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What kind of lathe could I get for around £600?

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Sawdust=manglitter

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I’ve been woodworking for quite a while now, but i’m very keen to get more into metalworking.

I’ve done a few bits and bobs, mostly by hand, and also done a little brass turning by hand on my wood lathe.

Apart from the above I did some work on a metal lathe back in schoool as well as a summer job in an engineering’s factory when I was 16.

So apart from the above it’s safe to say I’m fairly new to metalworking.

It’s probably a big ask, but I’d like to get myself the best second hand metal lathe I can for around £600, but would ideally like to future proof too if possible. It would be lovely to have the capability to turn metric threads, some that may rule out some of the older lathes. I ideally don’t want one of the smaller modelmakers Chinese lathes that’s dont seem to have the best of reputations.

I may be able to stretch to £1k if absolutely necessary, but that’s would take some serious grovelling to the OH! :lol:

Does anyone have any lathe suggestions for me to keep an eye out for please?

And to try to pre-empt the ‘what would you like to make on the lathe’ question, i’d love to have the capacity to make anything and everything that may crop up in future (in other words, no idea yet!! :lol: )

Thanks in advance for any help or advice you can offer
 

Trevanion

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My lathe is probably one of my best purchases, gets me (and others!) out of a hole time and time again. I think if you're working with woodworking machinery day-in-day-out it's a must to have a lathe tucked away somewhere for those moments where something goes wrong and you could be down for a couple of weeks because they don't have that part in stock or you could be down a couple of hours because you can make the part. A decent milling machine is pretty much at the top of my "to get next" list for the same reasons :)

That's a fairly standard budget when it comes to the older machines such as the Colchester Students, Triumphs or Masters but bear in mind the logistics of moving the older and much heavier gear isn't easy. I spent over 2 hours moving my 1.5 Tonne lathe by myself four inches to the left a couple of months ago, granted all I had was lever bars, wedges and scaffold pipes to move it and some will have better equipment than that :lol:

Some of the more desirable and smaller machines like the Myford ML7 or a Boxford will fetch quite a bit more than the older and better built stuff just because there isn't so much logistics with moving that weight and they don't take up as much footprint. I think a Myford can take change gears to make it cut metric threads but all the dials will be in thousands of an inch and I know some Boxford lathes were totally metric in layout.

Power is another thing, most of the larger, older kit will be three-phase power, but you might be lucky to find one that's been converted to run on single-phase like mine was. If you've got three-phase on tap it's a non-issue but if you don't it's something to consider, again, that's why the little Myfords and such fetch so much is because they're pretty much all single-phase and can easily run off a household supply because of the sub-2HP motors, mine has a 4HP motor and requires a 32A supply to get moving.

Another thing... Some machines will be more worn out than others, it takes a fairly keen eye to spot hard wear on lathe beds, especially if they've been tarted up with an oil stone before a viewing. It's not unheard of to have some stripped gears in a machine once purchased, and it's quite common to see people lifting them by slinging a strap under the chuck rather than where they're supposed to be lifted from which will absolutely wreck the bearings in an instant.

There's no real or definite answer really, It depends on what turns up and how desperate you are for one right this second more than anything.
 

Sawdust=manglitter

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Thanks for the reply Trevanion. I forgot to mention that I don’t have access to three phase, so require single phase.

Obviously i’ve seen that so many people love the Myford Super 7, but as you said they seem to go for quite a lot of money. Again, a Boxford is another one I’ve been keeping an eye on, but again they go for a pretty penny for something half decent.

The larger lathes like the colscheater student lathes look the bees knees, but the size and logistical side of buying one is pretty intimidating, as you've already illuded to.

If you don’t mind me asking, what is it that you have? And how much did you pay for it? Did that also come with tooling/accessories too?
 

Trevanion

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Sawdust=manglitter":cvke6x5d said:
If you don’t mind me asking, what is it that you have? And how much did you pay for it? Did that also come with tooling/accessories too?
I've got a CVA MK1A Lathe, I paid £2600 for it which was about 20 weeks wages when I was an apprentice joiner! :lol:. It was ALOT of money, but the way I look at is that I've got this machine practically for life now and If I live for another 40 years that works out at £65 a year, and even then it will still outlast me and be passed on to the next generation.

It came with a few bits and bobs but nothing particularly extravagant, I was fortunate enough to recently buy an original 5C collet chuck for it that the seller had pinched from the local RAF base when he was working there, I'd like to get a fixed steady for it but they're like gold dust and so are metric change gears.

I've pinched this photo off Lathes.co.uk, but the lathe in the photograph is actually MY lathe, I didn't realise it was famous until after I bought it. It was kind of a double-take moment, "Eh, That looks a lot like the lamp I've got on my machine... and the coolant nozzle... AND IT'S THE SAME TRAY ON THE TOP OF THE HEADSTOCK!"

 

Sawdust=manglitter

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Wow, that lathe is a lump and a half! But no doubt a worthy investment. Looks impressive

Do you have or have you tried one of the vertical slide milling attachments for a lathe before? Are they any good? Or would it just be something to temporarily tide you over until you get a proper milling machine?
 

AES

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@Sawdust=Manglitter: IMO there's a lot of very good advice in the above post from Trevanion. But I'd like to add a couple of points:

1.Although Myfords (and Boxfords perhaps to a lesser extent) seem to be fetching a LOT of money these days, there are still some bargains to be had. It's a question of being patient and keeping an eagle eye out in all the usual places - private internet sellers, Model Engineering web sites, and even local papers. Another big advantage of Myfords and Boxfords (e.g.) is that even though both are no longer in production there are LOADS of them out there, and that includes not only the machines themselves but also accessories and tooling of all sorts. I'm not sure, but THINK you could even find a set of Metric change wheels to convert, say, an Imperial Myford to a Metric.

2. Also, if I may , don't get too carried away with thread cutting. I think I've used that facility just once on my lathe, because 99% of the threads I've cut have been standard threads, so I've used taps and dies (mounted in the lathe to ensure a nice square result of course - the special holders are another useful pair of accessories).

3. Don't be in too much of a rush to discount the "infamous" Chinese Mini Lathes" either. In reality you do get a lot of bang for your buck, though even if buying new, you will apparently spend quite a bit of time fettling (that was so in my case, though from what I read, that situation has improved considerably in recent years). And once again, just like Myfords and Boxfords, there is a huge variety of accessories of all sorts available, and at quite good prices. Just as a matter of info, have a look at the ArcEurotrade web site as just one example of what's available these days:

http://www.arceurotrade.co.uk

Usual disclaimers, and there are other good suppliers too.

4. Regarding size, there's no doubt that the Chinese Mini Lathes are smaller in capacity than, say, Myfords and Boxfords. But one thing "model engineers" (which is what you'll become, more or less)! are noted for is finding ways to squeeze a quart out of a pint pot. Example, I regularly swing a 6 inch (diameter) chuck on mine. In fact, the biggest limitation is not so much the size, but the lack of rigidity inherent in such lathes when compared to bigger machines. Trevanion's machine (and similar, such as Colchester) are GREAT in that respect, but in my case I have neither the budget not the space for such a machine, let alone the wherewithal to move it.
But as a general rule, Trevanion is bang on, and it's always better to have a big 'un than a little 'un!

5. Trevanion is also correct to say that a lathe PLUS a mill of some sort would be great. BUT not only are we looking at doubling the budget (at least) we're also looking at double the space requirements. I wish I had a mill, but I don't, and very much doubt I ever shall have. BUT I do have a small "milling attachment" for my mini lathe and that coupled with a willingness to take my time and use hand tools (files, saws, etc) has enabled me to do whatever milling jobs I've "needed" so far.

6. Finally, if buying new, expect to at least DOUBLE the price of whatever you buy for all the tooling and accessories you need. Similarly, if buying S/H (which unless you do go Chinese seems likely from your 600 quid budget), don't forget to look not only at the state of the machine itself but also at the number and state of whatever tooling is included within the sale.

Good luck mate, you've started down a VERY slippery - but a fascinating and rewarding - slope. Just as Trevanion says, the peace of mind you have to KNOWN that if something's broken you can easily repair it or replace it is well worth it.

But just a word of warning. Having made that beautiful eccentric-shouldered bolt that fits PERFECTLY, do NOT expect SWMBO to be at all impressed when you proudly display "that funny little bit of metal"! ("Is that it? You spent all morning making just THAT? Using all that expensive machinery?"). DAMHIKT - but have fun anyway mate :D
 

MJP

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As has been said, don't dismiss Chinese lathes out of hand - take a look at Ade's Workshop on You Tube, he lives down near Newgale and he's got a Warco WM180 and has just bought a Warco WM16B mill. You'd be surprised at what good work he does with his machine.
I bought a very nice clean used WM180 with a good few extras a couple of years ago for £470 and am very happy with it.
Martin.
 

Trevanion

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AES":2y0pat1v said:
But just a word of warning. Having made that beautiful eccentric-shouldered bolt that fits PERFECTLY, do NOT expect SWMBO to be at all impressed when you proudly display "that funny little bit of metal"! ("Is that it? You spent all morning making just THAT? Using all that expensive machinery?"). DAMHIKT - but have fun anyway mate :D
I made a pair of triple start threaded bolts for another forum user this time last year, It was actually my first time doing threading so to say I jumped in at the deep end might be an understatement but I managed it after a bit of thinking. I had a similar reaction with someone, "You spent all that time making two bolts?" YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT I'VE GONE THROUGH TO MAKE THESE! :lol:. We definitely take the fact we can walk into a shop and buy a pack of a hundred bolts for less than a fiver for granted.

You're totally right about threading though, I've done it only three or four times in the last couple of years and that was only because they were BSW and I didn't have the dies for the sizes or they were triple threaded like above. Everything Metric up to M12 I would do with dies, you could probably do up to M16 with a big enough die stock but it would be hard work in steel. I've got a whole range of Metric Presto HSS taps and dies from M3 to M12 which set me back about £150 for them all, which really isn't a hell of a lot of money for very good quality stuff, they bite instantly, cut easily and they don't seem to go dull even after several threadings in stainless steel, I had a cheap Aldi set before and it seemed you turned the taps and dies 40 times before they would bite into the material and even then it was hard going.

I have thought about buying a small milling table for the lathe and I've even put a couple of bids on some second-hand ones on eBay, but I've always thought they would be a lot more awkward than a vice set up in a mill. I don't think I'd need a big mill, even though it would be nice to have something like a Bridgeport or a KRV2000 I could probably get along with a small Arboga, Marlow or similar.
 

deema

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For your budget, and if you have space a Cholchester Student is within your budget. A Mk1 or Mk2 with threading cutting box can cut both metric and imperial threads with the odd one missing. Spares are plentiful. You can get one with a face plate, 3 and 4 jaw chuck along with a quick release tool post and a few tool holders plus the moving and fixed steadies that isn’t worn out.

With an engine crane and a a sleeper cut into two they are ‘easy’ to move. There is a threaded hole to take an eye in the bed for lifting. Manuals are available free with a google search. They are big enough to do just about everything and hold their value.

Plan on spending another £500 at least for tooling, measuring stuff over time. That said, I made a surprising amount with a single HS steel cutter and the measuring kit I had for wood working!

I’ve been amazed how much I’ve used the lathe considering I’d got by without one until I bought mine!!
 

MusicMan

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Don't sweat about cutting metric threads on an English lathe. The gears themselves don't care whether they are cutting English or metric, as they are just the reducers between the headstock and the lead screw that drives the carriage. The key thing that you need is a gear with 127 teeth. If you have an English lead screw, this allows you to cut metric threads (since 1 inch = 25.4 mm exactly) and only metric threads. Swap this for say the 120 tooth gear and you will cut only English threads. It's easy to work out the possible ratios and threads that you can do.

I'm a fan of old German lathes and it's an advantage that they are metric for the cross-slide and top-slide indicators. I have three Boley of varying sizes, from the 1920s/1930s. One is plain turning Boley 3 which I use a lot, one is a big Boley 4 with screw cutting gears (unfortunately not a full set) and the last is a Boley 3 with a full set of screw cutting gears. I assumed that this would be either 5 or 6 mm pitch lead screw and was puzzled when it was somewhere in between ! It was obviously an export model for the English market so it had an Imperial lead screw! But it had the all-important 127 tooth gear so I can get all the metric ratios that I want.

Agreed about the wear problem on an old lathe. Best way to check quickly is to wind the carriage along the bed and see if it is much looser near the headstock than far away. It should be movable without slop all the way though it is acceptable if the tightness varies as long as there is no slackness in twist. Otherwise you are in for a regrind, which is not cheap.

Small chinese lathes can be made to work quite well, though they do lack stiffness. They are also small - which means that there may not be room in the gearbox or gear-fixing arms for a 127 tooth gear (mine is about 200 mm diameter). You will be limited to metric threads.

I only have single phase in the shop, but run the 415V three phase machines happily through Direct Drive converters. Note that these will cost as much as the lathe, though!

Keith
 

AES

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Blimey Trevanion, you ARE "bold", I've NEVER tried a triple-start thread. Well done Sir.

For Manglitter: Agree with all the above posts. Good advice all round.
 

Trevanion

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AES":1kl5do5o said:
Blimey Trevanion, you ARE "bold", I've NEVER tried a triple-start thread. Well done Sir.
It was quite simple really once I had sussed how to do it. If I remember rightly, the bolt I had was roughly 20TPI but triple start, 20 divided by 3 gives you 6.6, I had a 6.5TPI gear selection on the lathe so I selected that and the pitch of a 20TPI thread is 50thou. So with the TPI selected at 6.5TPI, I cut a thread sticking to a single number on the threading dial, once I was at full depth I would zero the machine again, advance the cross slide longitudinally 50thou to give the pitch of the next thread and repeat the process until all three threads had been cut.
 

SammyQ

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I bought an older-than-me ML4, for just over £200. It can do all the small stuff like bushes, bolts, collars, yada yada, perfectly adequately.
A big weighty lathe is nice, I was taught on a Colchester, but who has the space? A concrete bench or similar and a small ML10, Drummond perhaps, maybe even a Perfecto, and PATIENCE will sort you out.

Sam
 

TFrench

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I'd only messed around with dad's old drummond before I got the big harrison at work. You could only take micron passes with it or the belt would slip. Most frustrating thing I'd ever used - I ended up taking the part home and using my wood lathe and a parting tool (it was only brass) :lol: Getting the harrison was a revelation - you can really hog some metal off with that! It only cost £1000 with a massive amount of tooling, but its a big old thing. I've just bought a Hardinge as well - because once you've got a big lathe, you need a small one as well - right? That cost me £1500 and I'm still stripping bits down and cleaning it 3 months later. It will be a phenomenal machine when I get it done though. Metalworking machines are a LOT more complex than woodworking, thats for sure!
If you're quick off the mark with ebay/facebook/gumtree and willing to travel there are definitely bargains to be had.
 

Blockplane

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Given that what I know about inverters would fit on the back of a postage stamp - would it be worth buying an inverter to run a 3-phase machine, given that there is less demand for them in the amateur market and your money will go a lot further?
 

TFrench

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Definitely worth looking at inverters. Or even swapping the motor for a single phase one. Just beware some fancier machines have dual speed motors which can't be run on VFD's. Ok with a static or rotary converter though.

I turned down a holbrook minor for £350 today because I don't have room for yet another lathe :(
 

rxh

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Trevanion":4bb8kcoh said:
I think a Myford can take change gears to make it cut metric threads but all the dials will be in thousands of an inch.
Yes, a Myford ML7 or Super 7 can be used to cut metric pitches. You need to obtain a couple of 21 tooth change wheels to add to the standard set. At the end of each cutting pass the tool should be brought back to the starting position by reversing the motor (the half nuts should not be disengaged).
 

Sawdust=manglitter

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Thanks for all of the replies.

So I've been keeping an eye out for both Myford and Boxford lathes as something that size would fit ok in the workshop, but any bigger and i'd struggle.

I've seen a couple of different lathes, but what I'm now wondering is how would I best collect/transport the thing. Does anyone have any tips on how they've managed it themselves before?

Is it a good idea to take the lathe apart to make it more handlable, or is there a risk in doing so that putting it back may loose accuracy/parts etc (considering i'm a beginner)? I dont have an engine hoist/crane thing, but would it be worth considering using one? My car isnt the biggest (Audi A3), so i'd be surprised if i could get the lathe in my car, but if taken apart would the lathe realistically be too heavy to manage to get it into the car (possibly alone)? Or am i better off hiring a van, possibly with a tail lift, but that eats into my budget too.

Any tips on this would be greatly appreciated! :D
 

AES

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Having the infamous "Chinese Mini Lathe" myself, I dunno mate, sorry. BUT there have been several threads here about exactly the best way to go about moving lathes so I suggest you do a search.

BTW, if your Audi A3 is the estate version then I GUESS Myford/Boxford would fit if dis-assembled, but if it's the "standard" hatch back version then I'm not too sure.

Best of luck anyway, I'm sure someone with better info will be along soon, and meantime "welcome to the slippery slope mate". It'll be fun AND an interesting learning curve anyway :D
 
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