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Former Member26/05/2019 19:53:41

[This posting has been removed]

SillyOldDuffer26/05/2019 21:50:47
4601 forum posts
988 photos
Posted by Haggerleases on 26/05/2019 19:53:41:

Hello all.

I am a newcome to model engineering and I have two main interests. Live steam, and Clocks.

I'm looking to purchase my first lathe and wondered if there was a useful machine that could accomplish both the build of a clock, and possibly up to a 2 1/2 inch gauge loco. I have a budget of around £700.

I've looked at the various mini lathes, the Taig, the Sherline, and the Hobbymat MD200, but the Hobbymat although seemingly of higher quality than the others, has a high spindle speed, which although OK for clockmaking, may not be as good in turning cast iron. It doesn't seem to have many (any) accessories listed either.

Any advice?

Isn't this the same question? Hobbymat, Taig and Sherline are all uncomfortably small for 2 1/2" gauge. If buying new for £700 a C3 sized mini-lathe is the obvious choice.


Former Member26/05/2019 22:36:35

[This posting has been removed]

Michael Gilligan26/05/2019 23:04:13
13827 forum posts
603 photos

If you want non-Chinese AND the ability to make Clocks and a 2 1/2 inch gauge loco ... You will almost certainly need to buy secondhand.

As a self-professed newcomer: Do you have the knowledge to assess the condition of a used lathe, and the time/ability/enthusiasm to refurbish it if needs be ?

Take some time to think about what you really want to do.


Edited By Michael Gilligan on 26/05/2019 23:05:51

Andrew Evans27/05/2019 00:22:40
253 forum posts
1 photos

What's the problem with something made in China? You seem pretty vehemently opposed to it.

RMA27/05/2019 08:44:25
162 forum posts

Each to their own, but I don't think we would buy much if we chose not to buy Chinese! It's a different world now, England is no longer the "workshop of the world"!

SillyOldDuffer27/05/2019 09:52:51
4601 forum posts
988 photos
Posted by Haggerleases on 26/05/2019 22:36:35:

... I hate that I'm having to consider a piece of Chinese equipment. I understand the benefits but it really is sticking in my craw.

Ah with you. It's a hobby, done for fun, and therefore important to be happy with your tools! But rejecting Far Eastern means you either have to increase your budget or start a careful search of the second-hand market.

One problem buying second-hand is a shortage of lathes in the size you want! And, because they are getting long in the tooth, finding one in tip-top condition gets harder with every passing year. It's not impossible, for example relatives doing a house-clearance might let a good lathe go for a song because they're in a hurry. Otherwise, dealers and insiders snap them up while auctions tend to push prices up. Second-hand Myfords are - I think - overpriced because there are quite a few chaps like you chasing them, except they have deeper pockets.

I feel the bigger lathes, Boxford, Colchester, Harrison etc, are excellent value for money compared with Myfords. Large numbers of them on sale because manual lathes have been pushed out by CNC in industry and education. Many of them in good condition. There's always a downside - they're physically and electrically big and the cost of spares is often eye-watering.

My main regret is not getting a lathe earlier. Just before marriage I had an painful misadventure attempting to buy a Myford (it wasn't), and then family & work commitments kept me away from a fantastic hobby until just before retirement. Then I went into dither-mode, second-hand vs Chinese, for far too long. Eventually I twigged I was more interested in learning and making things than searching for the Holy Grail of Lathes. A big advantage of Chinese machines is the delay between ordering and delivery is measured in days (provided it's in stock), and you have total control over weight, power, size, metric vs imperial etc. But don't buy one if they upset you - I see mine as a disposable tool, which doesn't suit everyone.


Edit: the cat sent the first draft by tap dancing on my keyboard.

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 27/05/2019 09:54:15

Adrian 227/05/2019 09:59:29
68 forum posts
17 photos

I know where you are coming from Haggerleases. A far eastern machine will doubtless do everything you ask of it .

They are made down to a price and that is reflected in the build quality. The finish and feel of the finer details can be somewhat lacking and hard to accept for some of us.

At the end of the day the machine is a means to an end (a tool) to create something that IS pleasing and satisfies the desire for perfection with which many of us are afflicted.


Former Member27/05/2019 10:31:00

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RMA27/05/2019 11:05:10
162 forum posts

Have a look at Excel machines in Coventry. They do a huge range and still do some small lathes. I bought one in the mid 80's in the days when they had a stand at the Model Engineering Show, and it came with everything as standard. Not sure about that now but I'm well pleased with mine.

mechman4827/05/2019 11:16:45
2432 forum posts
372 photos

Nowt wrong wi' Chinese; what space do you have; have you taken into consideration tooling costs, that could well end up more than the cost of the machine, as many of us can verify. If I had the room I would have seriously looked at Boxford, Colchester Student, Harrison 250 / 300 et al. Chester, Warco, Axminister often advertise 'open' days for prospective customers, if you are near to any of those it would be worth going & have a look, ask questions, try one out etc.

I have a WM250V-F & a WM16 & both have done what I have given them without complaint, remember the old cliché 'can't get a Rolls Royce for a mini price'. There is a lot of 'Tat' out there & admittedly most is from China but they must account for at least 80% of world trade, followed by, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, India, Bangla Desh, somewhere in there is Europe, now Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, are in the market too; would their goods 'stick in your craw' too ?. Have a look at what you / your Mrs bought from M & S, John Lewis, Barker & Stonehouse, even Primark, Wilko, Pound land, look at their label... 'Made in / product of… of the above !. Usual disclaimer applies for all ref.

Whatever you end up with I'm sure you'll be happy with, & with what you make, after all it's a hobby, enjoy, thumbs up

I'll put my hat & coat on now...


Michael Gilligan27/05/2019 12:02:09
13827 forum posts
603 photos
Posted by RMA on 27/05/2019 11:05:10:

Have a look at Excel machines in Coventry. They do a huge range ...


Impressive catalogue: **LINK**


SillyOldDuffer27/05/2019 12:38:01
4601 forum posts
988 photos
Posted by Haggerleases on 27/05/2019 10:31:00:

... I look at Chinese lathes and I think, 'would it have killed them to put some curves in there?' ...

I was in Machine Mart the other day, and just out of interest looked at a Milling machine tagged at nearly £500. There was nearly a full turn of backlash in each handle. Scary. I don't think it would be even close to being useable out of the box.

... Goodness only knows why they paint them the lurid colours they do...branding I guess.

Worth understanding that Chinese Lathes are based on Western best practice as it developed before and after WW2. Early lathes favoured curves, perhaps because so much cast-iron was used, but lathe design gradually modernised in favour of simple strength, safety, and manufacturing convenience. On these machines the customer doesn't pay for complicated moulds, awkward assembly, rigidity achieved by randomly adding weight, or hand-fitting. The resulting boxy look isn't Chinese, it's functional. The lurid colours are also European best practice! It dates back to the 1930's when it was discovered that productivity is higher in clean well-lit factories with bright contrasting colours (within reason!). Victorian owners preferred black machines and tiny windows because it hid the dirt; this is a false economy.

Backlash may not matter much. The machine you tried was probably poorly adjusted rather than worn out. But, it's usually simple to compensate for backlash, whatever the cause. On a manual milling machine a DRO makes backlash almost irrelevant. Backlash is more worrying on a second-hand quality machine because it may mean the machine is generally worn across the board. That's much more difficult to fix than sloppy Chinese finish.

These days it's really difficult to pin down where anything is actually manufactured. Because most 'stuff' can be made anywhere, it's best to manufacture wherever it happens to be cheapest at the moment, and that changes. Hobbymats were originally made in a country and economic system that no longer exists. Wouldn't surprise me to find the latest generation are still made in Germany or the Far East, or Mexico, or Italy, or South Africa, or ...

Remember the 'Buy British' campaign of the sixties? Difficult to do today because most of the ordinary things of life are made abroad. Still plenty of successful British manufacturing going on, but it's high-end rather than household goods.


Dave Wootton27/05/2019 12:55:01
13 forum posts
1 photos


I really don't want to get into the Chinese versus British debate, but if you want a British built machine that's not too big or expensive, could I suggest you have a look at the Myford ML10.

I had a friend, now sadly long gone, who built a Rob Roy, several 21/2" gauge loco's and sundry Stuart engines on one, all in a tiny indoor workshop, they seem to be much cheaper than ML7/Super 7, and most of the accessories fit.

By their nature many of them have only been used in hobby workshops.

I was always very impressed with the little machine, I also know folk who turn out superb work on mini lathes, and people who turn out nothing at all in extremely well equipped workshops with every attachment known to man!

A lot depends on the bloke turning the handles!

Just a suggestion.


PS if you've got room Boxfords always seem a bargain to me.

Barrie Lever27/05/2019 15:53:38
323 forum posts
1 photos
Posted by Andrew Evans on 27/05/2019 00:22:40:

What's the problem with something made in China? You seem pretty vehemently opposed to it.


Never minding the debates about Chinese quality control that have been done to death on this forum. Some people may have ethical/moral issues with buying masses of equipment from China. In no particular order.

  • Rampant pollution
  • Respect of copyright laws
  • Human rights issues
  • 2400 executions per annum
  • Excessive carbon foot print for goods that can be bought for a little more money from local producers.

To name a few !!

I am not saying these are issues for me, they may or may not be. However they should be considered when discussing why some people don't like buying Chinese products.


Former Member27/05/2019 16:15:55

[This posting has been removed]

Barrie Lever27/05/2019 16:42:00
323 forum posts
1 photos
Posted by Haggerleases on 27/05/2019 16:15:55:

Unfortunately, yes, the above factors have weighed heavily in my decision process. No so much copyright, as I don't believe in it, but the other factors are important. I'm prepared to buy a smaller or older British/American/European lathe and accept that I may have to build something else than the projects I have in mind. It may be that I buy such a machine and use the facilities of a model engineering club (that I've yet to join) to help me with the bigger tasks.

OK if you can accept a slightly smaller machine then you will not be disappointed with an EMCO Compact 5.

Also for the small work you mention then the Sherline offering is very interesting. Look up 'Jerry Kieffer Sherline' and that will get you pointed in the right direction to understand what a Sherline can do.

The EMCO Unimat 3 also punches way above it's weight, a nice Unimat 3 is jewel of a machine. Some people will rightly say that you cannot turn a big job on a small lathe but you can turn a small job on a big lathe, however there is something nice about using an appropriately sized machine for the job in question. To counter the above argument the largest lathe I have seen being used was so big that the operator stood on a platform attached to the carriage and viewed the tool cutting on a TV screen as it was so far away from him, now does the big lathe small job statement still stand good?

Some folk on this forum are not interested in if a machine has other desirable features such as quality of build, pride of ownership and retention of value (I think they spend their spare money on expensive cars that plummet in value !!).

Ebay is your friend in this search.

Best Regards


JasonB27/05/2019 16:59:48
16051 forum posts
1687 photos
1 articles

Basic Sherline with just a 3-jaw chuck comes in over budget at £732. By the time you have added a faceplate, 4-jaw, fixed & traveling steadys well over 1K. All these items tend to come as standard on a far eastern machine.

Good Compact 5 with the same items will be hard to find within budget and then there are all those trips to look at second hand machines that will burn up as much fuel as a container ship load. then there is the cost of second hand parts & accesories and the dwindling availability of spares to consider. Similar can be said about the U3.

Maybe stick to an old English machine that was built when we had smog worse that a far eastern industrial area. And it will have been built with virgin iron ore, at least a fare eastern machine has a good proportion of recycled scrap iron.

Having had two Austrian made Emco's before my far eastern machine the quality of the work coming off that is better than the Emcos

Former Member27/05/2019 17:03:52

[This posting has been removed]

Barrie Lever27/05/2019 17:17:12
323 forum posts
1 photos

"Having had two Austrian made Emco's before my far eastern machine the quality of the work coming off that is better than the Emcos"

Or maybe you have got more skilled over the years? Because you did mention that engineering was not your profession so you probably learn at an exponentionally high rate.

Jason you must be the only serious model engineer I know of who would advocate a Far Eastern machine (not Japanese or Taiwanese) over a quality European machine.

Most Comact 5's sell for £500 to £750, I know as I have bought at least half a dozen, I actually made money from them as I was prepared to put them on a small pallet and send them to countries like Finland and Sweden via TNT at the buyers cost.

You know what you will get with a European machine, no surprises, I am still looking for the elusive Chinese machine of any kind in my collection that has not broken down! Laser cutter out of action due to a burnt out tube because the supplied cooling pump packed up, chainsaw with broken clutch, I will say that the clutch from a generic supplier was cheap and I managed to make a working clutch out of the two. DVM of reasonable price for a Chinky, that decided to give eratic readings on the mains voltage, put a hammer through that one as I cannot think of anything more dangerous than erratic readings when fault finding on mains voltages.

We all look at this subject in different ways according to personal experience and values.


Edited By Barrie Lever on 27/05/2019 17:17:59

Edited By Barrie Lever on 27/05/2019 17:18:16

Edited By Barrie Lever on 27/05/2019 17:19:51

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