retiring to machinist

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mrbugbums

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thank you for having me. I am retiring soon from being an RN. I tried the college machinist course last semester but 3 months in COVID ruined the program. I'm taking the pension package to buy a home and build a workshop. my very old father in law loves trains and mini engines. I'm researching equipment and play to buy a mill and lathe and make a lot of things. in ottawa canada here. ontario. I'm guessing anything less than the huge mills cannot mill steel? Do you see a good purpose of having both a big and small mill and lathe? I can easily buy both. they sell new small combo mill/lathes for around $3500 canadian. Do you guys confirm it would be worth my money to get both? thanks again for any advice and further questions.
 

Brian Rupnow

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Don't buy a combo mill. If you do, you will hate yourself after six months with it. Buy a separate mill and lathe. The larger table-top or bench mills similar to my CX601 from Busy Bee tools is quite adequate for larger "hobby machining". If you go for a larger knee type milling machine, you may find a problem with getting a circuit to run it. I also have a Busy Bee lathe CX701 lathe with a 12" swing and a listed 28" working length. It has a 1.5" bore thru the spindle, and that bore thru the spindle can be a real blessing for some types of work.
 

mrbugbums

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Don't buy a combo mill. If you do, you will hate yourself after six months with it. Buy a separate mill and ....

I"m just starting out and I don't know anything really....
oh wow.. thank you so much for replying.

So Mr. Rupnow, so far I'm convinced I know that I will need a unit that is capable of machining hard steel and big pieces....

Is there any reason at all to also have a smaller unit? is it very beneficial to have both?
since they are so cheap should I buy a smaller mill to start on and then get my bigger one after we move and build this summer?

my son is an electrical apprentice if you mean circuit... and I plan to build my own workshop with my bff who is a carpenter....pour a concrete floor. and wire up 3 phase also....
thank you again...
i'll check out those units.... which ones do you recommend?
i''ll watch kikjiji etc. but besides used..... is busybee the best option for Ottawa Canada?
 

mrbugbums

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what is the 601 not capable of? I want to be able to build things like this belt grinder... best video I've ever seen....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaIVzdJ2V5w

can the 601 cut steel? what are its limitations? What is important in a lathe when deciding? anything smaller than the 701 would limit me significantly I am guessing.
Money is not the determining factor. I realize that sounds a bit crazy... but whatever...I'm researching and trying to figure out if there is a place for smaller units and if so....just how small is acceptable?
 

werowance

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i have a combo mill lathe. wish i had seperate. such a pain to remove tool post and mount mill vise and square it up. the head also often gets loose and swings around and ruins the part when milling. travel back and forth and up and down is an issue. that said i couldnt afford both seperate and really still dont have the room (i would make the room if i had it to do over).

so if you can afford seperate you will be happier when you can leave one part on the mill and swith back to the lathe while waiting on a tool bit or something. lets say part is in the lathe, ready to ream and low and behold you dont have the reamer and have to order it. then switch over to what ever part you need to be milling on in the mean time and leave the other in the lathe until your reamer arrives so you dont have to find center again or something. and then again reducing the amount of squaring up that mill vice because you wont have to be removing it constanly.
 

mrbugbums

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i have a combo mill lathe. wish i had seperate. such a pain to remove tool post and mount mill vise and square it up. the head also often gets loose and swings around and ruins the part when milling. travel back and forth and up and down is an issue. that said i couldnt afford both seperate and really still dont have the room (i would make the room if i had it to do over).

so if you can afford seperate you will be happier when you can leave one part on the mill and swith back to the lathe while waiting on a tool bit or something. lets say part is in the lathe, ready to ream and low and behold you dont have the reamer and have to order it. then switch over to what ever part you need to be milling on in the mean time and leave the other in the lathe until your reamer arrives so you dont have to find center again or something. and then again reducing the amount of squaring up that mill vice because you wont have to be removing it constanly.
Thank you. I had no idea. I’m definitely not buying the combo
 

SmithDoor

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thank you for having me. I am retiring soon from being an RN. I tried the college machinist course last semester but 3 months in COVID ruined the program. I'm taking the pension package to buy a home and build a workshop. my very old father in law loves trains and mini engines. I'm researching equipment and play to buy a mill and lathe and make a lot of things. in ottawa canada here. ontario. I'm guessing anything less than the huge mills cannot mill steel? Do you see a good purpose of having both a big and small mill and lathe? I can easily buy both. they sell new small combo mill/lathes for around $3500 canadian. Do you guys confirm it would be worth my money to get both? thanks again for any advice and further questions.
It comes down to what doing, the space you have and your budget.
Big will cost more for the tooling too.

Dave
 

goldstar31

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I plan to build a workshop and use pension payout money because I’ve a short life expectancy so I’ve got around 20k to work with
I'm over 90 and have just changed my best lathe for a better one- and would NOT recommend a newcomer to follow that.
For all sorts of reasons, I would endorse getting 'something similar' to the suggestion from Brian Rupnow. I would buy a 'complete' lathe( which it isn't) but it will come with a self centring chuck to hold round materials and an independent chuck which will hold almost anything and if not, it will go on a faceplate supplied. If it comes with a pair of steadies, even better!
Having a built in gear box is not the Perfect way but great for a builder.

Those items will suffice as a unit and will sell as a unit eventually. Inevitably all sorts of goodies are either essential or certainly most desirable. Adding a drill chuck a couple of centres and insert carbide tools( which I HATE) will see you enjoying the wheels turning which where we all came in.
To make things easier, I would suggest a supply of 'Free cutting and leaded' mild steel. Like all things it will not be 100% and will rust if care is not taken and it will not weld easily but-- and this is important, it will cit like butter with a pleasing finish-- to size. Which, if I may repeat, is where you came in.
So I wish you well and hope that you will enjoy machining the exprience
Norman
 

almega

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Most of the equipment you will find that is of the hobby machinist type that most of us have here is more than adequate for working with steel as you desire to do. It is merely a matter of selecting the proper tooling and working with feeds and speeds that are commensurate with the material being worked. I agree with the others that you should steer clear of the combo machines unless space is such a limiting factor that you have no choice. I have a Grizzly G0759 mill and an older Logan 400 lathe in very good condition. They work great for my needs and I mostly work with hot rolled and cold finished steels, with occasional aluminum, brass and plastics. I am looking for a larger lathe because I would like a larger through spindle bore, but otherwise, I am happy with these and they are capable way beyond my skill level at this time, but I am learning. Also, this forum is a wonderful source of knowledge so you don't have to make all of the mistakes yourself. Welcome aboard.
 

GrahamJTaylor49

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Always buy separate lathe and mill and try to look at second hand machine tools. I purchased a used Colchester Bantam 2000 lathe from one of my customers who was moving his manufacturing facility to China. I serviced all the companies air compressors and when I said that I was looking for a replacement lathe for my 10" Harrison he said that all the companies tooling was being disposed of. He showed me the Bantam and told me to put in a bid for it. The machine not only had the normal tail stock but also came with a capstan tail stock, face plate, three jaw and three jaw soft jaw, and two 4 jaw chucks, a Dickson quick change tool post with 8 tool holders and a complete set of change gears. The lathe was sitting next to a couple of Colchester 2000 long bed lathes with DRO's and all the rest of the odds and sods. Not thinking, I put a bid in of £650 for the Bantam. About 2 weeks later I got a call to tell me that I had got the lathes. I said what lathes and was told that I had got all 3 lathes. Now although I had an industrial unit for my business, I had no room for all these machines. I got in touch with a friend and told him the story and told him what I had paid for the machines. He made me an offer for the 2 Colchester 2000 lathes of £650, so the Bantam cost me nothing. The moral of the story is stick your nose into machine shops around the area that you live and just ask if they have anything that they want rid of. You might be surprised. Look for good quality machines from either the U.S., Canada or GB, that way you won't be disappointed. China seems to be trying to take over the world and I'm not impressed with their quality. In the mean time enjoy your retirement and keep making the models.
 

CFLBob

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If I may add a small point about the ability to machine steel, I'm not aware of any hobby level machine that can't do that, down to the micro mills and lathes.

I have a Sherline mill and two of their lathes. I move between my 1HP mill and the 1/10 HP Sherline based on the size of the part. Small, intricate parts are just right for the micro mill.

Steel is routine. Both cheap, common steels and stainless. I've even milled titanium on it (pretty sure it was 6al-4v). As almega said, "speeds and feeds" - and the proper cutting tools - are the key.

The Taig micro machines do the same.

I'm 100% with the idea of getting a mill and a lathe, not a combo. The micro tools vs. something bigger come down to how much room you have, as well as the adage that "a horse can do the work of a pony, but a pony can't do the work of a horse." I got the smaller tools more than 15 years ago before committing to putting together a bigger shop.
 
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Don’t forget to budget for “accessories “.

I retired a year ago, you’ll love it. I spend my summers in the garage working on cars and reserve the cold weather for basement tinkering. I spend a fair amount of time 3D drafting then turning them into things... Have you considered CNC and 3D printing? If I had the money, I would own a Small CNC machine. Turning wheels is very rewarding and develops artesian skills, but cutting a steel, 40 tooth gear can get tedious and wears on my wrists and trigger finger. I would also buy a good, variable speed, metal saw.
I rebuilt my dad’s 1940s, 10” Atlas lathe, it’s rough, but with a new chuck it now runs true. I added a Grizzley G0704 mill. I cut steel, but I just use light cuts and feeds below the chatter point. Both machines serve me well.

Grab a machinist tool catalogue and start circling tools then add up the prices.
Dividing head / 3 and 4 jaw chucks
End Mills, 2,3,4 flute / Fly cutters / Collet set /Gear cutters
Tap and die, std, metric and mini sizes
Machinest drill index, HSS, Cobalt, Titanium / Starter bits, center drills
Steel rulers/ Digital calipers / Micrometers /edge and center finder / dial gauge
Boring bars, indexable turning tools / carbide, HSS, cobalt lathe tools
Machinest vices / quick change tool post holders

Many of these items I purchased as I discovered I “needed” them, and as my allowance dictated. But, it’s always nice to have a tool when you need it.

I added a DRO to my mill pretty cheap, but nice ones can get expensive.

I love this site and learn a lot from these guys. I read the new posts daily. Try looking at their shops and spotting what they hang on the walls. Good luck.

Here are a few things I managed with my humble machines...
7AC8335F-ECAB-494D-836F-6881052FD917.jpeg
 

Courierdog

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mrbugbums:
As Brian has suggested, the BusyBee Tools CX701 Lathe is an excellent lathe and you can read about Brians set up here and his exploits setting it up. A very well written Piece. Either the CX601 or CX611 mill will suit your needs. My only addition to your list is as follows.
Go for a visit to your local Busy Bee Tool outlet, when you can. For support you want to get to know the people who will be there when you need it. Some of the BBT outlets have good people others do not, like most places these days. Brian who has spent a lot of time getting to know the BBT products know their weaknesses and their strengths.
For questions regarding what and where to get your toys Brian is an excellent resource.
Always be sure to obtain all the accessories with each machine. The money spent up front on the complete package pays dividends as you be gone to work with the machine. Depending on your shop set up the work bench can be the Recommended Stand also from Busy Bee Tools or your own Bench this is a personal choice. The Stand as recommended by BBT will get you started with the least fuss in your shop.
You will also need a Bench Grinder and a Metal Saw all of which can be obtained at BBT.
My personal favourite Tool happens to be the Australian Made Diamond Tool Holder by Eccentric Engineering. I use this tool for 90% of my lathe work and I have a life time supply of HSS and Crobalt tool steel for these simple and effective tools.
Brian live west of you near Barrie. Where about in the Ottawa area do you live. Beautiful area to live.
Thanks for Listening
DaveC
 

Courierdog

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The Old Adage still holds true.
Buy each Tool/Machine as the need arrises.
Consider each machine or Tool like that of purchasing a Socket Set.
Do you buy just a Socket handle or a single socket. No You usually purchase a Simple Set which meets the immediate need and expand it as required for other tasks.
Just filling a home workshop with tools or machines is not the best approach.
Doing your own research. This will involve you in the process.
I suggest the following:
Define what it is you want to do.
Define your current machinist status and knowledge of the machining process.
Listen to those you respect.
During the Days of COVID-19 much of the "Normal" decision making is not as it was.
Much of your visiting a local provider may end up as a Virtual Visit.
If the store Like Busy Bee Tools is open then use your discretion and Social Distancing and safe COVID-19 PPE and by all means do not risk yourself or others.
Stay Safe
Stay Well
Obtain the Vaccine when it becomes available
 

awake

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I will echo and affirm the other votes in favor of separate machines. With regard to your specific question about whether you would want to have both large and small machines, here is my experience, FWIW:

Background: My very first machine tool was a heavily used 12.5 x 30 Cincinnati TrayTop lathe, just under 1 ton in weight. This is considerably larger than the typical hobbyist lathe, but I got a great deal on it. I added a pretty sad bench-top mill-drill - very much at the low end of hobby machines, but I cut a lot of steel with it for many years. About 10 years ago, I got a killer deal on a 7 x 14 mini-lathe, and about 4 years ago, a Bridgeport knee mill (also close to 1 ton in weight).

What I use most: The TrayTop and the Bridgeport are my go-to machines for almost everything I do, including model engines. In industrial terms, both of these are relatively light-weight machines ... but for hobbyist use, they are way heavier than the more common bench-top machines. That weight translates into rigidity and ability to take heavier cuts. Powered axes and a DRO on the mill further greatly add to the usability. BUT, I also use the 7 x 14 benchtop lathe regularly. It is not nearly as easy to use, and takes relatively tiny cuts, but it is invaluable for 1) very small parts, and 2) times when I need a second-op lathe. (The TrayTop's top speed is 1200 rpm, and its chucks don't hold anything smaller than around 3/16" in diameter; the 7 x 14 goes up to 2000 or more, and will hold even very tiny diameters.)

What I don't use: I kept the bench-top mill-drill, thinking that I would continue to use it regularly, maybe especially for precision drilling or as a second-op machine to avoid breaking down a setup on the Bridgeport. Yeah ... no. The only use it has had since I got the BP is as a shelf on which things get stashed. It is no less capable than it was the day I acquired the BP, but the BP is SO much more capable, and SO much easier to use, and in fact is BETTER for small parts than the mill-drill.

It could well be, if the mill-drill had been a better machine to start with, that I would continue using it. But this particular mill drill is a round column (so you lose location if you have to raise the head), and it uses 6tpi leadscrews, which are an utter pain when limited to the the dials. Maybe if it at least had a DRO I would still be using it? It also has an MT2 spindle; maybe if it used R8 like the BP I would be more likely to use it? (R8 tooling is plentiful and relatively inexpensive; MT2, not so much.)

Whether my experience will be helpful, or whether it will translate to anyone else's context, I don't know ...
 

awake

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Big will cost more for the tooling too.
Hmm ... yes and no. If you use a bench-top mill with an R8 spindle, the tool holders will cost the same as it would for a Bridgeport or many other R8 machines. If you get a mill that has a 30, 40, or 50 spindle, then you are looking at more expensive tool holders. Either way, though, a 1/2" endmill costs the same whether it is in an R8, CAT50, or MT2 tool holder. Of course, with a bigger machine, you will likely want and need a bigger vise, bigger rotary table, etc., which WILL cost more money ... but also will be FAR more capable.

On the lathes, maybe the BX-sized tool holders cost more than the AX size; the BX size will allow you to use larger, heavier tools, but can also use the smaller and lighter (and cheaper) tools that you would use on the AX.
 

Tim Wescott

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I have a Smithy combo machine, and mostly only use it as a lathe. When I get enough mad money, I'll be buying a milling machine.

Everything I've seen and heard tells me that a good, old (like 80 years old) used professional tool is better than a brand new "hobby" tool -- but being able to tell the good from the bad isn't something a beginner can do (I consider myself a middling hobby machinist, and if I bought a used professional milling machine I'd be rolling the dice on it actually being good).

In my experience you can cut steel just fine on the hobby machines -- you just have to take really light cuts. If you watch machining porn on YouTube you'll see people with pro tools taking 1/8" cuts in harder-than-mild steel -- you can't do that on a hobby machine. But you can make the same part with lots of .01" cuts; it just takes more time.
 

oldengineguy

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Get a separate mill and lathe. Get the biggest new/ used knee mill you can afford /fit in your space. Best $5500 I ever spent was for a new Busy Bee CX 603 Knee mill. I incorrectly identified this mill as a 3500 in a previous post on this site. Unless you can get a good STRAIGHT used 10 inch lathe spend the money and get the Busy Bee 701 like Brian has. Most of your time and money will be spent on tooling and work holding devices. Rotary tables , vices ,chucks ,and on and on. Buy the best you can afford you will then only buy once, Welcome to the hobby and this forum Enjoy! Colin
 

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