Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SCHAUBLIN lathe - which one?

Today's email is primarily intended for young watchmakers and clockmakers. However, I strongly believe the topic could be of interest to all watch enthusiasts. So feel free to keep reading. For easy digestion and clarity it is presented in 'Q and A format'.

schaublin lathes

What is a Schaublin lathe?

Schaublin lathes are one of the most popular Swiss-made manual-operated lathes designed for precision machining. What makes this lathe so uniquely special is the fact that this is one of the most widely-used lathes in the watch industry.

The Schaublin headquarters are in Bevilard, which is the true heart of Swiss watchmaking. The quality and longevity of the lathe is such that it can easily run for 50 or more years; and, as Schaublin proudly proclaims, many of their lathes are still in daily use after more than 60 years.
It’s clear when you invest in Schaublin you are investing in a precision instrument which will last you for your lifetime, and you will never need another lathe.

How many models are available?

The two most popular models are Schaublin 70 and 102.

What is the difference between 70 and 102?

The model numbers represent the height between the lathe centre and its base (70mm or 102 mm). Both lathes provide the same level of accuracy, however 102 can machine larger components.

Which model is best suited for my requirements?

Here is the short list in order of preference/machining requirements:

Schaublin 70
1. Watchmaking
2. Clockmaking
3. Precision toolmaking

Schaublin 102
1. Precision toolmaking
2. Clockmaking
3. Watchmaking

It is important to note that you can make any component on the larger 102 that you can on the smaller 70, but not the other way around. Obviously, if your intention is to make smaller-sized components then the more affordable 70 presents much better value for money.

Collet size?
Schaublin 70: W12
Schaublin 102: W20 or W25

What is the basic Schaublin lathe configuration?
In its basic configuration the lathe comes with a bench, beds, motor, carriage and tail-stock.

The price of a basic 102 model is AUD$31,200.

Which accessories are available?
The Schaublin catalogue lists pages and pages of accessories which would expand the capabilities of your lathe. Some of the most popular lathes are: dividing head with discs ($3500), grinding attachment ($4500) and milling attachment ($8500). Note: collets or chucks are not included so a basic set of collets and at least one 3-jaw chuck would be required ($3500).

The total?

Assuming you can live without the grinding attachment, the total would be around $51,700, plus $1700 for packing, around $2500 for shipping to Australia, and around $6,000 in GST.

AUD $60,000 for a small manual lathe? You must be joking!?

Yes, the Schaublin 102 is a relatively small piece of equipment, however, it is an indispensable high precision prototyping tool, built to last for 60 years.

During my past visit to Switzerland, I had the opportunity to see countless Schaublin 102 lathes in operation employed by almost every watch manufacturer, including, of course, the most famous brands. Some workshops had 10 or more. The 102 is a true toolmaker’s lathe which means it is used not just for component making but for tool making as well.

For example, a toolmaker in a watch industry needs a 102 to make tools for other machines.

Subcontracting a third-party toolmaker is both expensive and time-consuming; a set of arbours or part holders which could be easily made on a 102 can cost $1500 or more if subcontracted. So in a busy watch manufacturing factory a Schaublin 102 is not just a smart investment which will pay for itself in a short period of time but a necessity.

Are there any second hand Schaublins out there?

Based on my extensive research, finding a 102 which is younger than 40 years is almost impossible. While collets and attachments are perfectly interchangeable, the overhaul cost is prohibitive. In fact, the restoration bill for an older machine could run into thousands of dollars.
Since the shipping, packaging and import duty/GST is the same for an old and new machine there are no savings in buying an earlier model. Therefore, in most cases second hand/pre-owned old machines makes a poor and unpractical choice.

Any alternatives?

Not really. While there are a number of other toolmaker lathes out there Schaublin is the only lathe maker with a watchmaker’s pedigree, produced in Switzerland primarily for the watchmaking industry.

While some American lathe makers, like Hardinge from New York or the Californian-based Lagun, manufacture excellent toolmaker lathes renowned for both machine and work-holding rigidity and excellent accuracy, none of them offer the  versatility and range of accessories like Schaublin.

Looks like Schaublin 102 is then out of reach for a small Australian watchmaker?

Sadly, for most Australian watchmakers this fine lathe will just remain an item on the wish list…

Happy collecting,

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