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Help me choose a lathe to suit my hobby

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Microbike10/09/2017 19:02:34
34 forum posts
17 photos

I have been researching the right lathe for the past 18 months and I find it very disheartening - it is as though no one makes a reasonably priced, accurate mini lathe

First some information for you

What I know - beginner level

I did fitting and turning during my apprenticeship as a mechatnic so I know the basics, but that was some time ago and I am out of practice. I have read "the mini lathe" by David Fenner and understood it all okay and felt I could make most of the projects. Similarly I am reading "Lathework a complete course" and find I understand it all okay and could make nearly all of the projects

I am comfortable reading technical drawings and I am comfortable around the workshop but I would still class myself as a beginner but I think it will come back to me quickly

Next my hobby

I did introduce myself in the introduce yourself forum - see this thread - Model motorcycles in 1/6 scale

But here is the basics of my hobby

I build 1/6 scale motorcycles which are quite detailed. I use the plastic model as a base and then add additional detail such as tiny bolts, scale wiring and other such detail. I have reached the limits of the hobby as I do it now so I would like, to take it to the next level and make my own more detailed parts. For example a plastic moulded chain - looks like - well - a plastic moulded chain. I have tracked down real roller chain with a pitch of 3.2mm so it's prefect for 1/6 scale bikes - the problem now is that I need to make my own sprockets that will be scale replicas of the real bike

Another challenge is engine mounting bolts and axles. In the kit they are represented by a shaft with threads on both ends and M2 nuts. However the real bold uses flanged bolts which clearly only have a nut on one end. A rear axle will have a M2.5 castle nut so I need to make these parts myself to achieve the level of detail that I am looking for

Some of the things I would like to make

Below are some parts I would like to make - An engine mounting bolt

Top rear engine mount

An axle for the front wheel plus the axle nut

1/6 front axle drawing

Front axle nut

Below are the real parts

Full size front axle

Front axle

So for my hobby it's quite small for most parts. BUT...

Microbike10/09/2017 19:14:03
34 forum posts
17 photos

But some of the parts can be quite big. One of the problems are with wire rims, which in plastic are just terrible so I would like to turn my own rims and make a jig to make the spokes etc. The rims are typically 17" to 21" which translates to a rim with a diameter of roughly 86mm. Below are the rim halves from a 1/6 scale Yamaha Yz250 Motocross bike


Therefore I need a lathe that can handle this size of turning as the minimum starting point

Furthermore I would like to make some of the tools in the project books that I have. I might even be tempted later on to build some working engines with my son who is 10 years old at the moment. Therefore I think I am looking for a lathe that is a bit bigger than a Proxxon PD400 but not bigger than a WARCO GH1330 GEAR HEAD LATHE

Microbike10/09/2017 19:21:04
34 forum posts
17 photos


So how much do I have to spend. I would be quite happy to spend between £2,500-£3,000 but only if that is the best solution. I will be raedy to make my purchase in the spring of 2018. I would like to make a short list and then if possible see the actual lathe before placing an order

So what do I like --- don't know, I though WARCO but it seems that the quality and service is questionable.

Then I thought I might buy European and get a Wabeco but they too have had negative press especially quality?

Then I thought SIEG till I read the mini lathe book by Fenner and that really put me off - so many quality issues - but to be fair it only costs about £750

I could provide my short list and concerns if that would help?

Michael Gilligan10/09/2017 19:21:45
14976 forum posts
638 photos

Given that range of sizes, I would look seriously at the Sherline

... If nothing else; have a browse around their website.



Edited By Michael Gilligan on 10/09/2017 19:23:28

Douglas Johnston10/09/2017 19:29:43
680 forum posts
32 photos

If you don't mind second hand a good choice would be a Myford ML 10 or Speed 10. I have owned one of these for the best part of 20 years and it is a well made sturdy small lathe quite capable of making the kind of parts you indicated.


Nick_G10/09/2017 19:36:08
1808 forum posts
744 photos


Sounds to me as if you 'may' be best served with 2 lathes. surprise

One of a watchmakers ish size for those tiny parts and then a beefier one for the wheel hubs etc.

IMHO you could do a lot worse than this puppy **LINK** for making the smaller parts.

The price on that will rise from what it is now but a machine such as that you will always get your money back (unless it gets silly) should you feel the need to move it on.


Edit :- Michael G will be drooling over that Schaublin wink

Edited By Nick_G on 10/09/2017 19:40:14

Mick B110/09/2017 19:44:27
1432 forum posts
77 photos
Posted by Microbike on 10/09/2017 19:21:04:

So what do I like --- don't know, I though WARCO but it seems that the quality and service is questionable.

Remember that most of the comments you'll read here about Warco - or any other brand for that matter - are from users who've had grief.

My Warco WM250V has been in almost daily use for about 2 1/2 years now, and such trouble as it's given has usually been my fault and always within my capability to fix. It runs smoothly, quietly and does what's expected of it - which is very varied. It does seem to have a better spread of features than some of its competition, and I'm happy with it. The 3-jaw chuck runs very true which means it works well with small diameter parts. I don't have any relationship to the company other than as a customer.

Michael Gilligan10/09/2017 19:55:02
14976 forum posts
638 photos
Posted by Nick_G on 10/09/2017 19:36:08:

Edit :- Michael G will be drooling over that Schaublin wink


You better believe it, Nick

... A habit I shall have to curb [drool sends them rusty]


Neil Wyatt10/09/2017 19:58:54
17330 forum posts
690 photos
77 articles

Mini Lathes have been in production for over twenty years now. The early QC issues and dodgy controller boards shouldn't be an issue now, if you get one from one of the established suppliers.


Nick_G10/09/2017 20:05:20
1808 forum posts
744 photos
Posted by Michael Gilligan on 10/09/2017 19:55:02:


You better believe it, Nick

I wonder what it will end up going for.? (providing it makes it's reserve)


Microbike10/09/2017 20:08:03
34 forum posts
17 photos

Hello Michael thanks for the link I will look at the Sherline range

Doug and Nick I don't think I have the courage for a second hand lathe but Nick I think a two lathe approach might be a good idea

The PROXXON FD 150 E LATHE might have worked except I need thread cutting as that will be a big part of what I do. I realise I can use taps and dies but nit for all the parts, I do think I need thread cutting even on the small lathe and the next Proxxon the PD400 dOes it all but is quite expensive at £2,650

Microbike10/09/2017 20:19:21
34 forum posts
17 photos

Mick good to hear your positive experience on WARCO what is their service like? Mixed reviews in the forums?

My WARCO choice would be a WM 290V LATHE INVERTER DRIVE VARIABLE SPEED because the package is very good especially the DRO option and I understand that the inverter variable drive is a good idea?

An alternative that looks attractive is the Swisstec ST-280x700V AF - which despite the flashy name is just another Chineese lathe but the package is good includes DRO and most of the essential accessories - can't find any reviews of Swusstec though? Anyone got one?

Nick_G10/09/2017 20:23:27
1808 forum posts
744 photos


I have had a play (though not used) with a few Proxxon machines at my local Axminster branch.

I must say I was far from impressed.! Very, very, very overpriced for what they are.

I may be talking broken biscuits here but I strongly suspect that although they say they are made in Austria they originate in the far east. - Just perhaps under Austrian direction, shipped over and badged up. They seem to be of the same build quality and finish in the area's that really matter as Sieg machines but at a much higher cost.


Edited By Nick_G on 10/09/2017 20:24:45

John Haine10/09/2017 20:25:17
2896 forum posts
143 photos

"You can turn small things on a big lathe but not big things on a small lathe". So why have 2 lathes?

Myfords are pretty good for this kind of work but tend to go for silly money (especially new).

Many people think Boxfords are better than Myford and used ones in good condition are significantly cheaper than the Myfords as they are less fashionable.

Having said that the Warco WM250 type seems to have a good reputation. The most common problem is the motor control board blowing up but the 250V has an inverter which should be much more reliable.

Proxxon are stupidly priced in my opinion and my experience with their tools is not positive.

I suspect that you will not be working to very high precision as these models don't run (?I think?). You may be over-thinking this.

The Midlands ME Exhibition is coming up, why don't you go and look at the machines and make up your mind?

Microbike10/09/2017 20:33:03
34 forum posts
17 photos

Thanks Nick I have some Proxxon Tools that are okay and reliable but very expensive for what they are. Nick what is your view of the Axminster Engineer Series Lathes - the seem similar to WARCO but a bit less on offer. How is Axminster as a company reliable, service? etc

Microbike10/09/2017 20:39:35
34 forum posts
17 photos

tHello John, the exhibition is in my dairy and will give me the chance to see some of the lathes

The models are static and don't run but turning new rims and dividing them to take spokes will require a fair degree of presicison I think. I do think a degree of accuracy will be required to make sprockets in this scale

I agree small things on big lathe is possible and I would prefer one lathe that can handle all my requirements including the option to make tools etc

To give you an idea this is what I build

Yamaha XS1100

The chrome that you see by the way is painted on with an airbrush

Nick_G10/09/2017 20:40:34
1808 forum posts
744 photos
Posted by Microbike on 10/09/2017 20:33:03:

Nick what is your view of the Axminster Engineer Series Lathes - the seem similar to WARCO but a bit less on offer. How is Axminster as a company reliable, service? etc


You are asking the wrong person TBH as I have never used any of them. (would imagine they are sold by lots of people with different badges and paint on them) - Also when it comes to model engineering I am still a relative newbie.

I think Jason had a little Emco for many years and now has a 280 lathe. No doubt he will be along in a little while and give his much experienced view on how they handle making small parts. - I think collet chucks may become your best friend for the small stuff.


Clive Foster10/09/2017 20:43:57
2029 forum posts
73 photos


Don't take this the wrong way but I think that your chances of getting it right first time are pretty slim. As you have discovered its hard enough putting together a sensible features wanted list let alone finding a machine to suit all you think you need. Even if you did manage to find the ideal machine(s) that exactly fitted your wanted list it's almost certain that shortly after putting it to work you'd find something got left off the list. Distinctly off putting if you've just spent serious money on nice new equipment that doesn't quite cut it and cannot be made to do so.

If you did manage to get the features list and equipment purchase absolutely right first time it would probably be a first in the whole history of machining! I'm sure everyone else here has their own tales of how things didn't quite come together as expected on the workshop equipment front needing either a bit of luck or some creativity to get reasonably acceptable results. I've always figured it takes me three goes to know what I really want. Third time can be lived with but fourth is the peach. On the third mill now and fifth lathe (extenuating circumstances on the lathes).

In your position I'd accept an imperfect solution to start with and pick up a used, OK condition, mini lathe at a price that ensures it can be moved on without great financial embarrassment. Having used that for a bit you will have a much better idea of what you really want when it comes to spending proper money. Personally I'd probably be considering something like Pultra with chase screw cutting capability for your small lathe. Obviously used but a machine of very high quality originally and known to be durable. But, like everyone, I'm reading my own personal history and experience into the advice.

Thinking outside the box it todays world seriously consider a small CNC lathe for the turned parts and a small CNC mill for the bigger parts. Your wheels are within the size range of small fifth axis units, e.g. Sherline type so a mill can do round parts just fine. If I were a (much) younger man contemplating your sort of work I think thats the way I'd go.


Nick_G10/09/2017 21:01:37
1808 forum posts
744 photos


Also in between a mini lathe and the 280 / 90 sized machines you mention and still more than capable of taking the top end capacity you mention is the SC4 lathe.

Our glorious leader Herr Wyatt is very soon to do an depth review of said machine I think. This would leave to quite a bit of headroom in your budget for collet chucks, tooling and perhaps even a nice DRO.

Just a thought, Nick

Microbike10/09/2017 22:31:20
34 forum posts
17 photos

Hello Clive no offence taken and you are of course quite right. I know from my own modelling experience of airbrushing . I have ten airbrushes in my cupboard and the one I use the most is the first Badger 200IL I bought nearly 37 years ago. It fits like a glove and does 90% of my airbrushing. I have the top of the range Badger double action airbrush that I have never actually used. The chrome finish is only possible with a Holbein airbrush that has a very fine needle and mists on the chrome to achieve this high shine finish. I have an Iwata airbrush that I used once and uuugh it didn't work for me but many other modellers achieve spectacular results with the same model. So I mostly use my trusyed Badger

It's the skill of the operator that produces the results and the tools/Machines help

Below is a model bike tank custom sprayed with my Badger 200 single action airbrush


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