Lathe for a beginner

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Tris

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Thought I'd ask what people would suggest for a lathe. I have thought about getting a metalworking lathe for a while, and can see lots of little repair/improvement jobs for one already.
Ideally something bench mounted due to space, capable of screw cutting and some simple milling. Thinking 3.5 x 18 as a minimum and not myford money.
Interested in everybody's thoughts on what makes a good lathe.
TIA
 

clogs

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not much around other than a Chinese lathe....
U might just get something with flat belts for a song but prob not with a thread cutting gearbox....
Myfords are not the best and I have an almost new one..... Boxfords are quite good as well (there are other makes) but u will need to spend good money....I found 3 Boxfords all rusty but complete for £800 pounds each around 6 years ago...I just laughed n walked away but they were sold within a week....My S7 still has transport/shipping wax on it and I turned down an offer (out of the blue) for £5,000 cash for it.....
Even Chinese stuff if 1/2 decent will sell for good money these days.....even warn out old knackers still go for decent money.....it seems u see everybody wants one....
Best option is to look on Facebook etc hoping that someone is selling their late family member's stuff and not really knowing what they have got.....
Last word of warning...the lathe is the cheaper part of the deal....wait till u want tooling....
nothing is v/cheap anymore........
also look at homeworkshop.org.uk
u may get lucky but most that look at that site are after the same as u....
good luck
 

Tris

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I'm lucky enough to have inherited a fair amount of tooling and measuring equipment, although if it's anything like wood turning there'll always be another 'thing' to get 😄
 

OldGreyDog

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I have a very small metal cutting lathe - a Haighton Cadet. Its about seventy old and is driven by a single phase, single speed (reversible) motor via belts. It has a countershaft and 4:1 reduction back gear, steel on bronze bearings, so there no loss of power when run at slow speeds which is a problem on some small lathes with electronic speed control. A mate who is a very skilled engineer made me a set of change-gears for it enabling cutting metric threads from about 2.5 to 16mm, and similar imperial sizes. Decent small lathes sometimes turn up at reasonable cost on the usual sale sites. I recall paying 120 squids for mine.
The modern Chinese imports might be more accurate, but even these old machines can be accurate enough for most purposes if a bit of time is spent setting them up.

When you find a suitable lathe, unless it comes with loads of extras, you will need to keep aside a decent budget for tooling. A lot come with three jaw self centering chucks, but I would struggle without a four jaw chuck with independent jaws.
 
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AES

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Size is "everything"! Depends what you want to do though, but it's an acknowledged "fact" though that although you can do "small jobs" on a big lathe, vice-versa isn't so easy - MOST lathes used in model engineering are working beyond their "theoretical capacity" most of the time.

Re Phil Pascoe's "snigger" a couple of posts above, IMO he's only half right. I have a Chinese mini and it does well for me - the "accuracy" lies more with the "driver" than anything else, but the lack of "bulk" in such small lathes as mine leads to lack of rigidity (i.e. "flexing under high loads") and it's mainly that which leads to inaccuracy - especially when trying some milling which I note above, you do want to try. But with care it CAN be "worked around" to a certain extent.

If it must be a new, and must be a bench jobbie, IMO one of the various Chinese jobbies will do you (but check actual specs v prices before buying).

Better, if you have the space and some large mates, would be some SH "old iron" such as Boxford (as suggested above), Colchester, etc. See about info below.

Absolutely agree 110%, whatever you buy, you'll spend at least the same amount again on tooling, fixtures, accessories, etc - another possible advantage of buying SH (assuming it's "equipped").

The Model Engineering web site and the Lathes.com web sites are both "essential" reading if you're really going to take this further. Both those (and more info) in the sticky at the top of this Metalworking Section.

HTH, good luck mate.
 

Dalboy

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As AES above knowing what kind of work you want to do as well as a rough guide to how much you want to spend. I have just started and went for a Warco WM280v which is a reasonably large lathe and I can see it doing everything I want of it I doubt at this time that I will use it's full capacity, and like most things that is only the tip of the iceberg.
You can mill on a lathe but I also chose to buy a milling machine and have started my very first project a 3 1/2" loco. This is progress so far
 

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Tris

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I shall be following the thread with interest Dalboy.
Certainly agree with the point about size, I have a jet 1442 wood lathe and the ability to turn everything from toothpicks to chair backs has been invaluable.
As for 'old iron', I think that may be the way to go. The trailer is rated at 2 tonnes and we're on a farm with a telehandler so as long as I uplift it it'll go in the garage.
A mill is sorely tempting but I may run out of room before I can fit that in.
Jameshow, thanks for the suggestion, hoping for something a bit nearer to home but the price is tempting.

Thanks for all the food for thought so far.
 

Devmeister

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All these posts are accurate. Been looking for a Myford for a while but they are all turning into gold.

In the English line up I like Myford ML7 then Boxford then colchester. Colchester is simply a bad ass lathe.

Tooling has become a real problem. Prices are crazy right now. Four jaw chucks are going for silly money.

I like south bend lathes but I don’t know how popular they are in England.

many lathes don’t have quick change gear boxes. But many have the provision for change gears. If you get an oldie with no quick change bix make sure to get some change gears with it
 

Jameshow

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South bend aren't popular at all here, I have one coming my way and finding stuff out about them is much more tricky!
 

DiyAddict

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The Chinese lathes are not so cheap these days, and with old iron, you'll need to be able to check for wear to the various slides and spindle. This means either having access to a friendly machinist or spending a few weeks researching what to look for.

Judging from your initial post, you're looking potentially to do larger stuff than model engineering, so the maxim 'Get as large a lathe as you can fit' definitely applies here.

Lathes.co.uk has a useful section on looking for a first lathe. If you can squeeze in a Boxford size or larger, you won't regret it. Other models to look out for are Emco V10p or 11 (which often come with a useful vertical milling attachment), Raglan 5" (Underpriced for what you get) , or Myford 254s, a fantastic lathe that doesn't seem to suffer from the huge pricing of Myford's smaller models, and tend not to be too worn.

My preference would be for old iron due to its superior quality and stiffness (with the caveat that you avoid excessively worn ones). The posts above are spot on - expect to spend the same amount of money again on accessories and tooling over time. It's worth pointing out that accessories for Myford are relatively cheap, Emco and Boxford accessories are expensive, while Raglan accessories are in the hen's teeth category, so try to get a lathe with accessories included - at least some of: 3 and 4 jaw chuck, fixed and travelling steadies, faceplate, vertical milling slide, Quick-change toolpost and holders.

If you go down the Chinese route, I'd recommend Warco or Arceurotrade - they have an excellent reputation for customer support.

Finally, take your time and be patient. Read the threads on the Model Engineering forums, watch some YouTube videos, and do as much research as you can to avoid ending up with an unsuitable or knackered model.
 

Devmeister

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South bend aren't popular at all here, I have one coming my way and finding stuff out about them is much more tricky!
Grizzly Machinery got their start rebuilding sour bends. They ultimately bought all the rights designs and parts. They have the card catalog containing every single SB made. If it’s a 9 in you can get the rebuild book off eBay.
 

Lathe User

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Which lathe ? No one’s mentioned Harrison. I have an M250 and some of my mates have the slightly bigger M300 s all ex college/ university. So long as it comes with the chucks and you have access to a 3 phase converter it would be my go to lathe. Built in Gods country, heavy duty and small enough to fit most places. There’s a Harrison community on the web which also includes earlier machines and more expensive ones. Lots of knowledge on their repair and upkeep as well as working with them.
These days you see that word “invest” used everywhere when they mean SPEND. My attitude/ experience is that a good quality lathe is definitely an investment - just look at the way prices have gone then consider you building society interest rate over the last decade. So buy the very best you can possibly afford. As for milling buy a separate machine. Having to break down a set up to mill then set it up again is frustrating. The old saying about buying a machine that does most things but doesn’t do any well comes to mind. I have Tom Senior, great little mill but what I wouldn’t give for the space to fit a small Bridgeport though I am toying with finding a older Warco.
Hope that helps muddy the waters.
 

Devmeister

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I have heard good things about Harrison. But they tend to pro level machines…. In other words heavy. I would not hesitate to jump on a Harrison.
 

TFrench

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If you go for something old, the main things I would say to look for (apart from it not being flogged to death) are 3 and 4 jaw chucks, fixed steady rest and if it has a quick change toolpost that's a bonus. If you work on modern stuff a lot, being able to cut metric threads is nice. Some more modern lathes have metric/imperial gearboxes built in, others need a 127 tooth changegear to generate the correct ratios. A lot of the time you can get by with taps and dies for threading if you're working on smaller stuff. All stuff to bear in mind. For reference, I paid around £1000 for my Hardinge HLV and £600 for my smart and brown model M mk2. Both amazing quality machines that will eat a myford for breakfast. The bargains are out there if you look hard enough.
Something else to think about is that unless you do something really daft, its still going to be worth what you paid if you look after it.
 

Tris

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If you go for something old, the main things I would say to look for (apart from it not being flogged to death) are 3 and 4 jaw chucks, fixed steady rest and if it has a quick change toolpost that's a bonus. If you work on modern stuff a lot, being able to cut metric threads is nice. Some more modern lathes have metric/imperial gearboxes built in, others need a 127 tooth changegear to generate the correct ratios. A lot of the time you can get by with taps and dies for threading if you're working on smaller stuff. All stuff to bear in mind. For reference, I paid around £1000 for my Hardinge HLV and £600 for my smart and brown model M mk2. Both amazing quality machines that will eat a myford for breakfast. The bargains are out there if you look hard enough.
Something else to think about is that unless you do something really daft, its still going to be worth what you paid if you look after it.

Thanks for the reminder about the 127 tooth changewheel, definitely something to look for as I think I'll need it. Saw your reply on an old thread regarding checking the ways etc so will bear that in mind.
If I could find a hardinge for that money at the moment I'd be very happy.
 
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