Finding Metalworking Equipment
Every home metalcrafter dreams of having a "real" metal lathe. So what is a "not real" metal lathe? Well, for many years mine was a drill press and a file. Before that it was a hand drill clamped in a vise - and, of course, a file. I made more than a few carburetor parts this way. Frustrating, but it builds hand-eye coordination (and wears out drills).
Before you go out and spend money on a lathe or mill, do some research. The first thing you should keep in mind is that machinists are fiercly loyal to their brands. You won't hear many good things about import machines because most older machinists don't work with them. What follows are FAQ's that I get.
Question: Aren't American lathes better than imports?
Don't assume that American made means "hardened" either. Clausing made a popular lathe with a variable speed drive that was notorious for stripping its change gears. It seems Clausing used mild steel gears in the quick change gearbox. And try buying replacements.
Question: "What about Enco lathes? I've heard they are junk."
Enco is the best lathe bargain on the market today. Unfortunately, you have to deal with Enco. These folks have the worst service in the industry. My company tracks vendors by price, errors and rate of backorder. Nobody beats Enco's price. Their error rate is about 40%. The backorder rate has improved and is now about 35%, still not good.
I bought a Grizzly instead of an Enco because I could not get through Enco's phone system. This has improved and I would go with the Enco if I had to do it again. Both have good lathes, but Enco's price is slightly better and they have a showroom near me.
Question: What size should I buy?
Question: Where should I get my tooling?
Question: What kind of milling machine should I buy?
If you can't afford a new Enco, look around for a used Gorton, Famco, or other non-Bridgeport. A badly used Bridgeport goes for $2000. You can get a Gorton for about $900 and it will probably be in better shape because the machinists in the shop it came from didn't like to use it. I've owned two Gortons and think they are more accurate than a Bridgeport. They are rather ugly though.
Question: Does the author of this article own Stock in Enco?
I have since purchased a new Supermax (Taiwan) CNC and think it is far superior to any Bridgeport I've used. My next lathe will be an Enco.
If you want an accurate machine for the home workshop, buy Asian stuff. If you have a problem with sending your dollars offshore, consider that even Bridgeport was building mills in Singapore until the cost of labor there got too high. And it wasn't until Americans started buying Hondas instead of Fords that our car industry started responding to our wants and needs. But enough of politics.
Next month (maybe) I'll compose something on how to inspect used machinery. In the mean time, you can email me if you have any questions.
The above opinions are solely those of Mr. Harrison. Live Steaming takes pride in presenting them, but takes no responsibility for them.