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Hey you! What lathe? Why?

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Liam Cook06/02/2021 00:11:13
13 forum posts
3 photos

Hey guys,

I've been longing after a lathe for a long time. Go back maybe 12 years at least but life has always had other plans, other, more immediate concerns, all the usual jazz. Finally got myself into a position whereby, I can throw some money (more money, always more!) at tools and I'm reaching the point where I've got 90% of the stuff I'd need to do most of what I do as a hobby. Restore cars, fix cars, make random bits for the house or whatever, after this is all specialist gear which I probably don't have any real reason to buy and am better off taking it to my friends body shop, or garage. All that said, the times come to look at getting a lathe, and its a hell of a lot more complicated and involved than I was expecting from a machines perspective. I'd thought the majority of the difference was in the tooling, but the more I look... well you already know that.
Unfortunately I don't have specific projects in mind, which has made reading and researching difficult as it is entirely without context at this point.

So what I was wondering was, what lathe(s) did you buy, and why? Why that particular model and what features do you find you use most often and wouldn't be without? And lastly, if you had any advice to get started, what would it be?

Cheers,

Cooky

jaCK Hobson06/02/2021 08:03:55
201 forum posts
76 photos

I think it is good to talk. Any excuse. And good to talk about things that have been talked about already in every conceivable way.

Which lathe? In this forum that should be a bit like the English discussing the weather. Everyone has an opinion and can contribute. So thanks for the question.

My conclusion is that if you don't know much about lathes, and particularly if you don't know how to evaluate the state of wear or potential troubles on an old lathe, then get a new one from one of the big distributers. ArcEuro, Amadeal, Warco, Chester, and someone I probably have forgotten - sorry. There are hundreds of people who have had great experience from all of them.

.There will be hundreds of people who have had bad experiences. Seems like that is just a risk of life.

If you know about lathes then you probably already have formed some more concrete desire for what you would like. If you have a lathe then you probably had an idea of several other lathes you would like. Sometimes those desires will not go away with simple reasoning and you have to get it out of your system. It might end in dissapointment but it is the only way.

 

I have a Myford super 7. I'm not completely happy with it. I don't get great results and, because of my ignorance, I'm not sure if it is the tool or me. It might be that the tool is worn out. It might be that it isn't set up right.

One thing I do find limiting about Myford (and all my other lathes....) is the size of the hole through the headstock. Modern lathes of similar external dimensions tend to have bigger holes.

Some things don't bother me - and because of that I might not be aware of them. The Myford has a big cross-slide. Huge travel and a big surface to bolt things to. I don't think I appreciate that enough and might find other small lathes limiting.

If my workshop dissappeard and I had cash to start again I think I might start with the ArcEuro SC5. It is relatively easy to move about. I probably wouldn't get a Myford unless I splashed out and got a nearly-new.

If I had unlimited space and funds then I want a few lathes . I want a Schaublin plain bed, A Hardinge HLV-H Lathe , a Colchester, a CNC Sherline with the massive cross slide, a Haas, a better Pultra, a Boley F1.....

Edited By jaCK Hobson on 06/02/2021 10:35:19

Chris Evans 606/02/2021 09:30:11
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1880 forum posts

Ask yourself a few questions. Space and budget ? What do you really want to make/repair ? I am not a model maker but a motorcycle restorer so need a bigger lathe with a 38/40mm spindle bore. I spent my 50 years working life in engineering so do have a lot of equipment around me, allow plenty of your budget to buy tooling and measuring equipment. Buy as you need it rather than "Kid in the sweet shop with some money" you will never use some of the things.

As jack says above, if you are not used to assessing a machine tool err towards a new or newish machine. I have never used a Myford but am in awe of what people achieve with them. Just a pity so many of them are well worn, which is to be expected given the number of years they where made. Plenty to ponder and more differing advise will surely follow. Best advise I can give is don't rush into it, decide what you want to do and post Covid try and find someone local who will show you their workshop and give you more to think about real world needs.

Enjoy the pondering it's as much fun as the purchase.

br06/02/2021 09:44:41
465 forum posts
4 photos

Interesting thread title .

What is the largest component you will need to machine ?

That will determine lathe size

br

Ady106/02/2021 09:56:15
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4285 forum posts
641 photos

Just get an old knackered cheapie and do it up

Unimats are a good buy because you can re sell them in the post

Its a chicken and egg situation, so go and buy a chicken

edit: a small one will not only show you the complexities, it will also show you the mess involved

Edited By Ady1 on 06/02/2021 09:58:52

HOWARDT06/02/2021 10:00:49
703 forum posts
25 photos

Size? What is the largest diameter you need to machine, a flywheel? How long is the longest piece you need to machine, a half shaft? Are you working in metric or imperial?

if you start there you can start looking at specific machine sizes, when you see a machine can it fit in the space you have. As most will say get the newest and largest machine you can fit in. Remember a larger machine will most likely come as three phase so additional electrical work required in the form of a converter.

Andrew Johnston06/02/2021 10:06:12
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5969 forum posts
667 photos
Posted by Liam Cook on 06/02/2021 00:11:13:

So what I was wondering was, what lathe(s) did you buy, and why? Why that particular model and what features do you find you use most often and wouldn't be without? And lastly, if you had any advice to get started, what would it be?

1. Harrison M300 - it has the swing (18" in the gap) and distance between centres (40" ) to machine all the parts for my 4" scale traction engines. It's still in production so spares are available, albeit expensive. It is also compact for the swing and centre distance. Being ex-industrial it's easy to use, spindle fitting is Camlock. The biggest advantage is that accessories are available that are not seen on hobby lathes. The two I find most useful are an Ainjest high speed threading unit and a hydraulic copying unit.

2. Britan repetition lathe - bought out of interest but has proved to be invaluble for multiple parts as I am making most of the bolts, studs and nuts for my traction engines.

3. Pultra - Bought to make small parts such as injector cones and pressure gauge parts, once I get the designs sorted out

Advice is always follow the two rules for buying cutting tools:

Rule 1: Don't buy cheap cutting tools, they're false economy. At best they won't cut properly and will leave a poor finish, at worst they simply won't cut.

Rule 2: See rule 1

Andrew

Edited By Andrew Johnston on 06/02/2021 10:17:52

Howi06/02/2021 10:06:23
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306 forum posts
19 photos

for most of us it boils down to a set of compromises, how much have i got to spend, what size lathe do i need, will it be new or second hand, have i got the knowledge to sort a second hand one out or fettle a new one.

If you have bottomless pockets then go for the biggest and best you can, me! I paid what I could afford (not a lot) and got the (what I considered) the best bang for my bucks. I hjave not regretted my decision, yes! a larger lathe would be better but I restrict my projects size wise to accommodate what I have.

The same applies to a milling machine which will probably be your next major purchase - the same rules apply here too.

Only after you have purchased will YOU be able to assess if you made the right decision, it is like buying a house for the first time, it is only when you have to live in it that you now know what you want from a house, the next purchase will be nearer to what you want, only money being the deciding factor.

Enjoy the journey, this is only the first step on a long one........

What WE have bought and the why's may not help YOU make a decision

Howard Lewis06/02/2021 10:32:49
4662 forum posts
10 photos

You are going to constrained by various factors.

Budget As you progress, you will need cash for extra tooling and measuring equipment.. Some things you may be able to make, but the rest you will need to buy.

Largest component expected to be machined, in terms of length and diameter. You can do small work on a big lathe, but the opposite is difficult if not impossible.

Space Available.

Environment. You don't want neighbours constantly complaining about noise.

Your workshop needs to be dry, and well insulated, but ventilated.. Low and varying temperatures encourage rust

Good lighting and heating are essential, but no combustion heaters in the shop, for fear of condensation and rusting

In locating your lathe, take into account space around it, and the layout of the shop since, you will probably soon be looking for a milling machine. You can do a limited amountbof milling in the lathe, but it does not work as well as a dedicated milling machine.

You can produce threads (either with Taps and Dies or by screwcutting ) but if you ever want to make gears, you will need a Milling machine, and a Dividing Head or Rotary Table..

HTH

Howard

jaCK Hobson06/02/2021 10:39:50
201 forum posts
76 photos
Posted by Andrew Johnston on 06/02/2021 10:06:12:
Harrison M300 -

 

Ah yes! I want one of them as well.

Edited By jaCK Hobson on 06/02/2021 10:40:23

jaCK Hobson06/02/2021 10:43:58
201 forum posts
76 photos
Posted by Ady1 on 06/02/2021 09:56:15:

so go and buy a chicken

 

I strongly advise an egg!

Which sums up all this advice - what works for us might not be right for you. Just get something. Anything. But enjoy and savour the choosing (great advice!). For me, this is probably the best bit although I don't realise it, as I don't use my tools as much as most people here.

Not as advice, but prompted by the quesiton, and I want to talk...

I really wouldn't want to be without by #32 collet for my 8mm things. Perfect for those PCB drills/tools. I don't have a 5mm collet - I got a 48 and 52, but I'd love a 50. If I had it, I probably wouldn't use it much more than any other collet, but because I don't have it, I notice.

Auto feed is handy - I can get better finish, try and multi-task, and have the thrill of smashing into the chuck when I realise I can't.

I really, really found the gearbox on a super 7 handy when I used one. I just can' be bothered thread cutting on mine with all the faff of working out what cogs to use, find them, adjust them, and then realise I want a slightly bigger pitch. Not such a problem if you plan or work to plans, but I tend to evolve things I make with much trial and error.

Stiffness is ultimately where all my lathes meet a limit. Nothing beats massive. Unless you want it moved. I have never felt limited by power on a lathe. Stiffness will let you get material to near final dimensions quicker. The tweaking up on final size is, for me, much more fun than the hogging off.

 

Edited By jaCK Hobson on 06/02/2021 10:57:05

Nicholas Wheeler 106/02/2021 10:55:00
566 forum posts
31 photos

You seem to want a lathe for the exact reasons I bought a mini-lathe. If you're going to use it on and for car parts then you want one of the bigger machines. This is for a number of reasons:

Most parts won't fit a Unimat!

They tend to need a lot of material removal, or fairly large holes drilled. To me, an M5 thread is small. That isn't the case if you're making model steam engines! Shaving off 0.5mm at a time gets old really fast.

That material will be steel, or similar, so power and rigidity are required.

Bigger lathes tend to cut a wider range of threads.

Buying a worn out machine as a beginner who wants to make parts is a terrible idea: you don't know what is and isn't working properly, you don't know what you're doing wrong, rebuilding it requires a range of skills you might not have, how do you make the parts the lathe needs, the machine might be cheap but fixing it won't be, your real projects get delayed.

 

I didn't want to be reliant on friends to make things like bushes, spacers, adapters, tools etc for my car projects. I don't have a lot of space, so a small bench-top machine was a requirement, especially once I'd actually seen a Myford in the metal. I had never used a lathe before, so a working machine was necessary. I looked at several used Myfords, that were both expensive and knackered - they're just machines, and a mechanic should be able to recognise abuse and damage. After some months of looking I bought a Clarke C300 from Machine Mart, took it and the cutting tools home, plonked it on the bench and an hour later had a couple of simple bushes on the car. My next job was to repair the freezer handle I had broken years before.

Over the next 13 years I learnt to make more complicated parts, but found that I was often stretching the size limits of the machine - a job that came up a few times was to reduce a Capri hub by 5mm, which the lathe would swing, but wasn't big enough to get a tool on - and the time taken was frustrating. Acquiring a vertical slide quickly proved inadequate for my milling requirements, so I filled up space I don't have with a mini-mill.

That's why I upgraded to a 10x22, which does all of my jobs better, easier and faster. Because I had proved that I had a frequent use for it, it could take up space at the end of the bench rather than get moved around. I sold the C300 with most of the tooling(I kept the QCTP and collet chuck) for what a bare machine cost, which I think is a pretty good return.

Not being able to finish a job because you're missing a basic piece of equipment is very frustrating, so a lathe needs 3&4 jaw chucks, several cutting tools ready to go, a drill chuck for the tailstock and a fixed steady. I've used the face plate once, so far. I still haven't turned anything between centres, or needed the travelling steady even though I've had them for years. I bought all this for the C300; the bigger machine came with them. All this stuff, plus the measuring kit takes up space, so bear that in mind.

Edited By Nicholas Wheeler 1 on 06/02/2021 10:55:34

Liam Cook06/02/2021 11:05:25
13 forum posts
3 photos

Thanks guys, appreciate the answers. Seems some people have confused a little what I'm asking.

I'm interested in what lathe YOU got and WHY, I'm not asking you what lathe I should buy, thats a bit like asking how long a piece of string is.

To Jacks point, I guess that's what I'm asking for, your opinion. My experience is that you learn a lot more by asking people what they like, don't like and what they'd change than you do from any amount of reading (especially if you have no experience of the subject as it lacks context)

To answer some of the questions, for me really this is about learning how to use a lathe and having the capability to build things I might have struggled with in the past. I'm not adverse to fixing a machine should I buy one which is worn, and obviously there is no way to know how worn until it spins up and you can have a play n see what the back lash and all the rest is like. The risks you take right.

Like the advice Andy thank you , actually the opposite of what I was advised many years a go but I can see the logic in it, especially with a something like this.

I did look at the smaller units, my concern being the obvious, they are very small and for the money, by the time you've bought tooling and instruments, you're probably not far off a larger machine like a myford or boxford or some such. Total price difference won't be much different to some degree (I'm talking about a used £400 machine vs a used £800 machine based on what I see on ebay, happy to be corrected though)

SillyOldDuffer06/02/2021 11:14:49
Moderator
7027 forum posts
1549 photos

Good to start by asking yourself a few questions! In no particular order:

  1. What sort of work do you intend doing? Jack mentions the Super7's headstock has a small spindle hole, which is major problem for some activities (gunsmithing, threading pipes, larger restoration work etc.), but the headstock restriction might not matter to you at all. However, as a general rule BIG lathes are better than SMALL lathes, UNLESS you major on small precision work like clocks, where big lathes are a clumsy PITA. The Myford 7s are about the right size for most amateur work (ie to fit in a garage or shed) but I went Chinese because I needed a slightly larger machine and could choose one from a range. Are you imperial or metric? Most lathes will do both, but old imperial lathes may not come with the necessary change gear -127 or 63 teeth - and some metric lathes don't shine at imperial. You almost certainly want to do screw-cutting, if not a plain lathe would do.
  2. Are you happy with the risk and bother of buying second-hand? A lathe's condition matters far more than who made it. Broken clutches and jambed gearboxes are useless! Spares and accessories can be hard to find. Restoring old equipment is a hobby in itself, but having to spend lots of time and money fixing up an old lathe is a right pain if it was bought to cut metal. How do you feel about fixer-uppers? What's on the second-hand market ranges from scrap to absolute bargains. An objection to Myford lathes is high cost. Too many are prepared to pay over the odds to own one, even if it's a complete wreck! (Brand-names do not protect goods from abuse and accidents, and a Myford could be 70 years old...) And due to the shift to CNC there are plenty of ex-industrial lathes available at affordable prices - better made than Myford. These are a good choice if you have the room, and the electrics can be sorted. Buying second-hand safely requires a certain amount of knowledge and many prefer to buy new.
  3. Are you happy buying a Far Eastern Hobby Lathe? Lots of choice, but they are made down to a price - affordable, but a bit rough. A proportion are so bad as to be unacceptable but, bought in the UK, this is low risk because consumer protection applies. As the industrial equivalents are 6 to 20 times more expensive, don't expect tool-room quality from hobby lathes! For hobby use they are fine, but some are irritated by their lack of finesse, and others genuinely need high-end gear for the work they are doing. (Given time and skill good work can be done on rather poor equipment, but this isn't acceptable when time is money. Professionals need good tools more than amateurs, because the latter are indulging a hobby, not earning a crust!)
  4. Budget! Many a bright-eyed bushy tailed prospective machinist comes to grief on this. The amount of cash and physical space available is always limited. This might mean the lathe has to fit under the stairs, in a potting-shed, or in a single-garage. Worse, 'She Who Must Be Obeyed' may have strong views on boys buying toys when babies need feeding and there are cushions and throws to be bought. So most of us have to compromise, which depends on what we have and want to achieve. It's not just the lathe, money and space are also needed for tools, accessories, materials and a workbench. Fairly soon a milling machine will be wanted, and - absolutely essential - a band-saw. Don't panic, workshops can be built up over time, but a little thought can make it easier.

As a beginner without a mechanical background, I was nervous of buying second-hand. (An early attempt at buying a second-hand Myford through Exchange and Mart was a disaster! ) Although interested in lathes for decades, I didn't know much about them or exactly what they did. Sparey's The Amateur Lathe was very helpful, and I read Model Engineer avidly. (Later discovering Model Engineering Workshop was an even better match to my interests.) After much too much dithering I bought a mini-lathe (small, quiet, easy to lift, does all the basics), and then the fun started. I regret the time wasted not getting on with it! After a few years I had far clearer ideas about what I needed, and, on retiring, had the time and money needed to upgrade. In my case, not to a glistening well-organised workshop full of quality tools, but to an untidy maker den, with a WM18 mill with Rotary Table, DRO, & ER32 collets, WM280VF lathe, bandsaw, bench, 4" vice, bench grinder, Dremel, plus a small pillar drill, air compressor, and brazing torch. These are supported by a selection of hand-tools, and measuring equipment: probe and lever DTI's, Digital Calipers, Micrometer, precision parallels and spring calipers.

I buy inexpensive rather than cheap or dear because my tools are all considered expendable. Too cheap is a waste money as is unnecessarily buying top-end. I don't intend to die leaving my kids a workshop full of expensive tools to dispose of for the best possible price; it can all be recycled! But that's just me - it's how you want to play the game in your workshop that matters.

Dave

AStroud06/02/2021 11:33:44
17 forum posts
6 photos

I have a Myford Super 7 made early 1960's and bought about 16 years ago. It has had a hard life with nicks and dings on the bed and slides and needs a regrind or converting to the wide guide for the saddle.

Why did I buy it ? I used Myfords in school techl class and so was familiar with it and it was the go to for the hobbyist at the time. It has its well known limitations but OK for the work I do, in fact I select the models I make by checking what I can do on the Myford. I have bought second hand accessories for it as needed. I also have classic bikes and most machining needs for them can be done on the Myford. I often surf to see what is on sale and often I see some beauties available but then ask myself do I really need to change and the answer is no.

noel shelley06/02/2021 12:04:11
483 forum posts
14 photos

First see how much room you have, and how much of it you want to give over to machine tools. Then look at what you want as an investment. If you buy at the right price, and it's not what you want you can resell without loosing to much money(or be lucky and make a profit). Take your time and be patient, everything comes to he who waits !! Buy quality - it will always sell. There is no sustitute for size, so get the biggest machine you can, temper this with a little caution. If there is little space then choose a machine that has many attachments.

My dream - A bridgeport mill and a colchester Triumph 2000

Reality - A long bed S7 and an amolco attachment.

Take your time and enjoy it. Noel.

Dave Halford06/02/2021 12:07:00
1388 forum posts
12 photos

A T&LM precision, it was local, it was affordable, it was a lathe with tooling. Why? it was the 80's £100 + new bison chuck for £30.

Rockwell Delta 10" bench lathe power everything, , Reeves Varispeed belt drive with tooling and steel girder bench . It had smashed back gears, lots of backlash (& still does), over heating motor and a gap bed that shouldn't be one. Why? doesn't need change wheels, infinite speed adjustment between high & low, Norton style gearbox £85 + £90 to fix the back gear + £70 for the motor 2014.

Edited By Dave Halford on 06/02/2021 12:09:54

Mick B106/02/2021 12:11:49
1857 forum posts
92 photos

I bought a Warco WM250V, for the variable speed (turn-up and -downable), the 26mm hole through the spindle, the powered crossfeed and the capabiity to fit the Myford double-swivel milling slide I already had.

It has shortcomings, but I know how to get round them even though that can be time-cosuming. I think it's a good balance between cost and quality and I'm very happy with it.

But I've been a turner since the 1970s. It's difficult to guess how good a starting machine it'd be.

jaCK Hobson06/02/2021 12:40:15
201 forum posts
76 photos

For my first lathe, I paid over the odds for a worn out Perris. I spent unlimited time and money pimping it, scraping everything etc. I learnt a lot and had fun. But the end result isn't great in practice and it is now rusting in the damp workshop so someone else can have the fun of restoring it in the future.

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Edited By jaCK Hobson on 06/02/2021 12:51:23

Howard Lewis06/02/2021 12:42:54
4662 forum posts
10 photos

To answer your question "What lathe and Why"?

For years had hankered after a lathe, and apart from the Dean Smith and Grace, and Edgwicks in the training school had little experience of centre lathes. Myford was the only name I knew for Model Engineering and small lathes.

A friend who did a bit of machine tool dealing had a ML7 and sold it to me, and gave me some tools for it.

So I started cutting metal, and refreshing my memory along the way (from some 20+ years before. )

Having used the Vertical Slide, was not impressed by a lack of rigidity, so added a Rodney milling attachment. Now the lack of rigidity in the lathe became more apparent.

So bought a Mill/Drill. The constraint was space, still is, more than budget, but still have it. Mostly it does what I want.

Eventually the constraints of having only a 2MT Headstock and Tailstock wore me down.

With retirement approaching looked at a new Myford Super 7 Sigma, with gearbox, steadies, chucks etc. But no Power Cross Feed. The cost, circa £8K put me off.

I had asked Warco for a quote for an Imperial BH600, without stand. Never received a reply. ETR replied within a week. Also offered free fitting of a VFD. All for a quarter of the cost of the Myford; delivered.

So, with VFD can only use 6 of the possible speeds, but it provides a range at each setting, instead of the standard 12 possibles.

The BH600 could have been Imperial or Metric versions., a Chester Craftsman (still available ) was only available as Metric.

The ETR BL12-24 was dual dialled, being essentially a Metric machine.

Why did I choose it?

It has: Power Feed for both Turning and Facing, a Norton gearbox and a 5MT Mandrel, (Plus 3MT / 5MT sleeve ) Induction Hardened Bed, came with 6" 3 and 8" 4 Jaw chucks, Faceplate, Steadies, and Centres, at a quarter of the cost of the 4MT Myford., delivered.

Screw on chucks, but with retaining dogs, so quite safe to run in reverse.

That was 17 years ago. Am I happy with it? Generally Yes.

Problems?

Noisy tumbler gears, replaced under Warranty, but still noisy so replaced (Cost £40+ ) with Nylon gears.

Thought I had severe belt slip. It was actually too small a dimple in the shaft for tensioning the secondary belt. Fairly easily rectified. No problems since. Original belts still going strong!

Mods / Add Ons? Yes

Modified the acrylic chuck guard to clear the Faceplate.

Removed the acrylic guard over the Toolpost, 'cos it got in the way without improving vision or access.

Moved the Thread Indicator Dial to the Tailstock side of the Apron (Modified the shape slightly to clear bearing block for the Leadscrew and Power Feed Shaft. The object was to maximise Saddle travel. By doing this, I made myself problems later!

Made a 80T gear to halve the feed rate. This meant destroying the knob when relocating the closure for the gear cover, and drilling and tapping anew hole for the stud..

Modified the Fixed Steady to keep the clamp bolt captive. A fairly simple job, well worth doing.

Made a Fourway indexing Rear Toolpost to match the Front Toolpost (Bolts nicely to the T slots in the Cross Slide and improves parting off )

Made a Cetrte Height Gauge. Essential since I have used Tangential Turning (Diamond ) Tools for several years.

Made a Micrometer Saddle stop. Useful.

Because of my carelessness, had to make and fit a new 13T gear for the Saddle drive. Modified the Rack to prevent recurrences. (Found out the hard way that the chart for HV6 Rotary Table contained errors! ).

What has it been used for?

Turning, Facing, Boring, Drilling, Reaming, Knurling, Screwcutting (Finest was 40 tpi, coarsest was 4 mm pitch) Flycutting / coordinate drilling reaming using a Vertical Slide intended for a Sieg SC6

Have never needed to remove the gap, although came close when swinging a piece of Cast iron, just over 6" diameter, 5" off centre.

Tooling used.

HSS in the Diamond Turning Tool, and for screw cutting, Carbide for roughing, (and hardened materials ) boring, spherical turning

If you have read this far without falling asleep, HTH

Howard

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