overkill for me even though it's a hobby lathe.

Was looking at the Proxxon 250e,the metal lathe not the same as the one shown on this thread which is a woodwork one.

Nice a small for what I need and looks well made, just a bit pricey.

I know the saying you can turn small parts on a large lathe but not big parts on a small lathe, it's just for what I need now I can't see myself turning anything large enough to bother and want something which tucks away nicely.

Although I have no idea what he's saying I like what this chap has set up with his Proxxon

 

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I'll be looking to add milling capability to my lathe once I start to get the hang of things.   I know it will never be as good as a purpose built mill, but for the work I intend to be doing, I think it will work out fine.

 

there's some good info coming out in this thread. Once I get back to the train build I'll probably have a few questions coming up

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Interesting thread.

On 13-2-2017 at 3:06 PM, Paul Budzik said:

....

Old Finescale article I did as an introduction to miniature lathes ...http://paulbudzik.com/tools-techniques/lathe.pdf

.....

 

 

This PDF does not seem to cover the complete article. 

I like the idea of adding the indexing facility to the lathe.

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  • 1 month later...

I also picked up a Unimat mini lathe with the milling arm attachment at a good price but, I still haven't used it yet. Things got in the way last summer and I haven't had the need to make anything yet but, I can see that I will need to make a few things in the future. This thread will more than likely inspire me to break it out and start practicing with it. 

 

IMG_4091_zpsryybkgyp.jpg

Edited by larchiefeng
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