Project of the Month built by Rustkolector

Help Support Home Model Engine Machinist by donating using the link above or becoming a Supporting Member.
Home Model Engine Machinist > The Tools and Tips > The Shop > Setting up Shop Questions - from an NZ learner

Thread Tools
Old 08-01-2016, 05:06 AM   #1
joco-nz's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Posts: 448
Liked 137 Times on 101 Posts
Likes Given: 92

Default Setting up Shop Questions - from an NZ learner

Yes another newbie is struggling with the ďwhat lathe do I getĒ question. Later it will be the "what mill do I get". But first things first - Lathe.

I have been reading and reading on both this forum and many others, as well as looking at peoples personal websites. I have subscribed to MEW and read through the vast bulk of the back issues as well as reading many of the very good Workshop Series books. So now I am drowning in theory and great ideas.

My primary driver is to learn to make things with metal. Iíve been/am into woodwork and while I donít claim to be a cabinet maker I can get things done. Iím really keen to learn the art of metal work. At least to a proficient level where I can enjoy the process of creation and in seeing the result being both functional and well made.

The areas that Iím looking to explore are:
- Model steam engines
- Model diesel engines
- Glow plug model engines
- Tools described in the likes of the Workshop Series books such as numbers #31, #34, #35 and #37
- A number of cool looking projects from MEW

Iím not going to get into turning parts for Cars or motor bikes. I do have a half formed idea to make a go-kart from scratch [not the engine though :-) ]. But that is very much in the future after much learning with a yet to purchase lathe and mill, I have the welder.

Iím in NZ and while I see various Myford 7ís, the odd Boxford and once in a blue moon a Southbend appear second-hand, most look so rusted that Iím suspicious. The rest look used as hell and I have no knowledge on how to filter the good/recoverable ones from the rubbish.

So I have resigned myself to getting new Chinese iron. I recognise that means I will in all probability have to strip the machine down (arguably a good learning exercise) and clean out all the free foundry material shipped with it then reassemble and re-grease/oil it.

I have looked around the NZ market and the general options that are not beyond my size and price limits, and allowing dollars left for tooling, would appear to be (in no particular order):

[1] Sieg SC4
NZD 2,473

[2] Optimum TU-2506V
NZD 2,392

[3] Hafco AL-320G
NZD 3,174
NB: The AL-250G was discounted as it doesnít do any imperial threads, only metric.

[4] CQ6128
NZD 2,529

Iím hoping a few of the members from this part of the world will be able to give me some of their experiences and wisdom. Another factor in the above list is that some of the above units donít come with many accessories. The Sieg and Optimum being the worst. Adding in those extras alone push many up to the Hafco's price.

Are the sizes in this mix pretty reasonable? From what I have read I believe they are and should handle what I am looking to get into.

Any particular brands/models that are generally better than others?

Or is it just a matter of rolling the dice with the best bang for buck and holding the retailer to account for unreasonable issues?

I confess to a slight inclination to the AL-320G. Mainly because I have seen some very impressive work by members of this forum using this model machine and its the biggest. :-)

Any ideas, experiences, advice gratefully received.


joco-nz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 06:21 AM   #2
joco-nz's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Posts: 448
Liked 137 Times on 101 Posts
Likes Given: 92

Default 5c or ER Collets

Another question ... I did say it would be questions from the newbie.

Looking at collets and they totally make sense when dealing with round stock. I see you generally have 5c system and the ER system. It seems like the 5c system has a draw bar type model pulling through the lathe bore and closing them into the collet holder, whereas the ER system uses a compression ring on the collet holder.

Any benefit in either direction? Or just a different way to achieve the same outcome?

joco-nz is offline  
goldstar31 Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 07:00 AM   #3
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 219
Liked 74 Times on 43 Posts


Hi James,
I'm in Auckland and can offer a bit of advice.
Last year my old Emco V10P (a really nice example of Austrian engineering) lathe which which I had bought second hand 10 -15 years ago had finally got to the stage where I needed to get a replacement.
I did a lot of internet based research and based on what I found I came up with pretty much the same list and suppliers you have.
I went to Machinery House and looked at an Optimum lathe. I couldn't see it running but the cross slide seemed to be intermittently binding and the sales guy couldn't explain why. I wasn't too impressed - if they couldn't set it up as a display unit properly in the shop, what were the chances I would get a trouble free unit out of a crate? I therefore discounted it - probably unfairly.
I also looked at the CQ6128 at Chevpac. The sales guy was very good and actually ran a long lead to the display machine so I could see it running. I quite liked what I saw. The only drawback I saw with it was that the motor is not one of the newer brushless models which have a wider power band but they get around this by having two pulleys from the motor to the lathe to give good torque at low speed. It did have a lot of accessories as standard with the lathe.
I had seen a number of favourable reviews of the Seig SC4 at various sites and quite liked the look of it. The problem I found with it was that the local supplier operated out of a warehouse and didn't have any machines set up to have a look at. Regardless of this, I decided to go ahead and order an SC4 based on the positive reviews I had seen.
Big mistake. Never buy a lathe without being able to touch it and get a feel for how it operates. As soon as the SC4 came out of the crate I wasn't happy with it. I found it to be a badly designed, badly made piece of rubbish. It was so badly made the tailstock rocked diagonally on the bed. The machining of the bottom surface was just awful - it was milled rather than ground and the mill should have been sharpened about 5 lathes earlier. It took a couple of months for a new tailstock to arrive - it didn't rock but there was a tight spot when rotating the hadwheel - I suspect the shaft is a bit bent.
There a numerous other things I really don't like about the SC4.
I have decided that next February when (if) it ever stops raining and I can get access across my lawn to the shed I will get rid of the SC4 and perhaps look at the CQ6128 again. Mind you, if I do go that way, I'll be wanting to buy the machine I have inspected in the shop, not another one.
Given that there is no showroom for the SC4 in NZ, if you want to have a look at one, send me a private message and I'll give you instructions on how to find me (I'm in Papakura). You can try mine out.
Given the generally favourable comments regarding the SC4 lathe, maybe I'm being too critical but I'm definitely not a fan.
Alan C.
kiwi2 is offline  
Grey Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 07:09 AM   #4
bazmak's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: adelaide south australia
Posts: 1,861
Liked 1049 Times on 591 Posts
Likes Given: 826


Hi,i started with sieg sc2 7x16 and was very happy.When the electronics blew
I sold it on cheap and moved to the sieg sc4.Again very happy.But I would say
that dependant on what you want to make,then the 7x14/16 at less than half the price of the 8x20 is a good buy.I bought the er32 collet set for the mill
19 pieces and grips any sizt from 1mm to 20mm,and all imperial between
cost about $100 from china and well worth it.I made a chuck for the lathe
and later bought one for the Sc4.When you get a mill again I have the sx2
with R8 quill again about a thousand dollars.Therefore you could get the lathe and mill with accessories for the same price as the SC4.My advice,if you look at threads under Bazmak you will get a feel for what can be done.Any further advice then send me a PM and I can email photos etc PS I use the collet set more than the chucks in the mill and the lathe.Great for holding screws in the lathe without damage
Regards barry
bazmak is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 08:35 AM   #5
Ex Bogstandard
Blogwitch's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Crewe, UK
Posts: 3,571
Liked 693 Times on 517 Posts
Likes Given: 73


As you can see above, two different people with totally different views on the same machine. That is the sort of problems you will get when asking what to buy.

Another thing is that Sieg, when producing their machines, quality can vary dramatically.
This is because they are usually made down to a price, given to them by the retailer, so that they can undercut everyone else, so it isn't always a good thing to buy the cheapest of the same model. It is better to pay a bit more and get the basics already included with the machine, 3 & 4 jaws, faceplate, centres and even sometimes not included, a threading dial. What you really need is a package that will get you almost up and running from day one, except for the required set up, and after that you can start to look at all the extras that you MIGHT use in the forthcoming years. I say the word MIGHT because people rush out and say to themselves that they can't live without such and such a tool, only to find it hasn't been used ever since they bought it. I know from personal experience that this sort of thing happens, so I gave most of them away and only now buy or make things that I really NEED.

If you can get to the retailer, cash usually talks. When buying my mill and lathe, I showed the salesman a wad of notes that he could get his fidgety claws into if he could make the package desirable. It ended up by getting them VAT free (17.5% at the time) plus power feeds all round on the mill (X,Y & Z, it only came with an X axis one as standard) and all sorts of other freebies thrown in for both the lathe and mill. All in, I most probably got both of them a good 1,500 pounds cheaper, plus all the bits for nothing.

With regards to most makes of Chinese machinery, they come out of the factory just assembled and dropped into a box, not set up to use, and this is how it is delivered to you.
So that is the time you get to know your machines, stripping down, deburring, cleaning and lubricating, then setting them up for optimal performance and accuracy.
Some suppliers will do all this for you, but expect a largish bill for doing it. I was lucky that my supplier did all that for nothing, I have only had to fine tweak my lathe in the last 5 years, mainly because I was doing certain mods, and the mill hasn't had to be touched except to replace a very cheap bearing.

You are now starting down a road that can be one of the most amazing pastimes you will ever come across, making working things from sometimes bits of junk.

Just enjoy the journey

If you don't try it, you will never know if you can do it!!
Blogwitch is offline  
Grey Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 09:41 AM   #6
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1,060
Liked 313 Times on 244 Posts
Likes Given: 161


I know how you feel. I had a look at all of the options you have identified and I looked at the Seig (which was easy to discount), the CQ6128 which was from a very small importer so I was worried about support and settled on either the AL250G or the AL320G from Hare and Forbes Machinery House (Close to home and proven support). At the time the Optimum was not available. Hare and Forbes gave up the Seig franchise and replaced the brand with Optimum after my purchase.

Having looked at the Optimum Mill in their showroom that replaced the Seig SX3 mill I purchased, I concluded that the Seig was a vastly superior machine to Optimum.

In the end, I chose the AL320G despite having to deal with change gears for threading. Mainly becasue it was truly an upgrade in terms of spindle bore, chuck size and swing from my old 3 in 1 and the AL250G was the same size. I would have loved to go up one more size to the AL336 to get DI-4 chucks but did not have the room for it. The AL320G has more or less the same working envelope as the 3 phase lathe we have at work (but a lot shorter).

Honestly, despite all of the criticism, of Chinese machines, this one stacks up admirably. Mine is now 3 years old and after filing away a few rough edges in the 4 jaw chuck so it spun freely , it is a great performer. The spindle is 100% runout free before you add any chuck (which adds a bit) Its now pretty heavilly modified. The commercial products I make with it, I can smash out in well under half the time I used to and I no longer need to use the 4 jaw chuck to hold the parts I make. Recently I made some parts for work afterhours when everybody was really busy. I did them in the same time that experienced machinists could do them on bigger gear at work. I had to take lighter cuts but gained a bit of time due to having a DRO.

Now in terms of 5C collets, I did purchase one of the spindle adapters from H&F but later sold it to a forum member and opted to fit a 5C collet chuck from Little Machine Shop in the US. Much better.

So most of my adventures with my machines are documented in my Rod's Aussie Shed thread at

Oh, I've still to this day only cut 1 thread with a lot of help from the forum members and its documented in my shed thread somewhere.

PS: This is a big and powerful beast so treat it with respect for your own safety. Go for the AL320G I say.
Brisbane, Australia
rodw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 10:42 AM   #7
joco-nz's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Posts: 448
Liked 137 Times on 101 Posts
Likes Given: 92


Gents - thank you for the responses. I do realise the potential can of worms this question can open. As John essentially noted it is very possible to get different experiences on what is essentially the same model but coming from different suppliers who have had it built to different quality levels.

Its a tricky decision, Iím sure I would have a heap of fun with something like an SC2 or equivalent size. However I have been bitten in the past in getting tools that are ďjust enoughĒ and within less than 6 months been cursing that I didnít do it ďrightĒ first time. So for that reason alone I am leery of the mini-lathe 7x12+ sizes. Not because they are not capable within their envelop, just that I donít want to be disappointed when I go to try something and canít.

Iíve read a lot of good stuff about the SC4ís but I have also read a lot about the niggle that exists. All able to be overcome but you do end up wondering why so many compromises. In fact in the Sieg range I discounted the S/C6 and above models due to prices vís capability and having read that the SC4 had Japanese bearings in the headstock yet the larger models didnít seem to enjoy the same attention. Go figure.

Optimum look good on paper but have never seen one in the flesh. Heck I havenít seen any of these in the flesh as the closest retailer is in Auckland and Iím Wellington based. Although Coastal Machinery based out of Fielding has the CQ6128. I would just have to take a day off work to go and see them, just to see a lathe. Sheesh.

Re Optimum, pity Rodís assessment on comparing to the Sieg is not so flash. I was hoping their BF20L would be a good option instead of the SX3 when it came to mills. Itís certainly popular in Europe.

John - you have it bang on. Its absolutely the journey that matters. I recognise that and have already mentally prepared my self for whatever machine I end up with having to strip, clean, setup, lap etc etc it before I can use it for projects. But I think that wonít be a bad thing. I will learn how its put together, how it has been made and what parts will likely wear if I donít give them the right levels of TLC over time.

So its smelling more and more like the AL-320G is pushing to the top of the pile. I like its work envelope, nothing I am going to get into will be too large for it. I donít mind the change gears, not like Iím trying to meet a production schedule so having to swap em now and then isnít an issue. The lathes not too long/wide for the available space (I could actually get an AL-960B, its just too expensive). And I can follow in the foot steps of people like Rob who have them and learn from their mods and what parts/tools they get. Heck I can even more power it with a 3 phase motor off a VFD if it ever comes to it. Yes that AL-320G is a beast, as are any of the lathes, they will all bite you if your donít give them respect. Machine with high speed spinning parts, and my Dewalt table saw reminds me of that every time I spin it up and see all those sharp spinning teeth whirling about.

On the plus side I have a very friendly neighbour with 30+ years experience in machining, welding and the like who has graciously agreed to give me some lessons in exchange for beer. Heck heís even scrounging up some scrap metal for me to run practice welding beads on.

Rod - read the Aussie Shed thread. And read and read, its what got me thinking more seriously about the 320G. I did wince when I saw those pics of the toppled lathe.

Any other thoughts, observations, learnings welcome.

New Zealand
joco-nz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2016, 07:07 PM   #8
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Berea OH.
Posts: 369
Liked 42 Times on 40 Posts
Likes Given: 191


The Chevpack looks to be the same as my Grizzly G0602 . It too came with a bunch of accesories . I've been extremely happy with mine over the past 3 years. The 2 chucks and faceplate are a definite plus.
purpleknif is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2016, 03:33 AM   #9
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Wellington NZ
Posts: 66
Liked 16 Times on 11 Posts
Likes Given: 58


Hi James

Welcome to the forum

Have you been to a club night anywhere? If not then I would like to invite you to the Hutt Valley Model Engineering Society club night tomorrow night at 7.30pm. Have a look at the website HVMES for directions

I have a Hafco AL-51 and hope to be upgrading to the AL 336 at some point. A number of the club members have the 336

What part of Wellington do you live in?

Cheers and hope to see you tomorrow

Bruce Edney
bruedney is offline  
imagineering Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2016, 04:09 AM   #10
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 488
Liked 145 Times on 120 Posts
Likes Given: 132


I would be wary of Optimum too. I have only had experience with one Optimum machine, a micro lathe the next size down from the C3 size and it was a woefully poorly made machine. Bed ways had about 10 thou drop off at the tail stock end, allegedly hardened ways as soft as butter, carriage and cross slide ways had minimal contact when blued and the lead screw was so far out of alignment at the tailstock end it was jamming up the movement of the carriage and wreaking havoc. It seemed to be a poor copy of a late Unimat 3 but the amount of metal in the castings etc was skun down to almost nothing. All very flexible and very poorly put together.

If their bigger lathes are at all like it, I would avoid them completely.

Hopper is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Learner in Houston says hello Naiveambition Introduction 1 03-13-2013 03:37 AM
Setting up a VFD? lazylathe General Engine Discussion 64 04-07-2012 02:31 AM
setting top slide firebird General Engine Discussion 4 12-11-2008 10:38 PM
Setting up my new shop Bogstandard The Break Room 246 09-23-2008 01:21 PM
Setting up shop. Tin Falcon Tips and Tricks 4 12-23-2007 05:18 PM

Newest Threads

- Top - Member List