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Andreas Preuss

What is the best mini lathe for bow repairs?

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Looking for a not too big lathe mostly for bow repairs.

Any recommendations from bow makers?

What can be done with the recommended lathe?

(I was looking at a Proxin mini lathe  because it is not too difficult to find spare parts in Japan.) 

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My Band instrument repair guys bought a MicroMark mini lathe a number of years ago and I've used that.  My pet problem with that, is that I can't find a stationary 4 jaw chuck to fit it so I can bush the handle end.  "My Little Machine Shop" (.oom) is a good place to get stuff.

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Taig Lathes are nice for the price and you can configure to your needs. 
 There's an ebay seller in NJ who offers a base model with a variable speed motor. 
The Unimat is a classic and solidly built but underpowered depending on what you need it to do.

I don't own either but I've been looking into one myself and those stood out. 

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I actually have a proxxon micro lathe and I just started making bows. So far it's pretty handy but I haven't used it fully as yet. 

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When I started bowmaking I picked up one from a Canadian retailer here - its a upgraded Chinese made model and it works well enough for all of the basic bow procedures. 

However, I recently had the chance to buy some tools from a retired bow maker and he had an older English made lathe (a Myford) that he had tottally outfitted for Bowmaking and the ease of use and capabilities are so much higher than the modern lathe. 

I have played around with a friends Taig and it seems to be a good machine, but if the opportunity presented itself I would suggest that some of the earlier lathes (especially Hardinge) offer superior quality and can be a joy to use. 

But perhaps I am just smitten with old tools...

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Sherline makes a beautiful micro lathe/mill machine that’s excellent for bow work. I’ve seen a couple of them, and I the owners swore by them. The standard setup comes with a three-jaw chuck, which will need to be switched out, either with a four-jaw chuck or a collet chuck set. 

I’ve seen a couple old Unimat lathes used for that purpose as well, but those are harder to find, as they’re vintage machinery. 

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I bought the 3 jaw and 4 jaw attachments for the proxxon which are useful, as well as the drill chuck for the tail post. I've seen people retro fit an engineers tool post to them on YouTube. That would be useful for turning brass and aluminium, I might do it myself one day. 

 

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My bowmaking mentor has a Sherline so that's what I use when I'm at his shop. Easy to use, seems precise enough for this kind of work. 

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If you find an Atlas 6 inch somewhere you can do not only the small stuff but all kinds of other uses both wood and metal. Parts are easy to order because they are so ubiquitous. I've got two.

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3 hours ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

I’ve seen a couple old Unimat lathes used for that purpose as well, but those are harder to find, as they’re vintage machinery. 

I had one of those original Unimat lathe/mills for many years, and it sortof works.  The diecast base (and other parts) and round rail ways are more like a toy, though, and I got rid of it on eBay when I got something closer to real machines.  The Unimat 3 looks more like a real lathe, although I haven't had any experience with it.

I also had a South Bend 9" lathe, but it was very worn and had some other problems, so I replaced it with a Chinese 9" lathe, which works decently.  There are similar 7" "mini-lathes" that look like they would be good for smaller things, and can be had new for a few hundred $.

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I have a 6" Atlas too. The flat bed design is not as accurate as the bed design of a South Bend, for example. But it's a good lathe. Like Don, I had an original Unimat and found that the bed design lacked adequate rigidity, so accuracy suffered. And like he did, I sold mine on eBay years ago with no regrets. But I'm not a bow maker, so what do I know?

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I have one of the Grizzly small micro lathes similar to the ones sold by Freight Harbor. I bought a self centering 4 jaw chuck which was a royal pain to mount. The spindle isn't threaded like most lathes, but has a flange with three holes to bolt the chuck to. After drilling three holes in the chuck, aided by a dial indicator, and eating up a large amount of time I got it centered. It works fine and has the benefit of having a power feed. A longer bed would be an improvement on mine. One model of the Harbor Freight lathe has a longer bed.

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7 hours ago, BowBow said:

I actually have a proxxon micro lathe and I just started making bows. So far it's pretty handy but I haven't used it fully as yet. 

Which model do you have?

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4 hours ago, Zeissica said:

My bowmaking mentor has a Sherline so that's what I use when I'm at his shop. Easy to use, seems precise enough for this kind of work. 

Just looked into their website. Seems to be pretty solid stuff. Unfortunately they don't have an authorized dealer in Japan. But that's not a major issue.

Which model does he use?

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7 hours ago, J Corry said:

When I started bowmaking I picked up one from a Canadian retailer here - its a upgraded Chinese made model and it works well enough for all of the basic bow procedures. 

However, I recently had the chance to buy some tools from a retired bow maker and he had an older English made lathe (a Myford) that he had tottally outfitted for Bowmaking and the ease of use and capabilities are so much higher than the modern lathe. 

I have played around with a friends Taig and it seems to be a good machine, but if the opportunity presented itself I would suggest that some of the earlier lathes (especially Hardinge) offer superior quality and can be a joy to use. 

But perhaps I am just smitten with old tools...

If I wait until a bow maker retires in Japan it's a pretty long wait... :rolleyes:

As much as I love old tools I need now a quick and easy solution and this means that if I need spare parts that I don't have to spend hours to find them. 

Maybe in a few years...

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4 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

If I wait until a bow maker retires in Japan it's a pretty long wait... :rolleyes:

As much as I love old tools I need now a quick and easy solution and this means that if I need spare parts that I don't have to spend hours to find them. 

Maybe in a few years...

Given that and not knowing what might be available in Japan, I would also recommend Sherline tools.  They are well engineered and pretty ridged for their size and have a very nice motor and speed control.  The headstock being short is a nice bonus for bow work.

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I have  a Myford 7 and a little Unimat 3. I enjoy both.

Really,  the unimat is perfectly  capable for bow button work, making bushings etc. It's  really compact, quiet, and clean. The ways dont need oil, and the headstock  bearings are sealed, so it's  dry. I lubricate the toolpost and ways  with a soft pencil. 

The myford is a bit of a liability  in a violin  workshop. It drinks oil, and flings it off the chuck at unvarnished  masterpieces. So mine has been turfed out. But I love it.

I've never had to buy a part for either lathe - they just dont break unless you do something  like crash  the carriage while  threading.  

 

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13 minutes ago, Conor Russell said:

I have  a Myford 7 and a little Unimat 3. I enjoy both.

Really,  the unimat is perfectly  capable for bow button work, making bushings etc. It's  really compact, quiet, and clean. The ways dont need oil, and the headstock  bearings are sealed, so it's  dry. I lubricate the toolpost and ways  with a soft pencil. 

The myford is a bit of a liability  in a violin  workshop. It drinks oil, and flings it off the chuck at unvarnished  masterpieces. So mine has been turfed out. But I love it.

I've never had to buy a part for either lathe - they just dont break unless you do something  like crash  the carriage while  threading.  

 

The myford looks a bit too big anyway. 

Now that I looked up on the net the pictures of the unimat I remember that we used in Tokyo Violin Making School. Was a pretty handy thing. It seems not to be manufactured any longer, or not?

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11 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

The myford looks a bit too big anyway. 

Now that I looked up on the net the pictures of the unimat I remember that we used in Tokyo Violin Making School. Was a pretty handy thing. It seems not to be manufactured any longer, or not?

I think  not. Mine was made in Austria, and they were made in Korea later on. I picked mine up on Ebay,  complete with mill (pretty useless), stand with drawers, and lots of tooling,  for €370. That was ten years  ago,  but they do crop up.

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I recall Lynn Hannings (long-time bow making instructor at the University of New Hampshire's Violin Craftsmanship Institute) saying that she uses a Sherline for button making.  I've never used a Sherline, so I don't know if it's possible to mount a stick in one for butt work.  I use a 9 inch South Bend, but it's probably bigger than what you want and not readily available in Japan.

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A limiting, or at least complicating, factor of the Sherline is the 10mm hole through the spindle.  That's fine for part making etc, but might be a bit small for doing bushings in the butt end of bows, presuming one has the courage to do such things on a lathe.
Bigger lathes will have larger spindle bores, but the headstock will of course be longer, which effectively reduces the capacity of what can be worked on, presuming it's curved...

 

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19 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Just looked into their website. Seems to be pretty solid stuff. Unfortunately they don't have an authorized dealer in Japan. But that's not a major issue.

Which model does he use?

Boyd uses a model 4400 - with the 17" travel. 

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I use compact 8 lathes mostly.  It is nice to have a lathe that allows the making of tooling when needed......it does not seem that a sherline Is nearly strong enough to cut teeth in cutters.

I did see the Taig at camp last year, it is an impressive little tool.  

The Alberti stick bushing tool is by far the better option for bushing sticks; it can do in short order what takes forever in a lathe, even with a four jaw chuck..

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