Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/6/24 7:52 p.m.

I've used them before.  I used a buddy's mini lathe to make some handles for my grill.  I have used a metal lathe in a friend's shop to turn some rotors back in the day.  Otherwise, I don't know much about them.

It occurred to me recently that I would really use one.  While I was making the grill, it would have been nice to chuck it up in a lathe to draw and cut the top off.  Would have been really sweet if I could have set it really slow to weld the lip on the lid.  There are plenty of times while building a set that having a lathe to fab up some architectural elements would be helpful.  I constantly find myself chucking something up in the drill press to try and make a makeshift lathe for something.

What I really don't know is where the line is between a mill and a lathe.  I'm assuming that a mill can be used as a lathe, but not the other way around.  I know I would use a mill from time to time, but not frequently.

I would use it for wood turning mostly, and occasional metal, like turning down a pipe to make a press fit in a bearing, or cutting a circular plate of aluminum.  Those are just a couple examples of what I've done in the past without a lathe and thought, "gee I wish I had a lathe."  What should I even look for?  How do I start?

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/6/24 8:12 p.m.

Lathes and mills are similar but different.

Here is the way i have approached it: you use a lathe to make things round which is not easy by hand. You use a mill to mostly make things square which is easier by hand unless you need precision.

Lathes will be the better tool in most cases based on number of uses.

Get one with more diameter and legrh capacity than you think you need because the space gets used up quickly by the tooling.

You will spend more on tooling than you think, probably as much as the lathe original purchase if you really get into it.

I have a 10inch diameter by 30 inch bed length lathe with a milling head mounted mid span. I use the lathe more than the mill.

brandonsmash
brandonsmash GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/6/24 8:46 p.m.

The two are not interchangeable, not really. A mill could be a very poor lathe but that's not what it's built for. 

Most mills seem to be used as glorified drill presses. I know I use my Bridgeport as a big drill press rather often. My lathe, on the other hand, only does lathe things and it's very good at it. I agree with stafford above me; tooling is important, and get the biggerest lathe you can fit. Think about power, too. If you're running on 120V you'll only be able to get a maximum of about 3hp out of a 20A 120V circuit and even that's pushing it; that will also create a ton of heat. Most 120V lathe motors are going to be in the 1hp range. If you have 240, that opens up the possibility of using a VFD for a 3ph motor.

Check the ways and examine for rust or damage: You want neither. You want smooth movement in all axes. 

You may not think you want it now, but look for something with a thread-cutting gearbox. Single-point threading is a VERY useful tool. 

Lantern-style toolposts are not the best. If you find the right lathe but it has a lantern toolpost, plan on replacing it with an AXA or BXA quick-change toolpost. Shars makes surprisingly decent tooling for the price. 

Lathes are shockingly useful. Plus, you can use them to make fancy jewelry for the Mrs. if you are so-equipped. I've made my wife a few really nice rings, and made the wedding rings for my mom  and her husband when she remarried. 

Really, though, you don't realize how often you will use a lathe until you have one and start using it. I probably use my lathe 2 or 3 times as much as my mill. 

 

j_tso
j_tso Dork
4/6/24 8:52 p.m.
Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
4/6/24 9:14 p.m.

I have a Logan 10" lathe with a quick change gearbox that I will be selling soon.  I'm in Charleston, WV.

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
4/6/24 9:38 p.m.

A wood lathe is not a metal lathe and vice versa. 

Wood lathes are so cheap on marketplace that you may as well keep them separate. 

You -could- turn wood on a metal lathe but the amount of disassembly and cleaning afterwards would ensure that you never do it again 

You can't machine metal on a wood lathe.

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
4/6/24 9:45 p.m.
Apis Mellifera said:

I have a Logan 10" lathe with a quick change gearbox that I will be selling soon.  I'm in Charleston, WV.

I wish you weren't 24 hours driving time from me.

jgrewe
jgrewe Dork
4/6/24 10:08 p.m.

I know a guy that tried the weld move you were thinking of on his lathe. If you aren't careful you will find your ground through the bearings. You'll get a faint click click click as it runs if it happens. Then you get to pull the lathe apart to replace them.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/6/24 10:40 p.m.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/7/24 12:58 p.m.

Thanks, all.

I know you can get mini-lathes that will do a wide variety of speeds for mulitple materials (not that I'm entertaining a mini lathe) so I assumed that you could do multiple materials on one machine.  Is that not the case?

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/7/24 12:59 p.m.
Apis Mellifera said:

I have a Logan 10" lathe with a quick change gearbox that I will be selling soon.  I'm in Charleston, WV.

I'm in PA, but we have a cabin outside of Clarksburg that we visit several times a year.  I'm sure we could chat more about it.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
4/7/24 1:11 p.m.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) said:

I know you can get mini-lathes that will do a wide variety of speeds for mulitple materials (not that I'm entertaining a mini lathe) so I assumed that you could do multiple materials on one machine.  Is that not the case?

For a given hardness of material, there's a minimum stiffness level in the machine to work it -- a machine intended for wood doesn't need to be as stiff (and thus heavy and expensive) as one designed for metal.  So you can go down, but not up.

Apexcarver
Apexcarver MegaDork
4/7/24 1:26 p.m.

I've been giving a serious eyeball to the smithy granite combos, anyone ever played with one?

I keep coming up on projects that call for a lathe. A lot of the mill stuff, if it's plate, I can just resort to send cut send. 

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
4/7/24 3:22 p.m.

Nobody ever says "I wish I had a smaller machine.

I have a round column mini-mill. It's a bit too small for everything. 

I'm replacing it with a Bridgeport soon.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
4/7/24 6:25 p.m.

There are mill lathe combo units for small work and hobbyists.  They make a bunch of compromises. But if you only have so much space. They do work. 

example. https://smithy.com/collections/smithy/products/mi-1220-ltd?variant=31308142837825

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
4/7/24 6:30 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

I have a farm in Glenville, WV.  It's about an hour away from Clarksburg. 

Mine is a Logan 820.  http://vintagemachinery.org/photoindex/detail.aspx?id=11221

If you want to pursue things, let me know when you're heading south and we'll see if we can put something together.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/7/24 8:49 p.m.

In reply to Apis Mellifera :

Fantastic.  If it looks like I'm going to pull the trigger, I'll shoot you a PM

pkingham (Forum Supporter)
pkingham (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/7/24 9:05 p.m.

In reply to Apexcarver :

I'm a fan of the Smithy Granite stuff.  I don't have space for a mill and a lathe, and the Granite is a really good multi-tool.  The lathe functionality is pretty much as good as any similarly priced lathe.  The mill has a smallish work envelope and is not very rigid and not nearly as good as a real mill, but it's way better than no mill.  

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