Advice/Help Needed For New Lathe Purchase
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  1. #1
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    Default Advice/Help Needed For New Lathe Purchase

    Hello, I am a new member who is seeking qualified advice from the members here.

    Background:
    I own a BMX brand which sells small quantities of BMX Pegs. Previously, I had sourced all machining from a USA company. While they have always supplied a quality product, the pricing has left very little room for revenues and I have found myself at a crossroad.... machine the pegs myself, send the work overseas or shutdown. For me there is only one option and that's manufacture them myself.

    I need help selecting the right machine for the job based on the following:

    -Ability to turn, bore, knurl, chamfer, up to 2" 6061 Aluminum Bar yielding a finished product at a maximum of 4" in length

    Will I have to have a lathe with a 2" bore or can I get by with a nice bench top machine?

    Budget:
    I would like to spend as little as possible. However, as stated above, I would like to purchase the correct tool for performing the job. Entry level purchase now and upgrading in the future is an option if costs are prohibitive. I would prefer to purchase new as I don't have the time to hunt for a machine.

    Ability:
    I am an expert level woodworker and and own a shop full of professional/industrial machines. I find it necessary to mention this to relay that I am competent. I don't expect to buy a tool and become a machinist... but, I am confident in my ability to learn and produce the products I design.

    I thank in advance any members willing to give me advice. I hope this is the first post of many to come.

    -Braden
    Last edited by loosenut; 01-02-2020 at 08:59 PM.

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    You might consider offering the parts for bid in the Manufacturing Resources forum. Possibly you will get an offer that meets your needs.

    Starting from scratch to make your own is certainly taking the long way. Making a consistent, lovely, consumer-quality product on a manual machine is a giant PITA, BTDT. A decent CNC lathe that you can count on to make parts and not be a project is $50-$100k. How many pegs are you selling :-).

    Regards.

    Mike

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    Mike, thank you for the quick reply. I should clarify that the quantity of products is largely the problem... IE I don't sell enough for it to even be considered a viable business model HA! But, I do eventually sell what I make. You might say, I'm in the business for the love of the sport and friends/customers who like/need the niche products I provide. Honestly, it would be prudent to state that it is more of a glorified hobby that a business. This is a statement that you hear ring loudly across the industry.

    I should also state that I am personally interested in the freedom to produce unique "one-off" pegs. I also plan on incorporating the lathe into my woodworking (small brass pegs, etc.).

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    It would also be worth including anodizing in the skill set/ equipment you need to obtain. In some ways it's simpler than machining the part, in other ways it's a giant pain in the butt.

    Tooling up I would guess at $3-5000. Skills wise 3-6mths perhaps? As a plus you probably have fairly relaxed need for precision, though finish quality would need to be high.

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    So, the pegs are only going to be made in small quantities? Like 4 to 10 at a time? How long are they? How much material are you removing? If you are making small quantities, you maybe don’t need to run them through the bore of the lathe- you cut slugs and machine the slugs. ( I’d ‘double end’ the parts)- cut the slugs long enough to make a piece on each end of a bar and then cut the piece off. Have a second operation to finish the cut off end. You can use a little toy lathe to do it, but if you have any ideas of expanding your abilities and skills, you’d probably be better off looking at a decent industrial lathe with some balls - it’ll cut quicker and give you better finishes

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    And if you go with a toy lathe, get a "scissor" knurler, not one of the straight-in "bump" knurlers, much kinder on a smaller, less-rigid machine. Easier to use on a hefty machine, too, IMHO.

    As accuracy for BMX pegs isn't a big deal, it might be worth looking at older (small industrial) lathes with nice features, my faves include power feeds everywhere *with micrometer stops that trip the feeds out* - makes getting a consistent finish to a consistent length easy and means you don't need to give the machine 100% of your attention.

    Anodising is a pretty simple do-it-yourself for small quantities, most difficult bit is getting everything properly clean before it goes in the tank, or finding a decent dye that works (I've been using Asda/Walmart black inkjet refill, gives a nice copper-bronze colour).

    Dave H. (the other one)

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    Quote Originally Posted by loosenut View Post
    -Ability to turn, bore, knurl, chamfer, up to 2" 6160 Aluminum Bar yielding a finished product at a maximum of 4" in length

    Will I have to have a lathe with a 2" bore or can I get by with a nice bench top machine?
    I see no one has answered your actual question

    Also, you didn't mention the actual numbers, which will make a difference. 4 or 5 is different from 20 or 30.

    I would look for something like a 13" or 15" Colchester or Regal Leblond. If I came across a short-bed American Pacemaker I'd jump on it. I've seen those types of lathe for sale for around $2,000 but you have to hunt.

    You could do this on a South Bend or even a 6" benchtop lathe but it would take you so long you'd lose money, even paying yourself $2/hr. And often the smaller ones cost more than bigger lathes, because more people can fit them into their garage.

    A 2" bore would be great, a big help. And a top speed of at least 1,000 is necessary for aluminum to be turned competitively.

    I don't think you want an old turret lathe, those are man-killers but it sounds like some of those would do your job. But I would not recommend it, they are no fun at all to run.

    If you are making more, in the 30 40 50 type numbers, there are older nc machines that can be had cheap. That's much more of a gamble tho, you can get something great or you can get a money-sink, hard to know ahead of time. An engine lathe is pretty much an engine lathe, it'll do the job. Electronics suck

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattthemuppet View Post
    It would also be worth including anodizing in the skill set/ equipment you need to obtain. In some ways it's simpler than machining the part, in other ways it's a giant pain in the butt.

    Tooling up I would guess at $3-5000. Skills wise 3-6mths perhaps? As a plus you probably have fairly relaxed need for precision, though finish quality would need to be high.
    Anodizing is a definitely a bonus and a something I've not included due to my already high costs. But, I would absolutely agree that if I were doing the machining, anodizing would be great to know and offer.

    Precision needs to be as good as possible as I am a perfectionist.... did I mention I'm a woodworker. HA! That being said, you are correct.... these parts are put on a bike and thrashed.

    Do you have any recommendations for lathes in the $3-5K range? I assume you're also including additional tooling, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Onepass View Post
    So, the pegs are only going to be made in small quantities? Like 4 to 10 at a time? How long are they? How much material are you removing? If you are making small quantities, you maybe don’t need to run them through the bore of the lathe- you cut slugs and machine the slugs. ( I’d ‘double end’ the parts)- cut the slugs long enough to make a piece on each end of a bar and then cut the piece off. Have a second operation to finish the cut off end. You can use a little toy lathe to do it, but if you have any ideas of expanding your abilities and skills, you’d probably be better off looking at a decent industrial lathe with some balls - it’ll cut quicker and give you better finishes
    Quantities.... 4 being a minimum as that quantity is required for a full set. Length... 4" max. Finished products range from 31mm-44mm in diameter. With my limited knowledge, I understand it would be ideal to have a 2" bore and be able to run full bars. But, if need be, slugs will be the route I go if the costs are prohibitive with the larger lathe.

    I'd love to hear recommendations on toys and decent industrial lathes. I'm trying to figure out minimal specs lathe to perform the job but do it correctly. Obviously, a massive industrial lathe would be ideal. But considering the products I'll be making, I'd like to have a lathe that does the job... if that makes sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopefuldave View Post
    And if you go with a toy lathe, get a "scissor" knurler, not one of the straight-in "bump" knurlers, much kinder on a smaller, less-rigid machine. Easier to use on a hefty machine, too, IMHO.

    As accuracy for BMX pegs isn't a big deal, it might be worth looking at older (small industrial) lathes with nice features, my faves include power feeds everywhere *with micrometer stops that trip the feeds out* - makes getting a consistent finish to a consistent length easy and means you don't need to give the machine 100% of your attention.

    Anodising is a pretty simple do-it-yourself for small quantities, most difficult bit is getting everything properly clean before it goes in the tank, or finding a decent dye that works (I've been using Asda/Walmart black inkjet refill, gives a nice copper-bronze colour).

    Dave H. (the other one)
    Thank you for the insight on knurlers. I will look further into scissor knurlers. Unfortunately, I don't feel I have time to locate, acquire and likely repair older equipment. I've gone down this road with woodworking tools with hopes of buying better quality tools and spend far too long refurbishing. I do agree that if I had the time wherewithal, this would be the way to go. Thank you for the tips on anodizing!

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    Quote Originally Posted by EmanuelGoldstein View Post
    I see no one has answered your actual question

    Also, you didn't mention the actual numbers, which will make a difference. 4 or 5 is different from 20 or 30.

    I would look for something like a 13" or 15" Colchester or Regal Leblond. If I came across a short-bed American Pacemaker I'd jump on it. I've seen those types of lathe for sale for around $2,000 but you have to hunt.

    You could do this on a South Bend or even a 6" benchtop lathe but it would take you so long you'd lose money, even paying yourself $2/hr. And often the smaller ones cost more than bigger lathes, because more people can fit them into their garage.

    A 2" bore would be great, a big help. And a top speed of at least 1,000 is necessary for aluminum to be turned competitively.

    I don't think you want an old turret lathe, those are man-killers but it sounds like some of those would do your job. But I would not recommend it, they are no fun at all to run.

    If you are making more, in the 30 40 50 type numbers, there are older nc machines that can be had cheap. That's much more of a gamble tho, you can get something great or you can get a money-sink, hard to know ahead of time. An engine lathe is pretty much an engine lathe, it'll do the job. Electronics suck
    Quantities can be as low as a set of 4. But, I will likely produce 20+ of each peg style to have extra in inventory.
    All the brands you suggest look like fantastic machines. But, as I mentioned in previous responses, I do not have the time to find, acquire and possibly refurbish older equipment.

    I'm looking for the means between the extremes of a cheap lathe and a machinist's shop quality lathe. IE I don't need it to do more than turn 2" 6061. However, I feel I might be underestimating the size lathe required for the task. Thanks for your response and please feel free to give more insight.

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    Budget for a machine??

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by as9100d View Post
    Budget for a machine??

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    Best Case Scenario: $1500-2000
    Worst Case Scenario: $5000 All In

    I would like to stay around Best Case Scenario even if it means getting by with a less than stellar machine, putting back money and upgrading in the future. I know Best Case puts me in the bench top sized lathes. So, can I get the job done with one given the low quantity runs or is this just fighting a house fire with a water gun?

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    House fire with a water gun.

    I believe you just need to find the right person to help with your products.

    Shoot me a pm, I may know a guy.

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

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    Re South Bend lathes, you don't want a 10K, period. The heavy 10 and up is better but look out for worn spindle bearings. They have plain bearings and some of the smaller ones run in the cast iron, no bushing. If you keep them lubricated, they will last forever, but run dry once and that is the end.

    If you get one of the smaller ones, bolt it to a 1/2" steel plate with shims to get the bed straight. Does wonders for rigidity.

    Bill

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    Warner and Swasey #3 turret lathe fits your needs. Cheap as dirt. Less than $2 grand and you could be pumping pegs out at the rate of 20/hr. You dont need cnc stuff or a crappy engine lathe. If you have three phase power, a way to drag it home, and some patients you could find one on a $750 budget.

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    Quote Originally Posted by loosenut View Post
    I don't need it to do more than turn 2" 6061. However, I feel I might be underestimating the size lathe required for the task.
    Are you going to hold the material some way or just glue it to a 2" faceplate ?

    Think 2 x 3" long jaws (that's pretty short) plus your 2" stock, looks like an 8" chuck at least.

    12" or 13" swing lathe is practically speaking the smallest you are going to want to turn a 2" part. And you also need a little horsepower to make that cut, at least 3 and preferably 5.

    So, benchtop really isn't a good answer.

    You can try in a search engine :

    site:craigslist.org 13" lathe

    then try 15" ... here's one close to you looks okay but at the high end of your budget ;

    Clausing Colchester 13” lathe - general for sale - by owner

    I wouldn't get carried away on the stuff a lot of hobbyshopprs worry about here, a few thou wear in the ways won't hurt you at all, just make sure it runs smoothly, no clanks and clonks, all the feeds work, that kind of thing.

    Here's another, cheaper but farther away

    DoAll 13” Lathe - tools - by owner - sale

    You'll find something, it's not that hard. Toolpost, toolholders and a chuck are pretty expensive, getting those with the lathe is a plus.

    Skip this kind of thing, absolutely not, the guy is nuts

    13” LeBlond Regal Lathe - tools - by owner - sale

    You also need to think of what electricity you have available - if the perfect lathe comes along but the wrong voltage you can change it, but easier not. So that enters into the pricing equation as well.

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    Post some pix of your foot pegs first, so we can all see what kind of
    details you going to attempt to make with a manual/turret lathe.

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    You can never have too much rigidity...even on a good lathe you'd find that you can't work as fast and hard as you'd like. A rinky-dink home shop lathe would drive you nuts, fast. And yes, a 2" bore is essential for what you want.

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    A turret lathe like suggested above would probably be ideal. They go for peanuts these days. Do your best to try to find one that's tooled up and you might well get all you need for your best case price. You won't get much more rigid than a Swasey, but they do take up a bit of room.

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