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Just bought a Craftsman 109-21270 metal lathe.  Only came with 3-jaw chuck and a face plate, plus a couple cutters.  Any advice on what I need to check, adjust, etc?  (Tim Preusch)

    I'm not familiar with the lathe you bought but I did buy a Grizzly 9X19 a couple of years ago and my experience has been that "most" things that are adjustable "need" to be adjusted.  Suggest you "oil-up" your dial indicator and get ready to use it. I think all of Grizzly's metal tools are made in the far east and the documentation that comes with it is sorely lacking. I found my head stock poorly aligned. I relocated the 3" chuck on the face plate to minimize the rotational error and then realigned the head stock and tail stock by turning a piece of brass between centers. Also check "all" of the lubrication points for "accessibility" and make sure none are "plugged-up". One point in my gear box is not accessible without some disassembly and one will not accept oil from the oil can they provided. The probability is that the machine is setup for metric gearing and thread cutting and your owners manual will probably fail to mention this where it provides thread cutting instructions. You might want to just try cutting a 1/4x20 thread to check it out. Other that these things it is a pretty good machine.  (Don Greife)

      The local Harbor Freight store has a small metal lathe for $350 bucks.  My question is this; has anyone had any experience with these lathes and are they worth the money. What I am worried about is buying something that requires endless adjustments tinkering to get it to work right. Is their product quality reliable.  (Mark Dyba)

        I would buy the Homier for 299.99 over the Harbor Freight. The Homier is a 7X12, the 2" makes a big difference. I think the lathe is built with a little closer tolerance and is really worth the money. I have a 9X20 but use the 7X12 most of the time. The 7X12 has more features than my 9X20.  (Tony Spezio)

          If you have an extra $300 in you pocket (I don't :-() there is now an 8x14 mini lathe.  Lathemaster.com carries it.  Maybe someone on the list has one or has an educated opinion about it.  (Frank Stetzer)

            That does look like a very well made machine. The only thing that I have found to be  important  that  the Lathemaster.com doesn't have is electronic variable speed. For me, to be able to start the lathe at a slow speed and ramp up the speed slowly to check to see if everything is centered and not wobbling is important. Especially when spinning rod sections - I haven't done the "rod propeller" yet (Knock on wood). I also found the instantly adjusting variable speed to be useful when I start getting chatter from a cutting tool. Slow it down or speed it up with the dial and the chatter goes away. I have the Homier 7X12.

            P.S.  The aluminum ferrules are working out very well for me. Not a single problem yet.  (Darryl Hayashida)

              These lathes have such small motors (eclipsed in HP by routers today)...maybe you could use one of the MLCS (MCLS?) electronic speed controls for routers.  They are pretty inexpensive.  (George Bourke)

        I have the Harbor Freight mini lathe. Out of the box it only needed cleaning  and a slight adjustment to the tailstock. It is a great lathe. Over the years they have many several improvements over those of a few years back. I make ferrules and reel seat hardware with no problem. I cut stainless and monel on it routinely. There is an abundance of information online on how to use the lathe.  Little Machine Shop sells every single component and accessory for the lathe as well as DVD and a free manual. You simply need to work up your experience on the lathe and dont try to run before you walk.  It has plenty of power to do all rodmaking lathe needs. It will cut threads easily and also has an automatic feed to make super smooth cuts.  You can pay a lot more for a Sherline, which is a great machine, but it does not have the weight, power, to cut threads or deep boring easily.

        Buy it while it is on sale.  (Adam Vigil)

        I'll echo what many others have said.  I've had a Harbor Freight 7X10 for several years and more recently acquired a Homier 7X12.  Either one is adequate for rodmakers, though the bed on the Harbor Freight is a little short for turning grips.  The way I deal with this is to build up the butt end of the blank with masking tape, and run the Morse taper of the tailstock up over the tape until the freeplay in the rod butt is negligible.  The bed on the 7X12 is actually about 3.75" longer than that of the 7X10, so the difference is larger than you would expect from the nominal size of the lathes.

        Both lathes use change gears for cutting threads, which is a real hassle if you want to do a lot of that.  Both are set up for cutting English threads not metric threads, i.e., the charts for gear selection and indicator settings are for cutting TPI, not metric threads.  More than 95% of the parts (all of the mechanical parts except the the bed and the lead screw) appear to be interchangeable.

        The main differences (other than price, color, and bed length) are in the controls.  Both have a variable speed control with high and low ranges.  The Harbor Freight lathe has a minimum speed of 200 rpm, while the Homier goes down to 0. That's nice.  The Homier also has a nifty, big, red, emergency shutoff button on top of the control box that will shut off the lather if you hit it.  Somehow that makes me feel safer.  Neither one required much setup other than cleaning off the cosmolene, lubricating it, and adjusting the gibs.  Both had less that 0.001" runout right out of the box, though I just feel like the Homier is a little tighter in it's tolerances.  For example, it has a little less backlash in the cross feed, though that could be because I had some experience, and the benefit of downloaded instructions, when I set it up.

        Both have the advantage of a wide range of inexpensive parts and accessories readily available online, and sufficient power and accuracy to perform any operation that a rodmaker is likely to do, with the possible exception of turning your own fly reel.  (Robert Kope)

        For What It's Worth, I bought a (lathe) cutoff tool set from Harbor Freight.  Turns out it is made in Pakistan and from the softest steel on this planet.  Needless to say, it is totally useless and I've never ordered from them again.  (Their catalogs take the express route to my circular file.)  (George Bourke)

        I think the machine from Harbor Freight is painted "gray" and the machine from Grizzly is painted "Green". In either event you might want to check both machines for the ability to cut standard threads.  (Don Greife)

        I can only tell you what I have heard doing some investigating of my own. I talked to an old German machinist and he told me its a good buy if you are already an accomplished machinist. Of course I asked why. He said that the lathes have to be re calibrated and adjusted. He told me the Asians use inferior metals and they also use the metric system. Its been his experience that these lathes are initially set up using metric measurement. Also he said that the instructions that come with these lathes are useless. They are very vague.

        He told me to look for a used lathe that an experienced machinist used or pay a machinist to set up the cheap ones.  Or a new one built in the USA. Of course that's just one mans opinion.

        I would love to find out from our rodmakers who use lathes if they agree with this.  (Bill Tagye)

          I've had a Homier Speedway lathe for a couple of years now, and really like it. It didn't require a whole lot of tweaking out of the box, mainly adjusting the gibs and cleaning things up.  I got lucky maybe, and got a pretty decent three jaw chuck with it, with very little run out.  I've made a few tweaks to it, but nothing overboard.  The Little Machine Shop has an online instruction book that is very good, and covers most of the Asian mini lathes operations.  Little Machine Shop also carries the tooling and replacement parts for most all the mini lathes.  I wouldn't say that all the Asian lathes use inferior metals, mine came with hardened ways and pretty good castings.  You can get English measurements in some of the lathes, and for those that don't come with it, you can get the conversion kits to make them that way.  I think they are a pretty good bargain, and so far, mine has worked quite nicely.  I'm not an accomplished machinist,  and it didn't take me very long to get mine up to snuff.  No, it's not on the quality of modern industrial CNC machinery, but then again, I paid less than $500 for my lathe.  I'm quite happy with it.  (Mark Wendt)

            Speaking of the import lathes, Micro-Mark is selling a tool post grinder now. I have to believe it is generic enough to fit most of the imports. They also sell metric/inch conversion kits and various other items for the mini-lathes. Many of their manuals are available on-line as well.  (Larry Blan)

            Can't agree more with Mark.

            My Homier cost 299.99 plus 34.00 shipping. It is a very well made lathe. It only took a Band Aid paper shim to bring the chuck to just about perfect alignment.  Tail stock was right on. I use the 7X12 Homier more than I use my 9X20 Enco lathe. It also has more features.  (Tony Spezio)

          I don't believe that there are any that are built in the US any more.  Before South Bend went bankrupt they were having the parts produced in Asia and still charging around $20,000 for a small lathe (similar to my 9" South Bend).  If the workmanship is worth it to you, you may still be able to get an Austrian-made Emco Maier here and there or a German-made Prazi.  If Canadian-made is OK, there is Standard Modern which is somewhat modeled after the South Bend lathes (as is the British-made Boxford lathe).  In general with Asian-made machinery, Taiwanese-made stuff is usually quite good and Japanese-made is topnotch.  Chinese-made stuff tends to highly depend on what the importer requested, the Chinese make some topnotch equipment and some junk and sometimes they come from the same factory and appear to be the same but use different grades of materials and tolerances.  (George Bourke)

          I agree with your assessment.  I have a Homier 7x12 Asian made lathe... its a great machine for the money but there is a learning curve involved in setting it up and calibrating it, as you mention.  I had no prior machining experience before I bought my lathe, but there is a lot of information in cyberspace that will get you up to speed in no time.  I still can't believe what this little machine does for $300 that a some $1,500 machines cant do.  Some day I would like to get an old South Bend/Atlas, etc., 7x20, but my little lathe is running just fine for the time being, and is accurate enough to turn ferrules, make reel seats, turn ferrule stations, cork grips, etc.  (Kyle Druey)

      That's funny - I've got the same lathe and it came spot on. I never had to make a single adjustment. I do agree on the thread cutting - they didn't give you much to go on.  (Jim Freeman)

    OK I was born in South Bend and still live close enough in Michigan that I can drive there in a short time.  Here is a place that I know that carries used lathes and they usually have some South Bend Lathes in stock for reasonable prices.  Also if you go to The South Bend Tribune want ads you will probably find a lathe or two in there under the tools section.  I found my lathe, a South Bend 9" with 3 foot bed for $300.00 with the table to put it on.  It came out of the Studebaker machine shop and is still in great shape.  Give these guys a call and see what they have.  Heck even if you have to drive a few hundred miles to grab onto a nice South Bend lathe it will be worth the money.  I even know of some machine shops in South Bend that have old ones sitting off in back rooms since they switched to CNC stuff.  Well, here is the name and # of the place.  Swartz Machinery Company, Inc. 574-289-7781  (Bret Reiter)

    I would like to add what I have determined about lathes.  I started with a 10 x 36" South Bend that was my fathers.  After being transferred several times and hauling it all over the country I decided to give it to a relative.   BIG MISTAKE.   Used a 3" Ecmo-Meier for my model ship building but was not ever able to make a ferrule on it that was acceptable to me.  Now I only use the vertical mill and a dividing head to slot the tabs with a .008 metal  cutting saw.  Tried a 5" Emco, that was made in Austria. Same results. One of the bad things on a miniature lathe is not having enough travel on the end stock, and repositioning the end stock to drill or ream deeper is like having no accuracy at all.  I was given a 6" Atlas.  No accuracy there.  It had a very special bronze bushing on the spindle that was well worn.  No spindle bearings. I could have bought a new bushing from Blue Ridge Mach. but it was very expensive and I figured that if I did that it would be like owning a brand new second hand Ferrari with 200k miles on it.  And it wasn't meant for precision work any way. I put the 7" lathes out of mind being too small for what I wanted to do.  When I started looking at 9" lathes I went to the Yahoo 9 x 20 lathe site where there are professional machinists and some of the people that write the articles in the machining magazines. offering help and advise. It seems there is a general consensus that the Chinese lathes are like buying a kit. There are several manufacturers on mainland China.  None are any longer made in Taiwan. I believe it was George Bourke that said that the accuracy and specs. are set by the importer/broker and just because the lathe is green, red or blue and it looks the same it may not necessarily be identical.

    I chose to spend the $1200 and buy the Jet.  Many differences from the Grizzly, Enco or Harbor Freight, even though many of the parts are interchangeable.  First thing that happened was a grinding sound in the bearings. The inside of the head casting was full of dirt and core sand. I think they clean the castings with a garden hose.   After a month the spindle started to wobble.

    The spanner nut on the back of the spindle was loose and I lost the bearing lash. The set screws and cap screws on the Chinese machines are all low carbon steel.  Replaced all the screws with heat treated alloy screws from my local hardware store.  Replaced the gib screws with 10 x 32 screws and added two screws so there are now 5 gib screws. The compound was held down by only two bolts to the table.  Tool holder rocked back and forth.  Made a hold down plate precision ground  stock with four hold down bolts and that helped considerably.  Only use the compound now for cutting the taper in the ferrules. Went to a heavy quick change tool holder and that really helped. It was only this past year that I found out that the Chinese are using stock auto bearings on the spindles.  Replaced those with Timkin P-6 precision bearings and now have what I consider real precision.  Bought new ground 1/2", 3/4" and 1" mandrels and only use those to check run out with a horizontal gauge capable of .0001.

    I use 7/8" bar stock for reel seat hardware so I scrapped the 4" chuck with only a 3/4" thru hole.  Replaced it with a 5" Bison chuck with a 1 1/4" thru hole.  Not good trying to machine apiece off the face of a chuck. In order to minimize vibration from the motor I isolated the motor mount with a piece of 3/16" soft rubber sheet.  Many people have converted the drive belt with lug belts but the purpose of the small 5 mm belt is to minimize vibration.

    In any case, the cost of the lathe is only the beginning.  The tooling and accessories will cost a lot more than the cost of the lathe.  Added a collet holder and made my own draw bar.  Slowest speed is 130 rpm but I don't even use power when I am threading.  Made a hand crank for the end of the spindle and cut my threads by hand.  Inletting butt caps for ivory or $5 gold pieces required an adjustable precision boring head.  It's been fun bringing the lathe up to what I wanted and only now feel that I have the accuracy to lap my female ferrules.

    I really recommend the Yahoo lathe sites for anybody that might have questions.  (Jerry Young)


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