View Full Version : NEW MEMBER: Hello everyone. Total newbie here. Where do I begin?

06-02-2012, 05:04 PM
Hi All,

Complete and total newbie here. I'm looking to get a mill and lathe so that I can make bits 'n pieces for my hobbies, Paintball and Tamiya RCs. I'd been thinking of getting these bits of machinery for years but I've only decided on actually pushing myself forward on it this year, which is all well and good, but I have no idea where to start.

So where do I begin?

I guess I should start with giving as much info as I can...

1) What am I planning to do?
As I'd mentioned above I'm into Paintball and Tamiya RC's so I'd be making or modifying parts for those two hobbies. I'm also pretty sure that a friend of mine will ask me to help him make lightsaber hilts & parts once I get going on a lathe. I don't have any plans to do anything large scale (like making hundreds of parts for selling). I only want to do hobby level parts, just small bits for my hobbies (or parts for my friends & families hobbies).

2) What materials would I be working in?
Most of what I'd modify is metal of some sort (usually aluminium but titanium, brass and steel are also used). Some smaller parts are made of plastic (delrin, nylatron, polycarbonate & acetate). I'd also like to do a few bits in some wood (grips etc.). That being said I'd mainly be working with T6061 aluminium should I actually fabricate something myself.

3) What kind of equipment would I like?
I'd obviously like to have a CNC mill and lathe (or mini versions of) but I'd like to start off with manual versions to "get my bearings" so to speak.

4) How much space do I have for said equipment?
I don't have a lot of space so I can't get one of those machines that can take up half a warehouse. I've almost completed work on a new garage which should be big enough to hold 2 small cars so if I only put 1 car in there I can give up a third of the total internal space for a new workbench to hold the equipment. I still need to complete the wiring so I'd need to know what power requirements I'd be looking at. It'd help to keep things safe.

5) How much am I looking to spend?
Money is tight all round, I'm sure, so I'm sure you won't be surprised when I say that I can't afford the most extravagant pieces of equipment. I am employed though so I'm sure that I can save up the extra funds to get what I'd need should it currently be out of my reach. I'd learned over recent years that if you get the right tools for the job, even if there are cheaper tools that'll also do that job, then you'll get the job done easier, quicker and you'll also get the job done right first time. So how much do I want to spend? I want to spend as little as possible but nothing less than what's necessary to get the right tools for the job.

6) How big are the bits I'll be making/modifying?
I guess the longest bits I'd probably make/modify would be barrels. Single piece barrels would more than likely be about 16" max. There are 2 and 3 piece barrels that can be made up to 22" but the longest part would only be about 14" on its own. Other parts will be no more than 2-3" thick/wide depending on their purpose (usually grips or shrouds). Eventually I'd like to make other equipment like a vacuum forming machine and an injection molding machine. This would mean I'd have to make the parts for those as well as the molds (whatever those would be made of). I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

7) How soon do I want everything?
I'm in no great rush but I have been putting this off for years. I'd like to be fully up 'n running by about May/June with at least a mill. If I have to save for longer to get the right equipment then I hope to be up 'n running with at least a mill by no later than the end of August. If I can get both a mill and a lathe by then, then that'd be great.

I think that's everything I can think of (if any of that'll help) so any advice, pointers or links to info will be appreciated. As I said, I'm a complete and total newbie, so please be gentle with me.

BTW That was a lot to read and I thank you for reading it all if you did.

07-02-2012, 03:02 PM
Good to see a comprehensive and realistic specification for once!

One of the reasons I got my milling machine was to make parts for my model cars (Tamiya & Team Associated) without relying on the school's machines. This is the milling machine I bought a few years ago:


It's very expensive new, so I got one second hand on eBay for 320 including delivery and converted that to CNC. I highly recommend searching on eBay for a second hand milling machine about that size. Compared to something like a Bridgeport you'll be disappointed, but that's not to say you can't make what you need it just takes a little longer than on a big machine. I think it's a good size. You're better off with not a column mill, i.e. one with a dovetail for the Z-axis like the X3:


More expensive, but quite a lot more rigid. No doubt cheaper second hand.

Out of the materials you listed titanium is by far the hardest to cut. What do you want to cut from titanium? If it's just very thin sheet that's possible. Also I'm surprised you didn't include carbon fibre as a lot of model car parts are now made from approx. 3mm carbon fibre sheet. It's easy to cut with a high speed spindle (24krpm), but proportionately slower at the speed you'll get from the milling machine, so that might be something to consider or add later.

For the electric I'd try and get a 30A connection to the shed. If you've got a heater running, some lights and milling machine it could soon add up to more than 13A. If you decide to get a welder you will definitely want 30A.

07-02-2012, 07:31 PM
Thanks for the response. Strangely I've been considering the SEIG Super X3 for a while but I don't know enough to know if my instinctive choice is a good choice.

I don't think I'd be working much with titanium, I've been told by others about how difficult it is to work in, but there are things that I'd eventually like to be able to make out of the stuff. As for carbon fibre... I'd actually forgot to add carbon fibre to the list of materials I'd work in. I knew there was a material I'd missed off the list!

I generally haven't considered buying used machine tools because I wouldn't know how to fix it if it's broken. I guess I should look around more.