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Ishima

Let's Say I Want To Get Set Up With A Lathe...

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I'm considering, if only hypothetically at this point in investing in a lathe, but every time I've looked into it I've been somewhat perplexed. 

It seems you can get good vintage lathe sets for not unreasonable amounts of money, but the kicker is they never include motors, most watchmaking lathes, new or old seemed to be sold without motors. 
And for the beginner/wannabe lathe user this is... difficult, I wouldn't know where to begin acquiring and setting up a separate motor to the lathe. I feel daunted enough with the task of learning to properly operate a lathe, let alone having to effectively build one. (of course I realize assembly will be required but knowing you have all the right parts is much less intimidating)

I was wondering if anyone could offer any helpful advice on this.

Also I would like to bring up the mentioning of a Chinese made lathe mentioned in one of Mark's videos, according to him the lathe served quite well, and if there is an inexpensive lathe out there to be bought that would at the very least serve a beginner using it minimally, I'm interested, because as much as i appreciate that you get what you pay for, and beautiful precision engineering costs money, I can only justify so much expense at this point in my career. 

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Ishima some set up their lathes using old sewing machine motors with the varying speed pedal to operate. However my brother-in-law has the Chinese lathe that Mark uses and I can not fault it. It is excellent value for money.

Buying used lathes is bit daunting as you also have to have the collets & almost certainly a tip over rest.

It has taken me a couple of years to acquire a reasonable amount of collets but it's amazing how many times  I do not have the correct size. I therefore also purchased a three jaw chuck. The other consideration is tools especially gravers.

Finally using a watchmakers lathe is another skill level that takes a while to acquire. I have only just managed to make a half decent balance staff after dozens of attempts of the last couple of years. Having said this it is very rewarding & if perfected adds another dimension to watch & clock repair.

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If you can get hold of an old electric sewing machine then you will have the raw materials not only for the motor but for the speed control as well. If it is an old enough sewing machine then the motor is even mounted on the outside of the beast which makes removal very easy. Failing that you just have to strip the machine down to extract it, they are usually a self contained unit that can be removed. You may still have to source a pulley for the motor a a lot of the newer sewing machines are gear driven from the motor, although the older external motor jobs are mostly belts.

Then you just have to mount it to the same board as the lathe. The foot pedal is your speed control.

Both of my lathes run on old sewing machine motors which I picked up for free.

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I'm certainly far from an expert on this subject, having a lathe which hardly ever gets used - I have a tendency to buy tools long before I have any use or need of them, and I'm a long way off actually needing a lathe. Anyway I've read quite a bit of advice on this issue on another forum and a view is that, whilst the traditional watchmakers lathe is the best tool for many jobs a watchmaker does, it takes a fair amount of skill to master. Also whilst the initial price may seem reasonable, it quickly rises as you try to purchase hard to find accessories. Put forward as a suggestion is that those doing this as an interest/hobby should seriously consider getting a good quality small machine lathe instead, both as it is easier to use and will cost less in the long run.

I would certainly say it's something worth thinking about. Perhaps those with more experience could give their views?

Stephen

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Hi Stephen, I'm sorry but I have to disagree with you on this one.

A cheaper miniature lathes that are built for hobby engineering just aren't built to the same level of accuracy as proper watchmakers lathes. Buy the the best condition watchmakers lathe you can find with as many collets as possible. Collets are a lot more accurate than three jaw chucks, especially second hand ones and cheap hobby chucks. Having said that, a very good watchmakers three jaw chuck is a handy thing. I could ramble on for a bit more but I'll spare you that.

I say this as an engineer of nearly fifty years who has used many types and quality of lathes and machines over the years.

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Geo is correct collets are far more accurate that a jaw chuck. I have a Swiss made chuck & only use it if a really have to. As I explained in my earlier post getting a recent amount of collets takes a while. Also if possible getting lathe with a tailstock that takes a drill is really handy for accurate drilling.

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I will agree with Geo also.

 

I purchased a small lathe recently from machine mart (a CL300M) and it is in no way useful for highly accurate work such as making stems or staffs etc. The run-out is just too much. But I didn't buy it for that purpose anyway :)

 

The small lathe is useful for larger jobs but the watchmakers lathe is indispensable for turning smaller parts for clocks and watches, and no discernible run-out. Getting used to using a hand graver is just like all aspects of watch repair - it takes practice. But it can be very rewarding.

 

As to the question about the watchmakers lathe and motor. I purchased mine along with collets and a motor from an eBay seller called SincereClocks. 

 

I found that the motor was not variable speed and because I am used to variable speed I do not use it but purchased a new sewing machine motor and foot pedal and it works fine.

 

I regularly strip the lathe down to clean the bearings and re-lubricate them and have had the lathe for three years so far and with no problems.

 

One point to note is that the cross slide is not that accurate at all, I may be able to work on it at some point to make it better but I do not miss it anyway - prefer using a hand graver.

 

The drilling tailstock is also dead centre which was a nice surprise (considering it is a cheap lathe) I have made many new brass bushes with it and all has turned out very well.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Sewing machine motor:

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/YDK-Sewing-Machine-Motor-Foot-Control-Pedal-Singer-New-Toyota-Brother-BLB357-/200975542453?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item2ecb1368b5

 

:)

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I said this in a previous post but my Bother in Law has the same lathe as Marks & I can,t fault it. I supose it depends how much work you are going to do but providing it is cleanerd & lubed on a regular basis it should last for years. I wish I had room for the CL300M or similar for the larger parts,making threads, knerling etc but I just do not have enough room. On my 'when I win the Lotto' list. Watch fairs are also a good place to find used one,s

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was hoping the Chinese lathe would have been cheaper really, though i suppose it isn't a bad price really, I just can't help but feel if I was to get a lathe, I'd be better off getting a used 'star' set of which I've seen on ebay around the £600 region.

Edited by Ishima

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My Lathe is a Star. However mine is a tiny,tiny  bit out from centre to tail post. It does not cause to many issues but I can not use it for acurate centre drilling. The Star has a "D' shaped main shaft (sorry don,t know it's correct name) and a prevoius owner must have abused or dropped it.

This is the danger when buying used. Also be aware of what also comes for the price you pay,collets are not cheap & a tip over rest is essential.

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Hi Ishima,

 

More often than not on ebay, the people who seem to make a living out of selling old watchmaking tools break everything up into smaller lots, I image they make more money that way, usually the collets are sold separately, the motor & control is split off, sometimes even the headstock, bed, tailstock & stand are split apart. To people like me (and I image most of the people here) its a crying shame. To build up a full set means buying separate lots over time, you always end up with a frankenlathe and the original precision of a set of mating parts is lost.

 

You do get the odd lot go up with everything in it, and these seem to be very expensive - usually though, they are not! work out how much it would cost to buy all the bits individually and you'll get a higher number.

 

In your shoes, I'd consider a few different routes:

  1. Contact some of the ebay sellers and ask for a price for a whole lathe set BEFORE they break it up (don't end up with them making a frankenlathe out of their parts bin)
  2. likewise the secondhand tool sellers onlne
  3. Contact your local horology group, they may know of a whole workshop for sale
  4. Cosie up to your local professionals, Watchmaker/Jewellers, clockmakers, they may have or know of, equipment for sale
  5. Buy new

I realise none of these options are that cheap, but demand for these items seems high on the vintage tools market, so prices reflect that. 

 

Do you have any specific work planned that you need a lathe for, or are you building up tooling in general ready to tackle anything(mia culpa!)?

 

Sean

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i have just aquired a IME precision lathe, i am so impressed with the build quality , its real swiss machinery......  i probably will end up selling it as i have my cowells but its in storage at the moment and i wanted to see if the collets are duplicates.

 

if you get stuck finding one, let me know, you may be able to pull my arm.. it comes with everything you need!! 

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It,s always looking up this web site http://pennyfarthingtools.co.uk. I have used him a few times very knowledgeable but does not keep his web site up to date so worth giving him a call to see what he has got. Also not cheap but what he sells works.

 

hes also at the clock and watch exhibitions (so maybe meet him there and can talk you through all of it...)

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I was in the same boat as you a while ago and couldn't justfiy a new setup purely for a hobby.

 

I kept my eyes open on eBay and markets etc and saw many watchmaker's lathes in the USA and Britain but couldn't swallow the freight costs. The one day I saw a 6mm Lorch and a vintage cleaning machine local to me. I won the items for AUD$192 and picked them up next day.

 

The lathe had no motor or belts and was very dirty. All of the collets were just in a cardboard box and there weren't many of them. Anyway, I thought it was a start and got it all cleaned and going with a sewing machine motor.

 

Then just recently, I saw another "lathe and parts" not far from me (30 Minute drive). I was lucky to get it for $300 as it was a boxed Lorch 8MM lathe, a big box of collets, chucks etc and a also with a huge motor.

 

After getting home and sorting the mess out, I found that 90% of the parts were 6mm! Woo hoo, now I have a full set of 6mm parts.

 

I used the 6mm as a basis for a new set up and mounted it all on a lump of aluminium clad marine ply. I keep the 8mm handy and can switch heads in about five minutes if I need to use bigger chucks etc.

 

So don't give up, just keep looking and I'm sure that something will come your way.

 

And to keep you interested, here's some snaps of what I ended up with.

 

Here's an overview

 

post-1141-0-09996500-1434856540_thumb.jp

 

 

 

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And a few more shots for you.

 

This is my lathe system, the 6mm is mounted, I used a "missile" switch as it's very easy to shut off quickly if needed. The 8mm is on a block of wood and it can also hold components I'm not using on the 6mm.

 

post-1141-0-69306900-1434856852_thumb.jp

 

In the box are all of the 6mm bits, and the board in front has some 8mm bits and the left over 6mm stuff, mainly a few collets.

 

post-1141-0-93874500-1434856994_thumb.jp

 

And finally, a close up shot showing mainly the cross slide.

 

post-1141-0-20230700-1434857099_thumb.jp 

 

 

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A fine pair of lathes you have there Jim, and really handy having the cross slide.

Are you sure the motor is powerful enough to drive it! ;)

 

Absolutely old chap, it's a British motor. :-) 

 

It's probably as old as me!

 

Over engineered, built like a tank and will run forever.

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