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How many axes on a lathe DRO?

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I added DRO's to my mill last year, and that was a really positive experience (despite the dent in the wallet). So now I'm considering making similar improvements to my lathe.

In researching what is available, and installation methods and such - I am very surprised to find that 3 axis set ups are very uncommon, and 4 axis set ups non existent.

Why is this? I would think that adding DRO capability to the top slide for sure would be useful, and the tailstock perhaps not critical but very beneficial. I do see a number of single DRO installs on the tailstock, but the relative infrequency of adding a scale to the top slide surprised me. Is it just that once you have the carriage on a DRO, the top slide does not get used much, other than setting an angle? I guess I don't use it for very much more than that now, thinking about it.

I'm wondering because a 2 axis set up, even magentic scales, can be had for significantly less money than a 3 axis set up - but I don't want to install a 2 axis set up only to wish I'd bought the 3 axis.

I'm not in a hurry anyway, I can turn to diameters very accurately now, but I would like more accuracy and resolution on the carriage.

Dave Otto:
I only have a 2 axis unit on my lathe and have never really had the need or want for a scale on the compound.
An absolute must for me was to have a scale with 50 millionths resolution or one tenth on the diameter on the cross slide. I had one of the CBX units for a while and the .001" resolution was almost a waste of time. I have a Newall readout now, and have been very happy with it.


On many lathes a cross slide slide mount would be difficult if not impossible.

Hmmm. It would seem to me that unless one had one of those super expensive industrial lathes with air bearings, anything with more than .001" capabilities would be a waste of money. Now having said that, I must admit that there most likely are such setups out there in a home hobbyists shop. Not mine unfortunately. I am old fashioned and incorporate manual means to measure distances and size.  :embarassed: A lathe really is only a two-dimensional tool. Oh there are attachments and software to run those 3D  attachments available. But at what practical cost to anyone that is using the lathe for purely hobbyist applications or are gunsmithing. SO, it would seem that only two axis becomes truly of any use. OR, a three-axis unit, which is usually a bit cheaper in cost and can be used on other machines should the need arise, and not incorporating the Z option, be the best practical unit to employ.

Dave Otto:
It doesn't have air bearings but it is deserving of a decent DRO,  :D



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