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7x12 mini lathe in fetching blue!

7x12 mini-lathe - Ranting about lathes in society: I have a lathe - I must be weird

Some disjointed ranting about lathes and the purchase thereof.

When I decided to purchase a Chester 7x12 mini-lathe, I mentioned this fact to a couple of friends. Some of them reacted in a "How cool! Can I come and play". Others reacted in a somewhat more subdued tolerant nature "ah, what are you going to use it for". >

Some friends, and more especially collegues at work who know less about my hobbies, I have not dared to mention the lathe to. Or the anodising. Or any of the other projects. My office is full of mothers and fathers whose every waking hour seems to be a rushed life of having babies and going to work. Although not voiced, my lifestyle choices are seen as somewhat weird. But tolerated.

However, I'd be almost scared of mentioning having *any* kind of hobby to quite a few people in this country. Why? Well, simply speaking its not a computer and its not a television. Any activity not involving these two things is seen as weird. Buying gallons of sulphuric acid? I reckon 99% of the population would immediately assume I had evil intents. In fact, given the nanny state over-regulated mess the Labour goverment is making of this country I am stunned that I can buy the stuff anywhere.

Whoops. I'm ranting! To make matters worse, I'm also an amatuer astronomer, a hobby which, these days, is increasingly seen as just to the left of paedophilia. In case you are wondering, the telescopes came before the lathes. It was mainly the prohibative cost of telescope accessories that drove the lathe purchase, plus the desire to learn something new.

Now I've mastered the basics of using my mini-lathe, and added a few extra skills such as DIY home anodizing, I'm beginning to wonder if there is any way of making a few quid on lathe based projects. Is it reasonable to knock up a few pretty bits of metal eg an ashtray or an M42 extension ring and sell it on Ebay? Tempting... but not really the basis for a good income - you'd have to make quite a few extension rings, and I'd get extremely bored before I even thought about beginning to make a profit.

So, at the end of the day there is no good reason to buy a lathe. Lathes consume money. A lathe in itself costs money. Then the real fun starts. Along with your lathe comes an irresistable desire to buy lathe related stuff. I simply must have a live centre. I cannot continue without a tailstock chuck. I have to buy numerous cutting tools. The credit card will take a severe pounding - you have been warned. There is, so I am told, a medical condition known is "Tool Envy Syndrome". This normally comes about by visiting friends metalworking workshops or browsing websites - activities that fuel the syndrome. I am also told that very bad cases of this condition leads rapidly to a very painful case of "inflamation of the credit card". Relationships terminate. Superpowers fall out. The world ends. We sit in caves around TV sets eating microwave food and Roger Waters writes an album about the horrors of machine tools. A lathe could easily lead to the downfall of civilisation as we know it. ;-)

Also be warned - buying a lathe is a bit like buying a car. First, the instruction manual in the car will not tell you how to drive it. This is assumed knowledge. Same with a lathe. If you are lucky enough to get any kind of manual with your lathe, it will doubtless tell you useful things about lubrication, but nothing about how to drive the damn thing. Hence websites like this.

In another aspect, with a newly purchased car, you'll not know its quirks. Only after a few thousand miles will you understand that with your particular car you mustn't go near the brakes on left hand corners, or that the cigarette lighter doesn't turn off. Same with a lathe, it will be some time before Darwinian processes teach you what not to do in certain circumstances. We call this "character".

I'm waffling a lot here. I think the moral of this story is summed up by the need to ask yourself very very carefully if you really need to buy a lathe. If you do buy a lathe, or a mini-lathe, then be careful.

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