What you need to know before buying a lathe

Tom
By Tom Suddard
Jun 8, 2024 | Shop Work, Lathe, Making stuff | Posted in Shop Work , Restoration & Renovation , Features | Never miss an article

Photography by Tom Suddard

Four installments in, and we’ve come a very long way from our old ways of making stuff. Gone are the angle grinder and Sharpie, replaced by computer-aided design, 3D-printed prototypes and CNC-machined aluminum

If you’re like us, you’re probably shocked at how much we’ve accomplished with such a minimal investment. We’ve done everything to date with a …

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Comments
f1carguy
f1carguy New Reader
6/13/22 1:19 p.m.

What is the street address of the lathe? I need some parts made!

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/13/22 1:29 p.m.

I have no idea if this series is popular or compelling to advertisers but it's probably been one of my favorites in a long time.

There is lots of great content about lathes or 3d printing all over the web, but this the first and only where the focus is fabrication for cars and at the DIY level, and that makes all the difference in the world.

jimgood
jimgood Reader
6/13/22 1:42 p.m.

I could have used a lathe a few weeks ago when all I wanted was to face off an 1/8" from a chunk of round bar for a spacer. Instead I paid a local machinist to do it.  $$$

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/13/22 4:38 p.m.
f1carguy said:

What is the street address of the lathe? I need some parts made!

Hah! I've already learned how many people will line up for favors once you start dragging home machinery. I need to find more free time. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/13/22 4:41 p.m.
CrustyRedXpress said:

I have no idea if this series is popular or compelling to advertisers but it's probably been one of my favorites in a long time.

There is lots of great content about lathes or 3d printing all over the web, but this the first and only where the focus is fabrication for cars and at the DIY level, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying it! 

I'm not sure if any advertisers care, either, but that's one of the things I like about this place. We do interesting stuff, then write about it, and while we do have to stay in business, not everything needs to have a focus group and a sponsor before we give it the green light. 

That said, if anybody owns a company that makes small CNC mills and is looking for people to sponsor....

f1carguy
f1carguy New Reader
6/13/22 5:26 p.m.

Local independent machine shops are just about gone. Central Florida and the rest of the US depend on military contracts and the shops will not even talk to you if can't spent $1000 - $5000+.

This goes for non- mil spec printed circuit boards as well. Anything consumer grade is impossible to get built in the US and small companies are forced to go overseas where the likelihood of getting your design ripped off is very high.

The US has plenty of college grads but is totally lacking in tradesmen and tradeswomen! 

Even with great contacts - I could not get a local shop to even give me a quote for my small sheet metal boxes. I found a shop near Atlanta that laser cut some but I had to bend them myself!

Even startup companies at the Embry-Riddle business park have the same problem. Prototype and small runs are impossible to source.

I HATE to send my business overseas!     

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/13/22 5:38 p.m.

In reply to f1carguy :

Shoot me an email at tom@ this website with some details on what you're building and how many of them you need. I might be able to point you in the right direction. 

Slippery
Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/13/22 6:19 p.m.

In reply to f1carguy :

I can point you to a couple of excellent sheet metal/machine shops in south Florida that do excellent work. 

Dogboy
Dogboy New Reader
6/13/22 8:34 p.m.

Jet is a good brand. I got myself a 920 a few years ago.

Matched with my small Bench Made mill.

Great fun if you are safety conscious, no loose clothes/hair/jewelry.

Rob 

Randy_Forbes
Randy_Forbes New Reader
6/14/22 10:32 a.m.

I too have been following, and love this series, good job!  

I told my wife that I wanted a mill and a lathe when I grow up; in large part thanks to her, I now have both (Jet 9x20 & Rong Fu benchtop).  However, she's still waiting on me to grow up...

Armed with both, plus assorted welding & cutting machines, there are practically NO OBSTACLES that you can't overcome during a project.  Come across some fastener you can't access, and twenty minutes later you've made (or modified) a tool to do the job.  Break some obscure part at 5:00 PM on a Friday (the oil jet nozzle on a Vortech centrifugal supercharger comes to mind) and while taking longer than the aforementioned 20-minutes, you're back in business well before you could even order one, much less receive it!

I was also able to tailor the replacement to better fit the application, by making it a bit taller to clear the compressor volute, reducing strain on the oil supply line.



Definitely look for good bargains on the machine tools (though nearly all of mine were bought new) as you'll be spending a lot more on the various end-mills, lathe-bits and accessories than you expected.  I buy solid carbide in most cases, and in the beginning, you're going to crash a lot of bits, so buying the Chinese import "sets" is highly recommended.  I still look for "sale"" and "clearance items" from supply houses like MSC (my "go to" supplier) Enco, and Travers Tool.  Once you get on their mailing lists, they'll send you a sales flyer about once a month, and you'll be able to build up your selection as budget allows.

Now go make some chips!

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