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HFT mini lathe mods

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Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Some peeps in here are into HFT mini lathe, thought I would start a lathe mod thread on the subject. Look forward to hearing your mod ideas.
My first Harbor Freight Mini Lathe mod was to smooth up the action of the feeds. I lathed out a slot in the feed wheels and added ball bearings. Worked out pretty well. See image. I also got rid of the cheapy black plastic wheels.
 

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Mikebits

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My first machine vice made with HFT micro mill.
 

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HiTech

Well-Known Member
The powertool forums are filled with endless postings of guys who have modded HFT tools. The common phrase about HFT is they sell "gems in the rough". I would sort of agree, but not completely. Too many of their Chinese castings have voids and unecessary roughness to them. Their bench vises are not made of quality ductile iron as used in truck axles. Their tools do fill a niche' though, considering the low price, bringing affordable specialty tools to homeowners and hobbyists.

As a metal detector afficionado myself, I took a chance and purchased their top model discriminating detector. It works surprisingly quite well and serves as backup to my quality Garrett Coinshooter. With a couple of minor mods to the detector, it performs substantially better than factory original. I even bought their pinpoint probe and slightly modded that. It works as good as the $100 models out there!
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
I tend to agree with HiTech, but when you need somehting at home and don't want to go to or don't have a shop, they have a function. The biggest "problem" I have seen with the micro mill is that you can't trust the feeds, particularly the down feed. A free moving, $10 dial indicator gave me a 1 inch "digital" read out of down feed. You can easily hold a few thousanths with the mill, but it is increasingly hard to hold less than that. It is fine for many purposed, though.

As for the dials, I used roller thrust bearings (McMaster) on my import lathe (Prazi SD300).

John
 

BrownOut

Banned
When you say you lathed a slot, you mean you cut it on a lathe? Then you have access to another lathe, then? I have two mini-lathes, but the're both busted. One is missing some parts, so I won't be getting two working lathes, unless I can scroungs up some extra parts.

That's a cool vise. What did you use for the lead screw/nut?
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
When you say you lathed a slot, you mean you cut it on a lathe? Then you have access to another lathe, then? I have two mini-lathes, but the're both busted. One is missing some parts, so I won't be getting two working lathes, unless I can scroungs up some extra parts.

That's a cool vise. What did you use for the lead screw/nut?

For the screw, I modified an off the shelf bolt. The nut is the movable jaw, I drilled the hole and installed an insert for strength. Attached is a 3D model I made of vise which may give clearer idea.
 

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HiTech

Well-Known Member
You do realize that HarborFreight sells that type of vise for the equivalent cost of a McDonald's Happy Meal? Then again, you'd prolly have to mod that to make it work to your needs. At least your vise is something you can lay claim to as designer and fabricator.
 

BrownOut

Banned
Just as when you're getting started in electronics, you build a bunch of stuff that exercises electronic skills and knowledge, building fixutes for your machine tools is a great way to practice skills, and learn about your tools. The vise looks great. I've been trying to cut dovetails on my milling table for a slide positioner project, but so far have had trouble keeping the work piece from moving in the vise, which is a 0 - 90 degree tilting vise ( which I'm sure has a proper name that I don't know ) Actually, I'm using a pair of them because the workpiece is too long for one.
 

HiTech

Well-Known Member
You can buy ready made dovetailed inserts for tables. All you need to do is mill a slot for the dovetail channel and anchor it.
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Just as when you're getting started in electronics, you build a bunch of stuff that exercises electronic skills and knowledge, building fixutes for your machine tools is a great way to practice skills, and learn about your tools. The vise looks great. I've been trying to cut dovetails on my milling table for a slide positioner project, but so far have had trouble keeping the work piece from moving in the vise, which is a 0 - 90 degree tilting vise ( which I'm sure has a proper name that I don't know ) Actually, I'm using a pair of them because the workpiece is too long for one.

Your correct Brownout, this was just a practice project. The vice functions okay for some purposes but not adequate for milling work. I actually purchased a nice mill vice which cost me about $100. It is made of highest quality steel and very precise, money well spent. See photo.
By the way, I did fab the holding clamps that keep the vice on the mill table. I think I got the plans from Machinist magazine, I will look through my old issues if anyone wants to know the issue.
 

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bryan1

Well-Known Member
maybe oneday I'll show the attachments I've designed for small lathes to turn the lathe into a milling maching, slotter and gear cutter. My dad spent years designing the stuff and I do have the original working drawings and some of the first castings. Soon I hope to be setting my own foundry off the grid so my new and old idea's can be kept secret untill I'm ready to market them. Don't worry guy's I will be selling the plans and castings with full instructions or fully made units. With the world getting smaller everyday and for me atleast shipping is cheap I won't be charging the earth for each attachment so keep tuned you home machinist guys.

Cheers Bryan
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
@Mikebits

It looks like you have the same micromill I use. I suspect you will soon be frustrated by the inaccuracy of the downfeed. Here is how I attached the dial indicator mentioned earlier. You could drill and tap the headstock, but using the tension adjust screw works, and the indicator is easily moved out of position, if you need more than the 1" travel it allows. I made brass stand-off washers to fit into the csk hole on the headstock. That way, the mounting lug is riding between washers and is not pressed directly against the casting.

John

Downfeed dial.png
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Very nice Jpan, I may just try that, I do have a gauge I could try. Thanks. BTW, your bit holder looks very nice, what size bit does it hold.
 
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Mikebits

Well-Known Member
The biggest problem I have had with the mill is the table slopping around during work, if I tighten the table then it becomes hard to adjust the feeds.
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Re: bit holder
Actually, I just use a set of MT2 collets. That practice is not advised for high-power mills, but the micromill is not that. Generally, I have to use single-ended bits, but the advantage is that I get more room under the spindle. That was needed to accommodate my X-Y/Rotary table (I have the older Sears/Palmgren unit). Unless you foresee needing the space, you are probably better off sticking with your current holders that allow you to use double-ended cutters.

John
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Re: bit holder
Actually, I just use a set of MT2 collets. That practice is not advised for high-power mills, but the micromill is not that. Generally, I have to use single-ended bits, but the advantage is that I get more room under the spindle. That was needed to accommodate my X-Y/Rotary table (I have the older Sears/Palmgren unit). Unless you foresee needing the space, you are probably better off sticking with your current holders that allow you to use double-ended cutters.

John

Judging by the finish on your collet, I imagine it cost almost as much as your mill :) My collets were cheap. I spent more on my bits than I did on the mill, I discovered cheap bits are useless. My bit assortment grows as the need arises.
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Re: slop

That is due largely to the cheap gibs used with the machine. I was fortunate and was able to scavenge some straight ones from a machine that had been returned to my local HFT dealer. I have seen higher quality replacement gibs discussed on HFT-hobby sites. I think you can also get raw , soft, ground stock for gibs. I probably spent 2 days filling and adjusting my mill (not full-time). It is fairly smooth, but not perfect. Wobble is not too bad.

John
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
I agree completely on the tooling. I buy all of my cutters and other tooling from regular suppliers. I am fortunate to live in the shadows of both a Ford casting plant and Chevrolet plant in Cleveland. Tooling suppliers are convenient. A lot of import tooling from Poland, etc. is pretty good. I stay away from Chinese cutters.

John
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Re: slop

That is due largely to the cheap gibs used with the machine. I was fortunate and was able to scavenge some straight ones from a machine that had been returned to my local HFT dealer. I have seen higher quality replacement gibs discussed on HFT-hobby sites. I think you can also get raw , soft, ground stock for gibs. I probably spent 2 days filling and adjusting my mill (not full-time). It is fairly smooth, but not perfect. Wobble is not too bad.

John

I tried reworking the whole table and feed setup. Tore it down, used emery cloth on all rough edges and re-greased, but did not help.
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
I agree completely on the tooling. I buy all of my cutters and other tooling from regular suppliers. I am fortunate to live in the shadows of both a Ford casting plant and Chevrolet plant in Cleveland. Tooling suppliers are convenient. A lot of import tooling from Poland, etc. is pretty good. I stay away from Chinese cutters.

John

I guess the Ohio Mac Tool plant is gone now :(
 
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