I am driven to make some changes in my “The Hobbyist Machine Store” e-Commerce business. If you are not new to my postings, you know I have been running that business for about seven years as a fairly low key sideline to my real profession as an energy management engineer.
Life changes and so does business in that period of time. I sold a lot of replacement gears for the Asian mini-mill and mini lathe. There was and is a sort of cult following for those machines. I was in on it too. I never broke any gears on my machines but there is a significant number of owners who have.
I hooked up with a supplier that could afford to make the large investment in a large purchase (actually several) of steel gears to replace the plastic ones used in the design. The new gears are not made by the machine manufacturers but an independent gear maker. To keep the unit manufacturing and shipping cost down, large orders are required. The last big order took nearly a year to be made and delivered. There was some moisture in the packing boxes from storing and shipping that length of time and the surface finish process had changed on the gears. The gears were fine, but my supplier didn’t like the low priority service from the maker and how long he had his money tied up in the order.
Replacement gear sales have always been slow and somewhat inconsistent. They sell in short bursts, perhaps because a mention in a machinist forum from time to time. About mid way we started supplying the gears to another retail source. Also multiple quantity overseas sales help move inventory. The problem has been that as my main sales item, the turnover of the investment capital does not warrant another large investment in a new run of gears. I am currently running out of stock on the gear that has been the main failure.
We have noticed newer versions of the machines now include steel gears and I have read that the old design is no longer being produced. There are now much better designed machines available. So it is a dying market. Cheap machines don’t warrant expensive gear replacement cost.
The transmission gears may now be available from the manufacture since they began building standard machines with steel transmission gears. (Micro-Mark was one of the first with steel gears as original equipment in their custom made versions of the mini-lathe.)
It is what it is, THMS is moving on.