More and more frequently, savvy shoppers are turning to sources other than traditional retailers for the equipment they need. In many cases, this means shoppers are hunting for their equipment at online venues.
Shopping for metalworking equipment online is likely to yield a great number of items for those wanting to purchase their equipment on a budget. Some websites, such as eBay, offer a massive variety of metalworking equipment at prices far cheaper than those of most equipment retailers. But before shopping on eBay, buyers should ensure that they familiarize themselves with the different types of metalworking equipment, ensure that they have adequate storage or shop space for the proper use of the equipment.
Different Types of Metalworking Equipment
There are more than a half-dozen types of basic metalworking equipment, and any metalworking shop worth its reputation is likely to have several different pieces of equipment on-hand. However, it can be beneficial to learn the common names and intended uses of the wide variety of basic metalworking equipment.
A drill press, as the name implies, uses a drill to drill a full or partial hole through a piece of metal. Drill presses may be table or floor-mounted, and are typically hand-operated. After a hole has been drilled, the metal must be maneuvered so that any other desired hole points can be accessed by the press. Smaller to medium sized drill presses are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of metalworking equipment.
Tapping machines operate similarly to drill presses, with one major difference. While drill presses are meant to make a single hole, and then the metal maneuvered so that other holes can be made, tapping machines feature a long arm which reaches to computer-specified points in a piece of metal which is held steady and stable for the holes to be drilled. Tapping machines are generally understood to be more accurate and efficient than drill presses, but are generally larger, heavier, and more expensive.
Grinding machines are used to grind metal surfaces down to specific thicknesses, to create sharp edges, or to smooth a metal surface. Grinders are available in many shapes and sizes, from small handheld versions to massive floor mounted versions. Grinders are typically specialized into categories based either on the method of the grinding, or the type of surface which is being ground.
Lathes are one of the most common types of metalworking equipment, and are used to cut objects or shapes into or out of metal. This is done by rotating the metal around a spindle. The vast majority of lathes are expensive and complex, relying on computer programs to correctly form the metal to extreme precision. That said, there are still some lathes available which are hand-operated. Lathes come in many varieties and sizes, from small table-mounted varieties to massive floor-mounted versions.
Mills, sometimes called milling machines, are essentially specialized lathes. Milling machines are able to produce metal objects in three dimensions. They accomplish this by holding the metal still, and allowing the spindle to move around it at all angles. Like with lathes, mills come in many types and sizes, including micromilling machines, which can mill metal objects literally too small to be seen without magnification. And like lathes, most mills are operated using complex computer systems and specialized software.
Screw machines are another type of lathe, typically used only to produce turned parts (such as screws). Screw machines, unlike most other lathes and mills, are highly automated, meaning they receive little to no human input to operate once the desired design has been created and the machine has been instructed to operate. Screw machines are almost unilaterally used to produce high volumes of small, low-cost parts. In part because of the high degree of automation, most screw machines are prohibitively expensive.
Finishing machines are any-and-all machines used to give a surface texture to a material. Different types of finishing machines are used to texturize metal, rubber, and even concrete or cement. Finishing machines may be either small, table-mounted units or, more commonly, massive floor-mounted models. Finishing machines are primarily used to texturize large quantities of relatively small items all at once, though some models are manufactured to finish singular large projects.
Fabrication equipment is an umbrella term used to describe several general-purpose pieces of machinery used to shape or 'fabricate' metal sheets, poles, pipes, and bars. The most common types of fabrication equipment include stop brakes, benders, ironworkers, presses, and shears. As a rule of thumb, if the piece of equipment uses a great deal of force to change the shape or angle of a piece of metal, it is likely a piece of fabrication equipment. Because the machines are simple and usually hand-operated, most pieces of fabrication equipment are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of metalworking equipment.
EDM equipment is slightly more specialized than fabrication equipment. The EDM stands for 'electrical discharge machine', and means that the equipment uses electrical charges to help make traditionally difficult-to-manipulate materials, such as tungsten, easier to fabricate. Unlike fabrication equipment, a great deal of EDM equipment is computer-controlled.
Matching Your Shop Space to the Equipment
There is nothing more tragic than purchasing a piece of expensive metalworking equipment, only to find that it doesn't fit well in the present arrangement of your shop space. Poorly fitted equipment can be difficult or dangerous to use as intended, and can cost a shop valuable time or energy. Most basic metalworking equipment is available in a variety of different configurations to accommodate different types and sizes of metalworking shops.
Determine Where to Place the Equipment
Before making a purchase, one should first look around their shop or workspace and determine where the equipment should go. This means analyzing not just the current layout of the shop, but the workflow, and how the new equipment is likely to impact it. The equipment should be placed in an area with plenty of open space, close to where pertinent parts for its use are stored, and in a place which is unlikely to disrupt foot traffic. If there is no such space readily available in a workshop, consider rearranging the equipment already in the space.
Measure the Space
Always measure the space intended to house a piece of metalworking equipment before making a purchase. If the space is small, one should remember to shop for smaller sized equipment or table mounted, rather than floor mounted versions. If the space is still not enough for even the smallest option of the equipment to be used, the shop's other equipment should be shifted to make a little more room.
Buying Metalworking Equipment on eBay
Even those who have never or only rarely shopped online should find eBay easy to use for purchasing metalworking equipment. Shopping on eBay may also save some savvy shoppers money compared to shopping online.
Searching for Metalworking Equipment on eBay
To search for metalworking equipment on eBay, go to the eBay homepage, or any of eBay's internal pages. Find the search bar located there, click it, and type the combined words or phrases which best describe the type of metalworking equipment you need. Some examples include "floor drill press" and "vertical milling machine". Creating relatively general searches is more likely to yield a large number of results. When you have finished typing, press enter to see a list of items which match your search.
Communicating with a Seller
In some cases, you may need to contact an item's seller. This may happen if you would like additional photos of an item, or have in-depth or detailed questions you would like to ask regarding the item. To communicate directly with a seller, find the 'Ask a question' link located on the item's listing page. Click it to be led through the process of communicating with the seller.
Shopping for metalworking equipment on eBay is fast and easy, even for those with little experience shopping online. Shopping on eBay is also beneficial because the website features a massive assortment of metalworking equipment, and most are available at incredibly competitive prices. However, before shopping for metalworking equipment on eBay, shoppers should familiarize themselves with the different types of metalworking equipment and ensure their shop or workspace has plenty of space to accommodate what they need.
There are more than a dozen different basic kinds of metalworking equipment, and one should always select a piece of equipment which can perform the most necessary tasks swiftly, safely, and efficiently. Lathes, tapping machines, drill presses, and fabricating machines are some of the most common and most used types of metalworking equipment, but can also be prohibitively expensive. Before making a purchase of any kind, shoppers should always double-check the floorspace in their shop or workspace to ensure that there is adequate room to safely install and use the new equipment.