Getting Started with Your Mini Lathe
You’ve heard enough. You’re ready to make the leap and get your own minilathe. Or maybe you already have ordered it and are anxiously watching for the UPS truck each day. This page will give you some things to do while waiting and help you get started when that big box arrives.
Materials, Tools and Supplies
If you have not already done so, there are certain materials, tools and supplies that you need to get on order right away so that you’ll have them on hand when the minilathe arrives. Here’s a list:
For cleanup and setup:
- Kerosene or WD-40 – available in 1 gallon cans at Home Depot and similar stores
- A few 2″ and 3″ chip brushes – cheap throw-away brushes available in the HD paint department
- Newspaper or cardboard to go under the lathe during cleanup process
- Disposable plastic pail for cleaning parts in kerosene
- 7mm open-end wrench and 2mm hex wrench to adjust gibs – most other tools are included with the lathe
- Metric T-Handle hex-wrench set
- White lithium grease
For your first projects:
- 5/16 Tool Blanks
- Shims for adjusting tool height (a disassembled set of automotive feeler gauges works great)
- Bench grinder for shaping tools
- Dial caliper or Digital Caliper
- Safety glasses
- Stock: aluminum, brass, steel in various diameters
- Drill chuck and arbor for tailstock
- Center drills
- Live center (used to, and may still, come standard with the HF 7×10)
- Inch and number drill sets
- Assortment of taps 4-40, 6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 1/4-20, 3/8-16 etc.
Of course there are many other accessories that you will want as you gain experience. Here are some that I recommend that you get as soon as you can afford them:
- 3″ 4-jaw chuck (mounts directly on the spindle faceplate)
- Dial indicator with adjustable magnetic base
Tool Envy Syndrome (TES)
Tool Envy Syndrome (TES) is a serious condition that afflicts, in varying degrees, nearly all men who are interested in mechanical things.
It is very important to recognize and deal with this condition before it becomes serious; left untreated it can lead to a far more serious condition: Inflammation of the Credit Card (ICC). TES is known to strike under the following circumstances:
- Browsing the latest tool catalogs or sale flyers
- Visiting stores such as Grizzly or Harbor Freight (Warning: while much less so than in earlier years, the tool department at Sears can still trigger small attacks)
- Visiting the shop of a friend who has more and/or better tools than you have
- Surfing the web site of someone with a well-equipped shop
- Seeing a well-equipped shop in magazines such as Home Shop Machinist
Tool Envy Syndrome tends to strike young men particularly hard, due its close relationship to a similar condition: Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). Over time, in most men, both of these conditions tend to lessen in severity.
In fact, it can be shown that gradual accumulation of tools and gear over a period of years can control both conditions while minimizing the risk of Inflammation of the the Credit Card (this is known as the Mature Phase).
It has also been widely observed that getting married and having children can moderate the risk; primarily, it is believed, due to counseling from a loving wife and the sobering effect of having lots more bills to pay.
Tool Envy Syndrome cannot be controlled by any known drugs (although its effects can be exaggerated by the use of alcohol). Therefore, treatment is currently limited primarily to counseling methods.
The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Here are some additonal pointers:
- Avoid situations that are likely to cause an attack
- When visiting tool stores, leave your credit card at home (Warning: in severely afflicted individuals this can trigger emotional breakdown, fits of crying and other irrational behavior)
- Meditate on the fine collection of tools that you already have; recognize that time will make it better
- Find a quiet place. Visualize your ideal shop. Repeat to yourself “It is coming”
I hope you have found this information to be helpful. As a TES/GAS sufferer myself (now in the Mature Phase) I felt compelled to pass it on to you.
Receiving and Unpacking the Lathe
Usually your minilathe will be delivered by UPS. Depending on the details of delivery in your neighborhood, the big box will most likely be left on your doorstep.
The box weighs about 90lbs., so you will need a hand truck, wagon, or a strong friend to help you move the lathe into your shop. Fortunately, my shop is in my garage, so it was a short haul up the driveway into the shop, which was accomplished quite easily with the help of a cheap luggage cart.
A great advantage of the mini-lathe is that, once unpacked, it can easily be moved by one person. Larger lathes generally require a fork-lift, shop crane or some other means, plus 2-3 people to move them.
The following photos illustrate proper and improper technique for moving heavy objects.