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Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:34 pm
by John Fitzsimons
I'm considering investing in a lathe and milling machine.

I am looking at the Warco range.

WM180 Lathe or WM180DRO

WM 240 slightly out of price range as I have to factor in cost of tools and accessories. Also seems constantly out of stock.

As for milling machine I am looking at Either WM 14 or wm14DRO

also considering the WM16, but in this size DRO is out of price range.

My main difficulty is do I really need DRO or is it better to focus on going for the bigger more powerful machines and accessories.

Any recommendations appreciated.

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:17 pm
by Vince Cutajar
I do not have the machines you are looking at but I have heard good things about that company. Most probably you have already done your homework but similar machines are sold by other companies. I wouldn't be surprised that they all come out of the same factory in China with different badges and paint.

The ones you are looking at are classed as mini machines so it will restrict the size of work that you can do. Always go for the biggest and best package that you can afford. Don't worry about tooling at this stage. Get them as required so that you can spread the cost. At least that is what I did.
My main difficulty is do I really need DRO
I only have a DRO on the milling machine and I retro-fitted it a couple of years after I bought the milling machine. One can get good results without a DRO just using the scales on the dials and catering for the backlash in the leadscrews but when I fitted the DRO it was as if I was operating a different machine. So much easier. I would not be without it now.

Hope this helps.


Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:11 pm
by Stephen White
John, I've done a few posts on this subject and will try to find them. I'd agree with Vince.

Firstly Warco. Whilst the Warco machines are Chinese, the difference between them and all the other UK suppliers is that they strip and commission their machine tools so you can be sure they are degreased and set up correctly. If you go for a UK origin machine such as a Myford, you'll find the tooling and spares cost a king's ransom. If you're scratch building steam engines, top of the range machine tools might be justified but since most of our work is with aluminium, I've always found I can get the level of accuracy required with Warco kit. Warco also run a first class customer support service. You get a personalised service, with people who know what they're talking about and they hold a lot of spares. Some other companies will sell you the machine and walk smartly away. If I hadn't gone to Warco, I'd have chosen to buy from Axminster tools.

I think this is the company Mark Watkins recommends for tooling:

Secondly, which machine? Weight = rigidity but comes with a size and weight penalty. WM-180 - absolutely spot on. I've never found the swing to be an issue but did have a problem turning the 20pdr barrel for my Cent with the distance between centres of 300mm. Solution was to do it in two pieces with a join. WM-14 or 16? I had a WM12 and changed to a 16 when I found I couldn't get the rigidity and precision I needed. I wouldn't class the 16 as a mini-machine, as that implies it's only for fine work in light materials. I've found the size of the WM16 perfect for some heavy machining, such as the single piece idlers I made for the Cent from solid billets. The WM14 is maybe a bit small.

Thirdly to DRO or not? I still don't have a DRO for my lathe and have never found it a handicap but perhaps that's because I'm not a professional machinist. I bought my WM16 with just the Z axis DRO which comes as standard. I pretty quick bought the X/Y axis Warco offer. Fitting it was simple.

One other thought. I subsequently fitted a power feed for the WM16 and am really glad I did. You'll inevitably have jobs which require a lot of X axis movement and the windy handle job is a pain. The power feed also produces a much more consistent finish.

That said, the above is what has worked for me. It may not be right for everyone but I wouldn't swop supplier or machine unless I won the lottery and had a much bigger workshop. I hasten to add, I've no shares in Warco.


Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:18 pm
by Stephen White

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:04 pm
by John Fitzsimons
Great advice, Thanks a lot.


I first came across Warco from one of your posts but could not find it recently to check which machines you had. Good to know yo recommend the WM180. I'm now thinking WM180 and wm16. I might get the DRO factory fitted in the lathe and retro fit to the milling machine when budget permits. I think the Milling machine will be my most used machine but who knows.

I got a present of a proxxon MF70 and have enjoyed tinkering with this. This will be my machine foe more delicate drilling operations although I was amazed at how it could mill shapes in 3mm brass. It did a great job considering I did not have decent mill cutters to fit. For anybody with very very limited space I would recomment the MF70.

I can find space for larger machines but I would like to invest in accessories and tools also.


Did you fit a quick change tool post. Warco version to fit the WM180 is out of stock. Looking at some others but might require some adjustments to fit. Any advice on decent milling vice?

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:26 pm
by Robert E Morey
I can only add what others have said:
1) Get bigger than you think you need (if budget and space allows). Its nice to work on bigger parts than you think you normally would. The WM240 is a nice looking lathe, but still pretty small <at least for my needs>.
2) DRO definitely on a mill. You can get by without one on a lathe, but still nice to have. You can add one to a mill later but they are so handy and useful may as well get it up front. Moving 100mm and having to count small marks on the handwheel dial will get old really fast. Not to mention easy to loose track (was that 1045 increments or 1046? - :shock: start over). DRO eliminates this headache.
3) Power feed is nice option on mill
4) I am not a fan of round column mills - in general they do not hold position accuracy when Z height is raised/lowered because the head (motor/spindle) will rotate on round column. So get mill with dovetail vertical column if possible. Looks like the WARCO's all have dovetail column so that is good. I like the WM18 for travel/capacity.
5) Rotary table/indexer is useful accessory for mill. I use one a lot for indexing holes etc.
6) Accessories as you mention are expensive but they never wear out. Once you buy it - it will last a lifetime, so that helps <me> justify the cost. Plus it increases what you can do with the tool.
7) Bigger tools are harder to move, but hopefully you don't move them often. I find the same lifts and hoists useful for moving Armortek models as moving machining equipment. Once you have a process down moving them isn't so bad.

Good luck with your purchases.

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:37 pm
by Jeffrey Goff
Hi John, I bought the 240 a few years back, the extra swing over the bed has come in handy from time to time, I did fit after market dro but hardly ever use them, all in all a good sturdy machine
Regards Jeff

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:21 pm
by Stephen White
John, glad to be of help. Looks as though you're getting consistent advice from us all. I do think it's right to put the emphasis for DROs on the mill rather than the lathe. Wise advice from the others. I haven't fitted a quick-change tool post. I think it's a bit of a luxury unless your time is really short and even then, you can fit two tools simultaneously to the standard tool post on the WM-180.

For a milling vice, you have to be aware of the issue of jaw lift, which is more prevalent on some types of vice. I've tried a few vices but now swear by the Warco DH-1. It's a perfect size, has minimal jaw lift, has interchangeable jaws and, because you can change their position, gives the vice a great range of capability. They seem to be out of stock at the moment but I'm sure Warco will get them in again as they're a best seller. I also have a small Soba tilting vice which has been useful for some jobs but isn't good enough to be your main vice.


Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:09 pm
by Adrian Harris
The usual advice is to work out what size you need, and then buy the next size up.

Once you start really using a lathe, you soon work out all the other things you could do with it, if it were just a little larger.

There are things I can't easily make with my CNC lathe because the head stock only has a 20mm bore through it. If it were just a couple of mill larger, then there are things I could make much more easily.

It looks like you're looking at the right sort of sized ones though. I'm planning on buying a WM16B milling machine this year, but I need to make some space to put it first.


Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:15 pm
by John Fitzsimons
Yes Stephen. Looking at the DH-1 and noticed out of stock. I have contacted Warco and they say various items to be back soon. Rotary table also, probably 5 inch. How difficult is it to set up a DRO afterwards? As Lathes and milling machines are low in stock I have placed order to hold WM180 and WM14 but will go for the WM16. On the ski slopes till Beginning of Feb so arrange delivery for my return. Looking forward to making some new parts for vehicles.

Adrian, I did not notice the WM16b until you mention it. I think the WM16 is plenty big enough for all my needs. Powerful motor and bigger table.
I could probably accommodate The WM240 but it's a big price difference and out of stock. I notice there is a WM240B at lower price than the WM240. Is this worth considering. States speed 125-2000 rpm but how do you adjust? I have not researched variable speed machines v belt drives?

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:34 am
by Derek Attree
Hi John
I bought a WM250v variable speed lathe from Warco and it is very good.
the difference is the V machines have a new inverter motor and it is very smooth.
The old machines ( Cheaper) have a standard motor.
It comes with a full range of tooling as standard apart from a tail stock dill chuck strangely.
But I bought one from RDG tools for £15.00.
Included are
Face plate
4 jaw chuck
3 jaw chuck
fixed centre
running centre
fixed and moving steady.

You do need to buy lathe tools but about 25 pounds should get you going with a set that will do most jobs.

Hope this helps


Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:29 am
by Stephen White
John, you asked about rotary/dividing tables. I initially bought a cheap tilting rotary table which had a number of problems. It was small, so work holding was a problem, the worm gear had backlash which produced a lot of chattering and it was very frustrating to use. I then invested in an HV6. It's a big, solid beast but so, so much easier and stable to use. It is expensive but comes with dividing head and tail stock and like, all these things, represents a huge investment but lasts a lifetime. You can get them from Warco or Chronos. They are Chinese, so need stripping, cleaning and setting up but although a bit messy, that's not a bid job.

In addition to Derek's list, I'd suggest you get a dial test indicator and a micrometer. They are perhaps more use than fitting a DRO.

You also asked about retro-fitting a DRO to the WM16. I bought the simple two axis DRO counter sold by Warco, which is bolted to the top of the control box in my eye line. You then have to fit the readout scales, which does require a bit of preparation.

The x-axis scale is easier to fit. I drilled and tapped M4 the table to take the sliding scale and fitted the counter to a bracket fixed using the bolts which hold the apron:
The Y-axis is more tricky because the sliding scale needs to be positioned away from the sloping side of the base. I made brackets from some vital bits of my Cent which I chose not to use (I think from memory they were side bins). You can very easily and quickly knock up something similar from scrap ally. Fitting them required more drilling and tapping M4, as did the counter box.
I hope this doesn't make it look tricky to fit, it's really quite straightforward and easy to set up once you've worked out where it needs to go. It worked a treat, first time and I'm so glad I fitted it.

Happy skiing.


Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:33 pm
by John Fitzsimons
Thanks everybody for this advice. It has made decisions so much easier. I had studied the fitting of DRO online last night and it looks worthwhile fitting to both machines later. My decision will be the WM180 lathe and WM16 Mill. I can then budget for some decent tool to get started. Now just need to clear a nice work space.

I think this information will be of great benefit to others thinking of buying lathes and milling machines.

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:23 am
by Robert E Morey
Looking forward to seeing what you make with those. They will be a great compliment to your already impressive brass sheet metal parts. Even for small machines they are quite hefty weight wise. The little lathe spec says 150lb, Mill nearly 250lbs :shock: Some of that must be the crate and packing, etc. Nice looking machines. Using 240 Volt power they should have plenty of low end torque.

They have a nearly identical machine to my JET 626 mill the VMC turret mill, item 3017. Mine does not have the power feeds, but great machine. Its still running strong since 1989.
Best regards,

Re: Lathe /Milling machine advice

Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:55 am
by John Fitzsimons
I have been working on some new pieces and developing existing. A bit quiet on the forum for a while due to needs of 2 five year olds. Moving onto a shift pattern of work after my holidays so hope to make more spare time. I bought a proxxon mf70 milling machine recently which is more of a very stable dremel. I am impressed with the precise quality of drilling achieved with this. I was able to improve quality of work with this. Successfully milled some brass components but too slow to be a viable milling machine. Looking forward to new machines.