Unimat collets

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  • #48708
    catskillpainter
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    I have a Unimat SL1000 for clock work and various silly projects ( no watches), and I’d like to use collets with it. The available options don’t look very good. There’s a replacement spindle that works with ww collets, but like all things Unimat, it’s hard to find and very expensive. I haven’t ruled this option out. There’s also a collet adapter chuck available for the standard spindle, but it still has a fair amount of runout, and it only works with obsolete and very hard to find collets, so it’s not really a good option. I have an idea, and hopefully some of you can give me some feedback as to how ridiculous it sounds. I have a four jaw chuck, and with a .0005in dial and a bit of patience, I can get the needle on that dial to sit just about still when centering large diameter items.The four jaw chuck is not designed to hold smaller stuff. Sherline makes tailstock collet adapters for both sherline and ww collets, and they’re very affordable. They’re straight with no taper, and I think they’d center really well in my four jaw chuck. Would this level of accuracy be good enough for clock work ? Is a tailstock adapter, which tightens collets from the front with a nut, going to be close to the accuracy of drawing down the collet in a spindle? I know that just buying a watchmaker’s lathe is probably the sane alternative to this, but I really like the versatility of the Unimat, and I think the collets would make it that much more useful for all sorts of projects. I’m thinking that the Sherline lathe is very likely superior to the Unimat in every way, and I’d be further ahead to unload my beloved Unimat and pick up a Sherline. Any thoughts on any of this would be appreciated !

    #54241
    arutha
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    • Topics Started: 85
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    I have a collet holder on my lathe that you insert the “ER” type collet into and then a big nut goes over the top to push it in and close it up, works well on my Vario-Lux lathe.
    I used to have an Emco lathe like yours but just didn’t find it that useful and I know William has sold his 2 as well. They are capable of cutting steel but you have to take such small cuts so as not to put too much pressure on the double bar bed and losing accuracy, it can be a painful process taking a couple of mm off the diameter. I know some people love these lathes and I can see the appeal but as you rightly also state, the accessories will be extortionate as you are fighting against collectors for them.
    Paul.

    #54242
    david pierce
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    • Topics Started: 90
    • Total Posts: 1360

    Cat,
    I have two of these machines that I bought in 1971. I also have many but not all of the accessories including the WW Spindle, threading attachment, feed attachment, 3 & 4 jaw chucks, milling table a bunch of other stuff and the E Style Unimat collet chuck and all of the collets. As a collectors item the Unimat is a wonderful addition to any lathe collection. As a useful working tool it is too flimsy and underpowered to be of any real value. The E collets have long since been replaced with the more usable ER collets. They almost look the same but the E style collets stick in the collet holder and in order to remove a part, you must unscrew the chuck and tap the part out from the back. The ER collets have a groove around the front and snap into the collet nut. To remove the part you only need to unscrew the nut and the collet is pulled forward unlocking the grip on the part. A few years ago I replaced the motors with one horsepower motors of the same aproximate physical size. The Unimats now have plenty of power but due to the overall design of the machine, the bed will physically bend under a cutter load. Investing more money into the Unimats will not result in a more useful working tool. As far as WW collets go, they are probably the best choice for gripping very small parts but if you are using the machine for larger clock parts the ER-16 collets are a much better choice. The traditional old style lathes used for clock work used the 10mm “D” collets. The lathes look like a WW watchmaker lathe but they are larger and have a double pedistal. The more modern ER-16 collets are a better and less expensive choice.
    david

    #54243
    catskillpainter
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    • Topics Started: 2
    • Total Posts: 33

    @david pierce wrote:

    Cat,
    I have two of these machines that I bought in 1971. I also have many but not all of the accessories including the WW Spindle, threading attachment, feed attachment, 3 & 4 jaw chucks, milling table a bunch of other stuff and the E Style Unimat collet chuck and all of the collets. As a collectors item the Unimat is a wonderful addition to any lathe collection. As a useful working tool it is too flimsy and underpowered to be of any real value. The E collets have long since been replaced with the more usable ER collets. They almost look the same but the E style collets stick in the collet holder and in order to remove a part, you must unscrew the chuck and tap the part out from the back. The ER collets have a groove around the front and snap into the collet nut. To remove the part you only need to unscrew the nut and the collet is pulled forward unlocking the grip on the part. A few years ago I replaced the motors with one horsepower motors of the same aproximate physical size. The Unimats now have plenty of power but due to the overall design of the machine, the bed will physically bend under a cutter load. Investing more money into the Unimats will not result in a more useful working tool. As far as WW collets go, they are probably the best choice for gripping very small parts but if you are using the machine for larger clock parts the ER-16 collets are a much better choice. The traditional old style lathes used for clock work used the 10mm “D” collets. The lathes look like a WW watchmaker lathe but they are larger and have a double pedistal. The more modern ER-16 collets are a better and less expensive choice.
    david

    Thanks for the advice – that’s very useful information. It sounds like my best bet would be to sell off the Unimat and move on.

    #54244
    catskillpainter
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 2
    • Total Posts: 33

    @Arutha wrote:

    I have a collet holder on my lathe that you insert the “ER” type collet into and then a big nut goes over the top to push it in and close it up, works well on my Vario-Lux lathe.
    I used to have an Emco lathe like yours but just didn’t find it that useful and I know William has sold his 2 as well. They are capable of cutting steel but you have to take such small cuts so as not to put too much pressure on the double bar bed and losing accuracy, it can be a painful process taking a couple of mm off the diameter. I know some people love these lathes and I can see the appeal but as you rightly also state, the accessories will be extortionate as you are fighting against collectors for them.
    Paul.

    Thanks for the advice – I may shop around for something else at this point.

    #54245
    david pierce
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 90
    • Total Posts: 1360

    Cat,
    If you plan to work only on clocks take a good look at the TAIG LATHE with the ER-16 collet head. It is sturdy, accurate, has a large powerful motor, a drilling tailstock and is affordable. Since you already have a Unimat you can set it up as a drill press with an X/Y positioner table for light milling and positioned drilling.
    david

    #54246
    catskillpainter
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 2
    • Total Posts: 33

    @david pierce wrote:

    Cat,
    If you plan to work only on clocks take a good look at the TAIG LATHE with the ER-16 collet head. It is sturdy, accurate, has a large powerful motor, a drilling tailstock and is affordable. Since you already have a Unimat you can set it up as a drill press with an X/Y positioner table for light milling and positioned drilling.
    david

    That sounds like a good idea – I’ll look into into. I was checking out the ER-16 collets – they look perfect for what I need.

    #54247
    catskillpainter
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 2
    • Total Posts: 33

    Here’s what I’m thinking. First, I’ll set myself up with some ER-16 collets. They look like the perfect solution, and I’ll use them regardless of what lathe I end up using. I can try them with the Unimat with an inexpensive straight shank milling chuck, so I’ll give that a try. I’ve been cutting soft steel with carbide bits on the Unimat, although nothing requiring great precision, and I’ve found it to be reasonably workable with small cuts. If I can’t get precise enough cutting this way, either because of flexing, or using such a roundabout way of holding the collets, a new lathe will be the answer. Eventually, as my finances allow, I’ll sure I’ll pick up another lathe anyway. The Taig looks like a good choice. Thanks to everyone for all the great advice and information here. It’s a lot to think about.

    #54248
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    The size of the lathe you get will pretty much dictate the amount of material you can remove quickly and also leave you with a good finish. I have heard a lot of good things about the Taig lathe and the big bonus with it is the accessories are very reasonably priced and easy to get hold of although I do not have any personal experience with one.
    here is a link to a guys clock building project where he is using a Taig.
    http://www.deansphotographica.com/machining/projects/clockmaking/clockmaking.html
    Do a bit of research before you take the plunge but I cant think of anything better for the money. The Emco Unimat 3 is another popular clockmakers lathe but again you will have a hard time finding accessories and it will probably work out a lot more expensive than the Taig.
    Good luck,
    Paul.

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