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Vertical milling attachment vs combo lathe/mill??

is it a worthy trade-off for a better lathe?

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Chris Evans 613/12/2018 09:17:34
1432 forum posts

Sorry Mike, Midlands based in the UK so my set up is of no use to you. Just remember when messing around with bikes, once you have a lathe and mill you get another 100 "Friends"

Mike B 113/12/2018 09:25:45
12 forum posts

i'll tell them its a wood lathe Chris, don't want to be like facebook

JasonB13/12/2018 09:32:59
15507 forum posts
1594 photos
1 articles

I would think a slide that size takes M10 or M12 fixings so around one diameter minimum to be sure

Mike B 114/12/2018 09:46:39
12 forum posts

ok so i'm retreating form the al320 after looking carefully at the stepped compound slide and its lack of T slots. otherwise a nice machine for my purposes. I don't have space (or $) for a separate mill and a small mill/drill would not replace my drill adequately. So back to 26mm spindle bore machines with slotted slides. So maybe back to the tu2506 with (or not) and back standing milling attachment or maybe an older cq6128 (250x270x26) which is heavier and more solid than the tu2506 but with the same bed width tho the downside being belts to change the speed and still a minimum speed of 125.

i did have a long chat to a retired tool maker who spoke positively about doing lots of milling on a lathe with various attachments to the cross slide so that just makes it more confusing.

when someone said there was not the perfect lathe i didn't think it would be this tricky! the search continues...

Hopper14/12/2018 09:59:25
3651 forum posts
72 photos
Posted by Mike B 1 on 14/12/2018 09:46:39:


i did have a long chat to a retired tool maker who spoke positively about doing lots of milling on a lathe with various attachments to the cross slide so that just makes it more confusing.

Most model engineering for most of the 20th century was done this way. Milling machines were too expensive before the Chinese hobby manufacturers brought out the cheap and cheerful current type of small machines.

Howard Lewis14/12/2018 10:27:54
2029 forum posts
2 photos

From what I've seen, the Seig SC4 is a good machine.. Neil Wyatt has been running a series in M E W on it, over the last few months..

My vertical Slide is for a SC6, and used with adaptors, on my BL12-24 (Warco BH600 / Chester Craftsman lookalike) either in place of the Front or (shopmade) Rear toolpost.

Might be worth a look, if you have the space and budget.

My advice is to buy the biggest machine that you can fit into your limited space. But do allow room behind the Headstock to open covers and for long material passed through the Mandrel.


Clive Foster14/12/2018 14:53:47
1736 forum posts
52 photos

As Hopper says for most of the 20 th century model engineers did their milling on vertical slides and found the results satisfactory. However most models were small in those days so a milling capacity of around 3" cube was probably enough. Smaller workpieces mean less material to remove and smaller cutters so lower rigidity could be tolerated and worked around without too much verbal encouragement.

Even with the modern trend towards larger models a mill capable of easily handing a 6" cube with appropriate size cutters would suffice for most of the milling work. Too much for a vertical slide on the common variety of Model Engineers lathe but a half decent milling attachment could probably manage something approaching this size. Albeit with rather more caution than proper mill in view of the lesser rigidity. But the job would get done. As Model Engineering is more about taking pleasure in doing the job rather than the end product it probably makes little difference if things take somewhat longer than they might with ideal (aka unaffordable!) equipment.

Bit different when the machine is support for another hobby. Then you need something whose inherent capability will let you do most, if not quite all, jobs "just like that" without faffing around. Inevitably there will always be some things big enough to need creative mounting or farming out but you need to minimise such. Learning to make an objectively undersized machine punch way, way above its weight may give a lot of pleasure to a Model Engineer but its not what you are signing up for when getting a machine to support another hobby.

Its very hard for a non machinist to visualise the real capacity of a mill due to all the work holding being in the work space. Lathes in contrast are easy. Its also quite hard to visualise the time needed to get your skills up to the required level and the value of the tooling needed to do the job. Not to mention the sheer amount of money tied up in a machine which gets little use. It would be quite easy to spend significant coin on something that just doesn't get used.

Been sliding down the "tied up money" slippery slope for nearly 50 years since I bought a Portass S lathe out of the back of a shed for the proverbial "pint & 2 packets of smokes". Theoretically so I could make the odd part for my (then) ride to work AJS 16MS. Post redundancy the workshop and contents got folded into my self-employed consultancy company. On shutting that down about 10 years ago the replacement cost for tax purposes of the contents was pushing £30,000 assuming used "E-Bay" prices. Yikes! OK tax accountant things going on but still a lot of money went in more or less unnoticed over the years. At canny Sussex country boy purchase prices. Had a lot of fun in the toy box but doubt if I've made 20 parts for my bikes and possibly another 50 for other folks (for which I got paid). Objectively speaking economic lunacy because I could have bought everything I made for less, but do I care. Nope! Of course that sort of lifestyle is only safe if you are, like me, a single guy.


not done it yet14/12/2018 16:09:05
3005 forum posts
11 photos

I thought Ady and Mike (first two replies on the thread) were about right. I’ve followed the thread and am eventually adding my two pennorth worth.

I bought a mill/drill combo lathe as a starter. I was green and didn’t get on well with it. I had lots of experience with proper woodworking machinery several years previously. The lathe was not the best and the milling head was never used to its potential (I think).

I added a mill, which was not nearly rigid enough, particularly for a learner, but cost little and sufficed for several years.

Moving on ten years and more.

I had picked up an old Raglan Little John lathe which I eventually returned to working order. I was sold on the QCGB option, added a QCTP and thought ‘that will do me for whats left of my days’. Threading was a dream and it surfaced and faced under power far better than the previous (which was only powered on the long travel).

That lathe has been replaced, but only because I happened on a Raglan 5” in very good condition at a very enticing price. With an (admittedly) largely improved Raglan, of which I am well satisfied (with all the improvements to the basic design), I am sure I won’t be changing that model for a later one! It suits me fine.smiley

In between the two Raglan lathes, I bought a delightful example of a Raglan mill, fully realising it was for small work. I then realised the value of Centec mills, from reading about their attributes, while investigating options for a larger mill. So when I found a suitable sample, I bought it.

I now have a superb British lathe of adequate size for most things I do (12” to the foot scale) and a delightful small British mill as well as the British made combo mill that does most of my machining in vertical mode - but is also useful for horizontal work.

So my advice would be to get a decent sized lathe, of the best quality you can afford, and follow it with a mill when funds allow. A good milling attachment on the lathe might bridge the gap, but that is all if a lot of work is undertaken.

I could, in hindsight, have bought a large mill and done most of my work on that - there is not much that a large mill cannot do (that a lathe is normally used for - threading being the clear exception!) with the extras that can be used with them. But that is hindsight.smiley With 3 machines available, I still find I have to break down set-ups at times. I am only a part time hobbyist with this kit. I have several other hobbies that also vie for my time.

John Alexander Stewart14/12/2018 16:43:41
748 forum posts
51 photos

Mike - I've kept out of this, because it's easy to put forth ones' wishes as fact. (and, what's been presented are also my wishes and suggestions, so that is not a complaint on the posters at all)

May I add some alternative thoughts on a combo machine?

1) the published author Kozo Hiraoka has an Emco 7" lathe with the vertical milling attachment, and he's produced excellent work; in his 8x8 (foot) workshop.

2) the published author Bill Harris had a 9" South Bend lathe and a vertical slide, and made 1.5" and 2.5" scale Shay locomotives, both are well regarded designs. He used a table saw with abrasive pad on a disc for his sanding work.

3) For a while, I only had room (barely) for an Emco Compact-8 with the wimpy vertical head. I did lots of good work on that combo; that and a bench vise and a 25mm wide belt Linisher machine was all that I had power-tool wise.

4) MANY models were made in workshops equipped with a lathe and, if they were lucky, a vertical slide.

Yes, a machine for each job is ideal, but without the space, one does what one can do. You may need to use your noggin to get around the limitations, but you'll probably need to use your noggin with whatever machinery you obtain, so no loss there.

Anyway, thoughts on this (freezing rain here) Friday.

Nick Hulme14/12/2018 21:50:28
686 forum posts
37 photos

I'd consider one of these,

the important thing is that the head comes down to the slide, if you add spacer blocks to get your work up to the mill you are making massive compromises with rigidity

Edited By Nick Hulme on 14/12/2018 21:51:24

not done it yet14/12/2018 23:10:32
3005 forum posts
11 photos

I don’t suppose, for one moment, that a Labormil Universal Machine (in good condition) would do all that is required?


I would have tried to buy one if I had space for one in my workshop... even just for the novelty. I have seen a couple or more other serious contenders as combination machines at a friend’s home - originally designed for submarine or ship-board repair facilities, I think.

Chris Evans 615/12/2018 09:39:39
1432 forum posts

Having the luxury of a reasonable size lathe and a Bridgeport mill I rarely mount things on the lathe cross slide. As the OP wants to do vintage motorcycle work a little thinking is required. Early this year I mounted a Velocette gearbox case to my lathe cross slide with an angle plate to be able to screwcut a thread about 2 13/16" diameter x 24 TPI. It can be done.

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