Watchmakers Lathe or Micro Lathe

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  • #49428
    stevefitzwater
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    • Topics Started: 48
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    Been looking to acquire a lathe, I see where a lot of the “established” Horologist use both, right now I use “other” tools to fill this roll, but I am looking to acquire one and eventually both.

    First- Not having a lot of lathe experience, my knowledge base is null, so I am really shooting in the dark as far as what to be looking for in a Micro Lathe, doing a giggle search (yes intentionally spelled that way), I have came across a handful of manufacturers, but what I am worried about is tolerances.

    Enlighten me ol Great Ones..

    #61587
    tmac1956
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    • Topics Started: 171
    • Total Posts: 1259

    Steve:

    If you decide to go the watchmaker’s lathe route, I would like to recommend the Sincere. You pick up everything for a fraction of what you will spend trying to outfit an old lathe and you’ll have a very accurate lathe to boot. David Pierce and Bob can give you more details, but from what I’ve heard that’s the biggest bang for the buck. Even though it’s Chinese made, it’s highly accurate and extensible beyond anything that’s used – except for perhaps a used Taig.

    When David or Bob get a chance, perhaps they will post their opinions. Additionally, I think David was impressed with the run-out on this machine. There are many posts on the subject here, but this is one a from which you can track back older posts…

    viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1268&p=9547&hilit=Sincere#p9547

    I think you will find that most of us including myself (and I have a tight and true Levin 8mm) knowing what we know now, would have saved tons of money and reduced tons of anxiety by going with the Sincere. I’ve bought a lot of Chinese stuff such as the motor for my Levin and I can tell you that my opinion of Chinese products has definitely change for the better. That motor is high quality and was a fraction of the cost I would have expended buying an old US made motor and rebuilding it, or buying a new one.

    Thanks,
    Tom

    #61588
    david pierce
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    • Topics Started: 90
    • Total Posts: 1360

    Steve,
    Before purchasing a lathe, or any other major machine, first establish what you want to use it for. There are many time proven reasons that certain machines are designed the way they are, and the trick is to match the machine purchase to your machining needs. If you want to make clock parts, an ultra precision Geneva lathe would not be a useful choice. A larger clock size part requires larger cutter depths and more spindle torque. If you want to make tiny watch staffs and turn pivots to a diameter of .1mm (.004 inches) then a 14″ swing 3hp engine lathe would not be a suitable solution. Generally as the size of a machined part becomes smaller, the precision of the machine becomes more important. As precision becomes more important the cost of the machine increases. Selecting a machine is a matter of matching a machine to your needs as well as your budget.

    If you plan to use the lathe primarily to make small watch parts the acquisition of lathe accessories is extremely important. This can become a real problem in the older antique lathes that are no longer manufactured. A good place to start is to look at many of the older posts on this forum.
    david

    #61589
    chris mabbott
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    • Topics Started: 119
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    Ah Steve, welcome to the great debate 🙄 unfortunately, there are as many opinions on what to buy as there are sheets on a toilet roll 😆

    I’ll repeat my advice to myself… The main thing is, what are you going to do with it?

    Can you foresee into the future and say that you “might” get into it, ya know, a natural calling kinda deal, so that your will eventually make larger things?

    I picked up two watchmakers lathes over the years, both vintage but in fair shape.. I was lucky enough to get them reasonably equipped with attachments, but there are things I still need that I can’t find.. One is a 6mm the other an 8mm
    I now generally use the 8 for turning work and the 6 is a dedicated polishing machine..

    I recently purchased a larger lathe, using various advice on specs from people here on the forum, and from what I could find wading through the lack of information highway.
    Finally, it was price and availability that made up 75 % of the decision…. And now I find that I’ve been using the larger lathe for a lot more stuff.. I think it’s comparable to the US grizzly lathes… I’m sure David will chime in and verify if this is correct..

    Accuracy wise, the larger lathe, an optimum, Chinese built then finished in Germany model, was surprisingly accurate as I used it, for a test, using a micro drill bit to drill a micro hole, it was dead on center..

    So I suggest this, make up the list of things, lets say the top 10 immediate things that you plan on using the lathe for.. What size of work, how much you’re willing to spend on it, and accessories, and what your future expectations might be.

    Post them here, then we can suggest something that fits you.. Work with you let’s say..

    It’s not an easy purchase, it can be stressful and frustrating making the decision, but it is possible when you have all the details listed..

    #61590
    chris mabbott
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    Oops, I think I was posting at the same time as David :)

    #61591
    stevefitzwater
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    • Topics Started: 48
    • Total Posts: 385

    Well when I decided to get back in to this.. this.. what every we want to call it, Hobby, addiction, obsession… I was looking at Pocket Watches and watches, and thought I could put this purchase off, but I have been working on clocks for awhile and I am truly enjoying it, almost more then watches.

    The end game is to be able to make parts, I need one NOW for clock service, I do not like the way I have been doing it, and think my results would be exponentially better with a small 8mm lathe, like I said in my O.P., that I have very little experience with a lathe, and not sure what would work best, I am now acquiring several lathe books, to read, when I do get one, I will pick up some stock just to play with and get some working knowledge on it.

    Right now, my needs are more around a old watchmakers lathe, the Sincere is an option, or an older Peerless or Boley, honestly I think it is what I all I “need” right now, I have bid on a few on eBay, I bid low, if I get it, great, if not, oh well.

    Eventually I want to pick up a Mini Lathe, I almost pulled the trigger on one the other day, but like I said, not sure what accuracy or tolerance, here is the web page, yeah I went to the Grizzly page, but I thought there was more options here.

    http://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_category.php?category=1271799306

    Yeah Chris, it is a very “taxing” debate, can not wait till it is time to add the Mill…

    Thanks for your input!

    #61592
    david pierce
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 90
    • Total Posts: 1360

    Steve,
    Congratulate yourself on NOT purchasing the lathe in the link you posted. That is the picture of a scaled down engine lathe and an engine lathe is generally used to remove a lot of metal quickly. To accomplish this task a lot of mass and power is required. A smaller machine does not have a lot of mass and power. If you go to the PRODUCT REVIEWS post and look at the pictures of my lathes that Tom posted for me, you will see a picture of my 9″ swing engine lathe. That is the smallest engine lathe I would want and believe me if I had a place to put a larger one I would have bought it instead. The lathe in the picture weighs 250 pounds and is able to use 3C collets with a collet adapter that seats inside the spindle. A larger machine (like Ren’s) should be able to use 5C collets that seat inside the spindle. An engine lathe is basically a calculate, dial in and cut machine and is not noted for a lot of “feel” from the operator. The cutter is moved with a lead screw and this type of machine functions best when used in this manner. A smaller engine lathe functions the same way but with a lot less mass and power. There are no advantages that I know of by going to a smaller engine lathe.

    If you look at the picture of the square head lathe above the 9″ engine lathe you will see a Levin Instrument Turret Lathe. That is an extremely high precision machine that does offer a certain amount of feel. It takes 3C collets directly inside the spindle and is designed for lighter cuts and high precision work. Levin is still in business and you can turn to their web page and take a look at a new one. Just make sure that you are sitting down when you look at the price. A far lower cost machine for the that part size range is a TAIG. The Taig is really too large for extremely small watch parts but is a good size for clock size parts. It is a good affordable and accurate machine with a lot of power, and can take a lot of abuse without suffering damage to the machine. An ER-16 head is available for a very reasonable price and I have found that ER-16 colets are very accurate and suitable for most work.

    The lathes on the wire shelves are Geneva type and WW type lathes. These lathes are all about feel and precision and those are critical factors when making extremely tiny parts. When tiny parts are machined they are very weak compared to the cutter pressure and break easily. The 8mm and 6mm lathes are a good size machine for that range of parts. The Sincere lathe is an 8mm Geneva style lathe. They are currently made and the accessories are available at a reasonable cost. If you have an unlimited budget, take a look at the beige colored lathe on the wire shelf. That is a Bergeon Geneva style lathe and it is also currently made. You can take a look at a new one if you go to the Otto Frei web page. If you look at the price of that machine make sure you are lying down, not just sitting down.

    In my view the best bang for the buck would be obtained from the Sincere and the Taig lathes but that is just my opinion.
    david

    #61593
    bernie weishapl
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    • Topics Started: 58
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    Guess I will throw my 2 cents in since David brought it up. If you are doing clock for the time being you might look at a Taig lathe. I bought the lathe and all of the attachments for it including the milling attachment and ER 16 collet per the advice of David for about $750. So far I haven’t found a part I couldn’t make. It is hefty enough to make any clock part but not to big I couldn’t make watch parts. I made one watch staff with it to see if I could and it did well. So just another carrot in the pot. Oh and yes I do have a watchmakers lathe a boley with about all attachments for it but that cost me over $1300.

    #61594
    stevefitzwater
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    • Topics Started: 48
    • Total Posts: 385

    David, thank you, you gave the answer I was truly looking for, those lathes I was looking at are not meant for Watchmaking, I have seen the large lathes that some have and thought they were the same thing (when I said no experience, I meant none).

    The Taig just looks so basic, was not sure that is what I needed, but I will add that to the list.

    Thanks everyone for your opinions and knowledge, it helps more then you know!

    #61595
    gerene
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    • Topics Started: 16
    • Total Posts: 377

    I also have a Taig lathe and am very satisfied with it. I use it for clock work mostly but I did make a balance staff with. I don’t have a Watchmakers lathe, but I do have a WW-collet headstock together with the standard Taig headstock. This allows me to use WW-collets for small work. Unfortunately I believe that the WW-headstock is no longer available from Taig. I also have the ER-16 collet adapter allowing me to use ER-16 collets.
    To add to the confusion you could also have a look at Sherline lathes. They seem to be somewhere in between a Taig and a watchmakers lathe. I do not have any experience with them and I am far from a specialist in lathes ;).

    #61596
    stevefitzwater
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    • Topics Started: 48
    • Total Posts: 385

    WOW 😯 , just checked out those Bergeon Lathes, they are proud of their work aren’t they?

    Well since I did not win the Lotto, guess I will not place that order for one of each.. LOL

    WOW more then a nice truck…

    #61597
    david pierce
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    • Topics Started: 90
    • Total Posts: 1360

    🙄 Steve,
    I warned you not to be standing up when you looked at the price. Take a look at the Levin web page as well.
    david

    #61598
    david pierce
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 90
    • Total Posts: 1360

    Steve,
    I know that when people first look at a Taig they are often put off because it is an ugly looking machine. In spite of the lathe’s physical looks the machine works very well. It is robust for a lathe of that size and weight, and is constructed with a good amount of precision. It is powered with a reasonably large and quiet induction motor (as opposed to a noisy universal motor) via an industrial quality V-Belt. The extra wide bed is made out of steel as opposed to diecast pot metal used in other machines of that size. This is a very important feature if you want to secure a magnetic base dial indicator for precision work. In all of the years I was involved in machine work the only lathe with which I had complete confidence in the hand dials was a $55,000 Hardinge toolroom lathe. When I had to do high precision work on any other lathe I always used a dial indicator to determine the carriage and cross slide positions. The spindles are accurate and Taig offers different headstocks at a very reasonable cost. Most people who have purchased these machines, including myself, have been very happy with the way they work and perform but I will concede that they are ugly.
    david

    #61599
    stevefitzwater
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    • Topics Started: 48
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    To be honest Dave, the appearance was not the issue, not being fluent in Lathe, to me it looked extremely basic, something that I would use for polishing only, and I was not sure that I wanted a polish only lathe that cost that much. Like I said, my knowledge of lathes, and their abilities in non-exsistance, while I have operated some at work, that was simply, adjust the head in, hit the on button, and then rinse repeat on a new piece. All the setup work was done by someone else, it was a temp position way back in the 80’s.

    If the experience people here use it and proclaim it’s abilities, I am going to believe them, that is why I asked the question, to play the role of “Grasshopper” amongst the “Masters”.

    #61600
    chris mabbott
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    • Topics Started: 119
    • Total Posts: 1525

    This chap has a nice Taig shop setup…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFO_kB_E6pM

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stevefitzwaterWatchmakers Lathe or Micro Lathe