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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So after coming across one of these while looking for something else online, I was amazed that you can get a lathe/mill combo (not very big, but not a miniature one either) for around $2k or even less. And since I'm the kind of person who sees something cool and wants it immediately, I'm bouncing around the thought of getting one of these 4:

Midas 1220 LTD Lathe?Mill?Drill | smithy.com

https://www.grizzly.com/products/Combo-Lathe-Mill/G9729

AT520 12" x 20" Combo Lathe/Mill at Bolton Hardware

BT500 16" x 20" Combo Metal Lathe at Bolton Hardware

Anyone have any experience with something like this, or more specifically any of these 4? I know it's probably not the right forum to ask this, but I really don't have a desire to join a machining forum just for this. I figured there might be some amateur machinists around here or even experienced people who might have something like this in their garage because they like to make custom parts.
 

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The biggest thing about any machine is the purpose, if you want something to make money with this isn't your machine, if you want something to modify items this may work but a used Bridgeport with a dro will offer better reliability and more versatility.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This would be just for my garage to make random stuff for myself and maybe for friends if anyone needs anything, not looking to start a machine shop business with this by any means. Space is also limited, which is why these seemed appealing. Even if I was to find a used lathe and a used mill it would take up way too much space in my garage...plus most of them work on 480V, or at least 240V, and I want something that works on 110V. Yeah a Bridgeport mill would be nice, but I'm nowhere near that price range....even used ones are in the $5k-$10k range depending on the model, and how used they are.
 

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My shop is very small, and this is the biggest combo mill I could find.

shopmaster best 3 in 1 home cnc shop machine zone mill drill lathe - SHOPMASTER

They are made in China, and it shows, but you can dial them in and get a lot of use out of them. The "Patriot" model is where they take one from their factory, disassemble and rebuild it themselves with higher quality bearings, etc. and add the CNC upgrade. I didn't get CNC. I don't do enough to justify the cost for me (about $1000) but I do have the digital position package so I don't have to count turns of the wheel, etc. I've resurfaced 4 cylinder car heads, turned down a 14" long, 8" diameter, mild steel tube to a 7 7/8ths diameter to fit a bow thruster "saddle" in a boat, so they are big enough for the occasional big job. You will never do better than an old, American lathe and mill, but they are huge, heavy and sometimes overkill.

I think I payed around $3000 five or six years ago. They have been good with customer support when I needed to replace a drive pulley that I felt was slightly unbalanced causing a vibration in the mill at higher speeds. It's a pretty simple, heavyish machine. Around 1000 lbs. runs on 110 AC.
 

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The onlyadvantage of these is their small size.
Very light cuts must be taken or you'll slip the belts or stall the undersize motor. They aren't smooth and often will cut randomly as there is no rigidity to them. Using the milling head you can see the head and base flexing when it's cutting. You can't see it but a lot of these chin units have plastic internals like gears and lead screw bearings and nuts.

I've played with them and they are indeed just cheap toys that you will be hard pressed to find parts for when they break in a month or two.
A buddy had one and everything electrical croaked. He spent a relative ton to keep it running and eventually gave it away.

You're spending 2 grand for these. If you have the space, get a real lathe. Something like a South Bend 9 inch does a lot of work, parts and a shitload of tooling is available. I've seen good ones on evilbay and CL for a grand or less.

A real mill is a bit more spendy. Bridgeports go from $1500 up. They do however use a bit of floorspace. 90% of them are three phase so you'll need a 3 to 1 ph converter. They also need 220 V to run so if you only have 110 available you're out of luck. Or run a 220 feed to the garage.

If you're set on one of these little chin things, I've seen them sell used for as little as $200.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My shop is very small, and this is the biggest combo mill I could find.

shopmaster best 3 in 1 home cnc shop machine zone mill drill lathe - SHOPMASTER

They are made in China, and it shows, but you can dial them in and get a lot of use out of them. The "Patriot" model is where they take one from their factory, disassemble and rebuild it themselves with higher quality bearings, etc. and add the CNC upgrade. I didn't get CNC. I don't do enough to justify the cost for me (about $1000) but I do have the digital position package so I don't have to count turns of the wheel, etc. I've resurfaced 4 cylinder car heads, turned down a 14" long, 8" diameter, mild steel tube to a 7 7/8ths diameter to fit a bow thruster "saddle" in a boat, so they are big enough for the occasional big job. You will never do better than an old, American lathe and mill, but they are huge, heavy and sometimes overkill.

I think I payed around $3000 five or six years ago. They have been good with customer support when I needed to replace a drive pulley that I felt was slightly unbalanced causing a vibration in the mill at higher speeds. It's a pretty simple, heavyish machine. Around 1000 lbs. runs on 110 AC.
Yeah I actually looked at those, but the CNC ones are expensive, and the ones without CNC are still quite a bit more expensive than the ones I listed, and it's only slightly bigger. I'm pretty sure all the ones I listed are also made in China.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The onlyadvantage of these is their small size.
Very light cuts must be taken or you'll slip the belts or stall the undersize motor. They aren't smooth and often will cut randomly as there is no rigidity to them. Using the milling head you can see the head and base flexing when it's cutting. You can't see it but a lot of these chin units have plastic internals like gears and lead screw bearings and nuts.

I've played with them and they are indeed just cheap toys that you will be hard pressed to find parts for when they break in a month or two.
A buddy had one and everything electrical croaked. He spent a relative ton to keep it running and eventually gave it away.

You're spending 2 grand for these. If you have the space, get a real lathe. Something like a South Bend 9 inch does a lot of work, parts and a shitload of tooling is available. I've seen good ones on evilbay and CL for a grand or less.

A real mill is a bit more spendy. Bridgeports go from $1500 up. They do however use a bit of floorspace. 90% of them are three phase so you'll need a 3 to 1 ph converter. They also need 220 V to run so if you only have 110 available you're out of luck. Or run a 220 feed to the garage.

If you're set on one of these little chin things, I've seen them sell used for as little as $200.
Though I don't have much direct experience with lathes and mills, I work a lot with machine shops, and I would agree with what you said...however as I said, I need a machine that runs on 110V and that doesn't take up a lot of space.

Most of these, out of the ones I listed, had really good reviews at some of the places I looked at. I'm wondering whether the opinion difference is based on experience of people. The people that buy these things are most likely not experienced machinists. They're probably amateurs (such as myself) who just want to have to convenience and flexibility to make stuff on their own in their garage, whereas experienced machinists would probably never get something like this because for what their used to working with, these would be crap. I talked to a guy at work who used to be a machinist and he basically said "you get what you pay for", but a friend of his has one of those Midas ones and I guess it worked just fine for what he was doing (home-made garage type stuff).

By the way where have you found these selling for $200?? I looked all over craigslist and ebay, and couldn't find anything like this.

Also, I imagine that most of the work I would do would involve milling, so I think there would be a point in have a bigger full size lathe taking up space in my garage. I wouldn't mind having a nice, bigger mill...but those are expensive. I wouldn't mind spending $1500-$2000 on one, however if they're that price, it means they're generally pretty old and very used and might not be in good shape.
 
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