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Old 13th August 2011, 11:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Smithy 3-in-1

Anybody own or have used any of the Smithy products? I am considering one of their 3-in-1 combos, specifically their granite series.
Smithy
Any opinions, preferably based on first-hand knowledge? Its use would be weekend warrior stuff, not daily production use.

I don't mind taking a $50 gamble on Harbor Freight stuff, but for $4500 I need to make sure I'm not buying crap.

Thanks in advance.

Eric
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Old 13th August 2011, 08:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

I don't have any experience with the Smithy product but I bought a Rockwell-Delta lathe and a Bridgeport mill used through Craigslist for half the money of the Smithy. That's what I suggest if you have the room. Both are 3-phase but I bought a static phase converter from Enco for $125 and they work fine.

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Old 14th August 2011, 02:07 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bock350Dog View Post
Any opinions, preferably based on first-hand knowledge?...
Not from me, but there's a Yahoo group devoted to the brand:

smithy-machines : The Smithy Machines Community
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Old 14th August 2011, 09:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bock350Dog View Post
Anybody own or have used any of the Smithy products? I am considering one of their 3-in-1 combos, specifically their granite series.
Smithy
Any opinions, preferably based on first-hand knowledge? Its use would be weekend warrior stuff, not daily production use.

I don't mind taking a $50 gamble on Harbor Freight stuff, but for $4500 I need to make sure I'm not buying crap.

Thanks in advance.

Eric
Hi Eric,

Since I have a number of space limitations as well as the general lack of 3 phase power - I was in the market for a Smithy XL Combination machine for quite a while. I ended up buying another Chinese machine that I was told came from the same plant in China that the Smithy was made. It was sold by Harbor Freight. I got a good deal on it at just under $1,000 with free freight.


Having seen the Smithy and owning this one - I'd say that they may be close - if not identical.

How does it work?

Fair to Good if you are patient and are not working with tolerances that are closer than +/- .001"

The machines, out of the box, need to be tuned up something terrible as there is a fair amount of "slop" in the table. The Mill Head is fairly sturdy, although it won't take a lot of lateral pressure at all to flex.

If most of what you're doing is in aluminum or iron, this system works well. Getting into steel (milling) is where this unit has its challenges.

I've already made this unit pay for itself probably 6x over just in doing small one-off parts that I would have had to pay a bunch for at a local machine shop.

Just an example shown here - I needed to use a 3/8" Heim joint with a clevis made for a 1/2" one for my Transmission Support system. I turned a 1/2" GR5 bolt down and rethreaded it..
MANY Dozens of little jobs like this were made easily.

On the Drill Press function - I've not used that functionality, but believe it would work fairly well. I have a floor standing drill press that I've used as a make-shift lathe and mill in the past.. It has served me well.
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Old 14th August 2011, 11:59 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Thanks for the detailed input, Randy. I've had an eye on the HF 3-in-1 for a while, just seems like an awful large gamble for that kind of money (as we all know, HF *is* always a gamble). This looks like the one you have, yes?
3-In-1 Mini Milling Machine w/ Micro Feed

Charlie, space is a bit of a concern, but not an overriding factor. However, weight is. I can manage moving 900 to 1000 lbs (just barely), but I just don't have any way to move a full-size mill or lathe, nor do I have the need for a full-size unit. A Bridgeport would be way overkill for my needs (although as a former machinist, I can appreciate a full-size Bridgeport).

Thanks for the link to the Yahoo group, Alan.

Eric
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Old 14th August 2011, 12:25 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Hi Eric,

Yes, that is the unit I have.. They were $1500 for the longest time, then marked down to $1200 and I had a coupon that got me under $1000.
Also - If you've looked at Grizzly units, they are also the same.

Any way you go, you'll probably need to tweak and tune it up a bit, but being a former machinist that shouldn't be a problem for you at all...

Oh yes, I forgot to add that the multiple port relay inside the unit went out on me after it was a couple of years old. I could not find a replacement so I tied the relay into the closed position with heavy duty zip ties and now use an external power switch.
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Old 14th August 2011, 01:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Since you've gotten into the subject of the "clones" there is this very useful site that deals with them generically, in particular, "tuning them up."

3_in_1_Lathe_Mill_Drill : "3_in_1" Links

And, at the risk of thread drift, have/did either of you consider separating out the lathe function and getting, for example, one of the clones of a Rong-Fu R45 Dovetail Mill-Drill (Grizzly G0519, Smithy LX329, Zay 7045, Enco 325-5184, etc.) for around $2000-2800? I just ask because that's the direction I'm headed and wonder if the mill rigidity, etc, is better than on the 3-in-1s. My thought was that given my relatively low work-piece size and frequency-of-use requirements for a lathe vs. mill I would be better served with the lathe as a separate machine, so the compromises in the mill would be less.

Last edited by awatkins; 14th August 2011 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 14th August 2011, 05:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Alan, as the thread starter, I can say no thread drift. I started this thread because I am trying to accumulate information and wisdom to make a purchase, and your question is valid in that process. To specifically answer your question, I'll have to defer a bit to Randy or somebody else who has actually used one of the machines in question, but here are my thoughts.

First, I think a 3-in-1 or any combo machine is a compromise. I guess I should say, for these machines we are discussing. There are industrial CNC machining centers that are really just extremely accurate and rugged combo machines, but we aren't talking about those.

However, even being a compromise, I think the 3-in-1s offer some advantages. First, there is the space issue. If you purchase two machines, well, you have two machines. Second, you have two purchases; not necessarily an issue, but it does somewhat alter the convenience factor.

That being taken into account, here's a case for going with separate machines. The lathe is by far the most versatile tool in the machine shop. It has been said that the lathe is the only machine that can build itself (meaning you can build a lathe creating parts as you need as you build it). So, with that in mind, you could make the argument to invest in a high-quality lathe, then set your sights a little lower for a mill. But, it sounds like you are thinking the opposite: higher-grade mill and lower-grade lathe. The former machinist in me says don't skimp on the lathe. Out-of-round sucks, big time.

For my needs, I think the 3-in-1 is the route I'm going to take. I know I'll have to live within the tolerances of the machine. That is one of the reasons I'm looking at the Smithy Granite series; it is supposed to be a step above the other models, including their Midas series. It also has quick-change gears and infinitely adjustable speeds, two things the former machinist in me screams for when I look at the other models. The Smith Granite seems to offer just what I am looking for, except I'd like it better if the price was slightly less.

A bit of a tangent here, there is a series of books authored by David Gingery that show you how to build machine tools from scratch, starting with a charcoal-fired foundry. The first machine tool he builds is a lathe. It is from that book I got the above statement about a lathe being able to build itself, and that's what he does. The books are an interesting bit of reading, even if you never have any intention of trying to build your own machine tools.

Anybody else have comments or suggestions? I'm glad I started this thread; we're getting a good discussion going.

Eric
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Old 14th August 2011, 07:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Eric --

You're by no means the first knowledgeable person who has said the lathe is the starting point, etc. etc. But when I look back over the last year working on my GT40 almost all of my machining problems have been with respect to making things flat or square, not round, and that's why I was headed for a mill first. In fact, I'm having a hard time remembering a "lathe-type" problem at all. Whereas, the task that got me really motivated to buy a mill was to re-make the body of the parking brake actuator so it had proper mounting ears and that would have been a milling job in steel. (See below, and imagine it with 1" extensions on either side to meet up with the mounting ears on the upright). There were others like removing material from the bell housing to clear a clutch arm, or milling the upright in places where the mfr. "forgot to."

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Possibly it's a peculiarity of the task at hand (lots of brackets) that made the mill seem like the thing to focus on. I have also assumed that when I did have a lathe job to do that it would be a pretty small one, so cost and space consumed by it would be relatively minor.

So I guess the question for me is: if we imagine that I had both a mill and a lathe (or a combo) and I'm a typical kit builder / hot rodder / racer / inventor, what's the distribution of work between lathe and mill (I'm willing to disregard drilling just to keep the discussion simple), and which suffers the most from compromised size/power/quality.

And I guess what really motivated the question was seeing you about to spend $4K on a 3-in-1 when I was about go spend $2K on a mill-drill who's mill capability I thought was superior; my reaction was "why not buy better ones separately for the same money" my assumption being that the result (aside from space consumption) would actually be significantly superior precision, power, repeatability, size capacity etc. Of course one complication is that I'm unusually comfortable with the "make a cheap chinese clone work" mentality since it's served me well in the past, so I am not a good Smithy customer candidate if there is a clone around.

And then finally but more philosophically the particular combination of mill and lathe has always struck me, from a mechanical design standpoint, as somewhat of a strained combination trying to share one motor and gearbox. I always wondered if there is a "false economy" in the concept. But I do see the space advantage which is 2:1 if not more.

So I too would really like to hear from you and others on the "distribution of work" and "distribution of budget" question re: mill vs lathe.

Last edited by awatkins; 14th August 2011 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 15th August 2011, 10:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Eric, just a thought towards the future.

If you have two separate machines and you decide to upgrade to bigger work capability for one machine , lathe or mill , it might be more easy to buy in one bigger machine and on sell one machine without losing both capabilities.

Z.C.
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Old 15th August 2011, 11:42 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Quote:
Originally Posted by awatkins View Post
Since you've gotten into the subject of the "clones" there is this very useful site that deals with them generically, in particular, "tuning them up."

3_in_1_Lathe_Mill_Drill : "3_in_1" Links

And, at the risk of thread drift, have/did either of you consider separating out the lathe function and getting, for example, one of the clones of a Rong-Fu R45 Dovetail Mill-Drill (Grizzly G0519, Smithy LX329, Zay 7045, Enco 325-5184, etc.) for around $2000-2800? I just ask because that's the direction I'm headed and wonder if the mill rigidity, etc, is better than on the 3-in-1s. My thought was that given my relatively low work-piece size and frequency-of-use requirements for a lathe vs. mill I would be better served with the lathe as a separate machine, so the compromises in the mill would be less.
Nice link on the Tune-ups! :Thumbsup:

I've not looked into those other machines specifically but I did look long and hard at ENCO since there is a dealer/distributor close to me. Alas, their price-point was higher than Grizzly / Smithy and substantially higher than HF..

Quote:
Originally Posted by awatkins View Post
Eric --
So I guess the question for me is: if we imagine that I had both a mill and a lathe (or a combo) and I'm a typical kit builder / hot rodder / racer / inventor, what's the distribution of work between lathe and mill (I'm willing to disregard drilling just to keep the discussion simple), and which suffers the most from compromised size/power/quality.
I don't think either the Mill or the lathe have a distinct advantage... But if I were to pick one to be disadvantaged - I'd choose the Mill, but only because the the table supplied with the Combo unit is not rigid enough.. The tune-up helps, but it has needs beyond that.

Quote:
And then finally but more philosophically the particular combination of mill and lathe has always struck me, from a mechanical design standpoint, as somewhat of a strained combination trying to share one motor and gearbox. I always wondered if there is a "false economy" in the concept. But I do see the space advantage which is 2:1 if not more.

So I too would really like to hear from you and others on the "distribution of work" and "distribution of budget" question re: mill vs lathe.
The unit I have has two motors and drive systems that work independently from each other. Now the feed screws do run off the lathe's motor, but I've not used the auto-feed to date so that doesn't matter to me as I don't use it to cut threads.
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Old 16th August 2011, 08:38 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

I just found out, I don't need a lathe or a mill; I just need one of these:

3D printer can print functional tools. [VIDEO]

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Old 16th August 2011, 08:57 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

I've had one of the 3-in-1 machines (Grizzly) for about eight or nine years. I've made a lot of bushings, bearings, and spacers for the race cars over the years and it has proven very valuable in that regards. For me drilling and milling come in as a far distant second to the lathe functions. If you are limited on shop space they are great little machines to have.
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Old 20th August 2011, 11:15 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Alan (and all)

In theory, the dovetail configuration is stronger and more stable than the I-beam configuration, but that is in theory only. You have to compare apples to apples. It would be very possible to get an I-beam type machine with much less slop than a dovetail type machine. So, to distill this down, a sloppy dovetail style mill may realistically offer less lateral stability than a tight I-beam style mill. How do you determine that? Well, without actually testing each machine, you have to rely on each manufacturer's claims of accuracy and capacity.

Regarding lathe versus mill, a lathe is without a doubt more versatile than a mill. However, that does not mean for any given person it will be the most *used* machine tool if you have both. But, even if the lathe is the lesser-used tool for a given person, when you need a lathe you *need* a lathe.

Look at it this way, most of the operations you can do on a mill can be accomplished by other means, albeit likely significantly more slowly. You can even get similar accurately as a mill, if you take your time and have aquired the needed skill. Scraping metal is a lost art, and certainly predates my life as a machinist by decades, but accuracy within .001" is obtainable by this hand method.

However, there are numerous operations that cannot be done on anything but a lathe. Just one example, if you recall a post I had in a different thread about getting an AN fitting to work on plastic (specifically, a Bosch intercooler pump), my solution is going to be making the outer cap in aluminum and adding an AN fitting to it. That requires a lathe; there's really no other way to create that part, not with a different machine (CNC aside, which we are not discussing) or by hand. And the bushings Ron mentioned; need a lathe for those.

All of that being said, when I was a machinist, the bulk of our daily production activities were on mills. So, in that environment, while the lathe was still the most *versatile* machine tool we had, the mill was the most frequently *used* machine tool. Also, I would add that my first envisioned project for me involves some extensive milling and no turning (the Bosch pump project is down on the list), and I do envision using the milling function more than the lathe function (but I could be proved wrong).

So, I guess to sum everything up with a very ambiguous statement, each person has to evaluate their individual needs and purchase a machine tool or machine tools as appropriate. Ron, for example, says his lathe use far exceeds his mill use. But, Alan, from what you said earlier, it sounds like you may get more use from the mill. While I am still looking, for me and what I believe are my needs, I think the 3-in-1 is the way to go. In fact, at this point, 3-in-1s are the only type under consideration.

Thanks for all the input, everybody, and the great discussion. It has really helped me to think out and start to solidify my plans.

By the way, Alan, I think you were joking about the 3D printer, but there are several DIY printer kits on the market. They're not cheap, but they are significantly lower in price than they were just a couple of years ago. They'd be great for creating cores in a backyard foundry, but the price is still way to high (for me at least).

Eric

PS- I'm not trying to talk anybody into one direction or another; my intent was only to get a discussion going to see what others are thinking in this area.
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Old 20th August 2011, 01:16 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Eric --

Thanks very much for that analysis; your distinction between versatility and usage clarifies the issues for me in a way I would not have figured out on my own. And I think part of my problem with lathes is not fully understanding what can be done with them.

Furthermore, when I take off my equipment-freak hat and look honestly at my situation, right now a 3-in-one probably is a better choice because, being honest, my worst problem is I'm ignorant and inexperienced. So if I had a lathe, I would be able to learn with it, whereas for what I need to do right now the advantages of the larger-stiffer-whatever mill are probably completely lost. I don't need 1-mil precision, and I'm not going to be hogging away at big block of steel, and I have time to do multiple cuts. Hey they're just brackets....

So, let me try a different question on you: take an amateur (I took part of a machine shop class years ago but had to drop out shortly after making one piece on a lathe and one on a mill) with a few projects in mind (eg the parking brake actuator, putting a parallel surface on some as-cast upright mounting ears, some brackets with nice curves, etc.), he's got ~$3K to spend. What's going to get those projects done reasonably well but more importantly push the user up the machinist learning curve the fastest? I have to include in that $3K all the tools (vises, clamps, bits, etc.).

I can get that R45 clone for ~$2K, a small HF lathe Mini Lathe - 7" x 10" Precision Mini Lathe for $400, with $600 left over for ancillaries.

I can get Randy's HF 3-in-1 for $1,600 and have $1,400 left over for "other stuff".

Here are the questions that occur to me but the newbie nevers knows the right questions to ask....

Is there any learning downside to the 3-in-1 compared to the "traditional" separation of lathe from mill?

Can most stiffness/power shortcomings be overcome simply by working slower?

How much "ancillaries" do I really need? I hear people say things like "same amount as you spend on the mill" but those may be the same people who always say "go buy a used bridgeport." E.g. do I really need to spend $400 for a vise?

And what are the answers to the questions I should be asking?

Thoughts?


(and yes I was kidding about 3D printing. But I continue to astonished by the intersection of 3D-modeling and 3D printing. However, obviously, right now printing to some resin material doesn't really do me any good without a foundry and/or CNC equipment)

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Old 20th August 2011, 03:01 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

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Originally Posted by Bock350Dog View Post
Charlie, space is a bit of a concern, but not an overriding factor. However, weight is. I can manage moving 900 to 1000 lbs (just barely), but I just don't have any way to move a full-size mill or lathe
I bought an 2000kg engine hoist to move my lathe into position, I figured it would work for the lathe and then also work to fit/move the engine/gearbox.

Then again my lathe is about 450Kg which is about 1000lbs anyway!

Even a very heavy lathe/milling machine can be moved with the age old technique of rollers although beware inertia and never get in the way of where it could topple (500Kg of machine tool sat on you could really mess your day up).

Personally I just have a lathe, with a milling slide so I can do light milling. I'd like a decent milling machine as well but can't afford the room atm (some pesky kit car is filling my garage )
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Old 20th August 2011, 03:27 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

Alan

Let me preface this by saying I have never used a 3-in-1 (hence the reason I started this thread).

1. Is there a learning downside to the 3-in-1s? No. When I was in graduate school (when CNC was first finding its way into schools), we used a complete micro CNC "machine shop" on which we learned the fundamentals. The machines were too small to really create anything useful, but they demonstrated the theory of how everything worked. Now, we weren't learning how to use a mill or lathe per se, rather learning how to program CNC equipment for tool changes, feed rates, patterns, etc. But, I think the analogy to a 3-in-1 is apt. Using one of those combo machines, you should be able to learn how to mill and turn quite effectively. The two functions are independant, just completed using the same chassis, so I think the skill transfer will be there should you ever find yourself on a "real" machine tool.

2. Can going slower with less of a bite overcome rigidity/power deficiencies? Yes. Cutter speed, cutting depth, feed rate, and machine rigidity all interact. If the latter is less than desirable, the others need to be adjusted. Think about cutting a big block of hardwood on a cheap-ass table saw. If the saw is not up to the task, you take a smaller bite and go slower, you just have to make multiple swipes.

3. Tools and other ancillaries. I don't know off the top of my head what HF, Grizzly, ENCO, etc., include with their packages. I don't think HF includes anything (Randy or Ron may be able to comment here), but I think ENCO includes stuff and Grizzly may, too. Smithy definitely does. So, my point here is, you really have to look at what you are getting for a stated price. A $1500 machine tool may not be any cheaper than a $2500 machine tool if it doesn't come with any ancillaries and the other does. As far as what tools you need, the ones that come with Smithy will get you going, so other than different-size end mills (if even those), you shouldn't need to invest any more right away. And, you can add other ancillaries bit by bit (no pun) as you go. I would, however, invest in a live center when you get to the point of doing a lot of turning with the lathe. Honestly, I have not priced the ancillaries separately, so I can't really comment on how much is "enough" when purchasing them by themselves, but "as much as the mill" seems too high.

(I'm not trying to sway anybody to Smithy, it just happens to be the brand I have spent the most time looking at, so am most familiar with.)

As far as the mini lathe (or mini mill), I looked at those a couple of years ago, but quickly dismissed them. The price is very attractive, but they are just too damn small. Your hobby would have to be something like model railroading, I think, to really be able to get any real use out of one of those. I think for what we are discussing, it would be a mistake to get one of those.

The things I look for when comparing machines are:
lathe: center to center distance, throw (diameter of workpiece), power feed (needed for cutting threads), and thread range; one of the things drawing me to the top-tier Smithy is its infinitely adjustable speeds...very important to the former machinist in me
mill: X, Y, and Z travel (especially Z...some of the machines I see have only about an 1" of Z travel) and end mill size (chuck capacity diameter); also a consideration is if the head can rotate (not critical, but very useful)

Once you get a lathe, whatever that ends up being, I'd be willing to bet you'll quickly start seeing uses for it. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if in a few years you find yourself wondering how you ever got along without one.

As stated before, I have not actually used one of the 3-in-1s. And, Alan, I don't know you personally, nor have I seen your needs firsthand. But, after "talking" things over with you on this thread, my gut feeling tells me you're in much the same boat as me, and my gut is telling me a 3-in-1 is the way for me to go. Both Randy and Ron have given their 3-in-1s high marks (even if a tune-up is needed to start), which only reinforces what my gut is telling me for what I need/want. I can't tell you which way to go, nor would I want to do so. So, take all of this and evaluate it with your own critical eye.

Let's step back and look at everything realistically. Do a bit a reading about machine tools in the Industrial Revolution and what those guys were able to do with equipment we'd be on the floor laughing about today. As backyard hobbiests, are we dreaming too big just because "bigger" exists?

You mentioned "reasonably well" as a criteria. From what I've read, any of the 3-in-1s can hold at least a +/- .002" tolerance (spend a bit more and get +/-.001"). A tolerance of +/- .005" is (or used to be, pre-CNC) a standard spec for machine work. Anything tighter than that was usually considered precision work. Point being, even if the manufacturers are stretching a bit and their tolerances are closer to +/-.003" or even +/-.004", you're still under what used to be considered a standard tolerance.

By the way, you mentioned creating brackets with a nice curve. That's going to take some skill on a non-CNC machine. Not impossible, but definitely something that will take some practice.

Well, Alan, even if neither of us ends up with any machine tool, I've enjoyed the discussion.

Eric
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Old 20th August 2011, 03:30 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

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Originally Posted by fastdruid View Post
...I just have a lathe, with a milling slide so I can do light milling...
Alan...versatility...

Eric
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Old 20th August 2011, 04:02 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

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Alan...versatility...

Eric
Milling Slide.... Hmmm. Didn't know there was such a thing. But of course in a way a lathe and a horizontal mill are similar so there should be a "hybrid".

But regardless ; I now think I should get a 3-in-1; you guys have convinced me (or rather, I convinced myself with your assistance) that my belief that my usage of a lathe would be too low to justify it is based on a lack of appreciation of what a lathe can do. And that feeds right into the idea that if I had one I'd think of things. Having a drill press it's really easy to imagine what I could do with a mill. But having nothing analogous to a lathe my imagination doesn't run in that direction.

I sure do appreciate all your help, Eric, Randy, Ron, everybody. This is kind of a big deal for me.

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Old 20th August 2011, 04:14 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Smithy 3-in-1

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I've had one of the 3-in-1 machines (Grizzly) for about eight or nine years..
Ron --

Just for reference can you tell me which one you have?

Grizzly.comŽ -- Product Categories
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