View Full Version : HF Combo Lathe/Mill? Decent/Hobby quality?

01-19-2005, 04:55 AM
Hey Guys,

I apologize for asking so many questions. :oops:

I am looking for an inexpensive combo lathe/mill that I can use for small hobby stuff, and some small full scale stuff. I want something thats at least 20" between centers, and doesnt way 500+ pounds.

I found a lathe at my local HF outlet, similar to this (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=46199).

Would that be decent for $600? for doing some decently precise hobby stuff? Pros/cons? Any input appreciated! :P

01-19-2005, 07:46 AM
Hi Mike
Don't worry about asking to many questions.

Look at this one http://www.grizzly.com/products/item.cfm?itemnumber=G0516&

The one you showed in your post is Very limited in what it can do as a mill. When these first came out, a friend bought one, then tried to use it. Very frustrating. The spindle for the mill is fixed, and will only allow about a 4" cut in the "X" axis. My friend took it back and got the grizzly. He is happy with it, but still would like to have a lathe and a mill as separate machines, if he only had the room.
Just my 2c

01-19-2005, 07:59 AM
Hello Mike,

On a purchase like this one, you can never ask to many questions!

I too looked at the HF combo, and after seeing it in person then going to Grizzley I ended up purchasing this unti -


The HF unit is not for any percision work at all as far as milling goes (the lathe is questionable also). These are under powered unless all your your planning on doing is making really simple scale model parts or 1/10 RC parts..... I'm using mine for large items and just love it to death.

When purchasing a Mill or Lathe you will want to buy the biggest machine you can afford because even the Big machines will do the small parts and then you have the option to do larger work when necessary.

Pat D.

01-19-2005, 08:37 AM
hi Mike,

This can be one of those "sticky" topics.

Personally I would rate separate machines astronomically higher than the combo units.

Admittedly the thought of having a single machine do it all is enticing, but you must understand that these types of machines are typically VERY DIFFICULT to use - this doesn't mean you can't do soem decent work with one, but you're gonna pay for it in extra effort and a lot of "you just can't get there from here" scenarios.

If you could somehow free up some space for separate machines I think you'd be far more ahead.

The next sugestion would be to step up to industrial machines - new isn't always better.

Lastly - If it were me in your position I would talk with as many machinists as I could to determine what makes the most sense for YOUR specific needs. I too am a hobbiest, but I also have machines at home that weigh over 4,000 pounds - so you might want to be more specific as to exactly the type of projects you envision working on. If you're gonna do much milling in steel - I would seroiusly reconsider. If you're gonna mill the ocasional key way for a shaft then maybe you're fine.

Good Luck!

Jacin in Ohio

01-19-2005, 09:50 AM
Thanks for the input. The reason I was looking at a combo lathe/mill is because of money. I dont have a lot of it. I need a lathe for a few parts, and a MIG and TIG welder. I look on eBay all the time looking for new listings, but the prices, or the shipping are astronomical.

I wouldnt mind having an older machine at all, as long as it can be converted to single phase (dont have any idea how to do 3 phase). I also look in the local newspaper for classifieds on one of these machines, havent found anything yet. Or when I do I dont have the cash.

Heres what I need it for:
Turning several aluminum parts (large & small)
Turning a few steel parts (large & small)
Most parts are for my 1/6scale hot rod Im working on.
Light milling for some minor things.
Less than 500lbs
Not to much cash.
Easily found.

One of the reasons I was thinking about HF, is because I dont have to pay shipping. Just go, pick it up, save $130. But now Im thinking that it might be worth the $130 shipping in the long run.

Thanks guys, I love this site!

01-19-2005, 10:40 AM
I was just at the Cabin Fever Model Engineering Expo and Auction this weekend, and they auctioned off a number of industrial lathes. I was in shock that they only got $200-$300 each. A model with a DRO took $600. A Bridgeport type mill got $400 (was missing a screw for the x-axis). A smallish shaper fetched the most, just over $600. After seeing prices on ebay, which usually start at a grand, I was amazed. There is a similar expo coming up in Minnesota (or Michigan, one of the M's) next month I believe. Sorry I don't know the name of it.

01-19-2005, 11:55 AM
Hi Mike
Look around for a school auction. I went to one 2 months ago, and they were getting $400 to $600 for 12" South Bend lathes.
You could buy one of them, then add a milling fixture to do small mill work.
One question, why under 500#?

Don't worry about 3 phase.
I bought a very old pedestal grinder at an auction, it was 3 phase.
Wired it to 2 phase 220v, us a rope pull to start it spinning, then hit the button for 220v, and away it go's. The 4th wire from my Bridgeport, is wired to the 4th wire from the grinder, and the rest are wired for 220v. Works great, just not as convenient as having 3 phase.
again, just my 2c

01-19-2005, 02:16 PM
The reason I need it around 500lbs, or under is because its for a personal home shop, and I'll be heading to college in about 2 years.

Bill B
01-19-2005, 06:14 PM

Over ten years ago I bought a Smithy, supposedly better than the HF combo unit. Wasn't very happy with it for many reasons. But I did make a bunch of things with it.

I would have been happier with a good used older domestic (American) lathe and a milling attachment. I've been told some of the "older" imports were very good. Whatever way you go, it can be made to work and you will learn a ton!

If you aren't in a huge hurry get a subscription to Home Shop Machinist. You will learn how to do things you can't imagine. If you are in a place where there are stores selling used periodicals buy all of them you can find. There are classifieds in the magazine as well. If I had this advice many things would be different.

Must say you would be missing out (Big Time) if you don't find the forums on the web with similar names and content!

01-20-2005, 06:14 PM
I was talking to my Dad, and I've got bad news. He wants it be able to be man handled by he and I fairly easily, so 200lbs and under.

Sheesh. :evil:

01-20-2005, 08:37 PM
Well THAT really depends on how you plan on "man handling" it :lol:

I moved my P9 (4,000# plus) with just me and my wife - I did all the heavy work - and she moved the rollers!!!

Seroiusly - look at the older Southbends - the little 9" Southbend benchtop unit is often overpriced for the condition but there ARE deals to be had if you look hard enough - PLUS it'll ALWAYS hold it's value.

I don't think much of the smaller SFD machines (imports) but there are guys who do great work with them.

Good Luck

Jacin in Ohio

01-20-2005, 09:00 PM
Mike, are there possibly classes available to you that might enable you to use a lathe?

I have a friend that owns a bike shop and enrolls for motorcycle restoration courses at the local junior colleage just so he can use the equipment...........john

01-21-2005, 04:48 AM
Mike, are there possibly classes available to you that might enable you to use a lathe?

I have a friend that owns a bike shop and enrolls for motorcycle restoration courses at the local junior colleage just so he can use the equipment...........john

I've looked. Every place I've called to get my welding certification/training, machine classes, amongst others, require that the student is at least 18 years of age. :(

Currently, Im looking at a Grizzly Lathe, 7x12 with some upgrades. $340 is the current bid. Im not sure how much shipping will be though.

Would it be worth the money?

01-21-2005, 08:52 AM
See if your high school will "recommend" you take an advanced placement class at the local community college. The community college here places tech students starting in their junior year.

02-14-2005, 05:31 PM
Thought I'd continue this thread instead of starting another.

I was going to order a 7x12 Homier Lathe but they are now out of stock for the next few months.

While on eBay I came across one of the HF lathes, going for cheap, and new.

This is the lathe: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=44859

Is it decent quality? Could I turn square stock without damaging the motor? If I spruced it up a bit could it be more precise. Overall is it worth the money?

I dont have the money for one of the larger lathes, nor to I have the room. As much as I'd love to have a larger lathe, its pretty much out of the question.


02-14-2005, 05:54 PM

Go here http://www.mini-lathe.com/
There is a lot of information about mini-lathes and mini-mills.

Bob Schutte

02-15-2005, 05:36 AM
Your question on the small lathe. Please read the specs very carefully. Yes it will swing a piece 8in. in daimeter but with a 3/4 hp motor you will only be able to take very small cuts, probably less than .020 time. I know this because I have an old Atlas 8" hobby lathe at home that I got years ago and any chip heavier than that just stalls the motor but on the up side I have made a lot of precesion parts (+/- .001) with it --it just takes time. The upside is tooling for the lathe will be cheap as it will use inexpensive brazed carbide tool bits which are readily available. Be aware the thru hole in spindle is listed as 3/4 in so any rod or tubing larger than that will not fit thru. You will also need a strudy table to mount this on. One last tip as if this isn't enough. You can buy from harbor freight or just about anyone (J&L Industrial, Travers, to name a few) what is called a 1" dial indicator with a magnetic back.. These are about $10-20 dollars usually on sale and all you have to do is mount them anywhere convienent on the ways as you work and let the carriage touch the rolling ball end to start out at zero then it will indicate your cut up to 1" of travel. You could get two, one for each axis. I use this setup on my regular 16" shop lathe and it works great and very convienent. Also don't forget you will need to invest in measuring tools. A 6" vernier caliper is the first all purpose one to get. Don't need digital. Again $20-50 for a starter. If you do a lot of lathe work then a 1" micrometer is really handy and if your turn up a lot of parts larger, you can always get a larger mike but if your carefull the verniers will work fine. And harbor freight shipping is free.
Hope this helps somewhat, feel free to contact me. Just be aware of the quality and limitations of these smaller pieces of equipment.

Big Pete
04-08-2005, 02:48 AM
I have one of the little Chinese lathe/mill combos, I bought it to do work on custom bikes. I now wonder how I managed to do anything without it. Most stuff I do (spacers, top hat bushes, top hat nuts etc) dont require really high precision, but I have done wheel spindles and headstock spindles to suit taper roller bearings as well. The all up wieght of mine is 150Kg (about 330lbs) but you could get that down by removing the chuck, top slide, and tailstock. In my experience its much better as a lathe than as a mill, the slowest speed on mine is 140rpm, which is pretty quick for thread cutting on short threads, so I usually rotate the chuck by hand when I`m screw cutting. the 4 way toolpost is a pain in the ass, its worth the time to make a small height adjustable one, I`ll post some pics of the one I made over the weekend.

For milling, the table is a bit small and the distance between the table and the spindle nose means that for a lot of work you need either a tall machine vice of some substantial packing pieces in order to get the tool to the work. In addition, because the mill head is raised/lowered by a screw column, you lose datum if you need to move the head, there is also the risk that if the toll snags and stalls it will spin the head on the column. There are ways around this, like using a laser pen mounted on the head and pointing at the far wall as an indicator, but its harder work than a normal mill.

Since getting mine I have learned a lot and intend to move up to a Colchester Student soon, I also have an ancient small mill which I am refurbishing (using my existing tooling). If its all you can get within your budget /time/space constraints then go for it, learn what you nedd to know, do some work on it and progress up the ladder as finance/space circumstances allow. Its possible to make some money doing odds and sods on your basic lathe in order to add to the budget for upgrading.

Don`t forget that you also going to need tooling, a grinder, measuring gear, taps and dies (much easier than screwcutting all the time on standard small threads), a decent light and some bar stock. Ebay will sort out a lot of this stuff for you.

04-08-2005, 10:55 AM
Hi Pete, welcome to MetalMeet. Glad to have you as a member...........john

Matt Ferrari
04-08-2005, 11:44 AM
I was going to order a 7x12 Homier Lathe but they are now out of stock for the next few months.

Hi, Mike.

That might be a blessing in disguise.

I was looking for the same capabilities a year or so ago. I used the website that BigBadBob recommended a lot. After going back and forth, I decided to purchase machines one at a time, as other folks have suggested.

I first bought the Mirco Mark lathe. I chose their model because the dials turn in 0.050" per revolution, as opposed to 2 cm metric per revolution. (I want to think in inches, like everyone else.) I also got one of their mini-mills for the same reason. The lathe was also wider between centers than any other mini lathe (7 x 14) and had a digital RPM readout.

Both lathe and mill weigh right around a hundred pounds, and can be bolted to a work table for more stability. You can take them away to school with you.

For whatever it's worth, I use the lathe a LOT more than the mill. You could also get a milling attachment for the lathe.

Check out that website that BigBadBob, and use their comparison charts and decide for your self.

I'd also spend a few dollars more for a better machine. You'll always have the machine, so go for the one you really want, and you'll have no regrets (or a need to buy another machine) later.

Good luck,