Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Learning about the Lathe - part 2 - What do I need?

Having made the decision to jump in and buy a lathe, the next question is which lathe? Your answer to that question may well be different to mine, and will largely depend on what you intend to do with the lathe when you get it. For me the requirement is to be able to produce live steam locomotives to run on 32mm gauge track out in my garden. These locomotives will most likely be constructed from plans available from the hobby's several magazines and/or via the internet. There is a good community around this branch of the hobby and that is a bonus where we are concerned, because there is no better advice available than from those that have either built one or more of these locos before, or, and this is even better, designed the thing in the first place! Lesson one for this part is that contrary to my expectations, these people are not inaccessible, aloof or distant, quite the reverse in fact, show a little enthusiasm for the subject and you will find yourself showered with offers of help, advice and patience. Ask them anything, and you will get an answer, or two, or three .... but you will get help, however basic or complex your question. There's a set of addresses for my main sources of advice at the end of this article.

I ended up buying a Peatol (Taig in the USA) micro lathe - there were some good reasons for choosing this model outlined below:
  1. Having read around the subject for a while, it transpired that Keith Bucklitch, who designed many of the locos I hope to build, uses one for much of his building work. You can't really ask for a better indication of "Fit for purpose" than that. Keith has also been a great source of advice and help already.
  2. There is a good, separate, Peatol enthusiast community on the internet.
  3. I was able to purchase a 2 hour long DVD showing a Peatol being put through it's paces, mostly while the guy held the camera in one hand and operated the lathe with the other.
  4. The lathe has been around for years and is well proven.
  5. The Chinese import machines appear to be much improved, but not always as well made as I'd like. This is anecdotal, but we're talking about major expenditure here and quality counts.
  6. The modular design and easy availability of parts (and probably spares). I am very impressed by the next day delivery service available from Peatol.
  7. A good variable speed DC motor is available as an alternative to the standard offering (which you don't have to buy)

There are probably other reasons too, but that will do for now. In part three I'll discuss the parts list, tools and there will be some picture of a nice shiny new lathe - promise!

Advice and help lines:

Yahoo, for all their foibles, do offer a fairly good egroup network, and one account can give you access to an awful lot! My most used are:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/modelloco16mm/ Bob Young runs this group specifically for those of us building these locos and I am indebted to the members for their help, advice and offers of equipment and guidance.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/16mmngm a more general place for all things 16mm scale.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/7-8InchScaleTrains is a similar group for the larger scale, but still able to use 32mm gauge track.

Other useful sites:

http://www.cartertools.com/ for access to all manner of Peatol (Taig) based sites - some people have done amazing things with their little lathes and it's all here.

the place to spend your money in the UK!


Blogger Mark said...

Iam amazed it must be a 45 thing, being 44 myself, I for the last 3 or 4 months have become obsessed with the "Grand Project Syndrome" and was delighted to read your blog while researching the Peatol lathe.
I have modeled and flown many aircraft but Live Steam has a very definite and dignified appeal to it.
Good luck .

8:09 PM  
Blogger Folking About said...

Thanks Mark - your settings don't let me reply to you except this way - glad you enjoyed the blog - good luck with the Grand Project - hope it's a steamer!

11:28 PM  
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