Adventures in Shop Tooling...

So let us suppose one had the option to go through door number one or door number two...

Door number one is a rather fun package.  I'd be opting for the 6200 package, though, seeing as how it has the 2000 series mill instead.  This package would allow me to do fun things like convert the Bachmann 2-10-4 frame into a 2-8-4 frame, or tool up new driver beds for my Bowser Challenger[s].  But after these projects, then what?

Option 2 is similar in price...but a different medium...

The price of this unit is extremely close to the price of the previous entry.  It would allow me to do fun things like tool windows for my scratch built buildings.  I could also line up and cut hundreds of pieces for roof trusses, or bridge trusses, or such.  It's a pretty big commitment, though...but not much less than the Mill+Lathe combo.

So that's my option right now - I have to figure out what direction I want to take.  I get the feeling that if I bought the laser, I'll be able to work towards the mill/lathe a lot quicker than if I bought Mill/Lathe first and then worked towards the Laser.  Unfortunately, that means my Berkshire project will be sitting for a while - but at least my stations will get their windows!!!

Any comments?




Comments

Cost of each..................

......is what, if I may ask?  I have no concept of these tools.  Thanks.

Peter

dfandrews's picture

a couple of comments

The real cost of a mill or lathe is the business end:  the cutters.  I have a friend with a mill, mostly for the purpose of building 1½" scale live steam locos.  He has easily spent the price of the mill over again in cutters and other devices.

The size of the piece, accuracy of work, and hardness of metal all have a factor in equipment selection.   If you're mostly doing roof trusses, where precision is not the most important aspect, and you're using aluminum, brass, or other softer metals, then maybe the smaller machine.

Loco frames are typically harder alloys, with more precision requirements, especially when doing things like loco frames with critical driver spacings to avoid binding of running gear.  There, I would chose a larger, more stable machine.

How about the laser doing wood or styrene?  

Don

Rincon Pacific Rwy, 1960.  HO scale std. gauge - interchange with SP.

DCC-NCE, CMRI, JMRI

Artarms's picture

Adelante! (forward!)

I have lusted after some version of option one for fifty years.  Each time I got close I thought up some reason not to commit. 

I say go for it - bite the bullet, suck it up, swing away, jump right  in, charge ahead, be bold, follow your dream, whatever.

If  you have the tool capacity to make things you will make things.. If you need more cutters, buy them.  Learn - do - experiment - create. 

You will be old before you expect - the choices you have will diminish with age - better to have loved and lost etc.

I have run out of advice on this issue - Please let us know your decision.

Art 

LKandO's picture

Historic Low Mortgage Rates

With mortgage rates hovering around 3% I say take out a second mortgage and buy them both!

Alan

www.LKOrailroad.com

HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, freelance, RailPro

experience?

If you have never used a lathe and/or mill, you'd be advised to buy a few how to books first.  (check out blue ridge machinery). Most of the work is in the setting up and clamping down. The cutting bit is the relatively easy part. But there is a lot of practice needed in getting a feel for cutting speeds and depths, and general metalworking know-how, before you can touch something you can't afford to replace. (including your fingers and eyes)

The point about cutters is valid, but knowing which expensiveaccessories you need (for what you plan to do) is also important (hence the book). A  useful set definitely costs more than either machine and not all are common to both.  And most are specific to certain processes.

A mill can build its own replacement. A lathe is a lot less useful unless you are into making wheels. Both are even more useful for repetitive work if you add CNC.

A laser cutter doesn't need skill, except for adapting drawings. But if you are thinking of commercializing it, you'll notice that the MR cottage industry has many already, and there isn't much wooden/card stuff, that can't be made a lot more expensively by using a laser, especially, if you operate in raster mode. And CO2 lasers don't cut metal at all.

Andy

Bernd's picture

Option 1

I'd go for option one. If the laser breaks down after the guarantee ends where do you take it to get fixed?

For those that are curious here are the links to the two items mentioned above.

The lathe/mill:

http://www.sherline.com/prices.htm

The laser:

https://www.inventables.com/technologies/desktop-laser-cutter

And Andy, the lathe is the only tool that can replace itself,  not the mill. Hard to turn round parts on a mill but it can be done. Milling can be done on a lathe.

Bernd

The New York, Vermont & Northern Railway   --  Route of the Black Diamonds

DKRickman's picture

lathe vs. mill

The lathe is the only tool that can replace itself,  not the mill. Hard to turn round parts on a mill but it can be done. Milling can be done on a lathe.

I read once that the lathe/mil duo is a particularly North American thing.  Many model engineers in the UK simply do not have the space, and for years would use the lathe as a mill with perfect success.  A mill might be better suited for a number of jobs, but there is not one that cannot be done on the lathe, properly set up.  If I had to chose, I'd go for a good lathe on it's own any way.

Ken Rickman

Danville & Western HO modeler and web historian

http://southern-railway.railfan.net/dw/

part historical myth, part industry convenience

Mills are good at producing long flat surfaces, while lathes (so fitted) cut threads easily. Milling on a lathe isn't exactly plug and play., especially for long distances.

Andy

...

Well, ok, first and foremost, the only difference between a lathe and a mill is that in a lathe, the work rotates and tool is stationary, while in a mill, the work is stationary and the tool rotates.  The Sherline Mill and Lathe utilize the exact same motor and drive in either unit; the differences are solely is in the base.  The purpose behind one of each is the time that is lost in reconfiguring a mill into a lathe and vice-versa.  So we can conclude this discussion here, you can do with only one or the other, but it really is Best to have both on hand!  Me personally, I see a lot more work I could do on a mill versus a lathe.  It may be indeed possible to machine a lathe with the mill, but even then I'd need a second motor and drive unit, so it's a wash in the end.

I'm quite aware that I cannot cut metal with the laser; the focus of either machine is an entirely different road altogether.  The mill/lathe approach heads off into the realm of metal tooling, while the laser cutter heads off into the realm of wood cutting.  Different machines, different directions, different jobs.

Hence we are at my crossroads; I'd like to do either set of projects, I really would.  However, I am only able to go down one road at a time, so I must plan wisely.  The Sherline is a good solid investment, but I'm not sure it would get much use versus the laser cutter.  There is wisdom in this reality that the tools that go with the machines are as much if not more than the machines themselves, and then the really good tooling is even more money on top of that.  And finally, the learning curve with this setup is nontrivial, at least when we compare it to the laser cutter.

The Laser Cutter then appears to be a more complete "package."  For the cost of the lathe/mill, I have everything in the system without any further investment.  Materials cost would be similar with either setup.  The training required to use the laser appears to be minimal, after reading through the users manual.  I've spent enough time with an engraver at work to know these machines function more like a printer than anything else; press play and it prints what you ask it to print.  The trick is learning how to tell it to play precisely what you want it to play!  

The laser cutter has the distinct advantage that I could indeed make something that very is sale-able very quickly, compared to anything I make out of metal.  The likelihood that I could recoup my investment would appear better with the laser cutter versus the mill/lathe - I could perhaps even come back to the lathe/mill after a couple years on the laser - even with the prolific number of cottage industries already in the marketplace. 

Either way, I'd be an animal with a good laser in-house.  As for machine/mill/lathe setups, perhaps I can ask around locally and find someone who has the setup already and get some training while accomplishing my projects.  The 2-10-4 project, for instance, requires two holes be drilled parallel to the chassis, the frame for the fifth driver bearing removed, and the rear section reattached with brass pegs through the pre-drilled pilot holes parallel to the chassis.  This will keep the section straight, and by further putting a couple well pockets at either end of the pilot holes, I'll be able to put some solder on the brass rod, thus performing a permanent fix...It's a simple job, with the right tools, but it's a one-time deal.  With the wood cutting jobs, well, let's just say I draw up projects at the drop of the hat...

I think I may have my decision at hand...oh boy...It's been a fun week...

Bernd's picture

Machine Tools

Benny,

“Well, ok, first and foremost, the only difference between a lathe and a mill is that in a lathe, the work rotates and tool is stationary, while in a mill, the work is stationary and the tool rotates.”


Very broad statement. Find me a milling machine that can produce an Acme threaded shaft of any usable length.


“ The Sherline Mill and Lathe utilize the exact same motor and drive in either unit; the differences are solely is in the base.”


I have the combination machine. My lathe can be converted to a mill utilizing the same motor. It takes about 5 minutes to change between lathe and mill and then 5 minutes back again. I’m sure you waste more time working on modeling projects. That change over time is a weak excuse used by many home shop machinists.
 

“Me personally, I see a lot more work I could do on a mill versus a lathe.”


That may be true but the first time you want to turn a shaft, thread a part or make a round wheel, what will you use? The mill will be able to produce a nice square wheel ala the BC stone age cartoon. I know that somebody is just going to pop here and tell you can use a rotary mill table to do that. Your right, but the lathe is faster.


“ It may be indeed possible to machine a lathe with the mill, but even then I'd need a second motor and drive unit, so it's a wash in the end.”
 

You stated that above and I also said that it can be done with one drive unit, did you not?


“I'm quite aware that I cannot cut metal with the laser;”


This statement needs qualification. Lasers can cut metal depending on the type of laser used and then only certain metals can be cut. A CO2 laser is used to cut sheet metal for instance and of course it depends on the wattage output of how thick you can cut, just like a plasma cutter. The ruby YAG laser is weapons grade and will cut almost anything but a mirror.


“The Sherline is a good solid investment, but I'm not sure it would get much use versus the laser cutter.  There is wisdom in this reality that the tools that go with the machines are as much if not more than the machines themselves,”


Again a false statement made by those who have no idea about machine tools. The lathe needs tool bits that can be bought very cheaply and I assume you already have a drill set right. What more do you need for a lathe?


“ and then the really good tooling is even more money on top of that.”


What is considered good tooling? Can you give me an example?


“ And finally, the learning curve with this setup is nontrivial, at least when we compare it to the laser cutter.”


That is absolutely true. The laser is easy because all it takes is a cad program and away you go. Anybody can do that. But to run a machine tool takes talent and know how and must be learned over a period of time. I know because I’ve been in the machine tool industry for over 40 years.


“The Laser Cutter then appears to be a more complete "package."


Not really. You can’t cut metal with a table top laser. I don’t think you can cut styrene. Not a very complete package if I say so my self. At least with a mill you can cut brass, steel, wood, plastics of all kinds. And so can the lathe cut the same products. I’m sure they use lathes and mills to make parts for building the laser. And the metal parts my even be stamped out instead of laser cut because it’s faster.


“I've spent enough time with an engraver at work to know these machines function more like a printer than anything else; press play and it prints what you ask it to print.” 
 

Who fixes the engraver when it breaks down electrically? At least with a machine tool you can make a part and they are not that complicated electronically.
 

“The laser cutter has the distinct advantage that I could indeed make something that very is sale-able very quickly, compared to anything I make out of metal.  The likelihood that I could recoup my investment would appear better with the laser cutter versus the mill/lathe - I could perhaps even come back to the lathe/mill after a couple years on the laser - even with the prolific number of cottage industries already in the marketplace. “
 

Ah so here’s the real want for a laser to make parts to make money. I bet I could make a master part faster with my lathe and mill and make resin castings while you wait to get your laser cutter fixed.
 

“The 2-10-4 project, for instance, requires two holes be drilled parallel to the chassis, the frame for the fifth driver bearing removed, and the rear section reattached with brass pegs through the pre-drilled pilot holes parallel to the chassis.  This will keep the section straight, and by further putting a couple well pockets at either end of the pilot holes, I'll be able to put some solder on the brass rod, thus performing a permanent fix...It's a simple job, with the right tools, but it's a one-time deal”
 

Send the 2-10-4 to me and I’ll drill the holes for you. It’ll cost you $2700.00 plus shipping and handling. But then I can add a laser to my already full shop of machine tools.wink

Bernd
 

 

The New York, Vermont & Northern Railway   --  Route of the Black Diamonds


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