[An image of the mingxi MX mini lathe]
 
An open review of the lookalike versions of the
Opti-turn TU 2004V metric mini lathe:
WM210, Mingxi MX, XT-Eagle,
Ossieao HL, Weiss WBL ...........
US versions: Grizzly and BestEquip
550 / 600 / 750 / 850w 180/220v, 300 / 400 / etc. centers

 
      On moving to a smaller shed I had to sell my thirty five year old HAFCO and purchase a 300mm mini lathe that I could move around without blowing a puffoo valve. Now that I'm not restoring tractors any more, a mini lathe does the trick. Out of all the mini lathes the Opti-turn is a bit above the also-ran range of 0618 mini lathes, most with their rubbish plastic change gears, but of course, not up with a mint English Mayford 7 (does such an animal exist today?). Being more like a lathe than a toy they do cost a bit more.
      The problem I faced was that lookalike versions on the internet are a third less the price of the branded item. Although the branded item reflect a degree of German polish and are marketed through recognized machinery warehouses, it is made in China and on inspection there is little overall difference between the branded item and the many lookalike versions. I suspect they all come out of the same factory in China. All the reports on these lathes refer to the negligible quality control at the factory - heaven knows why, given that Chinese manufacturing these days can be highly sophisticated. The difference with a branded item like the Opti-turn is that major issues seem to have been ironed out at some point through the supply chain. My lookalike Mingxi MX - 180/210V arrived inoperable, although I did save $500 (less than that now!). For me, I enjoyed sorting the issues, one being re-machining the face plate of the cross-slide so that it could work. I have yet to fix the belt tensioning system. They had bodged it up because they had obviously run out of parts at the factory where brownie points are awarded on quantity, rather than quality. I just have to mill up few new parts to get it working properly. As for the interesting rumble coming from the headstock, I have decided to let it seize up before trying to sort it. And by the way, I can only hope that my lathe is a 220-240v machine even though it is labeled 180v - you do wonder!
      I wasn't happy when I discovered that the lathe didn't come with a full set of change gears - really! Gears supplied depend on whether it is an imperial or metric lead screw. For a 40 tooth primary gear on a metric 1.5mm lead screw, 0.30 to 3.00mm threads, you need gears 20, 30, 35, 40, 50, 52, 60, 66, 75 and 2 by 80, and extras 33, 42, for imperial. On my lookalike I had a scale which required a 33, 35 and 45, not supplied. So, the first thread I needed was a 1.25 metric and according to the lathe's scale I needed the 45 tooth gear. The change gear specs for mini lathes are much the same so I grabbed a Sieg C2/3 plastic (handy if I make a mistake - chew up the plastic gear instead of the metal), but I ended up with a fantom thread. After numerous attempts, and an occasional outburst or two, I realized that the scale on the machine was wrong - would you believe it? So I chased up the Opti-turn scale for a 1.25mm thread, 66 H, 40 50, H 80, and a perfect thread was produced. Anyway, as well as leading you up the garden path, the lookalikes force you to chase up some extra gears - bore-12mm, keyway-3mm, width-8mm. KDG in Germany make very nice metal mini lathe change gears, but the Chinese versions work just as well, although they are hard to source - Ebay, help! My Opti-turn retailer wasn't much help - I don't know why! In the meantime, plastic gears for a Sieg C2/3, Harbor Freight, etc., can do the trick, although the range is limited. When it comes to replacement parts for the lookalikes, they are available thru an Opti-turn retailer, but not everything is compatible. If a lookalike blows up you are on your own.
      I'm not sure what recommendation I would make on the choice between the lookalike versions or the Opti-turn - you get what you pay for, eg., the lookalikes come with shorter slides and no thread counter + a few problems! Either way, they are a proficient little lathe, if somewhat rough around the edges. By the way, I am not really able to comment on the imperial versions marketed in the US. I suspect the WM210 is straight out of the box, but I can't comment on the Grizzly or BestEquip versions. Feel free to have your say!
 
Specifications for the 300 / 400 / etc. mm centers
      Spindle bore 21mm
      Slide specs can vary
      Tool size, 10mm
      Center height, 100mm
      Bed width, 100mm
      Headsctock taper MT3
      Tailstock taper MT2
      3 Jaw chuck usually supplied, 100mm
      Variable speed motor - various kW.
 
      If you want to post a word on the subject I will add your comment (as long as it's not defamatory!!). Email below.
 
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      Bryan