By Chris Wantuck
You have seen them in magazine advertisements, flyers in the mail or maybe one of the local collectors where you live has one: The combo lathe and milling head machine. Several companies offer import machines from Asia, and others offer units from Europe as well. You might see a combo unit at an estate sale/auction, a flea market or even for sale by someone who has out grown it and wants to upgrade. This article doesn't attempt to teach you machining in a few paragraphs, but rather to introduce you to the world of basic machining as well as some of the tasks that can be performed on these machines. We do this by showing pictures of projects we've worked on using a combo unit. Once you see what can be accomplished, you can decide if investing in a combo lathe and milling head machine is right for you.
Since we have a combo machine unit from Detroit Machine Tools (DMT — formally Smithy Company), we will use their machine for our demonstration. Our machine was originally branded as a "Smithy"; we'll refer to it by that name for this article. DMT offers an import from Asia and the model we have is an older 1220 XL (See Photos 1-4).
Photo 1 — Overall view of an older Smithy 1220 XL model combo lathe and milling head machine. The three jaw chuck is driven by the drive section on the left, the table can move lengthwise via the feed screw (on right of the unit) and cross feed (perpendicular) to the main bed (large wheel in front of the bed). The feed screw is engaged via the control knob above the shut off switch. The milling head can be raised via the twist locking ring for projects requiring extra room when drilling or milling. (Photo courtesy of DMT).
Photo 2 — Rear view of the 1220 XL showing the electric motor. The motor pivots and locks using the adjustable eccentric lever to adjust the belt tension inside the gear cabinet. (Photo courtesy of DMT).
Photo 3 — Inside view of the 1220 XL gear cabinet. The 1220 XL uses belts for both the lathe and milling/drilling functions. An intermediate pulley is available to offer slower speeds or longer belts are used for direct drive between motor and drive pulley. (Photo courtesy of DMT).
Photo 4 — Author's own 1220 XL as used in the shop. In this view, the lathe's jaw chuck has been removed to permit maximum movement of the table while milling the project box. Note the ample lighting to direct light as needed for all operations. Can you spot one of the important safety items? It's the small bristle brush resting on the cross table used to sweep shavings away.
Other combo units to consider are offered by the following companies, listed alphabetically: