C3 Mini-Lathe Metalworking Beginners
Buying a mini-lathe in the UK: How and Where- buying advice
Most mini-lathes, micro-mills, mini-mills and band saw are made in the Sieg factory which is located in China. The Sieg machine tools factory in Shanghai makes many different versions of the tools with which we are familiar in the home metalworking workshop.
Of course, home machinists in the UK and in the U.S. cannot buy their home metalworking workshop machine tools from China! We buy them from local distributors. These distributors import the mini-lathes and other home workshop machine tools from the factory in China. It is understood that the Sieg factory makes a variety of different grades of machine tool. It is my understanding that the basic mini-lathe can be obtained in an economical package (and that is being polite) or, the distributor can pay more money for a better quality item which has been set up and tested more rigorously by the Sieg factory. This explains some of the price differences you see - trust me, it is better to make sure you are getting a better quality machine!
The Sieg factory makes the range of different sized mini-lathe. These are natively known C0, C1, C3, C6 lathes.
In my opinion, the two smaller lathes are utterly useless. I cannot really think of a reason why you would want one of the two small models. The smallest mini-lathe for that is sensible to buy is the 7x12 mini-lathe. Do not get anything smaller otherwise you will soon be regretting it.
In the UK there are a number of places where you can buy a mini-lathe. Mini-lathes are not something you can go and buy in your local B & Q or Homebase. In the UK you normally have to have them delivered from a machine tools distributer, unless you are lucky enough to leave down the road from one of the depots
One of the most popular distributors for many lathes in the UK is Chester machine tools. This company stocks a large range of hobby and industrial machine tools. They often have what you need in stock. Chester market and their 7x12 mini-lathe under the model name of Conquest. I purchased my mini-lathe from Chester machine tools and I was not disappointed in any way. I can strongly recommend them for machine tools. I purchased my band saw from Chester machine tools also. The delivery is quick and reliable. The delivery man was very nice and helped me get my band saw into the metalworking workshop.
Arc Euro Trade is another is another good reliable supplier of machine tools and machine tools spares in the UK. They offer a service of preparing the mini-lathe for use by doing all that cleaning and tediously delicate setup required to get them in the lathe working in the best possible way.
Their charge for this service is usually about £100. there are pros and cons to this. If they do all the hard work for you, you will be up and running and very happy with your new mini-lathe soon after it is delivered. On the other hand, going through the process of cleaning up and setting up the mini-lathe teaches you a great deal about the fundamentals of the machines construction and operation.
Another valuable service offered by Arc Euro Trade is to change the head stock bearings for tapered roller bearings. This service also costs about £100. I have not used a mini-lathe with a bearing change but I hear it makes many of the mini-lathe operations much easier with greatly reduced chatter. To do the bearing change yourself normally requires the presence of the second lathe to ajust the parts during the bearing change operation.
Another factory which changes the price you pay for your mini-lathe is the collection of accessories that comes with it. Often this is just a set of cheap lathe tools and a dead centre, but it is worth getting a package with at least a quick change tool post, drilling chuck and probably a fixed steady.
Digital read outs also push the price of the mini-lathe up, but I have expressed my views on DRO for mini-lathes elsewhere.
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