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Inch or Metric?

Buy the system your MOST familiar with and you won't go wrong. I personally bought the metric. While I bought the metric machine, I don't buy metric endmills. Inch endmills are generally cheaper (and easier to find in USA) and as long as the converting your doing is correct, the part you make should be fine. Its no biggie, buy the UNIT your most familiar. Finally, even if you plan to go to CNC later, I still suggest buying the units your most comfortable with.

Lathe or Milling Machine?

You will more than likely need BOTH. If your just starting out and can only afford one right now, I suggest buying the lathe first so you can get yourself into machining quickly.  The milling machine is a different animal and the experience gained from handling the lathe will help you out. I can truly say if I had bought the milling machine only I would of been very intimidated by machining! I also suggest, if buying Sherline, to saving up the money to buy two separate machines so you don't need to switch the headstock. While switching is quick, it will get old. If your thinking of going straight to CNC, I suggest getting a CNC mill only and upgrading your lathe to CNC at a later date.

Long or Short Bed Sherline


I highly recommend buying the LONGER bed lathe. It is not much more than the shorter one, and you will regret not getting it when you need that extra room for even one part! When you add the chuck, material, drill bits, etc., the room you think you have is gone pretty fast. Get the longer bed lathe! If you don't like machining anyway, the longer bed lathe will be easier to sell. Just trust me on this one :)

Standard or 8-Direction Sherline Mill?

That's a tough but very important decision! One thing to keep in mind is that EVERY TIME you move the 8-direction mill out of its normal configuration you will need to RECALIBRATE it to get it back to "normal." This may not sound like a big deal but trust me it takes time and experience not to mention the right tools. For a beginner this will be a challenge, every time. I am glad I did not get the 8-directional mill as my first mill. If the mill is not "perfectly" squared up, the part you plan to make will NOT come out as expected! After reading about the 8-direction mill on newsgroups, I stuck with the "tried and true" configuration of a standard mill. Strong, ridge, and for the most part, always "squared up." The standard mill setup will be fine for most things you plan to make. I have run into one or two times where I wished I had the extra room or versatility of the 8-direction mill but with a little thinking I was able to make my parts. The decision is yours, but the standard mill, for the most part,  will be easier to maintain and keep "squared up." I don't regret getting it. You make the call but I think the 8-direction mill is best suited for an experienced machinist who knows how to "square things up" and take the advantages out of the extra movements.


Starting out

Which Accessories?

-Long bed lathe (4400 or 4410)

-3 jaw chuck (1041)

-Live center (1191)

-Lathe bits 1/4" inch (Sherline or major supplier)

-Cut-off blade and holder (a must!)

-Center Drills (for the lathe/mill). I would get size 1/8" and 1/4" that's it for now.

-I personally feel the Sherline "Chip Guard" was a waste of money.


I bought Joe's "Tabletop Machining" and its got great information, excellent pictures and talks about the basics of machining. Other than that I have spent countless hours on the Internet learning and the good old fashion of "just get in there and do it."


Try to visit your local scrap yard. You might be lucky enough to find one that is organized and has some very good aluminium available. By far, 2011-T3 aluminium is the best to lathe in my opinion! Try to get some and also pick up some 6061-T6. You might also check to see about different steels they have available. Also check out my LINKS page for places to buy metal online.

Questions about Mills and Lathes