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Machine Tools

Discussion of use and sourcing

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Dave Cooper 628/08/2020 11:09:27
287 forum posts
29 photos

Hi All

Apart from the more obvious use of band and jig saws etc, I was just wondering what machine tools modellers find most useful.

I have in mind, especially, lathes and mill drills. There is a space on the end of my bench approx. 4 feet long and a spare corner space which could be used for a free-standing mill.

Any advice on suitable sources and experience of 'new' versus 'used' welcome...



Dave Milbourn28/08/2020 13:25:43
4025 forum posts
282 photos


I've found that a pillar drill press has been invaluable. Mine is a cheapo Machine Mart 5-speed one but it does the job very well. While it's nice to have more elaborate and exotic toys in the workshop I reckon you must balance the benefits of a shiny new and expensive toy against the cost and likely use you'll get from it.

Dave M

Roger Clark28/08/2020 15:34:33
250 forum posts
88 photos

Hi Dave C,

Difficult to advise unless you can give an idea of what you want to create with your proposed new tools.indecision

Firstly I would say go for new unless you have a competent engineer with you to look at and test used equipment. Decide on what you want to build, marine steam engines, locos, traction engines et al, that will then give you the size of machinery required. Don't buy off Ebay unless you can go and check/test the machine or have money to burn. angry

Set yourself a budget for your machine purchase and allow about 50% extra for buying the tools and extra bits required, milling bits, lathe cutting tools, measuring tools & gauges, consumables (oil and metal).

Myself, I have a chinese mini lathe and mini mill, they both have been good for my needs most of the time but I have been pushed to do the odd jobs on them, but I do have a circa 1937 Denham Junior lathe weighing 3/4 ton which will turn 15" dia stuff and access to a Bridgeport mill as well.

If you look to buy new then Chester machine tools, Warco or Arc Eurotrade both seem to have good reputations (amongst others). Eurotrade would be my first preference as all my transactions with them have been first rate with good honest advice (no backhanders here) devil.



Dave Cooper 628/08/2020 18:03:32
287 forum posts
29 photos

Thanks for the response both.

I have a sort of make-shift drill press at present but it's based on a 1950's Wolf Cub (single speed) 2400 rpm ! A bench grinder (2 wheels) is in almost constant use. A good vise rounds off the current crop apart from the usual hand tools.

For usage, the largest item at present is a suspension assembly for a racing sportscar. Max. diameter here will be around 45mm - materials: T45 tube, EN14 bar and 300M bar.

I also have plans for a model 4-stroke engine around 10cc. Hence smallest item probably the pushrods 14 gauge silver steel perhaps. Oh, and lots of boat plans - mainly, sailing next.

Yes, I think my preference will be to save for a new set-up as second-hand can be tricky as you say...

Dave C

Paul T28/08/2020 18:35:27
7254 forum posts
1226 photos
2 articles

I agree with Dave M that a drill press is a very versatile piece of equipment, not only is it great for precise drilling but it can also be used as a basic vertical lathe or milling machine and a router.

You will need a drill clamp


But this one will allow your drill to be a milling machine or router.


I also found that the Dremel drill press is a very handy (smaller) version of the larger bench mounted machine.


David Marks 128/08/2020 19:50:52
255 forum posts
44 photos

My background is in the mechanical engineering workshop field. Consequently (apart from model boats) I involve myself in mechanical items and spent a considerable time supporting my son who scratch built as Lotus 7 lookalike. So machinery wise I have a pedestal drill (Axminster) combined lathe/milling machine (Chester) and a mini milling machine (Arc Eurotrade). Regarding accuracy, reliability etc, I am very pleased with all of them especially for the price paid. There was an earlier comment about Arc Eurotrade which I fully support. A very good supplier to deal with and the way the mini mill was presented was absolutely superb. If you have a Lidl supermarket near to you have a look at their Parkside range of larger tools. A friend of mine purchased one of their bench drills which I tried out and I found it very good value. Their Powerfix range of smaller hand tools are also superb value …£10 for a 6 inch - 150 mm digital caliper……very good indeed.

Ray Wood 229/08/2020 09:26:32
2377 forum posts
831 photos

Hi Dave,

I would go with all the advice given, if buying a cheaper new machine on the face of it a bargain, but you quickly find how many extras you need to make it work ! 4 jaw chucks being a good example , and quick change tool posts etc.

Being slightly mercenary, being a member of an Engineering society with the large numbers of members going to the workshop in the sky, lots of complete workshops are available these days! I have first hand experience of clearing both my dad & uncle's workshops, i'm sure at the end of the day a lot of equipment goes in the skip unfortunately 😢

Regards Ray

Dave Cooper 629/08/2020 13:41:39
287 forum posts
29 photos

Some very interesting comments and ideas so far - thanks all.

Size-wise, I seem to be falling somewhere between the 'mini' range and the big stuff (quite often 3-phase though)...I'd like to stay 240 volt /single-phase if possible.

We now have a Lidl near us so, will keep a watch out for anything that looks good. The dual-axis (x / y), drill press theme is one that seems worth pursuing.

I'll keep watching, listening and looking for the time being.


Dave Cooper 603/09/2020 10:41:14
287 forum posts
29 photos

A quick update :

I've taken the plunge and ordered a 'X-Y' machine /bench vice. This is not a high-quality unit (the reviews are very variable), but, it will enable a bit more engineering learning.

There are trapezoidal threads which will probably need some cleaning up with a file - maybe even supporting via a SIF bronze bush or two.

My low-tech "Wolf Cub" based drill press has a worn front bearing and about 0.5-1mm of side play. So, I'll search the net for a replacement bearing asap.

Also purchased a set of titanium drill bits in 0.5mm steps with a set of adjustable reamers to come (73rd birthday today !).

No lathe as yet, but I think I've now got a better handle on size and built-in facilities etc. Cost new will be about £1,500 (ish) so, a bit more saving up yet.


Chris E03/09/2020 11:47:51
231 forum posts

Something that seems to be often forgotten is space. I have tools that never see the light of day because I don't have the space to keep them ready to use and for many jobs it just isn't worth getting them out.

Before deciding on any tools have a workshop plan.

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