# Metal Lathe

### Help Support HomeBuiltAirplanes.com:

#### Dana

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
...I like the large oil drip metal tray that is used under the lathe. Better than what I have. I just have a small metal tray that is way to small.
Somebody on one of the metalworking forums suggested it. I did the same for my mill, though I didn't cut and bend that one.

You can get it up or down the stairs by yourself by removing the headstock and using a hand truck.
This one can be carried by hand... barely.

You suck.
I just lucked out. I was in a flea market / junk shop with my wife when I saw it on the floor of one of the booths, with a couple of boxes of parts. He said $100, looked like it was missing some parts so I said how about$50, he said OK. Turned out the only thing missing was the lathe dogs. No collets, I've been using the 3 jaw for everything so far, but there's an ER collet adapter available for it and a quick change toolpost set is on my Christmas list.

#### poormansairforce

##### Well-Known Member
I’ll bet that he has no room left in the garage workshop for cars .....
Well, at least we know he has his priorities in order!

#### trimtab

##### Well-Known Member
I have a shop with a large 4-axis vertical CNC mill and a 14x36 tool room lathe. The mill weights 4600 lbs. The lathe weighs 2200 lbs.

If you want a lathe light enough "to move easily", it will be really disappointing performance wise for most heavy or medium duty machining. Just invest in the right lathe, plus the tools to move it into a truck bed. It isn't a big deal. You won't be moving a lathe as much as you think you might want to. Dialing in a lathe after moving it is also something that will make you want to keep it in one place unless surface quality really isn't important. Anything "lighter" than what I have would fall into the "cute" category as far as capability goes for someone who needs to get things done on a reasonable time frame.

Machines sell for a song and a dance when manufacturing enters a cratering cycle. It is presently headed for one now. Keep your eyes peeled.

#### Dana

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
I have a shop with a large 4-axis vertical CNC mill and a 14x36 tool room lathe... Anything "lighter" than what I have would fall into the "cute" category as far as capability goes for someone who needs to get things done on a reasonable time frame.
You sound like the guys on the Practical Machinist forum. But seriously, most aircraft homebuilders don't need to "get things done on a reasonable time frame", and a 14x36 lathe is overkill for nearly anything a homebuilder would need to make. Not to mention that most of use don't have room for anything that large. My metal shop is half of a two car garage, the other half is the woodworking area. Cars go outside...

#### trimtab

##### Well-Known Member
You might consider a maker space near you if available. A tiny lathe might not be as useful as you'd like it to be, and it takes up space. This is what I did before I had a metalworking shop...and if I were in the situation again, I would simply join the maker space to use an actual useful tool.

#### gtae07

##### Well-Known Member
My shop is 26' x 26', so he had to have his 26 x 30. He can still get vehicles in it even with the two lathes, a big compressor, the two big mills, the huge and smaller drill presses, the manual and power shears, and the big pan brake and small box brake. And a bead blaster. And welders and plasma cutter. And powder-coating equipment. And spray-painting stuff.Woodworking stuff is in another building.

Not many young fellows with that stuff. Not many young people know what any of it is, either.
My shop is 28x24 and I don’t see how in the heck I’d fit all that.

But I have an airplane in mine, plus misc tools and some other storage (lawn tools and crap).

#### BJC

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Thread drift question for those of you who routinely use machine tools: If you were limited to either a good milling machine or a good lathe, which would be more useful for scratch building a homebuilt? And why?

BJC

#### Aviacs

##### Well-Known Member
You sound like the guys on the Practical Machinist forum.
Sorry, i kind of resemble that.

a 14x36 lathe is overkill for nearly anything a homebuilder would need to make.
Suppose you need to turn the end casings or bore the case for a radial engine you are building? Not to mention, capacity to swing the crank. Where's the overkill now? (full disclosure, all my lathes are 9" through 11" Hardinges and SB. but i have friends. )

Thread drift question for those of you who routinely use machine tools: If you were limited to either a good milling machine or a good lathe, which would be more useful for scratch building a homebuilt?
really either or?
Hands down, the mill. (vertical turret mill style, e.g. "Bridgeport" or similar. Even a decent sized mill-drill at a pinch)

You can still use it to turn, drill, bore, face off, bushings either with power downfeed, or (carefully for finish) sensitive hand feed.
You can bore (offset boring head) anything that a small lathe will, and much more besides. You can even single point thread on one, but perhaps not conveniently.
With minor inconvenience, on most turret mills, end-work can be done on bars (such as bore or turn down the ends) fixtured to hang vertically off the table. Then, it will do everything a mill will do besides.

An awful lot of what machine tools offer for the fabricator including airplane builders, is tool and fixture making and modification.
It is a good idea to have multiples of all machine tools so that work on a machine need not be disturbed to modify a tool or fixture to continue working on it. Or to set up sequential operations.

smt

Last edited:
BJC

#### ToddK

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
You sound like the guys on the Practical Machinist forum. But seriously, most aircraft homebuilders don't need to "get things done on a reasonable time frame", and a 14x36 lathe is overkill for nearly anything a homebuilder would need to make. Not to mention that most of use don't have room for anything that large. My metal shop is half of a two car garage, the other half is the woodworking area. Cars go outside...
Now let’s keep it civil, the PM forum is populated by the single largest collection of snooty jerks on this planet earth. So obviously he can’t be one of them.

Now, as I said in my initial post, I am absolutely not going to purchase a giant lathe.

#### BBerson

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
My 11x36 Grizzly is right for me. But not portable, I used a front loader to move it.

#### ScaleBirdsScott

##### Well-Known Member
The only good things I've done on a mini lathe are make bushings, and skim OD off of parts that were just a hair too big to fit into a given hole. I was glad to have those machines at that time but seriously the amount of stuff I wished I could do and then did in fact go do once getting a "real" lathe is quite significant. The list of stuff I wanted to do with a lathe and then never have gotten around to is magnificantly significant. I've realized that until I've got a large turning center with a few thousand worth of tooling I probably should just be glad that it's now easier and easier than ever before to simply upload a 3D model to a website, get back an instant quote, and order precision-made CNC parts within 2 weeks at costs bordering on theft. It used to be hard. And it still comes with many challenges and caveats. But when I need something small or intricate and I need it right, it's almost too cheap to hire it out than to spend an afternoon turning wheels.

But for most home-based-builders it's about doing the actual work and appreciating it, and it's also in many cases about costs and working with limited space. A 10-11" Grizzly/PM/Enco or similar is serious enough to actually do some viable work for the homebuilder beyond just literally turning some plastic or brass stock into a more defined bushing. And it doesn't take too much space or demand too much of the pixie-juice from the wall. Nor does it demand too many of the money-bills to get it going. So I think it's the right setup for a basic home shop that isn't on the way to becoming a serious little personal machine shop.

#### Turd Ferguson

##### Well-Known Member
Thread drift question for those of you who routinely use machine tools: If you were limited to either a good milling machine or a good lathe, which would be more useful for scratch building a homebuilt? And why?
lathe. Most of the task for building a plane are cylindrical. There are very few "can only be done on a mill" tasks. There may be a few "can be done better on a mill" tasks but remember a lot of homebuilts were built from scratch without a mill.
I'm amazed by the number of resourceful people on the internet these days. I've seen hobbyist machinist perform complex milling operations on a lathe, including gear cutting.

BJC

#### Turd Ferguson

##### Well-Known Member
Now, as I said in my initial post, I am absolutely not going to purchase a giant lathe.
I ran some "giant" lathes back in another lifetime when I worked as a machinist. 36" swing, 1" tool bits (there wasn't much insert tooling back in those days) I don't consider a tool room sized lathe as "giant" but they are certainly not easily portable. The Asian bench top machines are toys. There's just not a lot you can do on one and you're certainly not going to do any precision work on one.

#### BigBen

##### Well-Known Member
The only good things I've done on a mini lathe are make bushings, and skim OD off of parts that were just a hair too big to fit into a given hole. I was glad to have those machines at that time but seriously the amount of stuff I wished I could do and then did in fact go do once getting a "real" lathe is quite significant. The list of stuff I wanted to do with a lathe and then never have gotten around to is magnificantly significant. I've realized that until I've got a large turning center with a few thousand worth of tooling I probably should just be glad that it's now easier and easier than ever before to simply upload a 3D model to a website, get back an instant quote, and order precision-made CNC parts within 2 weeks at costs bordering on theft. It used to be hard. And it still comes with many challenges and caveats. But when I need something small or intricate and I need it right, it's almost too cheap to hire it out than to spend an afternoon turning wheels.

But for most home-based-builders it's about doing the actual work and appreciating it, and it's also in many cases about costs and working with limited space. A 10-11" Grizzly/PM/Enco or similar is serious enough to actually do some viable work for the homebuilder beyond just literally turning some plastic or brass stock into a more defined bushing. And it doesn't take too much space or demand too much of the pixie-juice from the wall. Nor does it demand too many of the money-bills to get it going. So I think it's the right setup for a basic home shop that isn't on the way to becoming a serious little personal machine shop.
The only good things I've done on a mini lathe are make bushings, and skim OD off of parts that were just a hair too big to fit into a given hole. I was glad to have those machines at that time but seriously the amount of stuff I wished I could do and then did in fact go do once getting a "real" lathe is quite significant. The list of stuff I wanted to do with a lathe and then never have gotten around to is magnificantly significant. I've realized that until I've got a large turning center with a few thousand worth of tooling I probably should just be glad that it's now easier and easier than ever before to simply upload a 3D model to a website, get back an instant quote, and order precision-made CNC parts within 2 weeks at costs bordering on theft. It used to be hard. And it still comes with many challenges and caveats. But when I need something small or intricate and I need it right, it's almost too cheap to hire it out than to spend an afternoon turning wheels.

But for most home-based-builders it's about doing the actual work and appreciating it, and it's also in many cases about costs and working with limited space. A 10-11" Grizzly/PM/Enco or similar is serious enough to actually do some viable work for the homebuilder beyond just literally turning some plastic or brass stock into a more defined bushing. And it doesn't take too much space or demand too much of the pixie-juice from the wall. Nor does it demand too many of the money-bills to get it going. So I think it's the right setup for a basic home shop that isn't on the way to becoming a serious little personal machine shop.
Scott, from your experience, what is the best source to use for 4 axix CNC machine work quotes?

#### ScaleBirdsScott

##### Well-Known Member
Scott, from your experience, what is the best source to use for 4 axix CNC machine work quotes?
So far I've done some stuff with Xometry and 3D Hubs. Both have online instant-quote tools that will analyze your 3D data and generally give live numbers right there. For some parts and specific features (like threads) you'll have to submit a drawing or other documentation, but that process was relatively painless once the drawings were made, and they were not picky about my drawings being any good (though they were) so I feel like even some screenshots with some rough callouts made in MS Paint would technically work. Both groups put out very good parts at reasonable costs, with 3D Hubs being I think a decent bit cheaper. Each has its ups and downs, and both companies really are just managing your order to send it off to various job shops around the country (or world) but the only real way to know whether they can fit your needs is really to go check it out, run through their process and compare quotes and get feedback. In some cases one would turn down a part or require changes that the other had no problem with doing as designed, and (unfortunately) neither was clearly better. Also my stuff wasn't bound by ITAR or anything else (AFAIK anyway) so I was able to use parts made overseas.

So since then I've had parts that I said "I'll just turn that on the lathe this weekend" but then just for a sanity check upload to these sites and find that the cost for one to be made to spec, and on high-end equipment that will give excellent finish, was at stupidly low prices compared to my old concept of what it would likely be. And while the upfront costs are quite high, if you needed these guys to pump out 20, 40, 400 of each part the prices get down quite low in a hurry. It doesn't mean that

I want to say that a complex turned aluminum paintball bolt with multiple o-ring grooves, threads, radially arrayed port holes, with a 32ra finish throughout, came to about \$60/ea for a set of two. Done a few orders now and gotten multiple parts and all seemed good. When getting one-off stuff it's not like you won't find some toolroom marks. We got a set of complex parts made by one of them and one had gotten some heavy brushing to clean up some marks where the other just came out with the as-milled finish looking fine. Both are to spec and look great but it's just funny to see. So don't expect this stuff to be the pinnacle of perfection. But honestly I'm impressed with the quality for the price. Someone competently programmed the parts, cut it well, there were no significant chatter marks or other dings that weren't my fault. And only one part was notably off-spec to the point I had to take up some issue, and got it resolved.

I work for myself for pretty cheap in all honesty, and have invested in some tooling, but that doesn't mean I'll turn down outsourcing when it's viable. Can't do it all. So I'm gonna continue to leverage these services when I can. Generally that would be a "from raw stock" part that's more-or-less stand alone, and where it's more than just a 1-2 hour job to do on my own lathe or mill, and with more complex geometry than I particularly want to mess with.

#### Dana

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Thread drift question for those of you who routinely use machine tools: If you were limited to either a good milling machine or a good lathe, which would be more useful for scratch building a homebuilt? And why?
Definitely the mill first. You can turn short parts on a mill and I have many times, but it's a real PITA to mill parts on a lathe, even with a milling attachment.

I haven't run across anything yet that can't be made on the tools I have... though jobs always seem to expand so as to max out whatever you have. Before I had the mill I seemed to manage, now I don't know how I could live without it. The lathe is now getting that way, too.

But I'm lucky, the shop where I work (we make our our own automatic production machinery, I design it, they build it) has a half dozen Hardinge toolroom lathes, a similar number of Bridgports, plus bigger CNC stuff, so I can always get help (and advice!) from the toolmakers there when I need it, even if it's a single cut on a job I can otherwise finish myself.

#### Sonny Furman

##### Member
For more than thirty years I used an old Southbend that was still reliable even when we moved and it was sold to make room - a mistake.
Since then I have purchased two different Chinese made lathes, one a Grizzly. These machines use very cheap plastic gears, pathetic belt drives, and components, and you will quickly discover that they are planned to be "absolete" by the distributors in a very short space of time, hence the source of replacement parts quickly dries up and you are forced to buy a new machine. This has happened twice, and I have since sworn off these cheap machines that do not hold tolerance, do not stand up to hard use, and do no have a reliable source of replacement parts.
I spent four years in Taiwan as a flight instructor to the CNAF and have a great respect for the Chinese, but not their "knockoff' mentality and business ethics.

Sonny Furman, Col. USAF ret.

#### Dan Thomas

##### Well-Known Member
lathe. Most of the task for building a plane are cylindrical. There are very few "can only be done on a mill" tasks. There may be a few "can be done better on a mill" tasks but remember a lot of homebuilts were built from scratch without a mill.
I'm amazed by the number of resourceful people on the internet these days. I've seen hobbyist machinist perform complex milling operations on a lathe, including gear cutting.
That goes for me, too. I've owned two lathes, never a mill, but still wish I had that mill. With my son not too far away it really doesn't make sense to buy one, though.

#### BBerson

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
I had a mill and never used it. Complex parts I design in welded steel. The Grizzly lathe is used rarely. It has metal gears and the quality is suitable for anything I can do with it.

2