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lathe purchase advice requested



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IThinkIHaveAProblem

for the TL;DR, simply skip to the bottom three lines.

 

so, long story long;

 

For a while now I have wanted a lathe.

I grew up in a house where dad had one and knew how to use it. (metal lathe, not a woodworking lathe)

He still has it, and someday, I may inherit it, assuming I can figure out how to get it to my house when the time comes...

I learned the ABSOLUTE basics in high school shop class. But didn't fully grasp it at the time (yeah, I made a bottle opener...)

Since then, I've watched a LOT of videos about manufacturing and I think I finally understand how a lathe works enough that I now want one...

 

A while ago I needed a pellet cup for a "51" and while they are (only) 8$, shipping is usually (at least) twice that much (thanks eBay global extortion program...) so buying one was pretty much out of the question as I could buy an entire pump unit for less. But buying a pump unit felt wasteful. Then I found the instructions on how to turn a paper mate pen tip into a pellet cup and I was off to the races (well, off to dollorama actually, to buy every box of the pen in question that they had in stock ... only in red... )

 

I don't have a lathe, but I DO have a drill! and a sharp carpet knife! and some small files... (you know where this is going) 

my first pellet cup was a disaster. but my 3rd one was viable! and I used it, and it works to this day. 

 

Awesome. so, problem solved right? ... (read on)

I then tried making more and no two pellet cups I made came out the same (as I'm sure you all predicted by this point)

and half of them were NOT going to work, and the other half were frankly not good enough that I would use them.

They likely would work, but I would KNOW how inferior they are and that would bother me.

So I want a metal working lathe, I need the mechanical repeatability

A woodworking lathe would clearly be about as useful to me as my drill mounted in a vice is. (so... not very useful)

 

so off I went, learning about lathes, discovering the ubiquitous "mini lathe" that's all over YouTube... and then seeing its price: about a $1000CAD by the time I get it home.

 

no way is that in my current budget, especially for things I want to "try out"

I have several projects now that are being held back by not having a lathe

- making more pellet cups

- A waterman Commando that needs to have the cracked barrel threads sleeved

- I have a vision of making lucite versions of Parker's most disappointing pen (the barrel here would be the longest item that I want to make at this point in time)

- maybe someday making a lucite "51" cap

- making my own mandrels to de-ding caps

- and maybe, someday turning an entire pen

 

At this time, the largest thing I actually want to turn is a single barrel.

If the need/desire arises to do bigger things, I will deal with that then as it won't be in the "I want to try this thing out" category anymore,

it'll be in the "I kinda know what I'm doing and I need better tools" category.

At that point, the $1000CAD price tag of the mini lathe would likely be acceptable, or I may have inherited my dad's lathe by then.

 

This is not a purchase I'm making tomorrow (or likely even before next year at this point),

but I've been thinking about it for long enough now that I really wanted to ask the people who have actual experience.

 

TL:DR

how craptacular is this (in the opinion of people who have actually used lathes) please be honest. Is this a complete waste of money?

https://www.amazon.ca/Machine-12000RPM-Woodworking-Modelmaking-Protection/dp/B07V47X71T/ref=sr_1_17?dchild=1&keywords=mini+lathe&qid=1624326471&sr=8-17

Thank you for your time and expertise, I appreciate the voices of experience even if you end up telling me what I don't want to hear...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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Pierre---

135mm between centers, it will be difficult to find room for a drill bit with its chuck;

60 W is not a powerful motor, contrary to what is said in the description;

less than 5kg means a lot of vibrations;

12000 rpm is way too high for anything. Well, maybe balsa could work. Not sure;

no speed control prevents any serious work, even unserious one.

 

A waste of money, imho

Sorry!

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That is way too small to be of practical use, though I know of a doctor who made parts for his MG turbo charger on one.  The minimum is a 7X10, and even that is a bit small.  A 7X14 or 7X16 is better.

 

Most of the mini lathes on the market (including MicroMark) are made by Seig, with varying levels of quality and features.

 

Used industrial lathes are available that have some life left in them.  I just don't have the room for a lathe on a stand.

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Agree with Ron. You could/can do most of what you need for pen work on 7x14; the dimensions are theoretical maxima, so 7x10 would just be too cramped since much of the 10 will be taken up with the lathe's mechanics. Expect to spend both time and money with any machine getting it to work well, both objectively and for you.

 

I went the vintage industrial route, got a 10x24 Logan made in 1943, originally designed to exactly fit the inside tailgate of a WWII issue Jeep for reboring weapons in the field. I spent a good year learning how to use it (and any lathe, for that matter) by restoring much of it and getting it to work accurately and repeatedly, then replacing much of its original attachments with modern. At this point, it and I know each other's foibles and bad habits and we work really well together. Yes, it weighs in at 500+ lbs on its original cast base/bench, and takes up a good half of my apartment bedroom shop with all of its accompanying equipment, bench grinder, compressed air, etc., but it transformed my ability to restore pens and reoriented my thinking about the importance of creating true roundness to exact specs for pen repair over finishing a job by hand or jury-rigging small tools to sort of get the job done. Well worth all of the time and effort.  

 

Tim

Tim

@timsvintagepens and timsvintagepens.com

 

Currently inked pens:

Sheaffer Valiant, Parker Junior Duofold, Aurora 88 (modern), Montblanc Meisterstück (home desk), Esterbrook Deluxe (home desk), Delta Fusion 82 (office desk)

 

 

 

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IThinkIHaveAProblem

Thank you all. 

That seems to be a pretty good consensus

And it is unfortunately exactly what I was afraid you guys would say.

 

Just a note regarding an old industrial lathe:

Thank you for the suggestion but, that's pretty much not gonna happen. The main problem is that anyone selling anything used in Canada seems to feel that they should get somewhere between 90 and 130% of the item's original value when new. Regardless of condition. No, I'm not entirely joking.

Overall, buying anything used here tends to be a waste of time. There are of course exceptions, but by and large, you may as well just spend the extra bit of money and buy a new one. (if you don't believe me, just check out autotrader.ca and look at the INSANE prices people want for cars barely worth hauling to the scrap yard!) So finding anything in the <$500CAD category has just about a zero % chance of ever happening.

 

That, and the local kijiji (Craigs list for Canadians) is devoid of anything in the category being discussed here.

The only real option on kijiji is a slightly cheaper than new Mini Lathe, and unfortunately, it's still out of my "I want to try this" price range

😕

 

Additionally, like Ron, I don't really have room for a lathe on a stand. The garage is already cramped, AND, being in Canada, is unusably cold > 6mo of the year. (which will make inheriting my dad's lathe interesting/limiting... since it's on a stand and no way is it coming into a house...)

 

Thank you all for your honest opinions, at least now I can basically forget this entire idea, and save myself the $400+

 

At this point, realistically, short of a financial windfall (which is even less likely than finding a good deal on lathe!), inheriting my dad's ancient machinist's lathe (which apparently can't cut threads...) is just about the only way I'm gonna get one :P 

 

If at some point I find what looks like it might be a good deal, I'll be sure to post it here (probably in this same thread) and get opinions before forking out any cash :)  

 

Thanks again guys :) 

 

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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Here in Europe I got a 7x14 for roughly 350 euros and it's actually much better than I expected. I just checked the Canada website and the same lathe is more than 700 dollars, sorry :(

For threading, you could use  dies and taps, if you can find the right size

For turning itself there are various hacks or kits for turning drills into lathes but they look .. imprecise, let's say. The other problems with a drill is that the chuck won't open wide enough.

Maybe there's a course you could do that might give you training on & access to a lathe? I admit it's a long shot (but it's how I plan to learn instrument making)

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IThinkIHaveAProblem
1 hour ago, trmsw said:

Here in Europe I got a 7x14 for roughly 350 euros and it's actually much better than I expected. I just checked the Canada website and the same lathe is more than 700 dollars, sorry :(

For threading, you could use  dies and taps, if you can find the right size

For turning itself there are various hacks or kits for turning drills into lathes but they look .. imprecise, let's say. The other problems with a drill is that the chuck won't open wide enough.

Maybe there's a course you could do that might give you training on & access to a lathe? I admit it's a long shot (but it's how I plan to learn instrument making)

 

annoyingly, I just asked Siri what 350E was in $CAD...

$514.30...

 

 

... 514 is a different (and smaller) number than 700 right?... oh, right... I forgot:

 

welcome to Canada; now empty your wallet and bend over (yes, I'm bitter and angry about this, and rightfully so)

 

We pay too much for EVERYTHING here (and usually get LESS at the same time!) Probably explains why Canadians are always trying to charge full retail for used stuff...

 

What was the lathe you had in mind? I'd still like to check it out :)

 

I figured that I'd likely have to find or make taps and dies for the thread sizes I will need if/when I get a lathe, especially if that only ends up being when I inherit my dads (I'm not in a particular rush to do that btw...)

There will be a full commercial Automotive Garage's worth of tools to go with it... and I know taps and dies are part of the kit in the  fully loaded Snap-On toolbox stack..., likely not the threading needed for pens... especially. not vacumatics, but still, it's a start.

 

The kits for a drill would likely just end up making a ghetto version of a woodworking lathe, and unfortunately, my hand just isn't steady enough for that, but thanks anyways :) 

 

Taking a course is... not realistically gonna happen. If/When I get a lathe, it'll be me, and YouTube. :) 

 

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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Newton Pens
11 hours ago, IThinkIHaveAProblem said:

Taking a course is... not realistically gonna happen. If/When I get a lathe, it'll be me, and YouTube. :) 

 

 

 

That's what I did.  There are lots of people out there willing to answer questions that aren't easy to find on youtube though, and there is LOTS of documentation to answer all those questions you didn't think you had.

https://www.penturners.org/threads/index-menu-of-all-iap-tutorials-last-update-6-21-2021.160513/

 

https://newtonpens.wordpress.com/making-pens/

 

have fun!  :)


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inkandseeds

Would a used Unimat lathe meet your needs?  I missed out on one a couple of months ago on my local Craigslist (a steal at $250 US).  Since then have been checking ebay where they go for anywhere between 350 and 1,000.  I was unfamiliar with them when I first saw the Craigslist ad so I did some research. They seem to have a cult following.

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Unimats are too small for most pen repair - the same problem as the one the OP was asking about.  For pen repair, you want at least 10 inches, more if possible.

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IThinkIHaveAProblem
1 hour ago, Newton Pens said:

 

 

That's what I did.  There are lots of people out there willing to answer questions that aren't easy to find on youtube though, and there is LOTS of documentation to answer all those questions you didn't think you had.

https://www.penturners.org/threads/index-menu-of-all-iap-tutorials-last-update-6-21-2021.160513/

 

https://newtonpens.wordpress.com/making-pens/

 

have fun!  :)

Thanks. :)

1 hour ago, inkandseeds said:

Would a used Unimat lathe meet your needs?  I missed out on one a couple of months ago on my local Craigslist (a steal at $250 US).  Since then have been checking ebay where they go for anywhere between 350 and 1,000.  I was unfamiliar with them when I first saw the Craigslist ad so I did some research. They seem to have a cult following.

I have no idea... but thanks for the idea ... *visits google images* wow, those are neat!

4 minutes ago, Ron Z said:

Unimats are too small for most pen repair - the same problem as the one the OP was asking about.  For pen repair, you want at least 10 inches, more if possible.

And now I know... :) 

Thanks Ron

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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I thought about a Unimat at one point.  They're fine for small model/watchmaking stuff, but don't have the power, chuck size, bed length, and tool options that you want for pen repair work.  You'd be looking for a bigger lathe in short order once you really get into it. 

 

A note on taps and dies.  There are some that match the threads on pens, but often times not.    A special tap or die will cost you over $150.  I've priced them.   You really want to be able to cut threads on the lathe.  Make sure that the lathe can cut up to 56 TPI.

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IThinkIHaveAProblem
1 hour ago, Ron Z said:

A note on taps and dies.  There are some that match the threads on pens, but often times not.    A special tap or die will cost you over $150.  I've priced them.   You really want to be able to cut threads on the lathe.  Make sure that the lathe can cut up to 56 TPI.

Duly noted. In fact, I have screen shotted that post and filed it in my photos library for future reference! 

150$ USD for a single tap or die is... prohibitive to say the least!

 

Thank you Ron :)

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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32 minutes ago, IThinkIHaveAProblem said:

150$ USD for a single tap or die is... prohibitive to say the least!

 

I agree.  I've had one made, but last time I needed an odd size thread, I made it myself.  Crude, but it worked.  That's another thing that you can do with  your lathe.

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IThinkIHaveAProblem
1 minute ago, Ron Z said:

 

I agree.  I've had one made, but last time I needed an odd size thread, I made it myself.  Crude, but it worked.  That's another thing that you can do with  your lathe.

I am not against learning how to make them :) 

but... just for my own education...if a lathe can't cut threads... can it make a tap or die?...

... I feel like being able to cut threads is sort of a pre-requisite of being able to make a tap or die...

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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The lathe has to be able to cut threads - and the Seig mini lathes sold under Micro-Mark, Harbor Freight, Grizzly, and others, do.  You have to change the gears which takes a little time, but they do it quite nicely.   I leave mine set up for 36 TPI, because that is the most common in pens - it works for both metric and NC/NF threads.

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nweissma
1 hour ago, Ron Z said:

The lathe has to be able to cut threads - and the Seig mini lathes sold under Micro-Mark, Harbor Freight, Grizzly, and others, do.  You have to change the gears which takes a little time, but they do it quite nicely.   I leave mine set up for 36 TPI, because that is the most common in pens - it works for both metric and NC/NF threads.

what is "NC/NF"?

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IThinkIHaveAProblem
18 minutes ago, nweissma said:

what is "NC/NF"?

As i recall from counting/inventorying the hundreds and hundreds of nuts and bolts in my dads garage stock room when i was a kid, i want to say “national fine “ and “national coarse”   Off to the googles…

Yes!  
 

I was right (bout darn time!)

 

 anyways, it’s how coarse or fine the threads are but beyond that i am out of my wheel house. So I’ll let someone else explain it in detail

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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IThinkIHaveAProblem
1 hour ago, Ron Z said:

The lathe has to be able to cut threads - and the Seig mini lathes sold under Micro-Mark, Harbor Freight, Grizzly, and others, do.  You have to change the gears which takes a little time, but they do it quite nicely.   I leave mine set up for 36 TPI, because that is the most common in pens - it works for both metric and NC/NF threads.

Ron, are these the lathes you are talking about?

https://www.harborfreight.com/7-inch-x-12-inch-precision-mini-lathe-93799.html?utm_source=go&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shortener&cid=go_social
https://www.harborfreight.com/7-inch-x-10-inch-precision-mini-lathe-93212.html?utm_source=go&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shortener&cid=go_social

 

Just give me the Parker 51s and nobody needs to get hurt.

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