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Technical Advice on Buying a Metal Lathe

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by spillaneswillys, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. RmK57
    Joined: Dec 31, 2008
    Posts: 1,593


  2. mopacltd
    Joined: Nov 11, 2008
    Posts: 862


    Where is op located?
  3. rusty valley
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 1,763

    rusty valley

    pnevells, thats a nice looking clausing you got there, i am jealous. looks a little bigger, and a little newer than mine, a 6900 series, 14x30. one thing i like about clausings, they have the cross feed dial set so if you turn it 20 thou, it takes a 10 thou cut, which actually, as you know, is taking 20 off the shaft due to 10 on each side x 2 is 20. most lathes are not set up that way, and you turn the dial to half of what you want. you knew that, sorry for mumbling, nice rig there, what model is it?
    pnevells likes this.
  4. I agree with everyone get as large a lathe as you can, I had a WW2 16x40 Hendy off a battleship, 3 phaze 7hp and man what I could do with that thing, it weighed 2 - 1/2 tons and was over eight feet long. Had a new house being built and they wanted 1k to move it into storage and 1k to move it into finished house...... sold it to a motorcycle shop for 500 bucks and when moved into new house bought a Smitty CB1220 now I have to cut .010 at a time not 1/8" at a time but I do have the milling capabilities now. Anyway now it just takes me way longer to get done but I'm retired anyway so all I have is time (he says with a grin). lathe.jpg
  5. Rob28
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 103

    from Calgary AB

    I have to agree with everyone go as big as you can. I started with a 6x20 altas lathe worked ok for small projects but I kept a close eye on the local Craigslist and a 1946 11x36” Logan lathe came up that I jumped on. The best part about the older American made lathes are the hold their value I sold my atlas in 24hrs for every penny I purchase it for.
    My advice would be to find a 9” and up lathe with a quick change gear box. I love my new Logan

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    chevyfordman and rusty valley like this.
  6. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 13,783

    from oregon

    It wasn't the first lathe I ran but I did operate an oddball like that right out of trade school, don't recall if it was a Clausing though, was thinking maybe a Leblond.
    The leadman put me on a different lathe then gave me a part that he wanted a few thou. removed and I immediately screwed it up.
    I went (sheepishly) to the leadman and told him about it and said that I was sure I dialed right and nervously tried making other excuses, that's when he laughed and says "oh yeh, I forgot to tell you about that", I'm pretty sure he set me up!
  7. rusty valley
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 1,763

    rusty valley

    your logan looks like a nice little machine too. i have a hankerin for a second small lathe that i would leave a 3 jaw chuck on for small bushings and special washers etc. i pretty much leave the 4 jaw on my clausing because i am usually working on something that needs to be centered off the existing part, so a 4 jaw is required for accuracy. no such thing as a really accurate 3 jaw, but if you are turning both inner and out diameter it centers itself. mainly, i lust for another because i am too lazy to change chucks!
    Boneyard51 and chevyfordman like this.
  8. GTS225
    Joined: Jul 2, 2006
    Posts: 1,173


    It sounds as if the OP is looking for something more in the "benchtop", or 9" to 12" class. He may be able to get by with an Atlas 6"x18", but the advice to go as big as you can afford is probably the best bit of advice he can get.
    Something that hasn't been mentioned, or I missed it, is availability of parts for an older machine.
    As was mentioned, stay away from the Sears "109" series lathes. They're too small and light duty for any serious turning work.
    Something that hasn't been mentioned, or I missed it, is availability of parts for an older machine.
    The Craftsman "101" series was built by Atlas, and there's a bit of interchangeability of parts back and forth. On top of that, Clausing in Michigan owns the rights to both, and does still offer parts for both. There's a decent used market on "the auction site" as well.
    The South Bends, as well as LeBlonds and Myfords are also good candidates, but are either less popular, or less offered for sale in the used market, so harder to find.
    I found my 12"x24" Craftsman on C-list, up in Minneapolis, for $300, but it was more of a builder than a ready-to-use lathe. What was there was reasonable tight, and not excessively worn, so I did bring it home. I had to round up a tool post, all the guards, the back gears, and a motor to power it. It's now a usable machine, but there's still some pieces I'd like to find, and a couple bit of tooling too, but I'm sometimes too much of a cheapskate to part with by dollars. As of now, I have about $1200-$1400 invested in it, so if you can find a decent machine for that or less, especially if there's tooling with it, then you have found what you need.
    I think the advice to look for something in the 9"-12" class is spot on, and from my perspective, you'll be time ahead to look for Atlas/Craftsman machines.
    There's a saying that goes something to the effect that "you will pay as much or more for just the tooling, that you payed for your machine".
    Here's a link to a machinist's bulletin board I frequent.

  9. I have been checking my local Craigslist ads and you can buy one hell of a Lathe Beast for relatively little money. If I had a large garage I would pour a 24" slab and bring one home. Would probably have to hire a crane!
  10. CRH, GuyW, akoutlaw and 1 other person like this.
  11. pnevells
    Joined: Sep 5, 2008
    Posts: 426


    My Clausing is a 12 in. model 5904 1974 vintage,
  12. GuyW
    Joined: Feb 23, 2007
    Posts: 548


    Burt Munro and his Myford lathe

    Attached Files:

    CRH and rusty valley like this.
  13. CRH
    Joined: Apr 30, 2006
    Posts: 554

    from Utah

    Rivett 1020F !?!?
    THAT is an amazing lathe. Pictures would be really appreciated!
  14. Careful here! you may be going down a big hole.... it starts with just a small lathe then get a little tooling then one day you think" how about a mill?" before you know it you own a complete machine shop in your basement and you are making all kinds of cool stuff.

    The thing is get the South Bend 9", if you can find one, I tried the Grizzly 9" and sent it back, it was just too cheap. I then found my S.B. 9" and have never looked back. Also get as much tooling as you can.
    CRH and squirrel like this.
  15. Slow down
    Joined: Jan 7, 2014
    Posts: 94

    Slow down

    Here are before and after pictures of my southbend 13in. Ordered some tooling today. Now the search is on for a Bridgeport.[​IMG][​IMG]

    Sent from my iPad using H.A.M.B.
    tb33anda3rd, BradinNC, GuyW and 4 others like this.
  16. HemiRambler
    Joined: Aug 26, 2005
    Posts: 4,198


    Buying a lathe is alot like building a garage - bigger is BETTER! Sure lots of guys do wonderful work out of a single car garage, but it's ALWAYS nicer to have extra garage space - just ike it's nicer to have a bigger machine. I have a 12X36 Clausinng and a11X37 Rockwell - both are nice hobby sized machines - bigger would be better. I'd avoid going any smaller than that. The 9" Southbends have a cult like following and as a result are often way overpriced - good if you're a seller - not so much if you'er a buyer. One small problel with flat belt machines is tthat in general they run TOO SLOW to take advantage of carbide and while carbide isn't a necessity it's like that bigger garage - awfully nice to have if you can. Given that if you cab find something from the 70's it'll generally run fast enough for carbide. Sure you can run carbide slower, but it's unikely you'll get the life out of it or the finish. Having said that - it's NOT a substitute for HSS - you REALLY nneed to do yourself a favor and learn to use HSS tooling as well - the ideal is to learn BOTH. American made is hard to beat. Look close at the ways - f they're shot - PASS. One way to evaluate it it to take a test bar and make a test cut - measure it at both ends - it ought to measure the same - if not the ways are definitely suspect. Whatever you get expect that you'll want bigger later - so I'd reccommend getting the biggest American iron you can squeeze in your space and budget!
    CRH likes this.
  17. I really appreciate all the input. I am watching Craigslist with all of the recommendations in mind!
    saltflats likes this.
  18. noboD
    Joined: Jan 29, 2004
    Posts: 7,294


    Along with bigger is better, make sure you get as much tooling as you can. The lathe is the cheap part the tooling is the expensive part. Things like live center, threading head, taper attachment, face plate, drill chuck, and a GOOD lathe chuck both 3 and 4 jaw, get it all. You may not need it now but will down the road.
    Boneyard51 and Slow down like this.
  19. brasscarguy
    Joined: Jun 12, 2010
    Posts: 183

    from seattle

    Bigger is always better. While I have a typical Taiwan 9" lathe for simple stuff. I have an English Harrison 16"x 120" for the really big jobs. This lathe came out of a newspaper printing company and has a 4" bore head. They used it for machining printing rolls that were 6 feet long. I make drive lines, axle shafts, both large and small. This is a 3 phase machine that I use a solid state phase converter which allows me to reduce the speed to just a creep. Buy the biggest lathe you can afford and get one with lots of tooling. A lathe without tooling is useless. If you are buying a used lathe turn it on use a dial indicator and check the run out and wear. Especially the wear of the 1/2 nuts for carriage travel and cross feed. DON'T buy a lathe with flat ways period. The old Atlas and Sears lathes and other low entry level lathes will show their wear far faster than one with scraped vee ways.

    Run the carriage from as far back as it will go then up to touching the chuck and the movement should be easy and smooth. If it binds or becomes hard to turn the carriage handle expect wear or worn ways or worn shafts. All of which will require lots of work and $$$$'s to make it accurate. Also use a dial indicator on the chuck mounting to make sure there is no wear in the head stock bearings. Then reinstall the chuck and use the same dial indicator on the outside diameter of the chuck to check the out of round of the chuck and mounting surface. Another point older lathes often have bronze bearings supporting the chuck shaft. These are a real pain to replace and really render the lathe not worth the effort. Newer lathes use a Timken style head stock bearings easily replaceable and a very reasonable price. A lather that starts out being out of round and spec will never machine anything true and accurate.

    If you purchase a 3 phase machine you can buy from vendors a inexpensive converter just keep in mind these cheapo units do not equally balance the power on all 3 phases of your motor. Over time this will cause 1 of the phases to overheat and ultimately burn that winding out to repair very expensive. You can purchase a solid state phase converter such as I did for my Harrison lathe. These converters constantly balance the 3 phases as the motor is running. This is the ultimate converter system and of course you will pay for the quality and engineering. I believe I paid $800.00 at Graingers. I can dial down the spindle speed from dead stop upwards from a couple of RPMs to full speed. this is the ultimate in speed and power control

    just sayin'

    Joined: Nov 5, 2010
    Posts: 136

    from Vermont

    I just read through this thread and am also thinking about a smaller lathe. On the smaller US or UK lathes is a powered cross-feed ever seen? Is it possible to add on a powered cross-feed to an older small lathe (say South Bend)?
    Boneyard51 likes this.
  21. cederholm
    Joined: May 6, 2006
    Posts: 1,621


    My 1945 Southbend 9A has a powered cross-feed - stock.

    Boneyard51 likes this.
  22. GuyW
    Joined: Feb 23, 2007
    Posts: 548


    You can do anything now with stepper motors and a PC. Adding a mechanical cross-feed? I dunno but it sounds difficult.
  23. Boneyard51
    Joined: Dec 10, 2017
    Posts: 4,348


    My little Atlas has a powered cross feed.

  24. mkebaird
    Joined: Jan 21, 2014
    Posts: 335


    My son's Craftsman, courtesy of his father-in-law. Needs a new chuck.

    Boneyard51 and rusty valley like this.
  25. Boneyard51
    Joined: Dec 10, 2017
    Posts: 4,348


    That Craftsman was built by Atlas. If you look under the cross feed manual handle, you will,see a “ button” shaped knob. Pull that out and you will have power feed for the cross feed. The speed of the power cross feed is set by the speed of lead screw set by the levers near the gear box.

    mkebaird likes this.

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