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  1. #1
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    Lathe or Vertical Mill?

    I'm moving the shop and am now able to get heavy tooling in and out. Yes! My question is to those who have ridden ( or are currently) down this path. What are the advantages of a Lathe vs. Vertical Mill? Has technology progressed enough in the tooling it's self to warrant a newer machine vs. vintage machine?

    I'm seeing plenty of vintage mills at great pricing. I don't know enough about the mills to determine if they're on borrowed time. What should I look for immediately upon inspection?

    My space is wired for 3 phase or single.

    Thanks gents! I don't want to make a 1000.00 mistake.

    BTW if your in the Midwest (Ohio) and your wanting to unload a machine PM me.

    Stanridgespeed.com

  2. #2
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    If you can only afford one machine, I think it probably should be a lathe. You can do a lot of operations. I miter on the lathe. A lot of things are easier on a vertical mill, an old Bridgeport with a variable speed head is really nice. You're in the right territory to be able to pick up small horizontal mills very cheaply, that is the ultimate mitering machine.

  3. #3
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    One can do a very detailed analysis of lathes vs mills, generally and vs. each other for frames. I think one can cut to the chase by saying that a mill is significantly more useful to frames due to stuff like the Anvil type set up for cutting tubes, manufacturing drops, drilling, making fixtures. A good small shop mill is normally more expensive and rarer, though the larger and desireable Bridgeports are easily found if you have the space and can justify them (mostly an issue for the small shop). If you have the space, there is little reason not to have a lathe also since they are normally very cheap and are irreplaceable. The ideal frame making lathe which is spec wise like the ideal small shop gunsmithing lathe, is not as easily found or cheap.

    In the case of a Mill the ideal is a Bridgeport, the next a vintage clone, there are also large horizontals that are ideal for mitering, and can cost as little as 200-400, but are not as versatile for all around use. For the small shop I am pretty happy with my Clausing vertical, though I also looked at small Bridgeports.

    For lathes I like the South Bend Heavy 10. Southbend lathes are easy to move because they disassemble, but for a one time commercial instalation that is less of an issue. There are more parts and accessories for 193s0 south bends than new chinese lathes. I like a lathe with 36 inch bed and over 1.125" through the head.

    For a lathe the main issue is wear on the bed, look for wear on the forward rail near the head; Worn split nuts; uneven operating presure in the screws, worn or chipped gears, excessive run out in the head, frozen parts. Often the bed will tell you what you will find elsewhere. Main upgrades are quick release tool posts: power feeds on the x and y axis; and a gearbox for changegears. However there are workaround for all this stuff, and you sometimes find mintier tools if they didn't have all the bells and whistles and were used only on sundays.

    For mills you want to run a dial indicator on the 3 axis to see if they are all traveling square. Also look for lack of free operation of the hadnwheels. This normally creeps in if the machine was heavily used and had been worn in the sweat spot. Sometime one can work around this, and it can be fixed (if you have a reasonably priced local shop or a lot of time). For bigger machines there should be enough choice to get something nice.

    Upgrades would be dros, but they aren't normally found at bargain prices, and there are cheap partial work arounds, and tooling is nice to have for either machine. If you have a boyant local scene you ought to be able to find lathes or mills with lots of accessories and tooling and it is worth holding out for these deals since they will save a lot of money for you. Often prices are set in some relationship to scrap prices so there really isn't a price increase for the machine that is minty and has everything, not compared to replacement cost anyway.

    Check Lathes.uk site for bios of old machines.

    CNC is wonderful tech, but for the stuff that happens in a high end frame shop, I think manual jigged set ups and lots of stations or tools would be more efficient until very large scale was reached.
    Last edited by NoReg; 07-22-10 at 10:07 AM.

  4. #4
    Tell it as it is Silverbraze's Avatar
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    If your setting up for the long term
    A simple good 6" centre height Lathe is first {with 35mm bore**
    then you can make things and mitre etc
    then as $ are available, a mill
    Lots of expensive mitring fixtures and tooling set up under a mill is only useful if you are making a few frames a week all year long
    and you have a market to sustain that level of production
    any thing else is being silly
    it's steel
    it's lugs
    let the others get on with the madness
    www.llewellynbikes.com
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  5. #5
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    thanks guys for your time and detailed posts I really appreciate your input.

  6. #6
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    Silverbraze, admit it you are a lathe fan though, as well as an expert frame builder. I have 7 lathes in my shop, but I try to be objective despite my preferences.

    I just play around with this stuff, but I don't really go to the lathe for anything when making a frame. I will face a few things just because I enjoy it, but I really don't need to and probably wouldn't do that if my lathe were set up for mitering. I'm looking forward to making a hub when I get back.

    There is a lot of potential lathe work in a frame, but most of it seems to be done for me like BBs or is done with specialized reamers and facers. The only specific job mentioned by either pro is mitering which can be done on a lathe for sure, as long as you use it like a 2 axis mill. That is really mill work and since mills are about the price of a battery drill around here, I just don't see the point in evolving a process and tooling for machines not really designed for the work.

    It took me about a year to get the contacts to get all the tools cheap, and by then I had paid a little more for them. By the end, I had older guys trying to get me to come pick up their stuff just to get it out of the house. One guy gave me a bit sharpener/ surface grinder, and tried to get me to take his 2 station german mill, and a really nice lathe he had for 400 total. Stuff is out there as the manual economy is shuffling off to the dump.

  7. #7
    Tell it as it is Silverbraze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    Silverbraze, admit it you are a lathe fan though, as well as an expert frame builder. I have 7 lathes in my shop, but I try to be objective despite my preferences.

    I just play around with this stuff, but I don't really go to the lathe for anything when making a frame. I will face a few things just because I enjoy it, but I really don't need to and probably wouldn't do that if my lathe were set up for mitering. I'm looking forward to making a hub when I get back.

    There is a lot of potential lathe work in a frame, but most of it seems to be done for me like BBs or is done with specialized reamers and facers. The only specific job mentioned by either pro is mitering which can be done on a lathe for sure, as long as you use it like a 2 axis mill. That is really mill work and since mills are about the price of a battery drill around here, I just don't see the point in evolving a process and tooling for machines not really designed for the work.

    It took me about a year to get the contacts to get all the tools cheap, and by then I had paid a little more for them. By the end, I had older guys trying to get me to come pick up their stuff just to get it out of the house. One guy gave me a bit sharpener/ surface grinder, and tried to get me to take his 2 station german mill, and a really nice lathe he had for 400 total. Stuff is out there as the manual economy is shuffling off to the dump.

    yeah yeah agreed
    but for punters starting up
    so many are led to believe they need a mill and anvil fixtures to make a frame
    which is not the case.
    for me the lathe is more making small tools, aligment cones, table mounts, braze finger stands.............the list is endless
    and so many other little jobs
    rather than the actual frame making.
    However I do use the lathe for cutting the the fork crown seat. Bloody brilliant for that.
    and squaring off HT for the alignment cones to sit proper for the aligmments during the build process before brazing and cutting excess off and reaming
    oh and I square the HT end of lugs before use to ensure accurate building as well and this ensures one is true when trimming off the HT for good alignment entry of the reamer facer cutter tool


    yeah and when the next fist full of cash from making the first 50 frames is banked, get a cheap/good mill.
    and be happy

    If it was lathe or mill first
    I say Lathe first
    and when one has the lathe
    then the mill next asap
    and I will add, many times it is the tooling that will cost more then the actual machine.
    it's steel
    it's lugs
    let the others get on with the madness
    www.llewellynbikes.com
    www.framebuilders.org

  8. #8
    legalize bikes
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    well really it depends what you want to do with the machines. do you plan on buying the latest whiz bang fixtures that everyone on flickr has? or are you more interesting in time spent learning the machines and the amazing things they can do?

    i see so many photostreams of folks using mills as nothing more than big old tube notchers it makes me sad.

    if you want to make tools, fixtures, jigs, widgets, and the such its really hard to say that you dont need a vert mill and a lathe.

    personally i have an emco v10p, a small 3 in 1 (lathe/mill/drill). although its not the largest most powerful machine, a savvy individual can make it do a lot.

  9. #9
    Tell it as it is Silverbraze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by legalize_it View Post
    well really it depends what you want to do with the machines. do you plan on buying the latest whiz bang fixtures that everyone on flickr has? or are you more interesting in time spent learning the machines and the amazing things they can do?
    yes yes
    i see so many photostreams of folks using mills as nothing more than big old tube notchers it makes me sad.
    yes yes yes , sad and silly
    if you want to make tools, fixtures, jigs, widgets, and the such its really hard to say that you dont need a vert mill and a lathe.
    yes and yes again
    personally i have an emco v10p, a small 3 in 1 (lathe/mill/drill). although its not the largest most powerful machine, a savvy individual can make it do a lot.
    one uses machine tools to further ones capabilities
    not to look cool while pretending to look like a established production builder
    it's steel
    it's lugs
    let the others get on with the madness
    www.llewellynbikes.com
    www.framebuilders.org

  10. #10
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    I have to say that I end up using the lathe more often. Making binders, clamps, facing tubes, thinning tubes, etc. I used a mill only a few times and it was to make fixtures, simples ones and a complex one. That being said I don't own them, I'm fortunate to have access to a student shop.
    homebuilt commuter, mixte, road and track (+ Ryffranck road)
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    Surface plate sourced for 300.00. Found it in a barn in Lima Ohio. Jig from Doug Fattic..found it in Niles MI.



    Old Delta press sourced for $75.00. S*%t, it may be a collectors item. Laugh.

    No sweet anodized tooling in my shop. Im in it for the long haul. Not enough capital for the latest and greatest. I don't need the latest and greatest to build nice frames... yes?

    BTW what can I rub into the Iron on the plate to keep the little bit of surface rust off the top?

  12. #12
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    "BTW what can I rub into the Iron on the plate to keep the little bit of surface rust off the top?"

    You can use wax, just floor wax. There could be contamination issues but I have never had a problem, I just apply a coat and rub it off and usually that is it. Keep in mind that most drilling should be done in a vise or other fixture so the condition of the table shouldn't mater. There are also dry silicone products I have used on woodworking tools. I have also used blacking agents like *** cold blue. I have used camelia oil. Of course traditionally machine tools are so covered with cutting oil this doesn't come up, but that doesn't work in my shop though as time goes by I use more and more oil if still in eyedropper amounts.

    "yeah yeah agreed
    but for punters starting up
    so many are led to believe they need a mill and anvil fixtures to make a frame"

    That is why I said anvil type fixtures, meaning more or less anything designed to hold the parts. I personally use a variety of hand methods, as well as machine tools though experience indicates each of these is just as rant worthy. Don't have anvil fixtures for my mill.

    I actually find it hard to believe many are led to believe they need Anvil tooling since there are so many who push alternatives and there are many top builders who are pre-Anvil and make no bones about it, and there is the whole Paternek thing, Fattic, and so on. But frame building is all about excess consumption - it doesn't pop up in Biafra. It exists to create unecesarilly nice bikes using, for some, unecesarily nice looking tooling. The Anvil tooling is pretty much in the same price range as the nicer custom bikes so the mindset should be familiar.

    Having said that I visited the Velo salon smoke out or something for the first time yesterday. This guy has the perfect frame shop... He just needs to paint all the mills the same colour though!

    http://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum...s-15910-2.html

    "i see so many photostreams of folks using mills as nothing more than big old tube notchers it makes me sad."

    Unless people rescue these old mills they are headed for the dump. If you are lucky they aren't a lot more expensive than a notcher. I have seen horizontals, aside from the free ones for as little as 100 bucks.
    Last edited by NoReg; 07-23-10 at 10:29 AM.

  13. #13
    Randomhead
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    I use Johnson's paste wax on my tablesaw, it's still bright and shiny. Probably jinxing myself

  14. #14
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    Unless people rescue these old mills they are headed for the dump. If you are lucky they aren't a lot more expensive than a notcher. I have seen horizontals, aside from the free ones for as little as 100 bucks.
    Where are you seeing the 100.00 mills! Yikes!

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    for me the lathe is more making small tools, aligment cones, table mounts, braze finger stands.............the list is endless
    and so many other little jobs
    rather than the actual frame making.
    However I do use the lathe for cutting the the fork crown seat. Bloody brilliant for that.
    What bed length should I be looking for on a lathe? I need to be conservative because of space and dinero.

  16. #16
    Tell it as it is Silverbraze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanridgespeed View Post
    What bed length should I be looking for on a lathe? I need to be conservative because of space and dinero.
    24" is fine, length for me has never been a problem ;-)
    it's steel
    it's lugs
    let the others get on with the madness
    www.llewellynbikes.com
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    "What bed length should I be looking for on a lathe? I need to be conservative because of space and dinero."

    Length doesn't normally cost you much for two reasons:

    1) Big lathes larger than grampa jobs are bound for the dump and cheap, if you want to get into one. On the other hand the old small stuff tends to go for weight type prices unless it is special. The extra length does not add much weigth. Same is somewhat true of chinese lathes. Modern quality lathes will get more expensive if larger, but but only NASA is buying that kind of stuff. There is one old brand that shows up pretty often for 400-3000, and they are still made run like 1000K for the same thing!

    2) Longer saves you money since a large capacity through the head of the lathe tends to make a lathe more expensive, but you can get the same turnigng capacity from a long bed with a steady rest.

    For frames, I would buy a 36". Keep two things in mind. Different cultures measure lathes differently. Some measure the arbor to quill distance, some measure the bed length which is sorter by the who head mechanism and tail stock, and some measure between centeres. OOn a small lathe like an SB 9", you want to have enough bed lenght to get something done between you jaw chuck with the toolpost outboard. On a longer tube that would be minimum 36", and could be 48. If you have a big hole in the arbor, you rarely use more than about 12" of ourboard bed, but it doesn't hurt to have the longer bed. If you buy a desireable lathe, it resells at no loss because it is already trading in the secondary market.

    "Where are you seeing the 100.00 mills! Yikes!"

    Normally low prices are on Kijiji, or craigs. Free come from knowing people. For horizontals I see lots of them from 400-500. I saw one for 100 in Barrie ontario. It sat there for quite a while. A farmer had it for a while. It was a perfect size to run a hole saw through a tube. I saw a 400 that looked brand new lasted a few hours was bridgeport quality, I just didn't have the space. To get these deal you have to have the money in your hand and saw "I coming over cash in hand".

  18. #18
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I use Johnson's paste wax on my tablesaw, it's still bright and shiny. Probably jinxing myself
    I use paste car wax on my woodworking tools (joiner, table saw, planer) and it works great.
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  19. #19
    Randomhead
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    I hope it's silicone free car wax.

  20. #20
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    "24" is fine, length for me has never been a problem ;-) "


    Is your headstock large enough to pass tubes through, or do you work mostly between centers?
    Last edited by NoReg; 07-24-10 at 12:00 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I hope it's silicone free car wax.
    It is...pure Carnuba
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  22. #22
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    My grandfather retired from South Bend Lathe when it was actually located in South Bend, Indiana. I know nothing about lathes or mills even though I work with a vertical mill.

    This really doesn't matter much to this thread and I know no one cares but that's how it goes I guess.

  23. #23
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by rorban View Post
    My grandfather retired from South Bend Lathe when it was actually located in South Bend, Indiana. I know nothing about lathes or mills even though I work with a vertical mill.

    This really doesn't matter much to this thread and I know no one cares but that's how it goes I guess.
    That's pretty neat. I learned to use a lathe on a South Bend, and I still wish I had managed to find a Heavy 10.

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    Just the other day there was a thread somewhere about how competitive listing are in, I think, Portland. One of the items mentioned was a brand new, in the box Heavy Ten that they were asking 1000 for. That's a home run for whoever got it!

    On the more gallactic level there is a guy on Practical Machinist, also an Oregonian who scored the all time find of all time. A research scientist from the east who retired in Oregon, built the super shop, and stocked it with every tool known to man of the very best imaginable quality, all found still in the box when he passed!. It's out there, you just have to believe.

  25. #25
    Senior Member ftwelder's Avatar
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    I have a Wells Index mill that I don't need anymore. I am in Vermont and would let it go for $300.00. Missing a few pieces but really nice iron.

    Many lathes aren't designed for negative tool pressure and shouldn't be used for mill type work. I used butchers bowling alley wax on my surfaces.

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