Necessary/desired machine tools?

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jgalak

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Hey, got a really newbie question for you all, about what machine tools are useful for this hobby. Some background, first:

While I'm a life-long DIYer and consider myself fairly handy with technical and mechanical matters, I have very little machining experience - I learned to use a metal-cutting lathe in middle school shop class, but that was 30+ years ago. Since then, I've occasionally used a friend's lathe and small vertical mill, but we are talking less than a half-dozen times over those 30 years. So for all intents and purposes I'm a complete beginner. But I've always been fascinated by machining in general and the idea of building model steam engines - steam-era tech just really appeals to me. I have no specific plans for what engines I want to build other than wanting to eventually work my way up to some of the castings kits from companies like Stuart or PM that I've seen YTers build.

A few years ago, I purchased a South Bend 9A lathe, but almost immediately we had to move and the lathe went into storage, until a shop building could be built at the new house. I'm now in the process of designing the shop, and as part of that trying to figure out what machine tools I might acquire in the future, so that I can plan the space with them in mind.

I have a reasonably complete set of woodworking machines, some welding gear (oxy-fuel and a buzz box stick welder) plus the aforementioned South Bend. At minimum, I plan to add a vertical mill (ideally an old Bridgeport if I can find a good one locally) and a metal-cutting bandsaw (probably one of the typical 4x6 import saws that come in every color).

But beyond that, I have no clue what other machines I might need or want. I've watched a fair amount of YT videos, and the machining seems to all be on a lathe and mill. So is there anything else I should be planning space for? Hand tools, hand-held power tools, and small tabletop machines aren't an issue, I plan on all sorts of benches and storage. I just want to know if there are any other machines that have significant space requirements to allot space for.

Suggestions very welcome.
 

Gordon

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If you have a lathe, mill, and band saw you have the basics. You probably also want a drill press and possibly a vertical band saw. From there it is mostly accessories for those machines. That you will probably acquire as needed as you go along. You will spend a fair amount on tooling and fixtures etc.
 

jgalak

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If you have a lathe, mill, and band saw you have the basics. You probably also want a drill press and possibly a vertical band saw. From there it is mostly accessories for those machines. That you will probably acquire as needed as you go along. You will spend a fair amount on tooling and fixtures etc.

I have a drill press, failed to list it. I have a 14" vertical bandsaw but it's meant for wood, not sure it's really slow enough to do metal. At least not ferrous metal. I've cut aluminum on it before, and can probably get away with brass.

And yeah, the cost of tooling is kind of intimidating. It can clearly run many times the cost of the original machine...
 

Gordon

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You could possibly add a jack shaft or gear reducer to the band saw to slow it down. Perhaps even put a VFD on it. On the other hand some of the horizontal band saws can be placed in a vertical position to do some profile cutting. I have used wood cutting band saws in the past with reduction. Handy to have for profile cutting.
 

Jules

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Hi and welcome, there are always things that would be useful. A couple of bench or pedestal grinders, a belt and disc sander, a hydraulic press, a mop polishing machine, large granite surface table.
I bought a good MIG welder and find it much more useful than I imagined but that takes up quite a bit of floor space.
You can never have enough tools…….or space. 👍
 

minh-thanh

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jgalak !
But beyond that, I have no clue what other machines I might need or want. I've watched a fair amount of YT videos, and the machining seems to all be on a lathe and mill. So is there anything else I should be planning space for? Hand tools, hand-held power tools, and small tabletop machines aren't an issue, I plan on all sorts of benches and storage. I just want to know if there are any other machines that have significant space requirements to allot space for.

Suggestions very welcome.

Personal opinion : lathe and milling machine
And start building an engine, from simple to complex: at every step you go through you will know what you need and buy. - You can make many engines with just those 2 machines
About space: You just need to plan so that it is convenient to expand the space later
 

ShopShoe

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What jgalak said above.......

A lathe and a mill will get you started. A drill press is also useful and the band saw will definitely get used. After that, the type of work you do will help you decide what else you need. You will probably find that you will be buying a lot of tooling and measurement equipment as you go.

Accessories you may want with your machines: Digital Readouts on Mill and Lathe, Power feed(s) on Mill, Horizontal milling attachment, Rotary Table(s), Indexing head.

Brian Rupnow on this forum had a wood bandsaw with his own version of a jackshaft speed reducer, but he has since bought a very good metal saw and sold the conversion.

I would say you definitely need a surface plate, maybe two if you use one for sanding. I do larger repair work as well as small stuff and find a hydraulic press helpful: You can make one with your welder.

I have made things that needed precisely finished and squared surfaces, so I covet a surface grinder: Watch Keith Rucker, Shadon hkw, OutsideScrewball, and Oxtoolco on Youtube to find out how they use theirs.

And then, you can make a side-trip into casting and blacksmithing. Nowadays, CNC is a major area and 3-D printers are everywhere.

Whatever you do, post pictures of your shop and projects here so we can see.

--ShopShoe
 

awake

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Pretty much covered by everyone above, but I'll add an emphasis: given the tools that you have, I would say the next step is to start a project, even before you have a mill. You will quickly begin to understand what you really need, either in order to complete the project at all, or in order to complete it in a more straightforward fashion (after you came up with a working kludge to get the job done). There are some things for which it is useful to buy the complete kit (a set of drill bits, for example), but there are many things where you will only ever use one or two items from the set, while the rest languish in a drawer. And here's the kicker: which items fall into which category will vary from one machinist to the next, depending on his or her preferred projects and approach.
 

jgalak

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Thanks everyone, that was very helpful.

At this point I'm just designing the layout of the shop, to make sure I can fit everything I want into the space I can have (local zoning rules and building codes are the upper limit here). At the moment, there should be plenty of space for everything I already have and am planning on getting, with some, but not tons, of space for additional machines should I need/want them down the line. So it sounds like I'm ok on that front.

Unfortunately, between the need for permits and the fact that every contractor in my area is backed up, it's probably at least a year or two before the shop is built and I can get my equipment out of storage. So this is just very early planning.
 

jgalak

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On the slowing down the wood cutting bandsaw thing: some sort of gear reduction mechanism can certainly be added. It may even be possible to find such an item, as I think Delta made an almost identical version of that saw with a gear reducer for metal work.

But I'm curious about the suggestion above of doing it by using variable speeds. I can certainly replace the motor with a DC motor and speed control, or a 3ph motor with a VFD controller. But if I slow them down electronically like that, would it not lose torque? I imagine torque is even more important on a bandsaw for cutting metal than cutting wood, though I could be wrong. I'm pretty sure a DC motor loses torque at lower speeds, not sure if that's true of a 3ph on a VFD, as well....
 

Vietti

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For a band saw I'd keep an eye out for a large used treadmill motor, sometimes they can be found curbside or real cheap used.

Use the controller or better yet buy a controller and you will have variable speed and usable torque. I'm running a few in my shop but the most used and nicest is on a drill press.

For a surface plate go to a glass shop and get the thickest plate glass they have and get it cut to a usable size. Mine is 1 foot square but bigger is better, I've never thought I needed anything better, of course my work may reflect it.

John
 
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On Machinetools.... . I worked my whole live in machineshops all over the Western World and upon retirement I find that actually manufacturing something yourself is quite different from managing it or talking about it. I limit myself to the technology from about the 1960's. So a lathe, a mill and a drill. And a bandsaw because it is faster and much more precise than sawing by hand. Being able to use the bandsaw vertical with a narrow blade vastly expands its usefulness. Upon making small stuff you are limited by the spindle speeds of the machinetools available to the amateur, say 2000 revs, sometimes 4000 revs. So I got a TAIG lathe which I drive with a 40 Volt DC motor, revs controlled between 30 and 6.000 revs. With the TAIG pulley set-up 3:1:3 this gives a very useful speed range from 10 to 18.000 revs - you can finally drill a decent 0,5 mm hole in a 1 mm shaft, and then slowly controlled tap it! For semi-finishing I use very simple horizontal and vertical band/disc sanders. And as soon as the cutting tooling becomes more complex you start considering a toolgrinder. The next step is controlled heat treatment. For HSS this means an oven that goes up to 1200 -1300 degrees Celsius, a second oven that goes up to 500 - 600 degrees Celsius for the second step and for the third step a simple small oven up to 200 degrees Celsius if you want to avoid discussion over the use of the oven in the kitchen.
My machineshop is at the back of the big shed in the garden. Problem is rust: in the morning the metal mass of the machinetools stays longer cold then the surrounding air which results in surface rust everywhere. I successfully fight this with an electric dehumidifier and with floor heating. The discussion why floor heating in the machineshop was necessary, but too expensive for the master-bathroom, was also heated.
 

raveney

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Ditto above, several steam and hot air engines can be produced without a mill provided you have a quality set of files, vice and surface plate. A rotary table and vertical mill greatly improves the accuracy and precision allowing IC engines. I diverged rather quickly into sand casting and lost foam casting and find that very rewarding. A small propane forge/kiln can be made for under $500 with tooling.
With DRO on the mill one may progress to multi cylinder IC. (repeatability)
Only thing I suggest that wasn't mentioned is to set a monthly budget so it doesn't upset the boss. It can quickly get out of hand even if you are economically blessed. We use $200 a month and have a wish list for larger purchases annually. Our kids love the idea for birthdays and Christmas because they know I'll appreciate them.
 

Gordon

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I find it very interesting as to what others think is necessary. I have been playing around with this hobby stuff for about 20 years now and find that some folks find things necessary that I never even thought about. I do not have a surface plate but use a piece of Corian. I do not have a disk sander but have a home made belt sander which gets used multiple times a day. I find that I use some things like collet blocks that others never seem to use. Part of the satisfaction in this hobby is making your own tooling and holding fixtures. Sometimes I look at something which I have built or repaired and think that was dumb. I just spent all day making something which I could have purchased for $25 but as the commercial says "priceless". As to the original question. Purchase the basic equipment and get started. Things will soon grow to fit whatever space is available.
 

minh-thanh

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I also usually do some things myself.
Buy or do it yourself, do it yourself and buy, how many tools and machines to buy : This depends on many conditions: money, ability, preferences .., sometimes preferences to buy tools... that they know definitely rarely used for their hobby, and it's very normal .
 

Gordon

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One rule is that no matter how much space you have you will exceed it. If you have 500 sq ft you will obtain 600 sq ft of stuff. If you have 1000 sq ft you will you will obtain 1200 sq ft of stuff.
 

jgalak

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One rule is that no matter how much space you have you will exceed it. If you have 500 sq ft you will obtain 600 sq ft of stuff. If you have 1000 sq ft you will you will obtain 1200 sq ft of stuff.

That's 100% true for every hobby ever.
 

b.k.cayer

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Hi and welcome, there are always things that would be useful. A couple of bench or pedestal grinders, a belt and disc sander, a hydraulic press, a mop polishing machine, large granite surface table.
I bought a good MIG welder and find it much more useful than I imagined but that takes up quite a bit of floor space.
You can never have enough tools…….or space. 👍
Never enough shoes for the girls or tools for the boys. That’s the rule.
Brian
 

minh-thanh

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One rule is that no matter how much space you have you will exceed it. If you have 500 sq ft you will obtain 600 sq ft of stuff. If you have 1000 sq ft you will you will obtain 1200 sq ft of stuff.

If you have a small fixed space : you have to accept it , and sometimes it makes it inconvenient to buy and install machinery , tools , tables and chairs , shelves .. and inconvenient to travel in future
If the space is " open " : plan for convenience for future expansion


Never enough shoes for the girls or tools for the boys. That’s the rule.
Brian
That rule is not for me .
 
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