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jdrichard

Watchmakers Lathe Or Mini Lathe

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I have been considering purchasing a watchmakers Lathe and or a mini metal lathe for making stems, staffs and other parts. What is the difference between the two lathes and can I buy a mini lathe vs a used boley for example. I have attached a photo of both.177801f6d2374a80c0fb6a00a9b72ff0.jpgbb4803edb042aa714cdb77a559809b9d.png

 

 

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For the high precision required for making watch parts I would recommend a watchmakers lathe.  If buying second hand try to ensure all is  correct regarding condition.

A mini lathe is indeed a very handy tool and good for the likes of model and clock making, but does not generally have the higher precision required for watches.

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For the high precision required for making watch parts I would recommend a watchmakers lathe.  If buying second hand try to ensure all is  correct regarding condition.
A mini lathe is indeed a very handy tool and good for the likes of model and clock making, but does not generally have the higher precision required for watches.

So the precision is really up to the watchmakers hands rather that the mechanics of the lathe?


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7 hours ago, Neileg said:

You'll not get much precision out of the watchmakers lathe pictured. Not until you have the motor and the headstock at the same end of the bed!

Neil

 

 

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Why not. The lathe being displayed is a Boley which one of the best you can purchase (in my opinion) 

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18 hours ago, jdrichard said:


So the precision is really up to the watchmakers hands rather that the mechanics of the lathe?
 

The accuracy that you work to comes down to the skill of the operator, the precision of the machine helps the operator achieve this.

He headstock bearings in a watchmakers lathe come in two types, adjustable plain taper bearings and very high precision ball races.  The ballraces fitted to watchmakers lathes are of a far higher tolerance fitted to mini lathes.

Whatever you go for try to make sure all parts match the lathe and are in excellent condition!

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You certainly can make watch parts on a mini lathe. I would recommend Cowells Super Elite. Very expensive, not sure, if they are still made if not they would have an equivalent. Do not expect to be able to make such high precision parts on these cheap lathes made in china. A mini lathe uses cutting tools that are set and held in the lathe.

A watchmaker’s lathe fully equipped will do the work. You are in control of the tools when it comes to making the parts like balance staffs and the balance wheels you control the graver in your hands. For some parts, you can use fixed tooling.

I have kept this very basic, as it is a minefield.

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One thing that has not been talked about is the lathe bed, if you buy second hand, make sure it is in perfect condition from one end to the other, take the tailstock off and check underneath it has to be completely smooth, no nicks or rough marks, any imperfections leave it as it will not be accurate in machining.

When it comes to a mini lathe, I like the Unimat 3. This has many attachments it has a cast iron bed, and is very tough and is extremely accurate. It can be adapted into a milling machine with the right accessories. These lathes come up very often on ebay. Just the other week I bought one, as I thought I’d like to try my hand again with some clock work just as a hobby. I wished I never sold the one I had years ago.

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The best type of machine I have found to make tiny watch staffs and pinions is a watch lathe. The major issue I ran into was having the pinions break off after being turned down past .012 inches or less. A mini lathe has more mass and power with a trade off of less "feel".  It  was designed for larger size parts, such as clock parts, and can remove metal faster by taking larger cuts. Also, due to more size  strength  and power, a larger lathe will have less deflection from the cutter pressure  thus providing more repeatable accuracy on each cut. That said, no matter how accurate the larger machine is, trying to turn a part down to .004 inches (.1mm)  can be difficult or next to impossible  due to overpowering the part.  Larger parts can, in theory, be made on a watch lathe but a larger more stable lathe would be the better way to go for larger work. If you are going to use the machine to make watch parts (particularly staffs, pinions, stems, tiny screws etc.) I think you will find the watch lathe a better way to go. As I mentioned in previous posts, the Sincere Lathe is the going to be the best and most affordable option for this type of machine. You can always, at a later date, purchase a larger lathe in addition to this to make larger parts.

I would also like to mention that some watchmakers will turn the pinion down as far as they can with the turning process and then grind or file it the rest of the way on a Jacot Lathe. This is generally not recommended as it can affect the concentricity and cylindrical properties of the pinion. The final burnishing on the Jacot Lathe should only be used only for the final  .01mm -.02mm. This is the difference between making a pivot and making something that looks like a pivot to the naked eye.

david

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11 hours ago, david said:

The best type of machine I have found to make tiny watch staffs and pinions is a watch lathe. The major issue I ran into was having the pinions break off after being turned down past .012 inches or less. A mini lathe has more mass and power with a trade off of less "feel".  It  was designed for larger size parts, such as clock parts, and can remove metal faster by taking larger cuts. Also, due to more size  strength  and power, a larger lathe will have less deflection from the cutter pressure  thus providing more repeatable accuracy on each cut. That said, no matter how accurate the larger machine is, trying to turn a part down to .004 inches (.1mm)  can be difficult or next to impossible  due to overpowering the part.  Larger parts can, in theory, be made on a watch lathe but a larger more stable lathe would be the better way to go for larger work. If you are going to use the machine to make watch parts (particularly staffs, pinions, stems, tiny screws etc.) I think you will find the watch lathe a better way to go. As I mentioned in previous posts, the Sincere Lathe is the going to be the best and most affordable option for this type of machine. You can always, at a later date, purchase a larger lathe in addition to this to make larger parts.

I would also like to mention that some watchmakers will turn the pinion down as far as they can with the turning process and then grind or file it the rest of the way on a Jacot Lathe. This is generally not recommended as it can affect the concentricity and cylindrical properties of the pinion. The final burnishing on the Jacot Lathe should only be used only for the final  .01mm -.02mm. This is the difference between making a pivot and making something that looks like a pivot to the naked eye.

david

Well put David. What you have stated is the advice I received when I purchased my watchmakers lathe. One tool I find really useful is a "tip over rest" which I have not seen supplied with a mini lathe. Making balance staffs I find really difficult with only a couple of successes and that is after converting existing staffs. Lathe work is a whole new skill but well worth learning. 

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That is a rare find. If you can get it at a good price, jump on it. I have only seen three come up for sale in the past 40+ years. The machine has two drive systems which are the standard belt drive and a friction drive. The reason for the friction drive is unknown to me but I am sure Boley had a reason for it.

david

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I think standard drive is faster than friction drive.  Boley lathes are very good; this is a watchmaker’s lathe and looks in fine condition. Find out the size of the bed, what accessories come with it such as collets, is it a 6mm or 8mm, 8mm is more popular are the collets in good condition. Size of the motor, speed variations. If you are getting it from ebay, make sure it is covered by money back guarantee; if other just make sure, you can get your full money back. Ask for close up photos of the lathe bed, ask if there is any damage to it, how true is it, what has been made on it.   

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Richard, I have a Boley Lienen lathe similar to that one without the friction drive and the quality is superb.  I personally like the addition of friction drive that allows delicate control of the speed.  This is great for checking out of truth shafts etc.  My own lathe doesn't have the friction drive, it has an excellent motor with delicate speed control which gives the same effect as friction drive.

If it is in good condition and you can buy it............don't miss the opportunity!

If you purchase the likes of a Boley lathe, there is always a chance that to will get drawn into collecting all the various accessories for it and this can be fun but very expensive.

Edited by Geo

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8 hours ago, david said:

That is a rare find. If you can get it at a good price, jump on it. I have only seen three come up for sale in the past 40+ years.

There are two Boley F1 for sale on Ebay right now. The image the OP posted appears to be from a Brazilian listing, but I couldn't find it.

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