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Australian Members; Looking for a Metal Lathe

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Well-Known Member
Sep 6, 2016
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Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
hi hmem
Over the past 6 months been looking (and surfing the web) for a metal lathe to buy.
my name is Greg and I am 14 years of age.
I live in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

I have been making a model 4 stroke engine (Webster 4 stroke engine) for the last year or so. Due to not having a lathe, I have to use the one at school (which hadn't been used in 10 years) on Thursday lunchtimes (40 minutes in length). I have been teaching myself a bit and also getting some help and advice along the way from other members of the local model flying club (yes I build and fly model airplanes).

My dad is the worst d.i.y person in the world.
The lathe at school which is a Hercus 260 of course! it has next to no tooling (no boring bar or reamers or anything like that), just a parting tool, right hand turning tool holder, some high speed steel blanks so I have had to make a boring bar and some hss turning bits.

I am looking for something that is single phase (240v) and along the lines of a
Hercus 9" or 260
Myford super 7, ml7, ml10
or anything you think will suit!

I don't really need power feed but it would be nice :thumbup:

My budget is around $1400 mark but I can go higher ( I buy lawnmowers from the dump and fix them and then sell them on gumtree)

Thank you very much
Good on you. If I were you, I'd keep fixing mowers for a month or so and wait until about November when Hare and Forbes here in Brisbane have their annual sale. With your budget, the machine I would have my eye on is the AL250G and you should get 10% or so off at least. See https://www.machineryhouse.com.au/L149#

This machine is made in Taiwan, not China so the quality is better and it has gear driven threading ratios so you won't need to muck about change gears like I do and you will be able to better match speeds and feeds. The only down side (which is a non issue in Australia) is that it is a Metric machine but in reality, metric fasteners are the norm here so you won't want to work in imperial units.

I very nearly bought this machine but in the end I went up to the AL320G and still wish I had a gearbox instead of change gears....

This lathe will last you many years
If you are only 14 then you have many years to gain experience.I would go
for a chinese lathe and mini mill then you can do anything and work your way up
Hi Greg,

Firstly good on you for getting off you ar@e, and fixing lawn mowers from the dump and selling them. Love to see a bit of resourcefulness, which is often seriously lacking in young people today in Australia.... i won't wade into the debate about which lathe, as this isn't my strong area but will concur with Rod that a gear box would be nice. As I have a wabeco, and to change gears is a bit of a pain, when threading. But I would put power feed before the gear box.

That said when you do get you lathe drop me a PM; I am currently redoing my shop and while I don't have a lot of excess tooling I do have a few things which will be culled. I was going to sell it, but happy to send it
over to you. As unfortunately the machine is one cost but then comes the cost of the tooling!

I agree with Rodw, I have the AL250G. It is a good all round machine and reasonably well made. When you get all set up, take a few pictures and let us all see how you are doing. Cheers, Peter
hi Rod, Bazmak, Adrian and Peter

My question is what would be the advantage of buying the al250 over a Hercus 260? or a Hercus 9' model A?

Just from previous things that I have been told by other members of my model airplane club is that I shouldn't go with newer stuff and that I should go with a Myford or a Hercus. I am not trying to be rude or sound like I know what I am doing. You guys do know what you are on about, obviously. Just I am being told two completely different things. I am just trying to find a lathe that will last and that I can use to make more engines in my workshop. It doesn't need to be dead nuts accurate, it just has to be "good enough for the girls that I go out with". I go out with none of those fwords (no no no not that fword that you are thinking about im talking about females)

You have to be careful buying a used lathe. Some can be worn out to the point that restoring the lathe becomes a major hobby in itself, and is not a beginner's project. That said, if you can get a Hercus that has seen little use, say in a home workshop or even a school or TAFE, rather than beat to death daily in a commercial workshop, they are a great machine, more solidly built and with better bed ways than a Myford.

I see a few on Gumtree and eBay down your way from time to time, but it does take time to wait for them to come up for sale. That's another advantage of buying a new one from Hairy Forbes, you can just order it and get it delivered to your house right away.

And you never know your luck. Mate of mine picked up a 260 Hercus at a garage sale in Newcastle for under $500. But I never seem to have that kind of luck!:mad:

Another plus for buying a used lathe is if you can get a good pile of tooling and accessories with it, included in the price. Wheareas if you buy a new lathe it is easy to spend many hundreds more on four jaw chuck, drill chuck, toolholders, steadies etc etc etc.

If your school's lathe has not been used for 10 years as you say, could you make an offer to buy it from them?
Hi Greg. The first lathe I ever used was a Hercus back in the sixties and I owned one in the eighties. The trouble is that today, any second hand Hercus that I have seen and is any good is going to set you back around the $1500-$2000 mark and for that price you can get a AL250 plus a bit of tooling. It has a 4MT in the spindle and, surprisingly for a small machine, a 3MT in the tailstock. When you get a milling machine, and you will, this is quite an advantage as most bench mills with a MT spindle have a No 3. The lathe is pretty rugged and is a good entry level one. The machine would be new with a warranty and H&F have a fairly good reputation, I have always found them to be reputable and they have been in business for a lot of years. Don't get me wrong, I can go as misty eyed as anyone when talking about Myfords and Hercus etc, but at the end of the day, bang for the buck beats nostalgia every time. You''re doing the right thing by asking for opinions, for what its worth I've given you mine and I'm sure others will chip in as well. When you've finished listening, buy what you feel is best for you. Cheers, Peter
Yes, I have thought about asking school, Hopper. I know that they are very impressed with my work (I have had the principal come and take me out of class to talk to me about my engine) just I don't know how to go about it. They have 2 Hercus 260s with ALL of the accessories steady 4 jaw chucks you name it they have got it. I just don't know who to go to. But when I get back to school on Tuesday I will ask around. So from what you are saying a Hercus is superior to a Myford. I will focus more on looking for a hercus and an al250.

Thank you Peter, I will look and see if I can find a used al250 which will obviously come with some tooling. I will go to that sale in November and see what they have got there.
eBay sometimes have hercus lathes for sale. And if you need tooling try Banggood.com great cheap tools with free delivery. I use all Banggood products for my hercus 9 inch. Happy machining:)
Don't get me wrong, Myford is good if you can find a good one, but Hercus is that one step better.

Probably start by asking your principal who pulled you out of class to talk about your engine. He is usually the guy who controls the purse strings and the buying and selling of school equipment.
I'd probably recommend getting a new machine if possible. I picked up a Sieg C6 with stand, 3 & 4-jaw chucks, steadies, box of cutting tools, and jacobs chuck for the tailstock from Ausee for less than $2000 (including delivery) in December 2015. Granted it was on sale but it was a good package nevertheless, and a good $500 cheaper than any Hafco equivalent package. My other lathe, which i inherited, is a 1929-vintage Ideal which has 'been through the wars' a bit and needed a lot of 'fettling' to get into reasonable working condition.
That being said, almost anything is better than nothing, and many amateur machinists have produced excellent work on indifferent machinery.
Personally, I think the advice to find an old lathe is a bit out of touch today. For starters they are probably imperial and Australia has well and truly forgotten what that is. I've even banned tape measures in inches from my life even though I'm old enough to remember the conversion to metric when I was close to your age...

The other problem is that there are not that many used lathes out there at any one time so you could spend a year looking for one and then find its more expensive than what we've suggested. I've seen Myfords go for $2700. This is not the case so much in other countries. So for close to your budget, you can get a new lathe that has support and spare parts available. If you go this way, you'll probably have your first engine built before the other chap gets his old Myford or Hercus up and running. Unless of course you can do a deal with your school on the one you are using :)
I have two Myford and an enviable quantity of accessories to go with them. One is probably better than when it came out of the factory whilst the other is good enough not to have the need to ask damn fool questions and -- get the same silly answers! Those remarks came from a World Authority on 'Steam' who is a mate and has- a ML7! One day you'll read his books!

I have a 13 year old grandson and if the question arose, I'd kit him out with a new-ish Chinese lathe. Mine cost me the princely sum of £350 and a further£50 to replace a duff DRO. I simply added a faceplate, a 4 jaw and a few adapters to take existing collets and 'Myford' spindle stuff.

I enjoy my Myfords but that is no recommendation in this present age.

I hope that this gives a BALANCED view

Its my understanding that the Hercus 9 inch lathe is a copy of the USA's South Bend lathe, lots of SBL's here in the US{9 inch and 10s}, but shipping one over may be cost prohibitive.?
A few months ago on ebay a hercus 260g came up the seller wanted $5k for it ! Then a few weeks later a 260 popped up - brand new never commissioned again $5k asking price !
I could buy a new lathe and mill from H&F for that !
The main problem with second hand lathes is that unless you or someone you know is experienced in checking a used lathe for wear you are more than likely to end up with a flogged out lemon . Grinding beds is expensive and while your lathe is in pieces you are not making engines !
Another thing is with machinery from Schools or Tafe is they are most likely require three phase power and if you don't have three phase power at home you have two choices :
1 - Buy and set up an inverter .
2- change the motor over to 240v .
Either way it will cost you money and time .
Have a look on the H&F website or go into the store as sometimes they have machines that have some minor damage from shipping and the knock a couple of hundred bucks off them , i have seen a few with damaged belt guards that would clean up with a little panel eating and some paint.
I would leave the second hand machines to those who enjoy restoring them and buy a new unit , the AL250G is a good unit , reasonable spindle bore and hardened bed .
The only gripe i have with it and many other lathes is the lack of a tee slotted cross slide but this is easily fixed by adding a sub table to the top of the slide , an old myford top cross slide is modified and bolted down on the top of the lathe cross slide - i have to do this to my AL320G in the near future !
I think you may be best talking with the school first, if they have two machines, they may be willing to let one go, and you may get a reasonably good deal on it too. If that doesn't work I'd suggest a brand new machine, old lathe as said above will come with issues that you'll have to work out and fix. Much quicker to unpack from a new box, that reworking a old machine. I have a Myford ML4 from around the 1940's, I was considering a sieg s3 when this came up at a £200+ saving, so I put a last bid in on eBay and won. The sieg would have been up and running by the following day from arrival, the myford has taken 4months before I cut my first parts on it.

Good on you for getting into it so young, and for this reason my vote would be to buy a new machine with aftermarket support. You'll be with it a long while by the sounds of it.