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Metalworking lathe buying advice

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DiyAddict

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I wonder - did either of your Dads own a Super 7, 'cos the one sitting in my workshop came from Potton many years ago!
Blimey! I know my dad really wanted one but couldn't afford it. He knew a few model engineers locally, so I bet he was aware of yours!
 

DiyAddict

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Rule them out if you want to but I think you should consider them
There's a lot to be said for going this route - not least the shipping, warranty, availability of spares and the knowledge that they haven't been abused (as well as Inspector's points). In the UK, Warco seems to be the supplier of choice, for their large range and good aftersales reputation. I was very tempted by their GH series. Arceurotrade has a good reputation too, though I think their largest lathe would be a little too small for the OP. You could also consider Chester and Axminster. My personal preference would be for an old English, American or German machine (for reasons already stated by other posts above) but the Chinese lathes have improved in recent years and I know plenty of owners who are very happy with them.
 

DiyAddict

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The Myford machines have a big following and so tend to be massively overpriced for what they are.
I think Fergie is referring to the smaller Myfords like the Super 7 here, due to their desirability for model engineering. I wouldn't say it's true of the larger ones like the 280 or 254 series, both of which were considerably cheaper than a Boxford of similar spec/vintage when I was purchasing, and have no trouble hogging large amounts of swarf from steel or stainless. That said, I concur wholeheartedly with the rest of his post, especially about going for the largest one you can comfortably accommodate. You'll also find a screwcutting/feeds gearbox and large spindle bore makes life considerably more pleasant.
 

Fergie 307

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Myford 7's go for silly money nowadays. I have a pre war Ml 4, still use it a lot for small stuff. Agreed if you need to run the machine in reverse for any reason then you really dont want a screw on chuck, then again most machines manufactured since the late fiftes dont use them. My 1961 Harrison for example uses an L00 taper fit chuck, so can happily run either way. And any decent sized old machine will have a full thread cutting box and power feeds on both axes. They also tend to be proper geared head machines, rather than just having a variable speed motor. Even the imperial machines with a Norton gearbox can cut all the most common metric threads by just changing the wheels. A good one will come with most of the usual accessories, and you can readily source extra bits and pieces through e bay etc. The chucks and such supplied with an older machine are also usually premium quality Pratt or similar as well. A far cry from the cheap stuff you will get thrown in with the Chinese machines. If you look at an old Harrison like mine then you need to consider that new it cost getting on for £4000, you could buy a house for that at the time. Their current models are in the £18000+ bracket for one of a similar size. These were top quality machines made when we were still amongst the best in the world at this. The same applies to the top Amercan brands. You only have to look at the parts count and weight of the modern Chinese stuff to see it is not in the same league. They are not bad machines if you are in that spot between a Myford 7 size machine and the light industrial machines, but if you are looking for something in the 5x20 or bigger class then i cannot understand why you would want to spend £4000 on a new Chinese machine when you could have something like a Colchester chipmaster or Harrison M300 in really nice condition for the same money.
 

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A denford viceroy is another decent one to look out for. Myfords are ok but there's a big popularity tax on them. You can get some amazing machines for the same or less money.
 

Fergie 307

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Definitely agree on the Viceroy. Only thinbg to watch with them and the Boxford machines is that there is quite a variety of specification. They range from very basic machines indeed up to those that have all the bells and whistles. Good quality machines though and not too big. The Viceroys particularly are a doddle to move as they have bar holes through the integral cabinet, like a Harrison L, so very easy to sling.
 

Fergie 307

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Mmmm...Colchester Chipmaster or Harrison M300.....(dribbles)
My favourite is probably still the 140, nice machine with none of the modern electronics to complicate things. They were pretty much the standard machine in schools and so on, my sons school had six of them, all still there as far as I know but not used for years as they are now apparently too dangerous to be used by the kids! I only bought my 5A because its just an imperial version of the same machine and it was in really good condition mechanically. Anyone considering buying a Chipmaster you really do need to see it running and give the speed variator a good workout, these are very expensive to repair if faulty.
 

Fergie 307

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Must remind my daughter and son-in-law of that for when I shuffle off!!
Have a look on e bay, you will be amazed at the prices. Something like a tri lever goes for at least a couple of grand. Nice machines, but thats crazy money.
 

Keith 66

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I started out with a Myford Super 7, good little lathe but it was often too small for things i wanted to do. Next came a Bantam 2000, seemed like a bargain but was a bit of a dog, got shot of that & bought a Harrison 140 from the college where i worked. That lathe is a cracker. Dont confuse the 140 with the earlier L5, they look similar but the 140 is very different. The L5 has a tiny 3/4" spindle bore whereas the 140 is 1 3/8" bore, big difference. I was lucky mine came with all its original tooling & then some.
I would not buy a chinese lathe as i have seen too many that were of such poor quality they were not fit for purpose.
 

Fergie 307

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I started out with a Myford Super 7, good little lathe but it was often too small for things i wanted to do. Next came a Bantam 2000, seemed like a bargain but was a bit of a dog, got shot of that & bought a Harrison 140 from the college where i worked. That lathe is a cracker. Dont confuse the 140 with the earlier L5, they look similar but the 140 is very different. The L5 has a tiny 3/4" spindle bore whereas the 140 is 1 3/8" bore, big difference. I was lucky mine came with all its original tooling & then some.
I would not buy a chinese lathe as i have seen too many that were of such poor quality they were not fit for purpose.
Agreed if you buy an earlier one then you want an L5A with the taper chuck mount. That has the same spindle bore and 2000 rpm capability as the 140, and a hardened bed. They are effectively the same machine. The 5a had a facelift to become the 11 inch, only difference being the square head casting. The 140 was then simply a metric version of the 11 inch. All parts are interchangeable, apart from those directly related to the metric or imperial function, so basically leadscrew and associated components, feedscrews etc.
 

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I will also add, in defence of Chinese machines, that I have a Warco GH1322.
I have had no issues with it, it does everything I ask of it, and is a pleasure to use.
In my opinion it represents extremely good value for the money.
 
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dickm

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The problem with the Chinese ones seems to be quality control as usual. You CAN get a good one, but they bought one at work years back and it was a disaster. The "OK-ish" ones are the problem; you don't find out what's wrong until too late!
 

Fergie 307

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I will also add, in defence of Chinese machines, that I have a Warco GH1322.
I have had no issues with it, it does everything I ask of it, and is a pleasure to use.
In my opinion it represents extremely good value for the money.
In fairness they have improved a lot in recent years. But i havevyet to meet anyone who has used a good quality English or American machine who would say that the Chinese machines compare favourably. My experience having set up a couple for people who were having issues is that the inspection data given with the machine was completely inaccurate. So a good deal of adjustment and general fettling was required to get anywhere near the figures quoted. If you tried to do anything as it was straight out of the crate then you would have bèen wasting your time. One was a Clarke, cant remember the model but one with a built in mill at the back of the bed. Rarely seen such a piece of junk masquerading as a machine tool. The killer was that the spindle wasnt actually parallel to the bed, it was nose down by a few thou. Think he got Machine Mart to take it back. The other one was an Amadeal, again cant remember the model but a bigger machine, something like an 11 inch swing. Very different kettle of fish. That one was nicely machined and finished, but they appeared to have just assembled all the parts in the right order and shipped it. Most basic set up stuff was off. He was finding it turned a taper, this turned out to be because the headstock wasnt correctly aligned. This was quite easily dealt with using adjustments on the machine. Both saddle and cross slides were too loose, again easily adjusted. Final issue was the micrometer dials, one too loose one too tight. These reveal on of the areas where the quality differs. On a quality English machine you find multiple thrust bearings under the handles, and usually multiple adjusters for the dials. Very crude set up on this machine by comparison. Once adjusted up the machine was not bad atall. Usual Chinese machine irritations, poor dials and they all seem to use the same awful feed handles. Also let down a bit by the cabinet which was not as well made as the machine itself, but accurate to .01mm by the time we'd finished with it, which is not too shabby. Realised later that at that time, about four years ago, the Amadeal machines were identical to those sold by Warco, just painted grey and blue instead of green and yellow. Interstingly bought an Amadeal mill myself not long after this and it was exactly the same. Pretty well made but all the adjustments a mile off straight out of the crate.
 

DiyAddict

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Boxford VSL any good?
By all accounts they are fine, desirable machines, and were on my list when I was looking - a step up from the AUD etc, with a much larger spindle bore. I believe they were developed in several iterations though, so check the bore size, centre height and chuck mount match what you expect. They're relatively uncommon - I never got to see one in the flesh - so certain accessories can be pricey and difficult to source. I would make sure a fixed steady is included, especially if you get the 500 which has a 5" centre height. If you want to do light milling operations , be aware that Boxford vertical slides seem to fetch excessive prices, though you could probably adapt a third party one to fit. I'm pretty sure they accept standard Boxford changewheels for any threads that the gearbox won't include.

Have you settled on a maximum size yet? If you can fit a Harrison or Colchester in, they would be a better bet, with that all-important caveat: in good condition.
 

DiyAddict

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If you're looking at Boxford-size lathes, consider a Raglan 5" with accessories. They are a very fine lathe - super-expensive when new - but tend to be very inexpensive now. Accessories are in the hen's teeth bracket of availability, so avoid ones that come without.
 

Fergie 307

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Have to agree that both the Raglan and Boxford VSL are great machines, if you can find a good one. You may well struggle to find one atall, i havent seen either for years. The guy I bought my Myford 4 from had a Raglan as well but had already sold it, both had belonged to his late father. Dont think I've seen one since.
 
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