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Mini-Lathe setup for an absolute beginner?

Mini-Lathe setup for an absolute beginner?

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James Bennet 121/05/2019 00:04:23
4 forum posts

Hello,

I am a radio amateur, and am interested in buying a small lathe on which to produce small antenna parts (predominantly in aluminium or nylon). And also to learn some new engineering skills while I am at it.

I've been looking at a number of different lathes in my budget (Total budget of £750 including tooling), such as the Sieg C0 and C1 Micro Lathes, the Proxxon FD 150/E, etc... but they seem to be quite limited, and overpriced, so finally I'm leaning toward the Sieg SC2-300 Mini-Lathe from ArcEuroTrade, as I figured one is probably best buying the biggest machine you can afford/fit, right? It would also still leave me a fair bit for some tooling.

I don't have any previous experience with turning, so I wanted to validate a few points - Any feedback on these would be greatly appreciated

  1. Is this a sensible choice of machine, in the first instance.
  2. Is ArcEuroTrade legit? I ask as they seem significantly cheaper than both Axminster and Warco for broadly the same machine. Would that imply a lower level of quality control on the machines they import?
  3. I don't plan on turning steel, so the 500w brushless motor should be fine, correct?
  4. How reliable are these machines - I read some older models had issues with faulty PCBs? How much preperation and fettling do they need out of the box, and in order to produce reasonable results?
  5. Is metric the way to go?
  6. Carbide vs HSS tooling?

My second query is around the installation of the machine.

I live in a (first floor) flat, so I would need to get it up a single smallish flight of stairs. I figure this machine is about the largest that I could fit through the door and up the steps, but at perhaps 45-50KG, what are my chances of lifting that up myself anyway? Can anyone share any experiences? I assume the delivery guy will just drop a pallet at the bottom of the drive?

Any other advice would be most welcome - I don't want to buy a lemon

Thor21/05/2019 13:45:44
1131 forum posts
31 photos

Hi James,

Welcome to the forum.

1. Many model engineers use a Mini-Lathe for their work, so I guess it might be sensible for you to buy one.

2. I have bought several items from ArcEuroTrade and have always received excellent service, I don't think
you need to worry.

3.Brushless motors should be Ok.

4. The older Mini-Lathes with a brushed motor sometimes had controller problems. I have an old Mini-Mill
(same brushed motor and controller as older Mini-Lathes as far as I know) that is over a decade old and
have had no problems.

4. I live in a country that adopted the metre convention in 1875 so I would say a metric lathe, others may
have a different opinion.

5. For cutting aluminium and plastic HSS tools should do Ok, I myself use both Carbide and HSS tools
depending on the job at hand.

I am old and have back troubles so I wouldn't carry it up a flight of stairs alone, I would ask a friend to assist me. Good luck.

Thor

Plasma21/05/2019 15:07:40
338 forum posts
41 photos

Hi James, I'm sure there are plenty of members using the Sieg and you will get plenty of advice on setting up such a machine.

One of the big things about your proposed application will be noise, some kind of sound deadening mounting would be a good thing I'm sure, just to keep the neighbours happy.

Also consider swarf, brass is turned at high speed and the bits come off like tiny needles, not the kind of thing to have floating about a carpeted room. Make sure you spend time making a fairly extensive swarf tray so that any flying brass is controlled and easily collectable. Nylon also makes a bit of a mess with ribbons of the stuff everywhere. And non of it picks up with a magnet lol. Get yourself a good old Hoover to clean up, I use a tired old Henry.

Let us know where abouts you are in the world in case anyone is close to you for help and advice.

Regards Mick

SillyOldDuffer21/05/2019 15:26:06
4789 forum posts
1011 photos

Pretty much as Thor said.

1. I am a Radio Amateur and used a mini-lathe to make antenna parts. The main restriction is the size of the lathe, notably the spindle hole. Don't expect to put threads on a scaffold pole! I agree the C0 and C1 size are too small, big is better.

2. ArcEuro are trustworthy with a good reputation, but check the specifications carefully. Mini-lathes differ at the detail level, things like the motor type (brushless best), motor power, accessories provided, carriage, steel vs plastic gears etc. Sellers sometimes drop prices so the Arc SC may be on offer.

3. Mini-lathes will turn steel, beware of random scrap, quite a lot of it isn't machinable.

4. Controller problems still pop up but they seem relatively rare these days.

5. Metric unless you have a specific reason for preferring Imperial like scale modelling Imperial prototypes, working to imperial plans, or have access to lots of imperial goodies.

6. I used Carbide mostly - for a beginner indexed carbide avoids the need to sharpen HSS.

Delivery indeed dropping a pallet at the end of the drive. Some drivers more helpful than others, but perhaps safer to assume the worst. 40kg Mini-lathes are an easy two person lift. They weigh about as much as a small woman/large child but are awkwardly balanced. I am an unfit weakling and couldn't lift mine safely from floor to bench level. (In an emergency I would have risked it, but I value my back.) Easy enough to get off the pallet and walk end by end across the floor. I used a box, workmate, and several lengths of 2x4 to raise the lathe step by step until I could slide it onto the bench. Later, a friend and I easily lifted the lathe off the bench and carried it 40 metres to plonk it in his boot. He lifted it on his own when he got home, but he's 15 years younger than me.

My machines - mostly Warco - all worked out of the box on delivery. They all needed a little fettling, but it was trivial stuff like increasing the depth of the locking hole under the High/Low lever to make it more positive, and adding a plastic strip to stop swarf getting inside the control box via the leadscrew. (Recent lathes come with a grommet.)

Dave

Edit forgot to mention noise!  Possible to listen to a radio at ordinary volume when using mine.

 

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 21/05/2019 15:31:13

Frances IoM21/05/2019 15:27:06
655 forum posts
24 photos
Brass is a right pain to clear up, likewise some aluminium, expect your carpets enroute to the workshop to sparkle! - they stick to clothing then drop off elsewhere. Make sure the guard is ok as you don't want non-magnetic brass swarf anywhere near your eye. Brass + most plastics need a very sharp tool - standard HSS is better than any brazed carbide tho modern specialised inserts should be fine but considerably more expensive. If using HSS you will also need some way of sharpening the cutters. For small turned items you will also need to run at quite high speed.
James Bennet 121/05/2019 15:37:41
4 forum posts

Thank you to Thor, Mick, Dave, etc... for your kind replies.

Good to hear that many people use these sorts of Mini-Lathes successfully. And that Arc are a reputable company (I will indeed be going with them, then). The SC2-300 from ARC I am looking at is currently listed at £575 down from £675. I checked the specs and it seems to be exactly same as the Axminster one at £749.

In terms of noise, this was one of the reasons I was leaning toward the SC2 over the C2, was I heard that the brushless motor and associated drivetrain was quieter. Though I guess most of the noise would still come from the leadscrew gears and of course the actual cutting action.

I live in an ex-council block-of-four type flat and my neighbours are pretty loud (dogs, football, etc) so they probably can't complain too much about that so long as I'm not doing it at midnight

Good point on swarf though. The back room is currently dedicated to other hobby stuff (electronics workbench with radios etc) and storage, and just has a cheap laminate floor, so I should be able to sweep it pretty easily, or, as you suggest, use an old hoover as a shop-vac. I have a hefty table which I intend to bolt it down to for stability, which will probably help with excess vibration and noise, too.

I'm just west of Edinburgh. I'm a young(ish) guy but not terribly fit so i'll maybe have to see if my (tiny!) girlfriend can help me manouver it up the stairs - There are 14 and they are each about half the size of the lathe, so I figure so long as I can get it off the drive with her help then with the help of some books I can try and lift it up one one at a time then slide it along the floor into the room.

I've got various books on lathework from the "Workshop Practice" series and have been watching a lot of YouTube, so think I understand the basics, but it's the specifics of the unpacking and initial setup (oiling etc) which i'm more worried about. I'll also need try and find budget for a grinder (and learn how to use it) for HSS tools, I guess.

This is what I have in my head based on the videos I have seen:

  • Remove loose bits from the packing crate and knock off one of the sides?
  • Get under it / tip it (?) to undo the bolts securing it to the base of the crate.
  • Lift it (hands under the ways at each end, avoiding the plastic gearbox?) up into the house and onto the bench.
  • Bolt it down securely.
  • Clean packing grease from all the surfaces with wd40 or some sort of solvent (remove chuck and tailstock or dissasemble even further?)
  • Oil (3 in 1? Or any specific reccomendation?) all of the surfaces and ways?
  • Grease (white lithium?) the dovetails, leadscrew, gears?
  • Put a centre in the chuck and tailsock and check for alignment.
  • Check tool hight.
  • Try and turn down and face something and check for uniformity along its length with some calipers?
  • Adjust anything as required i.e. "gib strips"?

Sound about right?

I'm not looking for airtight tolerances, nor turning scaffold poles - The sorts of things I will be turning would be i.e. a tapered lightweight widget to fit onto/into the top of a fiberglass mast, with some threaded bits for wingnuts on each side for attaching antennas to.

3404621/05/2019 15:56:14
772 forum posts
4 photos

Is ArcEuroTrade legit?

!00 %

They have an excellent reputation , excellent customer service - I have the Sieg SC2 - well pleased

The proprietor is a member of this forum .

Bill

Ketan Swali21/05/2019 16:11:54
1118 forum posts
91 photos
Posted by 34046 on 21/05/2019 15:56:14:

Is ArcEuroTrade legit?

!00 %

They have an excellent reputation , excellent customer service - I have the Sieg SC2 - well pleased

The proprietor is a member of this forum .

Bill

I hear he is legit cowboy Indian. teeth 2

Ketan at ARC.

SillyOldDuffer21/05/2019 16:22:34
4789 forum posts
1011 photos

I don't remember my mini-lathe being bolted to the pallet. It was in a plywood box secured with steel-tape (don't throw it away - good for shimming tools to centre-height.) I think I took the top off, checked everything was present (other boxes on the same small pallet), and then removed the sides. Not difficult, no tipping.

A cheap DIY store hand truck (£15) might help you move it, including upstairs.

No need to bolt it down they have rubber feet.

Mine only needed a light clean. It wasn't covered in the dreaded 'Chicken Fat'.

Not critical on oil, 20-30 motor oil would be cheaper & better than 3 in 1

Grease as stated, White Lithium is supposed to be plastic friendly, but I think ordinary motor grease is OK.

Tool height is adjusted by packing shims under the tool. Sorry the photo is sideways but note the bits of old coke can and other metal strip used to lift the tool on the tool-post to centre height. The angle of the ruler shows if the tool is too high or too low. It should be vertical. Reminds me I didn't have any metal strip handy when my mini-lathe arrived, and it was an annoying show-stopper.

dsc04505.jpg

I wouldn't bother checking the tail-stock alignment immediately, adjusting it is a faff! I'd start by winding the carriage and slide backwards and forwards to make sure nothing is jammed. Then turn the chuck by hand to make sure the motor and gears are free. Then stick a short length of Aluminium or Brass rod in the machine and experiment with a few gentle cuts.

Some start with a new machine by measuring and checking everything: I think looking for problems highly liable to confuse the beginner! Better to read a good book (Sparey or Wyatt), consult YouTube, ask on the Forum and do some trial cutting. Don't expect instant results. Common beginner mistakes, pussyfooting is bad because rubbing blunts tools or behaving like a demented gorilla by expecting far too much of a small machine.

The gibs and backlash might need adjustment, but I'd find out what needs fixing by using the machine. Avoid scrap. If it feels wrong or you get poor results then look for the cause or ask advice. Don't forget the operator is a potent source of trouble, and it takes time to build experience.

More fun than I'm making it sound!

Dave

Dennis D21/05/2019 16:31:43
61 forum posts
2 photos

I have a Warco 180 in an upstairs bedroom which looks to be about the same size as the SC2 . It was a 2 person lift but by removing as much as possible from the machine i.e. chuck, tailstock and tool holder it drops the weight a bit. Also wind the slide towards the tailstock end to help balance the weight slightly . I also used a thick strap under the headstock end so that we could keep it as level as we could

Sean Cullen21/05/2019 16:36:58
49 forum posts
7 photos

If you want to keep the domestic authority happy, maybe have a pair of slippers/maccasins/crocs/shoes which you only wear in the workroom and take them off as you exit to save walking swarf through the flat

James Bennet 121/05/2019 16:38:12
4 forum posts

Thanks again, everyone, for your great insights.

> Ketan at ARC.

It's really nice to see sellers engaging with the community here. Excellent customer service! I will be in touch in 3 weeks once I get paid, to place an order

> I don't remember my mini-lathe being bolted to the pallet. It was in a plywood box secured with steel-tape (don't throw it away - good for shimming tools to centre-height.) I think I took the top off, checked everything was present (other boxes on the same small pallet), and then removed the sides. Not difficult, no tipping.

> Mine only needed a light clean. It wasn't covered in the dreaded 'Chicken Fat'.

This is good to know, as those were the parts I was thinking would be a hassle. I was thinking about using razor blades as shims as I have loads, but I was hoping as I was going to buy 8mm tools I might not need them anyway.

I've seen the ruler trick before for checking the tool height, good tip! But I read motor oil was bad due to the detergents in it?

> A cheap DIY store hand truck

You mean something like this (**LINK**), plus maybe some ratchet straps to stop it falling off?

Ketan Swali21/05/2019 16:58:31
1118 forum posts
91 photos
Posted by James Bennet 1 on 21/05/2019 16:38:12:

> Ketan at ARC.

It's really nice to see sellers engaging with the community here. Excellent customer service! I will be in touch in 3 weeks once I get paid, to place an order

No worries James. Before making your purchase, If you call and speak with Ian, he will be able to answer all your questions for you.

Ketan at ARC.

SillyOldDuffer21/05/2019 17:36:27
4789 forum posts
1011 photos

Posted by James Bennet 1 on 21/05/2019 16:38:12:

... But I read motor oil was bad due to the detergents in it?

> A cheap DIY store hand truck

You mean something like this (**LINK**), plus maybe some ratchet straps to stop it falling off?

Detergents, yes, especially in fancy modern motor oils. But they are less evident in the old-fashioned types. At the moment I'm using lawn mower oil. Mini-lathes don't use much oil, the bearings are sealed and there is no gearbox. The oil is mostly to keep the slide-ways lubricated, and to discourage rust. 3 in 1 is OK around the house but it tends to go gummy and it doesn't like heat.

The Screwfix link is to a proper stair truck, which is the posh solution. I was thinking of a cheap sack truck like this better example from Machine Mart. Mine came from a garden centre but it's OK for up to 80kg, I've seen similar in Lidl & B&Q for well under £20. Wouldn't bother with straps. The lathe is only a few inches off the floor, and if the truck was tipped enough to need straps on a stairway it would be out-of-control anyway. The important thing is to make sure no-one is ever in a position where the lathe could fall on them!

Dave

 

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 21/05/2019 17:36:57

Robert Atkinson 221/05/2019 18:47:02
avatar
385 forum posts
21 photos

Hi,

If using in the same room as electronics beware of getting swarf into it. Little bits can fly quite far. As long as top ventillation holes are under a shelf or similar it should be fairly safe though.

Robert G8RPI.

Hollowpoint21/05/2019 19:39:15
226 forum posts
28 photos

I'm in the same situation as you atm. I've just bought a mini lathe from amadeal to use in a flat as I don't have 24/7 access to my Boxford anymore 😞 The mini lathe isn't stupidly heavy and should be no bother for two people.

I will make one suggestion though, I personally wouldn't go with HSS. It does cut very well but sharpening might be a problem. I wouldn't fancy using a bench grinder indoors especially in a flat. The noise is horrendous. Cutter geometry isn't easy for a begginer either. Go for a SCLCR indexable cutter with either a 8 or 10mm shank and a box of CCGT tips. You can then do the vast majority of turning operations for little out lay and no sharpening to worry about. 👍

Howard Lewis21/05/2019 20:11:21
2404 forum posts
2 photos

Have never had anything but satisfaction with Arc. Ketan and his crew are friendly, helpful, and scrupulously fair.

(Haven't met many suppliers who say "If it doesn't work out, send it back in good condition, for a refund" ).

A C3 lathe is about as much as you can lift, 40 Kg net, 50 Kg gross. It may, at first, seem bigger than you need, but you will find other jobs that are too big for a C0 or C1.

The Arc Euro Trade Catalogue is worth getting, although it will encourage you to buy more tooling / accessories.

The prices in Catalogue No 10 are now out of date, but are a useful guide.

We all have some accessories that seemed a good idea at the time!.

My advice is to use High Speed Steel tools for the materials that you are likely to use. To get the best out of Carbide tools, they need high speeds, and were developed for Industrial.are

(Already you are on the slippery slope needing a bench grinder! )

Further advice: make up a centre height gauge. It will simplify, and speed up, setting tools to the correct height, so that they cut correctly..

If you want to cut threads, other than with Taps or Dies, read up one of the books on setting up the gears, such as

Workshop Practice Series No.3 "Screwcutting in the Lathe" by Martin Cleeve, or Brian Wood's "Gearing of lathes for Screwcutting". This is very likely to lead to you making a mandrel handle , for jobs needing slow speed, and high torque.

Back copies of M E W are a good source of ideas, and methods.

Finally, do ask for advice / help on here. Advice will be given freely and if you have a real problem, the chances are that someone will be close enough to come and help in person.

Good Luck, and Enjoy!

Howard

Meunier21/05/2019 20:13:27
256 forum posts
1 photos

and since you are in a flat, how about this foldable truck from Screwfix, 80kg which should be plenty and you can tuck it away when not needed. (and half the price, as you are going to be a bit spendy in a few weeks 

**LINK**

DaveD

Martin Shaw 121/05/2019 21:39:27
109 forum posts
33 photos

James

I'm near Glasgow and I have a Sieg SC3 supplied by Arc. If you can face the west your more than welcome to visit my workshop and have a look and play, and get my feedback. PM me if you want to take it further.

Kind regards

Martin

not done it yet22/05/2019 07:56:54
3493 forum posts
15 photos

This lathe only weighs Only 30 - 35kg, assuming the chuck, tailstock, change gears, tools etc (parts that are easily separated).

Likely less than 30kg if the drip tray and apron were removed.

No more mass than a suitcase allowed in the hold on most international flights (not ryan air!)?

I am not young (into my 7th decade) with a bad back (on occasions)) and a recipient of a quadruple bypass, but I fancy I might tuck it on my shoulder and carry it up in one go. It would weigh no more than the vertical head of my mill.

There must be someone local who would carry it up for you? The weight distributed between two individuals might be no more than a full shopping bag for each to share? It is in excess of HSE guide-lines, admittedly - but they are for paid workers. When I was younger, 50 kg bags of materials were the norm (cement, fertiliser, etc)

I regularly carry two packs, each of 6 x 2litre containers from the car to the house, one in each hand.

Standard domestic stairs are about 80cm wide. Risers and going are usually around 20cm. I expect that stairs in flats are necessarily wider? So I see no good reason why a machine of this diminutive size should present any great logistical problem of moving it from one floor level to another. Likely easy enough to move it one step at a time with the machine able to perch on each step without support.

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