Buying Machine for Shop

As you know, we are small batch manufacturers. Our production runs are usually below 1,000 units and nearly all of our machines are used cast iron hulks from teh late 1970’s. So when we moved to our new shop in Francis, but still had to drive to Salt Lake City to borrow our old neighbors tumbling machine it was pretty much guaranteed we would be needing our own.

First, a vibratory parts tumbler is a machine that de-burrs and rounds the edges of metal products by tumbling them around in special ceramic media for a set period of time. We use it to finish our Pops Q Tool and it makes a huge difference in the appearance and visual durability.

The immediate inclination was to search E-bay, Craigslist and the Utah version on KSL to look for a used machine. Spent about two months emailing sellers about their machines and couldn’t find a unit that didn’t seem like a maintenance nightmare. Tried talking with the major American manufacturers of parts tumblers, to see if they had demo or used small units with similar disappointing results.  Throughout our search, other machinists we trust kept telling us to buy new. Having disregarded this advice on other machines, and realizing the time and money spent fixing them, we decided to go that route.

Here were our criteria for new machines:

1. American Made – with durable components, and a thick internal plastic liner

2. Strong Reputation of reliability – especially on smaller sized machine we needed

3. Priced below $10K – small shop with many other machine needs

This criteria resulted in 5 machines that would fit our size requirements and our budget. After some discussions, it was apparent that two would be over $10K once we added the tumbling media and the freight. Another had such a persistently sleazy salesman that we couldn’t do business with them. The last two were very similar in performance specs and pricing.. The difference came down to personal recommendations. We bought the same unit our old neighbor had because we had used it and it worked well, and more importantly our old neighbor had used it for 10+ years with no problems..

To be continued….