Narrowing the field on a small turning center
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    Default Narrowing the field on a small turning center

    I am getting more serious about bringing a small cnc lathe into my shop. I am a knifemaker, specializing in handmade custom folding knives (www.rangermadeknives.com). I am at a point that many custom makers eventually find themselves; I have a good reputation and a lot of work but, don't really see a way to increase profits over where I am now. I am a one man show and prefer to keep it that way, so I'm thinking about using a turning center to produce my turned parts and also offering those parts for sale to other makers (Probably through a e-commerce page on my website).

    That brings me to choice of machine. I want a small footprint machine that I can move myself, say...under 4k pounds. It needs to be a collet chuck machine that can feed a bar of at least 2' in length. I don't have room for a bar feeder. I would also say that 1 megabyte of memory is the minimum and it needs to have USB or PCMCIA. Floppy would work if it can be swapped for USB. C-axis and rigid tapping would be really nice to have as well. All that said, I cannot justify the expense of a new machine so, my absolute max would be $20k (under $12k would be best). I also don't know enough to be able to do repairs on a clapped out machine.

    I believe the GT-27 class of machines are my best choice and I see there are a good number of options out there. I particularly like the Prodigy GT-27 but, I'd be concerned about support since those machines have been discontinued and the company seems to have headed in a much different direction. I like the Haas MiniLathes; again discontinued but, I could probably still get some support from Haas. I know a Haas GT-10 isn't really in the same class but, one with a tool turret could be an option (again discontinued). I have read the many posts about unscrupulous used/reconditioned GT dealers so would definitely steer clear on that front.

    So, I would like to hear your feedback on this. Any other machine recommendations and why?

    Also, before someone messages me to say they can make my parts, I am a sole authorship maker. Everything needs to be made in my shop. It's important to me.

    Thanks,

    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hot Bob View Post
    Also, before someone messages me to say they can make my parts, I am a sole authorship maker. Everything needs to be made in my shop. It's important to me.
    I have no interest in making your parts, but given your budget, knowledge, and requirements, you should be paying someone else to make these parts.

    If you don't have the knowledge or willingness to repair your own machines, then you definitely aren't prepared to evaluate a used machine's condition. And what happens when your $12-20k machine dies after a month? You don't want to fix it, and there's no one you can pay to fix it (not to mention you don't have a budget for it). This is a recipe for disaster.

    If you're worried about someone devaluing your name, then it's time to look at hiring someone who you can keep an eye on and confirm their work meets your standards, or who can at least keep the lathe running, sweep the floor, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pariel View Post
    I have no interest in making your parts, but given your budget, knowledge, and requirements, you should be paying someone else to make these parts.

    If you don't have the knowledge or willingness to repair your own machines, then you definitely aren't prepared to evaluate a used machine's condition. And what happens when your $12-20k machine dies after a month? You don't want to fix it, and there's no one you can pay to fix it (not to mention you don't have a budget for it). This is a recipe for disaster.

    If you're worried about someone devaluing your name, then it's time to look at hiring someone who you can keep an eye on and confirm their work meets your standards, or who can at least keep the lathe running, sweep the floor, etc.
    I can understand where this opinion comes from but, I would have to disagree. Everyone on this forum isn't looking to run a job shop and I am not completely inexperienced in cnc production. There was a time when I produced a line of motorcycle parts using my own VMC (a Matsuura). True, I've never owned a cnc lathe but, I'm a smart and determined guy. Perhaps I just don't get it but, I believe there is a difference between buying a complete POS and spending all my valuable time refurbishing it and having something break on a machine and calling a technician out to repair. I also don't see the correlation between what I'm willing to spend to purchase a machine and what I'm willing to spend to keep it running. Honestly, if I spent $12k on a machine and it sat broken down for a month or two, that would be no disaster; if I bought a new machine for $40k+ and couldn't support its' cost with the limited work it would see, that would be plain stupid.

    Anyway, I'm really looking for opinions on machines that fit my use.

    Thanks,

    Bob

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    Absolutely no help on your machine choice, but your knives are gorgeous!

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    Quote Originally Posted by greggv View Post
    Absolutely no help on your machine choice, but your knives are gorgeous!
    Ditto


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

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    I tap occasionally on my Omniturns with a releasing tap holder. How do you know you will need rigid tapping?

    We also have a Hardinge GT with spindle indexing and live tooling, no C-axis, but so far we have been able to get around the need for C-axis so it was just a want.

    Your being a knife maker with space at a premium I would worry about getting grinding dust in the machine. I am wondering if you would be better off making some good drawings and farming the work out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greggv View Post
    Absolutely no help on your machine choice, but your knives are gorgeous!
    Quote Originally Posted by ripperj View Post
    Ditto
    Thanks guys!

    Quote Originally Posted by FredC View Post
    I tap occasionally on my Omniturns with a releasing tap holder. How do you know you will need rigid tapping?

    We also have a Hardinge GT with spindle indexing and live tooling, no C-axis, but so far we have been able to get around the need for C-axis so it was just a want.

    Your being a knife maker with space at a premium I would worry about getting grinding dust in the machine. I am wondering if you would be better off making some good drawings and farming the work out.
    The rigid tap and C-axis are not on my must-have list. C-axis is probably more important than rigid tapping. The grinding dust is always a concern but, my shop is actually decent size (just full of machines) and I do a pretty good job of isolating my current machine tools from the dust.

    I'm just not keen on farming the work out. I want to be able to tweak a design or do a run of new parts on little notice. These parts are cosmetic as well as functional and being able to come up with new patterns and get them out quickly will be one of the keys to making this work.

    Okay, one more machine that really looks like a contender is the Cubic GTV w/ Fagor control. If anyone has any experience with this machine, I'd like to hear about it. It's still in production!

    Bob

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    IMHO i would not overly sweat the memory size on a lathe, outside of c axis live tool work, lathe programmes are intrinsically simple and short. You really don't need cam unless your turning very curvy shapes.

    A gang tooled setup should also work pretty well, not having a turret simplifies one whole bunch of things that goes wrong. There also faster. In your case, on such small parts you could probably standardize a lot of the tooling so you only swap out drills - taps.

    Yeah the Cubic machines are pretty nice, if i could afford one i would happily buy one.

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    Saw a used Haas mini lathe from one of the dealers the other day. They might fit you need pretty well. Seymour Dumore has extensive experience with them IIRC. Maybe it was automatics and machinery had it? Can't recall.
    As you mentioned, there is a company out here in Ca that has ripped off a few people that wanted a decent small CNC lathe. Big thread on here somewhere.
    Good luck!

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    Brad at tactical keychains is going to be selling his GT27 lathe at a very fair price. It may be out of your budget but I would hit him up. ( I already have but am going in a larger direction).

    find him on Instagram.

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    Since you have limited knowledge both operating and repairing a CNC lathe and with your budget putting you in a used machine I would lean toward buying a machine with a Fanuc controller. Reason being they probably have the most wide spread knowledge base on this forum and the availability of parts and service are probably best of all control models.

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    omniturn Gt75 fits your bill
    light fast accurate, and cheap
    set it on blocks you slide a pallet jack under it
    move it any where you have room, can even get a short magazine
    bar feeder does something like 2 foot bars.

    good tech support from the maker and simple enough for you to fix yourself.

    and used they can be had well with in your budget.
    down side you will probably have to travel some distance to find one.

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    Robin Renzetti (sp) seems to have a good setup on a tormach lathe - but I'm pretty sure he's modified it. More on instagram than youtube these days. He DOES seem to have a clever short-bar feeder set up, and have the thing making parts - using ganged tooling. (I don't think C or live tooling on that machine.)

    Tormachs are funny, I see/read about them in serious/industrial use, and also in doofy (even by my standards) operations.

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    Find a Hardinge Super Precision GT lathe like this one....................


    https://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/tls/d/minneapolis-hardinge-super-precision-cs/6842222948.html

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    Agree with a short bar- feed CNC.. If you have to stand there running simple parts you might as well have a turret lathe. I know a fellow who has a Warner Swasey #1. It is a kick but stand there machine.

    I passed on a nice #1 last year for $500. but yes I am not a lathe man and hardy use the lathes I have.

    Agree nice looking Knives.

    To far to drive from Texas..
    Hardinge Cobra 42 with a GE Fanuc Series 21-T CNC Lathe Used & Working - tools - by owner - sale

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    Quote Originally Posted by david n View Post
    Find a Hardinge Super Precision GT lathe like this one....................


    https://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/tls/d/minneapolis-hardinge-super-precision-cs/6842222948.html
    The Hardinge GT is a super machine, I know because I have one. Mine has spindle orient and a brake but not C-Axis. The Op was looking for a portable machine that could be moved with a pallet jack. The Hardinge GT is not that. My HXL that I am converting to Omniturn was set up to be easily moved but would take up more space than the OP is looking for.
    As 72Bwhite mentioned the Omniturn GT75 may fit the requirements. One of their machines was made to be moved with a pallet jack, but I have never seen one in person. Going by my experience with the Hardinge/Omniturn conversions I would expect the newer Omniturns to be good machines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_machine View Post
    Robin Renzetti (sp) seems to have a good setup on a tormach lathe - but I'm pretty sure he's modified it. More on instagram than youtube these days. He DOES seem to have a clever short-bar feeder set up, and have the thing making parts - using ganged tooling. (I don't think C or live tooling on that machine.)

    Tormachs are funny, I see/read about them in serious/industrial use, and also in doofy (even by my standards) operations.
    I just took a look at Robin's IG account and then started following. Very cool things going on there, thanks.

    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by david n View Post
    Find a Hardinge Super Precision GT lathe like this one....................


    https://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/tls/d/minneapolis-hardinge-super-precision-cs/6842222948.html
    Quote Originally Posted by michiganbuck View Post
    Agree with a short bar- feed CNC.. If you have to stand there running simple parts you might as well have a turret lathe. I know a fellow who has a Warner Swasey #1. It is a kick but stand there machine.

    I passed on a nice #1 last year for $500. but yes I am not a lathe man and hardy use the lathes I have.

    Agree nice looking Knives.

    To far to drive from Texas..
    Hardinge Cobra 42 with a GE Fanuc Series 21-T CNC Lathe Used & Working - tools - by owner - sale
    Quote Originally Posted by FredC View Post
    The Hardinge GT is a super machine, I know because I have one. Mine has spindle orient and a brake but not C-Axis. The Op was looking for a portable machine that could be moved with a pallet jack. The Hardinge GT is not that. My HXL that I am converting to Omniturn was set up to be easily moved but would take up more space than the OP is looking for.
    As 72Bwhite mentioned the Omniturn GT75 may fit the requirements. One of their machines was made to be moved with a pallet jack, but I have never seen one in person. Going by my experience with the Hardinge/Omniturn conversions I would expect the newer Omniturns to be good machines.
    I wouldn't necessarily rule one of the Hardinge GT's out but, they are a little bigger than what I'd prefer. I'm really liking the Cubic machines. Not a lot of used machines out there for sale but, they seem to be what I want in terms of size and features. The Omniturn GT-75's also look to be suitable; seems to be a few more on the used market but, prices vary widely.

    Bob


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