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Old February 7, 2016, 01:48 AM   #1
dakota.potts
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Seriously Considering Mini Lathe/Mill - Is It Feasible?

As you can see from my signature, I spend a fair amount of time running machines between my time at school for gunsmithing and my job operating CNC machines. I've had previous jobs running manual machines (Surface grinder and mill mostly) and do a lot of reading on the subject.

It seems, after all the time being around it, I've caught the bug. I want to work on things on my own time. I don't often have a lot of time to just experiment with making things on the machines at school, and I'm generally not allowed to run manual machines at work even if I were to stay after my shift (which is fine, it's their machine and their liability).

Anyways, I'm thinking about making an investment this tax season and getting a Mini Lathe and/or Mill (lathe most likely taking priority). The problem is I live in an apartment. We're on the top floor. The only room I can put it in would be carpeted. My lease doesn't have any statements against power tools and from what I've heard, the machines under 1 HP don't have a terrible amount of noise - no more than a dishwasher or washing machine.

I could probably find space in the spare room for a decent sized work table or two for the machines to go on, but it's not a huge amount of space and I have to share it with some other items. I would surround the area with a tarp and maybe fabricate some type of shield to keep chips somewhat contained. Coolant would be limited to what could be applied directly with either a small brush or misted on.

What I would be looking at is something like a Grizzly 7X12" and some kind of small mill that I haven't decided on yet. Purpose would be making hand tools and small gun parts as well as making modifications to parts. Would have been great to have one when removing the sear catch notch on my CETME bolt as well as demilling the old receiver and for modifying my trigger pack to semi auto instead of buying a new one. Materials I would like to work would include plastic, brass, aluminum, and steels. Would love to experiment with other metals such as nickel and titanium, but I'm sure that's pushing it a little. I get lots of cut off pieces from work made from ABS, delrin, Nylon, PVC etc. that would be great to practice on at home or maybe make items like tool handles and washers. I'm comfortable with major operations (turning, facing, threading, reaming, etc.) as well as basic machine maintenance. If I'm being really ambitious, I'd like to eventually make some muzzle brakes and maybe even some baffles for a silencer I'd like to build on a Form 1. I have experience working in tolerances of thousandths and ten-thousandths.

Anybody done something similar before? Any advice or experience?
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Old February 7, 2016, 02:30 AM   #2
Bill DeShivs
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I have a Chinese 7 X 12, a Unimat, and a Chinese Unimat 3 copy.
While I'm not a machinist, the 7 X 12 can be tweaked to be a very accurate machine.
If you want a Unimat, contact me.
I also have a tiny Chinese milling machine that is fairly rare that I use for specific purposes and a Taig mill for bigger (little) stuff.
The mini-tools are fine, as long as you remove mini amounts of material.
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Old February 7, 2016, 04:10 AM   #3
dakota.potts
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Thanks for the input Bill. Have you ever set up a small machine in the situation I'm in, i.e. a small carpeted bedroom in an apartment, with good results?

Also, I'll bite about the Unimat. PM incoming
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Old February 7, 2016, 04:18 AM   #4
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Some of the combination mill/drill/lathes, are not set up for threading, in other words, they have no change gears, etc., and some have no power feed.

Most of the mini-lathes have change gears with them, but the gears themselves have to be changed out for feed, thread, metric/inch. You cant change them off a lever. However, some of these don't have a threading dial.

It is according to what you want to be able to do on a lathe, and will you be needing to cut threads that there are no dies or taps for?
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Old February 7, 2016, 04:53 AM   #5
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I would likely not be looking at a combo machine. Too heavy (nearly 500 pounds) and they give up a lot of parts of both machines. So I would get a mini lathe and maybe a mini mill if finances allow or at a later period.

As far as threading, I prefer to cut threads on a lathe and then chase them with a die. Would like to learn to do the same with internal threads to chase with a tap. This helps (at least helps me) maintaining a concentric and clean thread. I would like to learn to do it without the tap or die. Not that I wouldn't use them, but I would prefer not to have to buy new tools for every new thread I need. I'd be working with a combination of inch and metric.
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Old February 7, 2016, 01:02 PM   #6
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"...live in an apartment..." That'll be your biggest issue. What your lease allows is what matters. One bedroom apartments are not conducive to metal working machines. The noise is the least concern.
Cut some brass knife handle rivets a few years ago with an abrasive wheel in a rotary tool. Cut off bits were hot enough to burn the carpet. (Fixed it by hanging a bucket of water off the vise.) Have wee burn marks all over below the vise. Chips will do the same(buggers can fly a long way) and will burn whatever is under the carpet(likely wood) you won't be allowed to pull up. There are no security deposits up here, but if there were it'd be gone. Despite having been in the unit for eons and when I'm gone they'll be re-carpeting anyway.
The bits would have burned through any plastic tarp too.
If you need to chase lathe cut threads with a die you've done something wrong.
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Old February 7, 2016, 03:00 PM   #7
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1) I bought a 7x10 Griz Mini lathe in ~ 2002.
I have actually converted some 9x19mm Tokarev barrels to 9x23mm in it.
I now use it to spin arbors with wire wheels.
2) Then in 2004 I got a 12x36 1967 Clausing 5914 for $1k at auction that had belonged to Boeing. I built a number of rifles on it.
3) Then in 2007 I got a 12x36 1938 Atlas when a friend died. He was smart with the Boeing fellowship and had put Timken tapered roller bearings in it. I built one Win M70 270 on it.
4) Then in 2008 I got a 12x36 new Precision Matthews with DRO for $4k. I have built 3 dozen rifles on it.

The lathes have been cheap. The mills have not.
The first mill in 2004 cost $2k, a 1968 Rockwell.
The mill I got in 2015 is a 1969 Bridgeport for $12k. The previous owner built a microwave module that is on Mars. The neighbor came over and built an R2D2 on it. He has $30k into the robot.

What does it all mean?
I have been with the same woman for 40 years, because I chose wisely.
I have been getting divorces from my lathes because I was a cheap skate.
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Old February 7, 2016, 05:23 PM   #8
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Figure out wher you want to set up your equipment in your apartment. Then drive you pickup to the local building supply store and purchase one sheet meaning 4x8 sheet of cement board. lay the sheet of cement board on the carpet in the place that you want to set up your equipment. Problem solved.
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Old February 7, 2016, 06:30 PM   #9
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If you are going to buy a small (Mini?) mill, check it out first. They seem to be getting better, but most used to be no more than a step above a drill press. Both machines can be a money pit for tooling. Hey, a 4 jaw chuck would be nice, maybe a rotory table, sure could use a 5-C collet set up........and it never stops.
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Old February 7, 2016, 06:31 PM   #10
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There is nothing you can say to your landlord that will convince him a machine shop upstairs isn't causing him a headache.

I would evict you for any excuse I could come up with.

Find yourself a house in a decent neighborhood and then get your mill.
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Old February 7, 2016, 07:29 PM   #11
dakota.potts
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Becoming a home owner at 20 years old while going to school full time is really not in the plans. Especially since I'm planning to move away after graduating next summer.

Maybe I'll see if I can rent an unused part of a small workshop or find a buddy with a suitable space and pay him a modesty monthly fee to set up there. Would only be able to use it on the weekends though. I already have a buddy who will let me use his garage for my shop press
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Old February 7, 2016, 08:28 PM   #12
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Considered renting a house with a basement or garage with a friend or two?

When I was renting a house with two friends, came out to 300 a month from each of us, and we had a spare bedroom and basement.

Can't have a 1 bedroom apartment for that money here. I'm sure that without having to worry about downstairs neighbors or those on any side but above you will make for a landlord that isn't looking for reasons to evict you.
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Old February 7, 2016, 09:06 PM   #13
dakota.potts
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I already have a roommate with me in a two bedroom apartment. It's the only decent apartment we can afford to live in that allows dogs and doesn't require us to do laundry at a laundromat. Moving is impractical for a number of reasons. Rentals with garages/basements are too expensive around here as that's pretty much just houses and town homes.

So, if it can't be done in the guest bedroom I'll have to consider whether it's worth it to rent a place to work
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Old February 7, 2016, 09:16 PM   #14
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I'd rather find a used Bridgeport at an auction.
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Old February 7, 2016, 09:29 PM   #15
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lilamajaro

The landlord tenant act prevents landlords from doing exactly what you state you would do. The Act allows for hobbies so if you were to pull such stupidity and the tenant took you to court you would be done. Landlords are expected to know the law as are tenants cement board layed down on the carpet would prevent any problems.
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Old February 7, 2016, 09:34 PM   #16
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I used to work on my motorcycles in an extra bedroom. There was not a blasted thing that the landlord could do. I layed down a 4x8 sheet of OSB board in the extra bedroom. Outside I removed the fuel tank to comply with firecode and then I rolled the bike inside over cardboard placed over the carpet. Once inside the extra bed room I got to work on the bike.
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Old February 7, 2016, 09:55 PM   #17
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"The landlord tenant act prevents landlords from doing exactly what you state you would do. The Act allows for hobbies..."

Maybe in Washington but that wouldn't fly in Texas. Depends on the lease restrictions. I wonder if the OP has access to 220 power to run something like he proposes. Never seen a 220 circuit run into a bedroom.
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Old February 7, 2016, 10:10 PM   #18
dakota.potts
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The machines I am looking at run on 110v. They are pretty small machines.
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Old February 7, 2016, 10:17 PM   #19
MurBob
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Quote:
I wonder if the OP has access to 220 power to run something like he proposes. Never seen a 220 circuit run into a bedroom.
Well, unless his entire apartment runs off a single 120 volt circuit breaker, I would imagine it wouldn't be too difficult to find two outlets with opposing 120v phasing.
15amps @ 220 volts will run any mid sized machine.
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Old February 7, 2016, 10:17 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burrhead View Post
"The landlord tenant act prevents landlords from doing exactly what you state you would do. The Act allows for hobbies..."

Maybe in Washington but that wouldn't fly in Texas. Depends on the lease restrictions. I wonder if the OP has access to 220 power to run something like he proposes. Never seen a 220 circuit run into a bedroom.
There is a way to make a 220 plug adapter out of combining two 110 circuits. I won't go into details but instructions can be found online.
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Old February 7, 2016, 10:30 PM   #21
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^
As long as each 110 circuit comes from a separate leg. Try and explain that to a landlord. I've been around rental properties all my life. Grew up in the business.

But the point is moot; the OP is looking at 110 machines. If it were me I'd look for a small shop space to rent but I'm not in his shoes.
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Old February 8, 2016, 12:21 AM   #22
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I owned an apartment building for 10 years in Seattle in the 1990s and I belonged to the landlord association, and got the newsletter. Being inside the Seattle city limits makes it hard to evict for anything but not paying the rent.

My problems never got down to what tenants were doing or what they had.
I simply wanted them to pay me money and never call me on the phone with problems.

I tore up nearly every floor in every bathroom due to rot from water on the floor. I crippled in floor joists, gerrymandered new plywood over that. I put in new vinyl floor. I put in base boards. Then I would drive home through miserable traffic.

I didn't care if you have a machine shop. Just don't flood the bathrooms.
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Old February 8, 2016, 12:27 AM   #23
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Getting too much more into rental law and tenant/landlord relationships is probably not the direction of this board and is likely to lead to the thread being shut down in my estimation. I won't do anything laid out as not being permitted in my lease and I'm not going to permanently modify my apartment or mess with wiring to get the results I want.

What does concrete board do that, say, plywood wouldn't and how heavy is it? Would a much lighter and more portable solution such as interlocking foam/rubber mats help also?

I'm aware I couldn't do any abrasive operations such as sanding or grinding. I can sneak time in for most projects at school on a grinder if they're simple (like sharpening HSS tools)
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Old February 8, 2016, 12:42 AM   #24
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Concrete board is pretty heavy, much more than plywood. It's also brittle and breaks fairly easily. The rubber mats are a thought but it would be difficult to sweep up filings. For your purposes I'd use plywood.
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Old February 8, 2016, 12:53 AM   #25
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An 8 ft folding table would support a couple of small machines. As long as you run them slow, you shouldn't fling chips off the table. You could glue quarter-round moulding around the edges to keep chips and stuff off the floor.
Take a hard look at Taig lathes and milling machines. They are extremely well made (in the US,) and are inexpensive, precision mini machines.
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