<$4000 Lathe, or Lathe/Mill combo. Best Choice?
I am interested in furthering my hobby of producing flash lights. I would like to begin making my own light bodies, AKA the tubes which hold the batteries. I have decided to step up to a quality lathe, as up until now I have just been working on a cruddy little mini lathe that cannot even produce threads. It's supposed to be able to, but has very poor alignment and is sloppy. I need the new lathe I purchase to be able to do consistent, quality threads. I am interested in purchasing something about 30-36", just so I can bore tubes up to about 20" length.
I stumbled across two brands, Bolton, and then Grizzly. The only problem is, they appear to be nearly exactly the same, just painted different colors, with the Grizzly costing quite a bit more. Well, the bigger problem really is that they are both made in China, and that somewhat scares me.
Are either of these machines capable of producing the quality parts I am looking for?
For instance, here is what I am looking at from Grizzly: G0492 12" x 36" Metal Lathe w/ Milling Head
And basically the same thing from Bolton: 12" x 36" Gear Head Combo Lathe Mill Drill - Combo Lathe/Mill/drill at Bolton Hardware
I guess my next question is, would it be a bad idea to purchase a combo lathe/mill?
I could purchase them separately, but my price range is still going to be roughly the same total. I have some room to fluctuate price-wise, but not a huge amount.
If anyone could help steer me in the right direction, maybe towards some better quality if you feel I am getting myself into trouble with either of these.
I just want to be able to produce quality light bodies from aluminum, and possibly be able to do some patterns on the tubes, like knurling, or some other repeatable pattern.
I will add that I am going back to school for machining, but have not got to take any shop classes yet to work with machines at the college. I will eventually end up learning how to program CNC G code. CNC would probably make things easier for what I want to do, that is, repeatable light bodies. Is there anyway I could land a CNC lathe, if say I sacrifice the mill, to do what I want to do more easily? For now, keep the costs of the software out of the question please, as a relative I know has allowed me to work with his software for hobby use.
To give an idea what I really want to be able to do, if my purchase could replicate the fins and knurling as in the following photo, I would say I could not ask for more:
Thank you kindly for your help, machinists.
1. Never buy one of those combo machines because they inevitably do both tasks poorly. There are a few exceptions but waaay out of that price range.
2. Read the sticky notes on acceptable use of this forum - discussions of 'home shop' level machine tools sourced from China are not acceptable and this thread will get locked as soon as the forum owner sees it. That said I'd buy the best lathe I could afford and get on with cutting metal. IMHO a new quality Chinese manufacture machine is way better than a 40+ year old South Bend but others differ strongly. Really you should just buy a new Monarch 10EE and support your local economy. Assuming you've $80K plus to spare. Failing that a D1-4 camlock spindle machine with a low speed of no more than 60 rpm for thread cutting and a high speed of over 2000 rpm, biggest hollow spindle you can get, with a good quick change tool post, will do. You don't need a lot of bed length for this so a 24" between centres machine would do but a 36" machine is more versatile for longer jobs.
As I said, a Monarch 10EE would be perfect.
FWIW aluminium is easy to machine and pretty much any half decent lathe will give you a good surface finish. CNC is a different ball game and unless you're going to get the only copy of your friend/relative's code (or it's open source) you can't legally run a copy of it on your hardware.
OK fine, well I won't discuss the Chinese stuff then so I can keep the thread going. I have been reading, and did find that it's a bad idea to combine the mill+lathe. So I'm ditching that idea.
Originally Posted by PDW
What do you mean by the Monarch 10EE followed by "80K+ to spare"? I found them used for around $4,000 on eBay. Or are they that much when new?
Yeah, about the software, if it just turns into legal discussion, let's leave that simply out of the discussion so we can discuss machinery only.
Thanks for your help. I am interested in what other say about a $4K limit on a lathe.