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Home mill and lathe options? Halfco the go?

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    Home mill and lathe options? Halfco the go?

    Decided to bite the bullet and get a few property improvements and workshop stuff sooner rather than later. Already got the electrician working on range hood, genset, 15a outlets etc, will get earthworks and fabricated bladder gutter ring tanknup on the hill above the house, insulation for roof and walls in the shed, and get a Joel's garage gear 2 post hoist.

    I did the intro to machining course at Gosford tafe that DHS organised a couple of years ago and have done a few bits and pieces at mine sites and at uni before that. From what I can tell doing a few bits and pieces, 3 axis mill bed with coordinate reader is really handy, more so than a reader on a lathe as measurement is usually easier on lathe jobs. Halfco 3 axis mill with 90 deg rotating head, 3 axis bed and coordinate reader looks to go for around 7K, a basic lathe for around 3.5K, although if you want a bigger through bore they get expensive, 9K for lathe with larger internal bore, longer bed etc.

    Hoping for a bit of feedback from anyone who has played with this stuff a bit more. Will be very low duty, basically so I can make bushes, brackets, mounts, joiners or other stuff for cars/bikes/trucks/whatever myself, the way I want them, when I want them, stuff like remaking the billet coil brackets for my rx7 so I can actually get them on and off with the AC,PS and factory heater fittings still on the block. Will end up getting cold cut saw and HF TIG and any other bits and pieces to go along with it.
    Last edited by Slides; 15-09-21, 03:57 PM.

    Hafco stuff is good, a lot of parts in the country get made with their machines.

    The Al336 is the pick of the lathes, not big, not small, good general size. Foamy here has one, it's good. It's not exactly cheap but it's a good thing to have in the corner.


      I bought a hm46 drill mill a few years ago. It's been pretty good. I've slowly been buying more and more tooling and things for it. I dont have a dro but I've managed to make things without it. The only thing that snapped on it was the protective shield around the chuck.

      I mainly use it as a drill and for facing things. I recently bought a rotary table to let me mill curves in things but havent used it yet.


        I have hafco lathe and mill, would bang again
        I own a two and a half litre Commodore - 8.93 at 142mph


          What he said^
          Buy that one

          I've got a 320g, its fit for purpose. Does have a bit of taper in the bed, Might be an issue for precision stuff but nothing i really need works in 10thou dimensions. Main thing I wish it had was a brake and reverse gear for cutting threads etc. Essentially all the things the 336 has.

          I've also got a HM-48 with the DRO. Its fine. I would have preferred the 51. Little one like mine has smaller MT and less Grunt and rigidity. If i make 1/2mm depth of cut with my 50mm face mill, I'm stretching the friendship.

          I own both of these because i got the pair for $1k at a liquidation auction unused, so I'm not complaining. If i paid RRP I'd be upset I didn't spend a couple G's more and have the good shit.


            I have owned the AL335 (now discontinued) for a good 13 years now and have no regrets about it. It's got a reasonable sized bore and swing to do everything that I have ever need to do and doesn't chatter like a piece of cheap shit when you load it up like really small units. Probably the only thing that I have ever missed on it is the lowest speed is 75rpm and that makes me nervous with thread cutting up to shoulders due to my very average operator skills. I plan to fit a yum cha DRO onto it one day just to speed things up, but I can live without it.

            Milling machine wise I picked up locally a lightly used full size Hafco Bridgeport clone BM-22A which looks like this one, but it didn't have the DRO fitted. I later fitted a 3-axis yum cha DRO and that made life so much easier. It's a big unit and can take good solid cuts if needed due to the rigidity. I paid about $4000 odd or maybe a little more and I consider it a good purchase as I'll have it for many years to come (already had about 10 years).

            I looked at both of these purchases as long-term and the money I've sunk into them is not even on my radar as a regret on any level. I also know I could sell them off if needed and get most of my money back. The other option you can look at if you have the space is to get older non flogged out 3 phase units and just run them on VSD units.


              I have an AL320G, so the little brother of the AL335/6. It is a good piece of kit and has worked almost flawlessly for about 15 years now (with a 6 year storage hiatus). Im going to be fitting a 2 axis DRO to it in the near future but mainly because I bought a bunch of stuff cheap from a local machinery supplies shop that shut down early in the pandemic. It currently has a dicky safety switch though, which is possibly some metal swarf stuck in it but need to clean it and check. If not its a pretty cheap fix.

              Mill wise i have a RongFu 45 copy (same thing the HM46 copies) but it is a pretty basic unit. I picked it up for $1200 though, so much much cheaper than the HM46. It worked well until i had to put it into storage during the Melbourne lockdown last year, and during that time the column was stored lying down and the gear oil seems to have drained into the motor unit and saturated the start capacitor. I havent had a chance to pull it down yet, but hopefully can get it going again without too many issues. It is also getting a DRO in the nearish future and im planning on upgrading some of the electrical controls anyway to incorporate tapping etc and a safety switch rather than just the 2 position switch

              Remember though whichever way you go, you will spend as much if not more than the machine cost on tooling.
              The MX5 Noujet (its up market) | The Hilux Complete Nugget
              I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. - D.H.Lawrence


                You'll hear people telling you to not buy chinese stuff and that only a Monarch 10EE will do. The answer may be somewhere in the middle.

                I followed this advice and bought one of these a few years ago for $1,500 (same model, not this one):

                It's my forever lathe and you'll need to prise it from my cold dead hands, but its old and pedantic. Here's the compromises:
                - Chuck taper is a weird size, accessories are expensive.
                - Parts are super expensive and rare.
                - The gearbox was toast, had to put in a VFD and new 3 phase motor.
                - Imperial only, unless you change backgears which is a pain.
                - No idea where to get new clutch shoes.
                - It's a touch small for some stuff.
                - Has no safety anything so keep your sleeves away.


                  Thats why you buy a machine made in Taiwan


                    Thanks gents. I will have a look at a few models. Was expecting to spend the cost of machines on tooling over 6 to 12 months after purchase but I think there is a fair bit of fat in my water tank budget so once that's done I can get all the extras.


                      Originally posted by Slides View Post
                      Thanks gents. I will have a look at a few models. Was expecting to spend the cost of machines on tooling over 6 to 12 months after purchase but I think there is a fair bit of fat in my water tank budget so once that's done I can get all the extras.
                      I have plenty of nice tools that accept $40 inserts
                      I once bought a yum cha boring bar for a specific job one off. 10 inserts and tool for half the cost of a single high end brand insert. Surprisingly not shit for the price of a KFC family feast.

                      Then bought couple hundred dollars worth of Wish spec tools and inserts for the skanky jobs I look at and think, yeah that's going to break an insert. Now I think of them like nitrile rubber gloves. Quality is a big hit and miss though.
                      When someone asks to use the lathe, go for gold cunt.



                        Good to know


                          HM 48 and al356 here have some small issues but nothing major.

                          Pretty sure chinese have a special graded bolt called cheese grade replace these with decent stuff and your good to go

                          356 has a 50mm bore and 1000mm between centers which is extremely handy especially truing up axles.
                          Being a gap bed lathe i can also face off a flywheel from my 308 holden in it.


                            Quick look at Hare and Forbes suggests Taiwan lathes in the 300-400 swing size are only around 15% more expensive.
                            Last edited by Disgruntled; 16-09-21, 06:29 AM.


                              Long time lurker here:

                              I have a AL-960B (an older version anyway) and a HM-48 Mill. Both work well for small work. Dont expect to be taking Abom style cuts and you'll be fine. My HM-48 (essentially a HM-46 with DRO and powered Z-axis) leaks a bit of gearbox oil through the spindle. This guy does a reasonable write-up on changing the bearings and seals to fix the issue:

                              Get a DRO for both machines if you can.

                              As Takai said, you'll spend a decent chunk on tooling for both. I personally mainly use carbide insert tooling rather than HSS. You can pick up some reasonable stuff from banggood / aliexpress, however the quality of course wont be as good as sandvik/name brand stuff.

                              The other expense is measuring equipment - you'll want some digital calipers, a dial test indicator and an indicator at a minimum.