Saturday, February 07, 2015

My Smithy 1220 Lathe

At work I run a Haas ST 10 and further below an SL 20 Haas, sometimes I have to use an old Hardinge manual lathe. Both of the Haas lathes are CNC of course and are very tuff and reliable machines. It seems that in my memory the SL 20 has only had to have a tech work on it perhaps, maybe six times in almost ten years. The chip auger has always been a pain in the ass though as it clogs up all the time; the bar feeder attachment wants to mis-feed by either feeding out to much or mostly not enough resulting in dead parts unless I stand right there when using the bar feeder mode. Other than that it's pretty reliable still.
The ST 10 is pretty sweet, also pretty new, it has a chip conveyor so no clogging and the bar feeder on it is spot on every time. Other than keeping an eye on the tool wear it will run consistently all day long. I may have to get one for my shop.

Enough about those, let's take a look at my little Smithy lathe.

The Smithy 1220 lathe/mill combo below does have a powered carriage for the Z axis but everything else has to be moved by hand. Looking on the net there just doesn't seem to be much out there on these lathes. Not even more than four or five videos on you tube either and they are hard to find for sale. People either love them or hate them, me, I really like mine and while it could have a little more grunt for taking off heavier cuts I deal with it - a more powerful motor should be an easy upgrade for more power - plus you have to take more time to make good parts. The whole thing is just getting use to the machine and sneaking up on your final finish dimensions. A quick change tool post would speed up the process of tool changes and eliminate shimming tools plus give a wider range of tooling options. This one comes with a three jaw chuck although I'm ordering a 5C collet chuck for it as it will grip the bar stock firmly and parts when I need to flip them to finish the other side as well as not mark up parts as the three jaw chuck will do. As it is, when I have to chuck in the finished side of a part it's good practice to use masking or painters tape to avoid marking up the parts. This is true of any manual lathe with the three or four jaw setup. Another future item is another type of collet chuck that will fit in the tailstock end for greater range of tooling usage on that side of things.
To be honest, I had been looking at Atlas, Hardinge and Sears Craftsman lathes for my shop (note: Atlas made all the older craftsman lathes) as they can be found affordably. Purchase of the lathe is only the first cost, the tooling is almost always not there with it or is minimal. If you get into home machining you will soon find you have a ton more money invested in the tooling than the lathe ever cost you. A Plus for a Smithy is they have good customer support, plenty of accessories to enhance your modeling or parts experience and so far has been for me a pretty good little unit. Sure, some things may need adjustment to get the backlash to a minimum and the working range has it's short comings you need to allow for. Minuses are finding used tooling for it, power could be more and the tool post could be much better to allow for greater range of tooling types to be used. Shars tools has a host of tooling that are both good quality and affordable, Micromark also has some good items that can be used on the Smithy. If you've never used a lathe before always remember that every diameter measurement has to be half of what you want to take off the material. So if say, you have a one and a half rod you want to take half an inch off of you need to set your dials up to take off only a quarter inch. A piece of rod has two sides and if you set your dial to take off a whole half inch guess what, you'll take off an inch. Not at all like running my CNC lathes which will automatically adjust this for you. Remember with a hobby lathe, even with the Smithy lathe, you can get really good results with plain old practice. You yourself are what tells the machine what amount to take off the material your turning. I think many think the machine is the problem when actually it is the lack of the beginners experience that is the culprit. I don't see many of these machines for sale which leads me to think people actually like them and hang onto them but are afraid to admit it. Otherwise wouldn't you think they would be found for sale all over the place. It's like back in my day in high school, nobody admitted they liked the band KISS or country music but sometimes from under the seat would slide out a KISS tape or Hank Williams. Johnny Cash though, even we rockers liked Cash.         

I acquired my machine used from a friends family who's father we knew passed away ten years ago. He had worked at General Electric til he retired. He purchased this unit and used it from time to time at his own shop on his property. His shop had a host of different machines he used for making artificial limbs and other prototypes for the likes of Duke University and others, his hobby though was repairing old watches for one. The shop sat idle all these years and his Grandsons had no interest in any of the equipment, they all agreed that their Grandfather, Fred, would like me to have it so it would get some good use. They offered it to me and I asked how much and they told me they wanted me to have it for free if I could use it. Their mother, our good friend, would not take a dime for it even after I told her what it was probably worth. So I got this machine and around two or three thousand dollars worth of tooling and vices, drills, V Blocks, measuring tools (Starrett and Brown & Sharpe), end mills, reamers dead centers, live centers, half centers, chucks etc. etc.  
I'm pretty pleased with it and the more I use it the better the motorcycle parts, tools and more seem to come out.      

Below is the other HAAS CNC like the one I run. Big difference between this and a Smithy, the programming on the CNC will do all the tool changes and calculations mostly for you, on any manual lathe you are the operating program and system.  

So look for more motorcycle stuff coming off my little Smithy on here, I also guess I'll be the only one on the whole net showing the usage of a 1220 Smithy Lathe.

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