MicroLux Lathe - Any Good for Custom Pen Making?

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TonyL

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I thought this would be fun to play around with. I have all of the accessories to make custom/kitless pens on a wood lathe, but I thought this would keep things interesting.

Is it easier to thread and turn/profile custom pens parts (cap, barrel, section, etc) with this. I admire many of the custom pens and find out they are made on a metal lathe. What are your thoughts about this lathe for making custom pens? Thanks as always!

 
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I thought this would be fun to play around with. I have all of the accessories to make custom/kitless pens on a wood lathe, but I thought this would keep things interesting.

Is it easier to thread and turn/profile custom pens parts (cap, barrel, section, etc) with this. I admire many of the custom pens and find out they are made on a metal lathe. What are your thoughts about this lathe for making custom pens? Thanks as always!


Interesting looking tool Tony. I can't comment on it's ability but I can say that as long as you don't live in California you should be safe. Apparently in California it causes cancer!:eek:
 

magpens

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I would not advise it. . One reason: it has a MT1 tailstock .
That is an uncommon size.
You want a MT2 tailstock, which is the most common size for bench-top lathes .... easier to get accessories.

Another reason is the small spindle bore of 3/8".
You want a spindle bore of at least 3/4" so that you can insert pen blanks in order to square the ends

Another reason is its low power of 150 watts ( 1/5 HP ). . You want closer to 1 HP, say 550 watts or more. ( 1 HP is 746 watts )

Don't compromise on any of these basic requirements. . If you do, you are just buying a toy.

You can go to Grizzly and get a Sieg lathe for about the same price ( $550) which meets all 3 criteria above.
 

mredburn

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It will be more precise for threading using a tap and/or die holder than the wood lathe and you can use it to cut threads with a cutter rather than tap and dies if you want to. It does not have a large capacity for longer parts and pieces that need drilled. If you just want to use it to make metal bands and small short parts, caps and centerbands that can be threaded it could be usefull. Its under powered for a lot ot things but you can always take a lot of light cuts. If your serious about going the metal lathe route bigger is better.
 

TonyL

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Thank you both. I have all the excellent advice that I need. Very much appreciated. Mal.. I heard some of the lathes that you mentioned may have plastic gears. Is that true?
 

magpens

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Yes, most of the Sieg lathes have plastic gears, which require some care in their use.
I do not find that a problem because I only very rarely have a need to use those gears.
It is only the gears which drive the feed screw which are plastic.
The main gears (motor to spindle) are steel.

I believe that you can buy a steel gear set to replace the plastic ones.

Really, the only time you would need the plastic gears to drive the feed screw is if you are cutting threads.

But it is better to cut threads for pens with a die.
Reason is that it is quicker and probably more accurate, and certainly a heck of a lot lest trouble. . Lathe requires lot of setup.
For cap to body threads on a pen, you probably want to do double or triple start threads. . Much better done with dies.
Very hard to do with lathe.
 

FGarbrecht

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All the Sieg lathes (Harbor Freight, Grizzly, etc) have plastic gears. You can get metal gears from Little Machine Shop if you want. If you have a 3d printer it costs pennies to print and replace them or make custom sizes. The gears on my lathe are holding up fine even with lots of gear changes for threading.
 

1shootist

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I'll just agree with the others,
I have had my micromark minilathe for several years, and others before that. All of them had plastic gears..the only time (once) that I broke a plastic gear it was entirely my fault. And if it weren't for those plastic gears I would possibly have broken more than that one gear.

Mals "needs" requirements for a minimetal are spot on.
 

TonyL

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I'll just agree with the others,
I have had my micromark minilathe for several years, and others before that. All of them had plastic gears..the only time (once) that I broke a plastic gear it was entirely my fault. And if it weren't for those plastic gears I would possibly have broken more than that one gear.

Mals "needs" requirements for a minimetal are spot on.
Thank you.

I am going to follow Mal's advice.
 

magpens

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@TonyL
If you are really serious about getting a metal lathe, I suggest that you spend some time wandering around the website for the company LittleMachineShop.com. . You will get a lot of very useful info even if you do not eventually buy from them.

When you do buy a metal lathe, I'd recommend you consider its compatibility with the accessories that are stocked by LMS.

Without a doubt, you will need a few accessories and LMS is the most reliable place to shop and buy them.

LMS has accessories that are compatible with the Sieg lathes.

Harbor Freight and Grizzly sell accessories also, but they don't always have everything you might need.
 

FGarbrecht

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@TonyL
If you are really serious about getting a metal lathe, I suggest that you spend some time wandering around the website for the company LittleMachineShop.com. . You will get a lot of very useful info even if you do not eventually buy from them.

When you do buy a metal lathe, I'd recommend you consider its compatibility with the accessories that are stocked by LMS.

Without a doubt, you will need a few accessories and LMS is the most reliable place to shop and buy them.

LMS has accessories that are compatible with the Sieg lathes.

Harbor Freight and Grizzly sell accessories also, but they don't always have everything you might need.
Hahahaha Mal! If Tony buys a Sieg lathe you can bet he will spend more at Little Machine Shop than the original cost of the lathe (at least that's how it went for me). All kidding aside, I've made a lot of progress doing kitless work in a short time and much of that comes down to having the right tool for the job (a metal lathe). Go for it!
 

bmachin

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Micromark has its own branded 7x16 version of the Sieg. I and a number of others here have it and are quite satisfied. I think that you will find that pretty much all of the 7x seig lathes accept the same accessories; as a matter of "fact" (may be mistaken here) I believe LMS got start providing accessories for mini lathes before they started selling their own.

I'm going with the consensus on plastic gears; If you break one, you're probably getting up to the machine's limits. Not only that but plastic is a lot quieter.

Bill
 

magpens

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@bmachin ; @TonyL

Yes, Micromark does have some good products (but somewhat expensive).
However the lathe that Tony referenced is not the most suitable for pen work as I outlined above.

I definitely believe that a Sieg or Sieg-compatible is the way to go.

If I were starting again, my first choice would probably be this lathe, the 7x16 Hi-Torque from LMS (their brand of Sieg as I understand) :
( currently on sale for $100 off at a price of $849 )


The 16" length (for drilling), the camlock tailstock (for ease of use), and the 4" chuck (for versatility) are all very useful features.
 
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magpens

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The upgrades are probably worth having. . Espec. the DRO so that you don't have to keep track of revolutions.
I have mixed feelings about the QCTP with regard to reproducibility if you change and then change back, but I don't know for sure.
I make do quite well with multiple standard tool posts ; speed of changeover is maybe over-rated and not an issue for me.
Would also like the alum. handwheels .... mine seem to have worn and they wobble a bit but that could have several causes.
I worry about the real value of an upgrade package when you get such a variety of features, some of which are marginal.

A frustration is that swarf tends to collect in the gears associated with the carriage ( motion along the bed ) ... hard to get out and I haven't found a good way to clean.

I don't have a camlock tailstock (I know you can buy parts and do a mod.). . My tailstock clampdown gear has worn after 10 yrs and I get some slippage and have to tighten extra hard, which I don't like doing.

Does the camlock for the tailstock work reliably ?
 
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FGarbrecht

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I hated the tailstock nut/clamp and I LOVE the camlock. The LMS upgrade kit requires that you drill a hole in your tailstock but it is easy to do. Probably my favorite upgrade.

For me, the QCTP is really worth it too. Trying to shim different tools to the correct height drove me crazy with the standard tool post setup. Being able to just turn a screw to adjust height and to change tools really quickly is a real convenience that I appreciate.

I like my DRO too (I installed the LMS kits) but I could probably live without it. I like the tailstock DRO for critical drilling depths, but I honestly don't use the others too much even though they are cool to have.

I haven't upgraded the handwheels yet but it is on my list. My machine isn't very old but the handwheels are indeed wobbly and I don't like the feel. I may try making my own instead of buying though.
 

magpens

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So, I take it that you find the tailstock camlock effective and reliable ?

I have reservations about installing the mod kit because I am not sure how it works. . Does it basically just force the bolt to an angled position ?
 

FGarbrecht

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I find it very effective; sometimes you have to give it a good tug to make sure it is tight, but I haven't had any real problems with it unless I'm working fast and sloppily. Here's a pic of the camlock assembly so you can get an idea of how it works: the lever in back engages an eccentric bolt (the hole you have to drill accommodates the through-bolt) which lifts the plate at bottom against the ways.
camlock1.jpg
 

1shootist

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Here is a link to a web that Frank Hoose produced, he does testing and whatnot (or at least he did) for little machine shop. There are comparisons galore on here and info. if anyone is interested http://www.mini-lathe.com
It appears Frank might lose the site due to microsoft/frontpage issues. Though it is working as of this moment.

The lathe I now have came with a cam tailstock lock..I will never go back to one that is not. A couple I had were simply a nut on the inside lip of the ts that required tightening via a wrench...every time it needed moving.
 
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