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I'm interested in metalworking as a hobby, to make small parts for my numerous other hobbies. I'm looking at those cheap, typically Chinese import mini-lathes and mini-mills. I've read about their limitations as compared to larger machines; this question is not about that.

My question is, what are the pros and cons of a combo mini lathe/mill as opposed to separate machines?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Kevin, welcome to Engineering SE. Machining is certainly on topic here, so I've removed the meta commentary from your question. $\endgroup$ – Air Jun 29 '15 at 16:35
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The problem with a combo is that they are flimsy machines. Also, the quality is usually below that of a dedicated machine, sometimes way below.

I would recommend getting a mini-lathe and a drill press and mastering them. You can do 95% of everything you would do on a mill with those two items. In general a lathe is a more versatile, more precise machine. To make a mill that is as solid as a lathe requires double the weight (and cost).

The typical "mini-mills" for sale are really just cheap drill presses with a junky x-y table bolted to the bottom. You are much better off spending the money on good quality drill press. You can always add your own X-Y table.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've heard that using a drill press as a mill is likely to destroy the spindle bearings, as drill press bearings are typically not designed for side loads. If this is true, could you elaborate on what kind of drill press I should look for to avoid this problem? $\endgroup$ – Kevin Krumwiede Jun 29 '15 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinKrumwiede I think the bearings in the X2 (the typical mini mill) are just 2 standard deep groove bearings, no different than a cheap drill press. A heavy duty drill press, like the Jet 2530, costs less than a mini mill and has 3 bearings, including a 2906 thrust bearing. Plus it has more power. Power is really your limiting factor. The kind of cuts a 1/2 HP motor can do are tiny. A 7x14 mini lathe at least has a 3/4 HP motor. One more reason to use a lathe. Unless your material is plastic, drilling is about all you can on a mini-mill anyway, why not get a GOOD drill. $\endgroup$ – Wallace Park Jun 29 '15 at 19:29
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If the cost and workspace are not the problems, you should take 2 separate machines. Otherwise, a combo machine will save the money and workspace

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  • $\begingroup$ " ... will save the money and workspace" and reduce the quality as per the other answer. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike May 20 '17 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ Apart from money & space issues, what technical or work practice differences are then in having one or two machines? You answer would be improved if you added this information. $\endgroup$ – Fred May 20 '17 at 12:08

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