Quick Change Tool Posts
With QCTPs, one thing to bear in mind is that while all sets usually provide one of every type of holder such as the standard holder, boring bar holder, parting tool holder, drill chuck holder (and sometimes even drill chuck), knurling tool, and maybe an additional standard tool holder, when you also buy a "5-piece" set of cutting tools, it means that you'll be missing 3 tool holders for ease of switching around. By looking at availability of additional tool holders AND their price, you'll be setting yourself up for an easy transition to expanding your QCTP set. Case in point, with the Model 42806 from Harbor Freight - see below - their deal is pretty decent (especially on sale). However, they do not sell additional tool holders! So if you wanted perhaps a replacement knurler or 3 more standard tool holders, you're out of luck. You'll have to buy another set or two or call up HF customers service and wait weeks to months before they can ship one out from China as a replacement part - and that's assuming it's even possible. Having said that...
Harbor Freight sells a pretty decent staring set that comes with a dovetail-type base, a knurling/turning holder, standard turning holder, parting tool, boring bar and boring/turning holder and a 3/8" drill chuck, keys and accessories. Note that the combination holders often work best as their originally intended tool. For example, the knurling/turning tool doesn't show the other side of the dovetail which has a recess for accepting the turning tool. However, due to it construction, the recess is only so long and does not extend all the way through the holder like a regular turning tool. This may project your cutter out too far for it to be rigid and may require a shorter cutting tool for that holder. These holders will accept 1/4" tooling and possibly 5/16" tooling. Please be sure to check to see if 3/8" tooling is accepted. Also note that due to the size of the holders and post, using larger tools could mean that the cutter cannot be properly centered with the workpiece/headstock/tailstock. So, larger isn't necessarily better. This set is made of blackened steel.
Here's a smaller set as you can see, but they include some cutting tools: straight, left hand, and right handm, and a boring bar (a nice addition). This set also comes with 5 HSS tool bits and a parting tool. While lacking in the holder department, it somewhat makes up for in the cutting tool department. However, as we mentioned above, this somewhat defeats the purpose of having a QCTP if you can only swap between one other holder! This set is made of blackened steel.
This one is made from 6061-T6 aluminum that's been anodized to make its surface hard and comes with 4 holders (not mentioned which ones) but from the picture it looks like a boring bar holder, two standard holders, and a parting tool holder. With this company, replacements and adidtional holders can be ordered which is nice.
Phase 2 has developed a reputation for importing quality tooling and accessories ranging from endmills to rotary tables to hardness testing equipment. Their more popular line of AXA Series 100 style QCTPs for larger swing lathes (starting from the 8x12 to 9x20 and larger of course) had made QCTP tooling more affordable to the hobby machinist community. We have however had poor quality accessories come from Phase 2, most memorably an X-Y table that was to be used for a drill press and home-made CNC machine. The set screw broke while turning it for the first time to loosen the gib strip. Upon complete disassembly we found lead screws that were even less quality than a standard all-thread found in your local Home Depot or Lowe's. This is to name a few of the disappointments we had with that one accessory. On the flip-side, their QCTP has been superb in quality as has their 6" horizontal rotary table.
Phase 2's Micro QCTP looks to be a decent contender with the rest of the pack. If a steel set with available tool holders for later purchase are some purchase criteria, by all means, do look into this set that comes with the post, a standard holder, another configuration standard holder, a boring bar holder, a multi-use holder (nice to have) and a parting tool holder. The maximum capacity is 3/8" tooling for this set.
According to the Phase 2 website:
- This is a scaled down version of our popular "Piston" style quick change tool system
- Made from high quality, heat treated tool steel
- Designed to fit the popular 7" machines
- Will fit 7x10, 7x12 and 7x14 mini lathes
- Set contains: 1 tool post and 2 turning holders, 1 boring bar holder and 1 cutoff tool holder
When we purchased our set from ENCO (see below), Phase 2 hadn't come out with this or the micro model yet. This does seem to indicate the 7x mini-lathe popularity is still growing! This would be our pick for the mini-lathe QCTP system. Quality brand, availability of additional holders, steel.
This is the set we started with (since we made good use of the FREE UPS Ground shipping coupon for orders over $50 at the time). It also lacks the availability of holders as described above, but was the cheapest steel set you could buy. It comes with only 3 standard tool holders (no specialty types like boring, parting, etc..) so you either have to make your own boring holder "nut" - essentially a rectangular chunk of metal with a hole drilled through to accept the boring bar and a slit to allow expansion/contraction. We had to get a specialty boring bar with a square shank (the Mecabore 3/8" shank .400" minimum bore indexable boring bar) just to have boring capabilities with this set. Nevertheless, it's served us well.
We hope this gives you enough of a starting point when looking for your ultimate QCTP set!