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Unimat or Sherline... your feedback, please...


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Hello All!

 

Trying to pick your brains here...

 

Looking for opinions on Unimat vs. Sherline, why your pick, and would you go lathe only or with mill?

 

Your input wanted...  I'd like something not too complicated, as it will be my initial plunge to this type of tool, but I wouldn't want to waste money in something that I may get as a package, as opposed to buying afterwards separately (and more expensive probably). 

 

Would like to be able to input the measurement electronically, for precision sakes.

 

Would this be a good package to start?  https://www.ebay.com/itm/SHERLINE-4410-C-3-5-X-17-LATHE-METRIC-the-C-Package-INCH-SEE-PN-4400C/153087814518?hash=item23a4beab76:g:5noAAOSw1qtbPkxD

 

In the meantime, will continue to read on both items...  thanks, as always, for your help!

 

Jorge

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I haven't used the Unimat, but have the Sherline.  It's a fantastic machine that's build like a tank!  The add-ons increase the financial cost considerably, but they also greatly increase the flexibility of the machine.  I'd offer a few thoughts:

 

1.  If you have the space, I would go for the 17" longer bed.  If you want to add bigger chucks, etc. to the headstock and tailstock, they will eat up the distance between centers very quickly.  I started turning pens on the shorter bed lathe, and ended up selling it and buying the 17" and now have plenty of room to use various accessories.

 

2.  Think about what you want to do with the machine.  Turn metal?  Turn wood?  Turn both?  I say this because while the machine is good for turning small wood projects, you are limited by the height off the bed in the diameter of parts you can turn.  Usually not a problem with metal given that the maximum diameter you can turn is 3.5" I believe, but is very limiting if you're going to be turning anything bigger than pen blanks.  I ended up getting risers for the headstock and tailstock which bump the maximum diameter to 6".

 

3.  I like the Sherline because you can replace parts very easily.  So if you lose a screw or washer or broke something, you can replace it.

 

4.  Think about getting the digital readout (DRO) - I love it as it has a tachometer and X-Y axis readout.  Very helpful if you want to drill at a certain RPM, turn something to a certain diameter, etc.  If you get it installed, you save some money and some time because it takes a while to swap things out to hook up the readout machine.

 

5.  Take a look at discountcampus for better deals than buying direct from Sherline.  The packages offer substantial discounts over buying the individual accessories separately, but look through the set to make sure you aren't getting a whole bunch of things you won't need.

 

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I definitely agree with everything Mike has said about Sherline. Although I’m in Australia, I bought mine through Mike’s Tools in the US - good prices, great service.

 

The only thing I would add is think about what you want to do with the machine/s. I personally think I get more use out of my mill than I do the lathe, although I do use them both. There is an option to buy a combination mill/lathe set-up from Sherline, but I would counsel against that in favour of two separate machines for slightly greater initial expense - otherwise you’ll invariably be set up for the opposite of the machine you need at the time!

 

As MIke said, accessories are likely to cost you more than the basic machines but you can add these as and when you have a specific need. Sherline do offer some very good package deals with the basic accessories - and you can buy these packages through somewhere like Mike’s Tools as well. (No affiliation here, just a very satisfied customer).

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Ditto to everything that's been posted above.

 

There are many discussions here on these topics. I'll just mention a few observations as the owner of three lathes of various sizes and types. (A well-equipped Unimat SL, a fully tooled Atlas/Craftsman 12x48, and a Craftsman full size wood-turning lathe.)

 

1.  The price of a basic lathe or mill is, at best, only about half of what one would reasonably end up spending to equip the basic tool with the tooling necessary to perform the work usually done on them. 

 

2.  A good quality used lathe or mill, assuming it is in good condition, which often requires knowledgeable examination and testing, is always a better buy than a new one. This is especially so if one is able to purchase a lathe or mill in good shape with a considerable amount of tooling included in the deal. The "package" deals on new lathes and mills aren't anything special, generally. The "extras" are simply very basic tooling that would permit one to do one or two very basic operations. You may save a few bucks on the "package" over the retail prices, but you'll be spending far more than you save on the new machine than you would buying a good used one. They are like cars that way. Once you drive them off the lot, their value depreciates immediately.

 

1. The Unimat SL and Unimat 3 are excellent precision machines. They can be set up as either a lathe or a mill. The SL has been recognized by many as the finest modelmakers" lathe ever built. That said, they haven't been made since the seventies and you will certainly pay more for a Unimat than for anything close to one new. (The new "Unimats" are not the same. Somebody just bought the name to capitalize on it and brought out very poor products under the Unimat label.) Parts and attachments for the Unimats are no longer available except on the secondary market, such as eBay, and are extremely expensive. Don't even think about buying a basic machine and trying to fully equip it buying tooling on eBay and not paying a lot more than the equivalent for another machine. The old Unimats are great, but something of a collectors' cult item these days. The one advantage of that is that their value increases over time. I was lucky enough to be given mine. I spent another $750 or so just getting the basic tooling I wanted without any of the attachments for it, like the threading attachment, the jigsaw attachment, the table saw attachment, the rotary table, and so on, just to give you an idea of what it all costs. If it weren't a matter of "dancing with the girl ya brought," I'd have bought a used mini-lathe with better parts availability.

 

2. Sherline makes good, solid machines. To my way of thinking, however, they aren't cheap and they are limited by their size and power. For the same money, or much less on the used market, one can acquire a larger, more powerful and more versatile lathe such as the Chinese-made "7X's" or similar. (The prudent buyer obtains these for a bit more cost at reliable retailers like Grizzly Industrial or LittleMachineShop. Theirs have better quality control. Buy one at a bargain rate retailer and you can expect casting sand in the gearbox, etc., etc., etc. Precision costs money. Buying "seconds" is a false economy.)

 

3. Because so much of the price of any lathe or mill is dependent upon the tooling you will eventually be buying, and because much of it may be proprietary, careful consideration needs be given to the brand that one is purchasing and how available less expensive generic tooling might be. Similarly, one needs to decide between metric and Imperial standards. The advantage of the Chinese 7X's for modeling, or anything else for that matter, is that there's millions of them so there's tons of tooling available in standard thread patterns. That often makes a huge difference in cost in the long run. On the other hand, a proprietary part for an "oddball" lathe or mill can sometimes cost so much repairs become pointless.

 

4. A lathe with a milling attachment can do milling operations. A mill cannot do lathe operations.  

 

5. Within broad limits, of course, every size lathe can do smaller work, but none can do work larger than the physical limits of the diameter and length of work pieces. (For example, the Chinese mini-lathes will spin a 7" diameter work piece which is as long as its bed. A "7X14" allows you work anything within a 7" by 14" size envelope.) You won't go wrong with a larger lathe, but many find they need to later buy a larger lathe, or wished they had. 

 

6.  Not only is a lathe the most versatile machine tool of all, but it is also the most dangerous. Rotary saws may injure a greater number of people, but only because there are so many more of them. A lathe is not a machine to be operated intuitively. It demands at least a basic understanding of its operation and a thorough grounding in safety protocols. Get somebody who knows what they are doing to instruct you or take a class at the local adult education junior college or something. Even a relatively small lathe can kill you.  A mini-lathe might not kill you, but it can still maim you pretty good. Never forget that.  https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/nyregion/yale-student-dies-in-machine-shop-accident.html

 

7.  If I were buying a mini-lathe today, I'd be looking at something like these:

 

https://www.grizzly.com/products/Grizzly-4-x-6-Micro-Metal-Lathe/G0745

 

https://www.grizzly.com/products/Grizzly-7-x-14-Variable-Speed-Benchtop-Lathe/G0765

 

https://www.grizzly.com/products/Grizzly-8-x-16-Variable-Speed-Benchtop-Lathe/G0768

 

https://www.grizzly.com/products/Grizzly-9-x-19-Bench-Lathe/G4000

 

 

 

 

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Sherline for sure. The quality is fantastic and their service department, should you ever need it, is first rate. I use the mill far more than the lathe but when you need a lathe...you need a lathe. I'm self taught but there are now excellent videos on just about every aspect of machining on the Sherline site and internet. One terrific series is by Blondihacks - https://www.youtube.com/blondihacks. She has numbered progressive series on the use of the lathe and mill for smaller machining.

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I have a Sherline lathe (longer bed) and a Sherline mill - for decades already and they are still going strong, like new.

Recently I had to replace a toggle switch on my lathe, because the old one got contaminated with some fine dust, either wood or brass and stopped working. I also installed a rubber seal cap around the new switch - to prevent it from clogging again.

Otherwise I have no problems and no regrets owning them. Good machines. Good selection of parts and accessories, too.

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If you need some help to understand "how to" and "what you need" for a lathe or a mill, I recommend these two sites.

 

http://www.mini-lathe.com/Default.htm  has a lot of good general info on hobby type machine tools.

 

and for this next one, there's two URLs.  One for the Learning Center: https://littlemachineshop.com/info/menu_page.php?parent=itm11  and one for the info center:  https://littlemachineshop.com/info/menu_page.php?parent=itm12.   

 

Disclaimer:

I have no financial interest in either site but I have learned a lot from them. And when I went "up scale" from my MicroMark mill, I bought the Little Machine Shop one. I'm just run of the mill user, so to speak.

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I have a Sherline Lathe with 17in bed and optional milling column.  I also have the riser block and toolpost that I bought for a special project ( turning the turret of a 1:96 scale Passaic Class Monitor from a large bronze bearing sleeve). I also used the milling column to machine the oval gun ports.  I agree with the posts above that it is an excellent tool backed by a high class company.  

 

It it does have one feature that I do not like. Unlike a conventional metal lathe where the tail stock can be set off center to turn a taper, the Sherline does this by rotating the headstock.  There is also a bass ackwards optional cross slide that can be used for this but as of yet, I have not wanted to spring for the $250 plus or minus to buy one.  This unfortunately prevents use of any sort of tailstock support when turning a taper, but more seriously prevents use of the key in the joint between the headstock and base with predictable results if one is not extremely careful.

 

Since I suspect that many modelers who invest in a metal lathe dream of turning a cannon barrel this should be considered.

 

Roger

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Don't forget the Taig/Peatol lathes. They're excellent for model makers, cheaper than the Sherline, have a huge range of accessories, lots of instructional videos on the web, and a very nice idea for a tailstock. They are also available quite often on eBay. I bought mine in the UK with a huge range of accessories some years ago for £400 which at the time would have been a little over US$550. I have the tool rest for wood turning, so although I have the perfectly good Proxxon wood lathe, I now only use that for the longer pieces such as masts.

 

Tony

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You've gotten some really great advice on here.  A couple of other things I would add that just came to mind:

 

1.  The one thing I liked about the Sherline is that their mills are very nice and the great thing is that the accessories are generally interchangeable between the lathe and mill (which leads to some cost savings).  If you think you might be in the market for a mill, it might make sense to get the same manufacturer so that you can share accessories.  For example, if you want a digital readout box, you can share the same box between the mill and the lathe which will save you some money.

 

2.  I think someone may have mentioned this, but think about whether you want to work in metric or imperial.  At least with Sherline, you can't share a DRO box between two different standards.  I made the mistake years ago of buying a used imperial mill and metric lathe off eBay.  When I went to buy a DRO package a year later, I had to convert at least one of them to the other standard which would require an expensive threadscrew and wheel upgrade that was like half the cost of a new machine.  Since I wanted to switch to metric, I just went ahead and sold the mill and bought a new one (slightly bigger, with wider table, taller column, and hi-speed wheels) and added the DRO package.  Then I got into pen turning, and realized the 8" lathe wasn't going to allow me to turn longer pieces because the chucks were taking up too much room.  So, I sold that one and upgraded to the longer bed lathe.  Later on I decided to start turning larger diameter wood projects, but was limited by the height of the lathe so ended up getting the riser block set.  

 

I say all this so you can learn from my mistakes :)  Also to show you that the Sherline are very versatile with all the accessories.  It might be hard to forecast exactly what you will need for the next decade plus when deciding on packages as your interests may change (mine certainly have), but buying a package of accessories will certainly save you money.  If I remember correctly, the "A" package pretty much should be considered at a minimum as it includes a chuck which is fairly expensive if you buy separately.

 

3.  Glad Roger mentioned the lathe with milling column option.  Depending on how often you will be using a mill or lathe, that might be a very good option to go with.  I've barely used my mill thus far, but have used the lathe a lot on turning projects (non-ship model projects).  If I had to start all over again, I'd strongly consider that option to save on cost and bench space.  Start with the lathe, and then if you want to get into milling operations, consider whether you can live with the milling column attachment (which from what I've read is a pretty quick adjustment to the lathe) -- or if switching between milling and lathe work will be a pain, get a stand-alone mill.  My problem was I started with the mill, then upgraded the mill for the DRO.  

 

4.  Safety is definitely a must for the lathe.  Not only eye protection, but be very careful of clothes, hair, etc. getting caught.  My first lathe was the Proxxon DB250 mini lathe.  I was turning a mast for my first ship, and finishing it with steel wool.  Well, I got the steel wool too close to the spinning headstock and it pulled the wool into it.  Thankfully, I immediately let go but it taught me a good lesson.  My hair is short, but I always wear short sleeves and avoid using cloth or anything similar around the lathe.  When I cover the lathe bed, I use paper towels instead.  I also make sure that my family knows not to disturb me when I have my power tools running as a small lapse in concentration can be disastrous.

 

Also, make sure that chucks are installed tightly.  For some reason I had a chuck come off the spindle spinning at 2000+ RPM.  Thankfully it didn't fly off, but just sort of spun off the headstock and dropped onto the bench.  When it hit the floor, it was still spinning like a top.  Was a good learning experience for me to continually check that things like jaw chucks - which are screwed onto the head or tail stock and are not secured by a drawbolt - remain tightly screwed on during the turning process.

 

Learning by watching videos online is fine, but I have to say, you see people on YouTube doing really stupid, unsafe things.  Whenever I watch those videos, I already try to read the comments as people will point out if the person was doing something not in a safe manner.  

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Another option, which I *hardly* regret making- the once very inexpensive and now not so much anymore, Chinese mini mill and lathe. As offered by Micromark, Little Machine Shop, Harbor Freight and others. I'm happier with the MASS of these cast iron machines, as sometime I need to machine something a bit bigger. And yes I've added many tools over the years... some 20 years I've had these things.

 

.20160827_152056.jpg.b267bdac0ac6c98565684467bff22c55.jpg

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For my couple of pennies worth ....

 

I have used Sherline for some time now and find them very reliable, but.....

 

1.  The size of the job is 'limited' so know what you intend to use it for before buying.  I would also recommend the extended bed for the lathe as mentioned by several  members already.  A riser for the mill is optional depending on the sizes of the jobs you intend.

 

2.  Sherline does offer 240V or 115V motor options as well as metric or Imperial; does Unimat offer these options?  It depends on where you live if this should be a consideration.

 

3.  The real issue I now experience is that the cost of Sherline accessories has gone through the roof; its almost as if Sherline know they have a cornered market.  Some items are reasonable when you consider the accuracy and quality of the item, and factor in the smaller market, but other items are just plain over priced (IMHO).

 

4.  The biggest consideration for me these days is transport costs.  If you do not live in the USA, then expect to pay from two-thirds upwards the price of the item to ship it, particularly for heavier items.  Unfortunately, this has now prevented me buying anything from there - I don't understand the system there as a very few suppliers (such as Chuck / Syren) still offer very reasonable postage.   If you purchase from UK or Europe, things are much more reasonable (for transports related costs).

 

All  that said, I have found the Sherline very reliable and meets all my modelling related needs - I cannot comment on Unimat as I have not used them. 

 

If you can afford it, buy as many accessories as you think you will need as part of a package; not only to try and negotiate a better price, but to avoid the accumulating transport costs of acquiring the accessories individually later.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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13 hours ago, Pat Matthews said:

Another option, which I *hardly* regret making- the once very inexpensive and now not so much anymore, Chinese mini mill and lathe. As offered by Micromark, Little Machine Shop, Harbor Freight and others. I'm happier with the MASS of these cast iron machines, as sometime I need to machine something a bit bigger. And yes I've added many tools over the years... some 20 years I've had these things.

 

.20160827_152056.jpg.b267bdac0ac6c98565684467bff22c55.jpg

Hello Pat!

 

Are those units Central Machine (or Machinery)?  I believe I have seen these in Habor Freight or Northern Tool...

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10 hours ago, BANYAN said:

2.  Sherline does offer 240V or 115V motor options as well as metric or Imperial; does Unimat offer these options?  It depends on where you live if this should be a consideration.

Unimats came with 110 VAC and 220 VAC motors. They were metric machines. They haven't been made since the late Seventies.

 

10 hours ago, BANYAN said:

3.  The real issue I now experience is that the cost of Sherline accessories has gone through the roof; its almost as if Sherline know they have a cornered market.  Some items are reasonable when you consider the accuracy and quality of the item, and factor in the smaller market, but other items are just plain over priced (IMHO).

Very true. A common machine tool with lots of units in production over a long period of time which will accept lots of generic after-market tooling is a huge savings. Less common, more specialized machine tools with lots of proprietary tooling get expensive very quickly.  Precision machine tools and tooling have always been expensive, but prices have really gone up for quality stuff in recent times.

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11 hours ago, Jorge Hedges said:

Hello Pat!

 

Are those units Central Machine (or Machinery)?  I believe I have seen these in Habor Freight or Northern Tool...

 

They could be the same as MicroMark buys it's machines from Central Machine.  Having said that... be careful as MM's are bespoke in that the tolerances are tighter than Harbor Freight.

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I was looking at this package...  any opinions?  Sherline 4410:

 

https://www.sherline.com/product/4400a-dro4410a-dro-package/

 

And this tool rest for manual work:

https://www.sherline.com/product/extended-wood-tool-rest-set/

 

Now, is there any lever action quick release cutting tool holder?  I have seen these on YouTube videos, but can't find it in the Sherline page; maybe a competitor's compatible accessory?  Is it a nice to have item, or would it really help?

 

593820380_QuickRelease(2).jpg.a7b0f6ede67c07fd9e659c32e93f758b.jpg

Thank you all!

Jorge

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Little Machine Shop makes a quick-change tool post for the Sherline. https://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=4039&category=

I have one very similar to it from a company that has since gone out of business but I have been able to buy additional tool holders from Little Machine Shop. I highly recommend a QCTP. They are expensive but worth every penny to me because I find myself changing tools frequently. I have bought several extra tool holders over the years. I have carbide tools, HSS tools, and even a knurling tool, each in its own holder.

 

One other thing that has not been mentioned so far is the weight of the larger lathes. I don't have room in my shop to keep the lathe set up all the time. I have to store it under a workbench. Bringing out the Sherline is no big deal, but one of the larger lathes can weigh upwards of 1oo pounds! I sure as heck wouldn't be moving that thing around. Also, as others have said, if you buy the Sherline, absolutely buy the long bed. I made the mistake of buying the short bed and quickly came to regret it. It's possible to upgrade later, but it's 3 times more expensive than buying it up front.

 

Definitely check the prices at https://www.discountcampus.com/

They are an authorized Sherline distributor and, in fact, anything you buy gets shipped directly from Sherline anyway and carries their full warranty.

 

Cheers -

John

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On 6/11/2020 at 3:56 PM, jhearl said:

One other thing that has not been mentioned so far is the weight of the larger lathes. I don't have room in my shop to keep the lathe set up all the time. I have to store it under a workbench. Bringing out the Sherline is no big deal, but one of the larger lathes can weigh upwards of 1oo pounds! I sure as heck wouldn't be moving that thing around.

If space limitations apply, the lighter weight lathe is an decided advantage. However, weight equates with accuracy when it comes to machine tools. That's just a fact of life.

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On 6/11/2020 at 7:59 AM, Jorge Hedges said:

I was looking at this package...  any opinions?  Sherline 4410:

 

https://www.sherline.com/product/4400a-dro4410a-dro-package/

 

And this tool rest for manual work:

https://www.sherline.com/product/extended-wood-tool-rest-set/

 

Now, is there any lever action quick release cutting tool holder?  I have seen these on YouTube videos, but can't find it in the Sherline page; maybe a competitor's compatible accessory?  Is it a nice to have item, or would it really help?

 

593820380_QuickRelease(2).jpg.a7b0f6ede67c07fd9e659c32e93f758b.jpg

imageproxy.php?img=&key=4f3b55ae31fcd018Thank you all!

Jorgeimageproxy.php?img=&key=4f3b55ae31fcd018

I used a Sherline lathe and mill for many years. You won't be dissapointed with Sherline.

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3 minutes ago, thegrindre said:

The others are made in China which tend to be a bit off from the quality we do here in the states

Just to come back to the original question, Unimats were made in Austria up to and including the Unimat 3. The Unimat 4 was made in the far east as have all others with the Unimat name since.

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In the past I've always used just Unimat, both the SL and Unimat 3.  The old 3 with a cast bed and ways is far superior to the SL.  I now only use a pair of 3's and an SL head mounted on a home made mill.

 

miniature_machine_techniques_1.jpg

 

I wouldn't recommend going with an older machine that is no longer manufactured because of the limited availability of parts and accessories.  Last year I bought a Proxon 250 because I wanted something a little bigger.  It is a terrific machine.  You get an actual geared power feed and real compound.  Gears are metal and the machine is made in Germany.  It bears a striking similarity to my Unimat construction.  I called the company and was told that one of the design team came from Unimat.  It is a beautiful little machine.  It would be my current first choice for a small lathe.

 

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Paul

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+1 on the Proxxon, until recently  I owned and used a Myford super 7 lathe considered by many to be one of the finest lathes made for model engineering.

When I began building the Winchelsea I sold the Myford due to space considerations and replaced it with the Proxxon 250.

I am very impressed with the capabilities of this small lathe but the number one plus for me is that I can use it sitting down.  The machine is a pleasure to use.

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3 hours ago, nzreg said:

I sold the Myford due to space considerations and replaced it with the Proxxon 250.

I had a Unimat and I sold it, I have a Myford and I would never sell it. It is the lathe I use the most. Myford lathes are perfect to make tools and I made a lot. Proxxon is much more smaller and is also for much smaller parts.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have had a Unimat Sl1000 and by way of a group member I just sold his Unimat 3. Both were sold to ship modelers and both had lots of accessories. I would have kept(bought the Model 3) from his estate. Had I not made an earlier pruchase I would have been happy to have bought the latter. It has a number of nice feature upgrades over the former version.

 

During the "back to work" at Sherline they had a special sale of certain lathe models. I bought the 17" bed version with Package 'A'. It is a beautiful machine and the quality of product is outstanding. With coast to coast shipping it was just under $800. I debated about the 17" bed length and still am doing so to some degree. The unit is 30 inches in length overall as the motor protrudes beyond the headstock drive some 6 inches. Indeed with a jacobs chuck mounted and the tail stock fully positioned to the right one has nearly 13 1/2 inches of stock mounting capability (3 jaw chuck mounted on head stock). The tool carriage is much larger than a Unimat. It is approximately 2 3/4 X 6 inches.

 

I do have the need to machine ferrous and non ferrous rod/tubing so that is one of the reasons I chose the longer bed. I may try turning some masts (yes I know it is not the traditional method) but I will have to buy the steady rest and likely the wood turning tool rest for an addtional $150+ to do so. The only thing I was disappointed in was that it does not come with cut off stock or holder. More dollars!

 

Yes I was warned but I could not help myself.

 

Joe

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