What Lathe/Milling Machine?

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Simon Peck
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What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Simon Peck » Sun Jan 26, 2014 9:57 am

Hello to All.
I am toying with the idea of buying a lathe and or milling machine and was wondering, for those who use lathes and milling machines, what do you use, would you buy the same if you had it to do over, what lessons have you learnt with hind sight? What would you recommend, and or caution against? Any hints, tips etc greatly appreciated.
Kind regards,

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Adrian Harris
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Re: What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Adrian Harris » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:30 am

Hi Simon.

I have a Sieg C3, which I bought from Arc Euro Trade.

Although I paid to have the bearings upgraded and the machine cleaned, tested and adjusted, I've never been happy with the finish it gives.

I don't think it's rigid enough to do the work I expect of it, but even the finish on aluminium and brass isn't particularly good. It's been a very good learning machine though and, at just a few hundred quid, it probably doesn't owe me anything. If we have a nice summer again, I may try and spend some time addressing the issues and seeing if I can get it running better.

The advice given to me when I was looking to buy a drill press to was to buy something British from the 60s or 70s, rather than a new Chinese machine. I ended up with a Melling 3 phase drill, which I run from an inverter. The column on it is 4 inches of solid steel, rather than being a tube as in the modern ones, so there is no flex at all.

The Clarke drill press it replaced had so much slop in the quill, it was hard to hit a centre-punched dent in the workpiece from a few millimetres away :shock:

Contact me at sales@armortekaddict.uk for details of my smoker fan control module and other electronic gadgetry

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Stephen White
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Re: What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Stephen White » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:12 am


I've been down this road so I hope my experience is useful. I started from scratch and benefitted from some good advice from a former toolmaker in the village and from help on the forum. I believe it's perfectly possible to be self-taught, if you take care.

Lather and or milling machine? I was lucky enough to be able to do both but on reflection, although I use both and a drill press, the milling machine has been the most used. I wouldn't recommend buying a lathe with milling attachment - they are somewhat limited in what they can do.

I'd also avoid the Chinese kit which needs a lot of commissioning work as Adrian indicated. Some companies do their own commissioning work and really do offer a machine ready in all respects to go to work.

I've always used Warco, and Roger Warren, the owner is always helpful and they have a good showroom with kit to see.

You'll see lathes and mills labelled "mini-...." designed for hobbyists. My toolmaker friend said to decide on the biggest machine you can afford/install and then go up a size. It's true, I upgraded my mill after a year or so. It's not so important for the lathe, the main issue there being the "swing over cross slide" which determines the maximum radius of material which can be turned over the slide and the "swing" which is the absolute maximum. For the mill, the issue is rigidity, the bigger ones giving a much more precise and safe cut when handling deep cuts or material which is difficult to hold.

So recommendations:

- lathe: Warco WM-180

http://www.warco.co.uk/metal-lathes-met ... lathe.html

- mill: Warco WM-16

http://www.warco.co.uk/milling-machines ... chine.html

Price is always an issue - Warco sometimes have demo models - and the engineering mags have a healthy trade in second hand.

Finally, I can hear my toolmaker friend groaning, these aren't the machines the dedicated or ex-professional would use, there you're talking about such traditional manufacturers as Myford and Bridgeport. Oh, the other company who make top quality machines is Proxxon and they have a range dedicated to the modeller but..... they are astronomically expensive and a bit on the small side. Very good quality though. I swear by some of their other tools, which knock Dremel into a cocked hat...

Hope that helps. As in everything, only my very limited experience and there are plenty of folk here who have much more depth of knowledge.

Pm me if you want to follow up.

All the best.


Derek Attree
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Re: What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Derek Attree » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:29 am

Hi Simon
I would second what Simon has said I have a Warco 1330 gear head lathe at work with Digital readout.
(In my small research workshop)
and It does everthing I need.
This was bought to replace a very old (45 years) colchester bantam.

I am considering upgrading my home lathe with a warco wm280 vf
this is a larger version of the machine Stephen mentioned...

At the moment at home I have a chester lathe with a mill over the top and it has been fine for 25 years but is showing its age and is in need of a rewire of the switch gear really.

Hope this helps

we must stop making stupid predictions

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Dennis Jones
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Re: What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Dennis Jones » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:46 am

I would agree with Stephen on most points. I bought a Chester Model B about 10 years ago, it being a combined lathe and milling machine. A similar machine is sold by Machine Mart. The main reason I bought a combined m/c was lack of space in my workshop/garage. I do have the advantage of being able to swing 9" diam in the lathe chuck. I am building a 1" steam traction engine at the moment and for this I have to quite a bit of milling but I must admit it involves quite a bit of igenuity as to positioning the workpiece. So if you have got the cash and room, then go for two separate bits of kit. You might want to look at http://www.chestermachinetools.com they do a large range of lathes and milling machines.


Simon Peck
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Re: What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Simon Peck » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:19 am

Hello Gents. Thanks for the advice and information. I guess we're fortunate that there are still choices in what to buy. I only want to buy once, so will try for something that will hopefully last. The research at least is fun and educational. Thanks again!

Garry Coomber
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Re: What Lathe/Milling Machine?

Post by Garry Coomber » Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:09 pm


Bit late in replying. But for completeness I have a slightly smaller version of what Derek is thinking about, a Warco WM250VF. Bought it as a ex-demo from Warco so it was cheaper. Very pleased with it. I've added DRO and coolant system and it does me very nice. Warco haven't got anything on the website at the moment as they have an open day in March. It's normal for them to take every thing off the ex-demo page if there is an open day coming up. Well worth a look though. You can pick up some good stuff.

I've got a Warco mini lathe I would love to get out of the workshop, nothing wrong with it, I just found it is too small for what I wanted to do, plus getting a WM250 up to the first floor would have been a hoot at the time I bought it.

On the Mill front, I have learnt my lesson with that. I have a warco mini which is ok but has a plastic gearbox and just the slightest snag on the work and you can say goodbye to a gear. In hindsight, I now sould have gone for a bigger machine than I think I need. In actual fact, I have been looking at replacing the mill with one of the Warco variable speed ones, but when you get to something like the WM16 or WM18, it might just be as well to get a Major, this is physically much bigger. But the cost difference is quite small.

1/6 PzKfw III

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