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Richard Hed

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Hello John, all,

I thought I'd just add my 2c, since there are a lot of comments.

Background: I bought my first lathe a few years ago. I'm in my mid 30s and hadn't used one since school. Most lathes, as you mention, are made over in the east. I've heard stories of Warco and similar arriving with issues, and a UK price tag.

I asked myself the following few questions when reviewing lathe options.

What is your budget?
I scooped a S7 in very good condition for £950. I spent a couple of months looking for the right machine, in a commutable location.
Bear in mind that the lathe cost is just the tip. I've spent probably ~8k in total on all my engnieering stuff in the last few years. Several vanity purchased, like Moore and Wright tool chests, which are insanely expensive, but I wanted one. As a minimum you probably want:
Lathe,
Micrometers / Calipers (imp way cheaper than metric if that's your preference) <£30 each 2nd hand, boxed and in great condition,
Lathe tooling - Either carbide and tips, or HSS and a grinder. Not sure of your preference here. £100 should cover you well.
Lamp - £15 from Ikea / similar
Hand tools - Hacksaws, small vice, files etc. £50+.
The biggest expenses however were things like 3 & 4 jaw chucks £50-£500, vertical milling attachments £120ish,
Change gears, not too costly individually, but a set is ~£80ish. (I bought new, from Myford/RDG.)
If you want to do screwcutting (some love it, others avoid like the plague) maybe a lathe with a screwcutting gearbox would be better. They are noticeably more.
Then there's the glossy extras like Digital Read Outs, (DROs, etc). I haven't bothered yet.
To summarise: when I was deciding on my lathe, I picked a very good one for £950. The other option was a fully kitted out setup for ~£3k. could have probably got it for £2.5k-£2.7k if I haggled. In hindsight, the £3k option would have been cheaper, and been a better setup, but I didnt have all the funds, and didnt want to go all in, incase I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.
In summary, the lathe cost is just the start and probably ~1/2 the total cost to get into the hobby, unless you get a full kit from someone as a bundle.

Are you looking for a lathe or a lathe restoration project?
I didn't know enough about lathes to take on a restoration project. I just wanted to spin some metal and start making some models. There is loads of information about for most types of lathes, if you are looking for a project. If you are looking for a project, factor in the replacement parts / extras / materials for the project too. Also, it could take you >6 months depending on how much of a perfectionist you are and time avail. I'm still working, so time was my biggest restraint.

Space and Functionality?
You say you need a small lathe, and I totally get that. Just make sure you factor in the types of things you want to make. something like a Stuart 10V can be made on a tiny lathe. the flywheel or the Standard (A piece) are probably the biggest diameters you need to hold, and they could be done with a ~2" radius / gap from centre to bed height.
You do however mention the spindle Bore.
Personally, I find centre height clearance (swing) is more limiting than bore. Unless you're working on something very specific where you need the bore diameter, a hacksaw can solve 99% of bore issues. A lot of bar I have wont fit through the bore on my lathe, but I'm rarely (never) working on anything that long & thick with an end feature. I just lop off a 2"-3" length, and use that.

Power / Motor:
Personally for me, the bigger motors were a little worrying. Thats a lot of torque if something goes wrong. Additionally, you can step down the gearing on a geared lathe to improve torque. Generally you need more torque for larger diameters, so less relevant with a smaller lathe.

Transportation / portability:
I wouldn't recommend it, but I moved a S7 with cabinet in a fiesta. Through the wales countryside, and then on a ferry over to Ireland. (Long story, very stressful, and a bit of a cramped journey, but it worked fine!) All together they are weighty enough, but everything is removable, so you can break them down into very manageable parts. (Motor, cabinet, top-slide, tailstock etc, are all removable very easily on a lot of lathes, without much / any recalibration after reassembly.) Also, you probably wont move it much once you have it. So a little extra effort on the purchase / delivery, MAY be worth it depending on your desires. If you're getting it delivered, you will only be doing the move from the pavement to the workshop anyway. I did the fully manual, maximum effort option of travel, collection etc.

Warranty / Guarantee etc:
A 2nd hand lathe warranty ends the moment you load it into your vehicle / gets shipped. Some people want the convenience of a contact number if they have problems, need spare parts, etc. Factor this in when you're looking. Quite ironically, some lathes with warranties have more setup issues than a good 2nd hand one. Conversely, some second hand ones are a basket case. If you're going 2nd hand, definitely view it, no matter how good it looks. Shake it, turn it on, listen for rattles, move the slides etc. (There's a full checklist of things to do to evaluate a lathe, but that's too long for this post. If you are going that route, I'll share with you the tips I was given, when I was looking!)


Lastly, get something that is right for you. Lots of people have opinions, and some love their brand of machine. I know I do.
Also, as others have eluded to, most lathes will be able to out-perform their operator. Even a pretty crap lathe can turn out accurate parts when used correctly, but decent equipment can make the job a bit easier.

Get something that fits your space, lifestyle, level of competence, free time, urgency to use it, and the types of project you want to undertake.

My personal direction would be, if you're going for a project, get a decent 2nd hand one, and make it your own. They are generally more customisable and will have plenty of life in them. Mine is >65-70 years old, and will probably out-last me and I'm (only) in my 30s!

Best of luck, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to give me a shout! I'm not the most experienced, but I can tell you my thought processes when I bought mine.


Kindest Regards,

Del
Two cents? That was more like 4 Cents!
 

Bazzer

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John
The Chinese lathe/machine tool discussion has been done to death on the internet.

I would make the following points.

The Chinese are capable of the highest quality manufacturing imaginable, take a smart phone, it is a perfect piece of manufacturing. However the market for near perfect hobby lathes is very small so the Chinese don't play in the market.

What they do is play in the market for cheap hobby lathes where there is a bigger market.

With regards to English importers having a 'man on the ground' in the Chinese factories, well I can tell you that said man would need the balls the size of an elephants to stand up to the factories on quality issues when the production quotas were not being meet.

A good machine tool is a collection of many components working in harmony, so just throwing a 1 Kw motor on a lathe that is really a 600w machine is not harmonious, likewise getting larger centre heights by just jacking up the head stock and tailstock puts strains on a small lathe bed that it has little hope of resisting.

Don't compromise quality for getting a larger machine, whatever machine you get will never be large enough for the largest job you want to do.

I totally disagree with the resistance to tipped tooling on small lathes, when you are starting out if you can remove an unknown variable (your ability to sharpen a tool) then this is a good thing. I would recommend learning to sharpen tools but rely on tipped tools to start out. I use tipped tools mostly (I can sharpen HHS very well) because they work better over a wider range than HSS.

I am currently making pistons for small IC engines, my lathe (EMCO 5) is able to get me to within about 2 -3 microns of target size and very good ovality. The lathe is also capable of turning 50mm diameter on the next job and I never feel let down by the lathe, it meets my very high expectations.

B.
 
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Hello everyone again

I can't begin to tell you how amazed I have been by the response and helpfulness of everyone that has answered my first post I was hoping to reply to all of your replies individually but at the speed I type I would be here for a year, I have to thank all of you for your valued advice and especially those who have obviously spent a great deal of time listing in depth their thoughts on the matter I will be taking it all in and going through them all as soon as my brain stops hurting, all in all some great advice there thanks to everyone

John
 

PeterDRG

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Boxfords are certainly better value for money than Myfords, which have something of a cult status. Having said that, it is best to get one as fully equipped as possible, as the accessories have been rocketing in price lately.
 

earlwb

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Welcome to the forum. I bought a Taig Micro Lathe many years ago. It is Made in the USA and not China. They do sell them in the UK as well. I have been quite satisfied with it too. But I think it is the accessories and tooling that is where all the action is at. They sell lathe sets and just the basic lathe. Over time one could spend a small fortune on the extras for any lathe. You should be able to find used ones or go with getting a new one. So look for the accessories and tools that may come with it as the tooling and fixtures could cost more than the lathe itself. As the previous owner could have invested in all the tooling and accessories already for you.
 

SmithDoor

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What have found is made in America is best made tools.

The Chinese made I have to finish the tool so brings the tool up to America made.
Even switches and relays are under size.

Dave

John
The Chinese lathe/machine tool discussion has been done to death on the internet.

I would make the following points.

The Chinese are capable of the highest quality manufacturing imaginable, take a smart phone, it is a perfect piece of manufacturing. However the market for near perfect hobby lathes is very small so the Chinese don't play in the market.

What they do is play in the market for cheap hobby lathes where there is a bigger market.

With regards to English importers having a 'man on the ground' in the Chinese factories, well I can tell you that said man would need the balls the size of an elephants to stand up to the factories on quality issues when the production quotas were not being meet.

A good machine tool is a collection of many components working in harmony, so just throwing a 1 Kw motor on a lathe that is really a 600w machine is not harmonious, likewise getting larger centre heights by just jacking up the head stock and tailstock puts strains on a small lathe bed that it has little hope of resisting.

Don't compromise quality for getting a larger machine, whatever machine you get will never be large enough for the largest job you want to do.

I totally disagree with the resistance to tipped tooling on small lathes, when you are starting out if you can remove an unknown variable (your ability to sharpen a tool) then this is a good thing. I would recommend learning to sharpen tools but rely on tipped tools to start out. I use tipped tools mostly (I can sharpen HHS very well) because they work better over a wider range than HSS.

I am currently making pistons for small IC engines, my lathe (EMCO 5) is able to get me to within about 2 -3 microns of target size and very good ovality. The lathe is also capable of turning 50mm diameter on the next job and I never feel let down by the lathe, it meets my very high expectations.

B.
 

awake

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What have found is made in America is best made tools.

The Chinese made I have to finish the tool so brings the tool up to America made.
Even switches and relays are under size.

Dave
Speaking as an American, I would respectfully say "it depends." Japanese, German, Swiss ... there are many sources of top-quality machine tools. As I understand it, the list includes China - if you pay for it. Meanwhile, the US has produced some great tools ... and some not-so-great: the old 612 Atlas lathes come to mind - they were not exactly robust, definitely made to a price point.
 

Bazzer

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Speaking as an American, I would respectfully say "it depends." Japanese, German, Swiss ... there are many sources of top-quality machine tools. As I understand it, the list includes China - if you pay for it. Meanwhile, the US has produced some great tools ... and some not-so-great: the old 612 Atlas lathes come to mind - they were not exactly robust, definitely made to a price point.
Well speaking as a Englishman, I can say with a high degree of confidence that there are orders of magnitude more decent tools manufactured in the USA in the last century than China. There are exceptions to the well made USA tools but not many.

I still value the title 'Made in the USA'

B.
 

Steamchick

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Hi John,
Simply, "you pay the money and take Your choice....". We all have different needs, budgets and skills. One of my 4 previous lathes had a super motor and clutch, another was small but perfectly formed, except after 50 years use had worn feed screws, bed, etc. And no spares since 1968! (MYFORD). My Grandfather's 1920s lathe was a 3inch, and the 1/4 HP motor was too strong for it... and was pre-LH threads for feed screws, etc. An accurate but overpowered museum piece. But my Chinese lathe has been cheap and chearful, accurate, useable within its limitations, and done 10 years trouble - free work until a recent incident where the carbon dust from brushes caused flash-over in the motor and destroyed the V- Speed board. If I had known , and cleaned the motor every 5 years, I would have had no problem.
So buy the lathe off e&@y and bolt it securely to a very stiff frame (to stop the bed from twisting!) And you should have value for money.
Win a lottery and buy 5 grand of lathe for anything better!
Just make sure the gibs are set well, it is regularly lubricated and cleaned, and you use the best (sharp) tools for the job. Correct cutting angles and tool setting make a huge difference.
Enjoy!
K2
 

awake

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Well speaking as a Englishman, I can say with a high degree of confidence that there are orders of magnitude more decent tools manufactured in the USA in the last century than China. There are exceptions to the well made USA tools but not many.

I still value the title 'Made in the USA'

B.
Hmm, I may not have been very clear - I was speaking less about American vs. Chinese, and more about the need to recognize that there are many countries of origin that are at least as good and in some cases better. I was born in the USA, and I too value "Made in the USA." But I grew up most of my early life outside of the USA. Having returned to the USA and lived here for the last 45 years, I am still a bit sensitive to the "USA is better than everyone else" attitude that I encounter from time to time from my fellow Americans. Not saying that was what was intended by anyone! Just a bit of a "trigger" for me. :)
 

Bazzer

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Hmm, I may not have been very clear - I was speaking less about American vs. Chinese, and more about the need to recognize that there are many countries of origin that are at least as good and in some cases better. I was born in the USA, and I too value "Made in the USA." But I grew up most of my early life outside of the USA. Having returned to the USA and lived here for the last 45 years, I am still a bit sensitive to the "USA is better than everyone else" attitude that I encounter from time to time from my fellow Americans. Not saying that was what was intended by anyone! Just a bit of a "trigger" for me. :)
OK, understand what you are saying, blind obedience is not good. For sure I know those Americans you talk about.

I don't have stacks of 'Made in the USA' but currently using Sunnen hones, what a range they have. Most of my gear is Austrian, Swiss or German, I defy anyone to find something dodgy that is Made in Switzerland.

B.
 

Bazzer

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I flew RC models in North Carolina back in 1989, at that old Navel airship base, I understand one of the hangers burnt down?

I was practising for the World Championships held up in Chesapeke Bay.

B.
 

awake

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OK, understand what you are saying, blind obedience is not good. For sure I know those Americans you talk about.
I'm not saying that some of my compatriots are a wee bit provincial ... I'm not saying it, but note that I'm not denying it either!

I flew RC models in North Carolina back in 1989, at that old Navel airship base, I understand one of the hangers burnt down?

I was practising for the World Championships held up in Chesapeke Bay.
That rings a bell, but I don't recall exactly where in the state. Maybe along the Outer Banks?
 

Richard Hed

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Hmm, I may not have been very clear - I was speaking less about American vs. Chinese, and more about the need to recognize that there are many countries of origin that are at least as good and in some cases better. I was born in the USA, and I too value "Made in the USA." But I grew up most of my early life outside of the USA. Having returned to the USA and lived here for the last 45 years, I am still a bit sensitive to the "USA is better than everyone else" attitude that I encounter from time to time from my fellow Americans. Not saying that was what was intended by anyone! Just a bit of a "trigger" for me. :)
Mark Twain said it best, but don't remembers the exact quote. It's something like this: the best education for an ignorant man is to travel in the rest of the world. And it's true. There are people and cultures out there that are nearly unbelievable and so different from our own. They have a perfect right to their ideas and ways no matter how backward they may seem to us.
 

SmithDoor

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I have purchased new lathe made in the UK and Japan.
It was great lathes too.

Dave

Speaking as an American, I would respectfully say "it depends." Japanese, German, Swiss ... there are many sources of top-quality machine tools. As I understand it, the list includes China - if you pay for it. Meanwhile, the US has produced some great tools ... and some not-so-great: the old 612 Atlas lathes come to mind - they were not exactly robust, definitely made to a price point.
 

goldstar31

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Hi I'm John and live in Manchester England I am retired now and have been longing to own a small lathe to do small projects I have in mind,I have been looking on ebay at a Crenex 8.7 x 23.6 I have picked this mainly for the DBC 1100 W motor and quite large bore through spindle and it's compact size to go on a bench top and it's pretty much at the top of my budget but I might be able to stretch that if any one here can offer a better option.I know these chinese lathes can have quality issues and would be most gratefull for any information the members here can offer.Thanks John
One of my very good friends who was 94 died this week
There is a very complete Myford ML7-RB- the one like the Supper7B and a Pultra 10 instrument lathe, a Sient -the shorter one- and a vast collection of tooling.
Do you wish me to keep you posted in the. even of a future sale?
There's even a part built Simplex5 as I taught him boiler making years ago and clocks and watches.
 
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Steamchick

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Hi Goldstar, did you say one of your younger friends? Sounds like he had a good innings. I'll watch out for news of the Simplex, as there are a few Simplex fans in the City of Sunderland M.E. Soc. Always interested in helping preserve what was someone's careful endeavours. I have a Super Simplex (longer) boiler, but needs repair. I have not decided if I'll build a loco - depends on whether a boiler repair is practical.
Look after yourself,
K2
 

goldstar31

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Hi Goldstar, did you say one of your younger friends? Sounds like he had a good innings. I'll watch out for news of the Simplex, as there are a few Simplex fans in the City of Sunderland M.E. Soc. Always interested in helping preserve what was someone's careful endeavours. I have a Super Simplex (longer) boiler, but needs repair. I have not decided if I'll build a loco - depends on whether a boiler repair is practical.
Look after yourself,
K2
Thanks Ken. George was 94 whilst I am a mere strippling at 91.;)
I've no idea what the boiler was like. I was teaching himand he had a angina attack and and I fed hilm on nitro glycerine befor driving him into hospital . That was a long to,e ago .

We'll have to see what the response re a workshop sale or otherwise but I'm prepared to outbide the tyre kickers - and split the xontents up for sale after keeping what I would enjoy

Regards


Norman
 

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