Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

All discussion about lathes including but not limited to: South Bend, Hardinge, Logan, Monarch, Clausing and other HSM lathes, including imports

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Mr Ron
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by Mr Ron » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:55 pm

It depends on what kind of work you want to do. A hobbyist that builds small models would find the mini lathe well suited. For serious work on larger projects, like building a live steam locomotive, a larger 12" lathe with a quick change gear box is really needed. It might be noted that the famous Japanese modeler, Kozo Hiroka builds outstanding steam locomotives in 3/4" scale and he does it on a small lathe and small mill. Personally, I would go with the 12" lathe. A quick change gear box is mandatory IMO, as changing gears manually gets old very quickly. The tendency to make a cut with the wrong feed gear, can mess up a project when you don't want to take the time to change gears. A good used lathe, preferably American made would be best, but you have to be able to ascertain the condition of the lathe. Taking an expert along would be a prudent move.

There is a lot of good information on this forum from guys who like to help others. You will find this a wonderful hobby as long as you keep an open mind with the idea of learning. Many questions you may have, have been asked and answered, so it is good to read past posts. This is not a hurry up hobby. It can be and is a relaxing hobby you will enjoy for many years, and no better place to visit than here at the Home Machinist.
Mr.Ron from South Mississippi

FRED DADDI
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by FRED DADDI » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:07 pm

I ve owned four lathes. A 40s vintage 9” South bend. A 12x36 Clasuing a 12 “ Atlas and at work a Bolton tool combo lathe mill. By far the Clausing was the best. Get a used one if you can. For the money next is the Atlas. I got this for $800. The South bend is accurate and light. The Bolton is not worth it. All in my opinion. For less than $1000 i would recommend an Atlas. You wont beAt the quality with something new and there are parts and accessories. Good luck.


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spro
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by spro » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:47 pm

The thing is; there are many unknowns about the 3595. You need to see the feedback or reviews. I looked at the link and it doesn't say anything about the spindle bearings, taper of the tailstock, if the bed is hardened and what is inside the head. New should mean it is ready to go and adjusted correctly because that has a narrow saddle. Let us understand that 1950's South Bends and Logans are still running strong after 60-70 years. They had relatively wide saddles and broad aprons. They had/ have the thread dials and QCGB and no 2mm equivalent to imperial dials.
Everybody (who is interested about these things) knows about them and parts are still available.

Glenn Brooks
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by Glenn Brooks » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:31 pm

Iam with the bigger is better crowd. For all around hobby use, certainly for live steam locomotive building, a 12” lathe is extremely versatile, rigid and powerful enuf. Now days 14” lathes are also very very common. They are lighter weight than the old big iron lathes, but can often be found second hand in better condition - partially due to widespread use of flame hardened ways. Regardless the key to buying a used lathe is find one that still consistently makes high precision parts. Generally this means a machine that has not been used in a production shop.

One thing your didn’t mention is what do you want to make with your lathe and mill? Actually, the size of the parts is the most important thing. The swing of the lathe should be larger by a 1/4 to one third the diameter of the parts you will likely be making. Hence, the reason 1.5” scale live steamers typically recommend 12” x 36” size lathes. Now, this is my own rule of thumb. But you will find a lot of people running 6-8” chucks on a 12- 14” lathe. As a hobbyist it is extremely rare that you will use the max swing of a lathe. But the extra size gives you needed rigidity and horsepower for doing the day in and day out work you will be doing.

Again, Mill or lathe, first choice? Buy the best condition machine you can find, then start hunting for the other one. Really, you gotta have both to make anything but jewelry or practice parts. And a good drill press, and a a lot of tooling, and a good grinder, etc etc... Your already hooked anyway, so you might as well just go in over your head and start swimming. You’ll own two or three of everything anyway, by the time it’s over, just go enjoy!

Glenn
Moderator - Grand Scale Forum

Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

Harold_V
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by Harold_V » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:21 pm

One thing that is important, and has not been addressed, is what you hope to machine. That, above all else, should dictate the machine you purchase, as it borders on the impossible to machine parts that are larger than the capacity of the machine you choose. Likewise, if your choice is too large, you'll struggle endlessly when machining small work. Evaluate your intended use, and let that help you make your purchase choice.

Starting with a lathe is a good idea, as it will teach you the basics of tool geometry (assuming you don't fall in the trap of using insert carbide tooling), as well as the principles of machining. A lathe offers one feature that a mill does not, and that is that you work in two dimensions, not three, which complicates the learning curve. On a lathe the Y & Z function are almost always one and the same thing, so you simplify your thinking while you gain some skill.

New isn't always the best choice, although I personally prefer a new machine over a used machine. However, how the machine was built plays a huge role in determining if new would be better. Modern machines are built with economy in mind (rarely built for use in industry), and may not be up to heavy usage. An under powered machine with a narrow carriage isn't likely to serve your needs as you progress.

Threading dial. Don't get a machine without one. Not unless you don't mind being inconvenienced beyond reason. And don't buy a lathe without a quick change feed/thread gear box. They are dreadfully inconvenient, although they do work. Do keep in mind, if you thread without a thread dial, you can't interrupt the feed chain (like by reversing the feed). If you attempt to thread without a dial, having a lathe with a reverse spindle is mandatory, or you must manually wind the carriage back by hand turning the spindle. You'll get real tired of that on your first thread.

Doesn't matter what size machine you purchase, you'll come to understand that there will always be work beyond the capacity of the one you choose.

H
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

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SteveM
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveM » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:36 pm

FRED DADDI wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:07 pm
I ve owned four lathes. A 40s vintage 9” South bend. A 12x36 Clasuing a 12 “ Atlas and at work a Bolton tool combo lathe mill. By far the Clausing was the best. Get a used one if you can. For the money next is the Atlas. I got this for $800. The South bend is accurate and light. The Bolton is not worth it. All in my opinion. For less than $1000 i would recommend an Atlas. You wont beAt the quality with something new and there are parts and accessories. Good luck.
I would pick a 9" South Bend over an Atlas any day of the week. I own an atlas and it can't take substantial cuts, so you end up doing lots of passes where only a few would have been needed on a stouter lathe. I would have already replaced it with a South Bend 9A, but I'm holding out for a Heavy 10.

The one advantage that my Atlas has over the South Bend models is that it has tapered roller bearings and a max spindle speed of about 2,000 rpm. Note that not all Atlas models have roller bearings.
Harold_V wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:21 pm
...it borders on the impossible to machine parts that are larger than the capacity of the machine you choose. Likewise, if your choice is too large, you'll struggle endlessly when machining small work.
One of the advantages of the Clausing was the spindle speed. When dad bought the Clausing, he kept the South Bend 9A figuring he's use it for smaller parts. The Clausing's spindle speed and collet capability meant that he could do just about anything on it and the South Bend never really got used again.

If you look at used lathes, keep in mind "what does it come with". The list of things you need as well as want is pretty long, and many used machines can be had fully loaded. The new machine you are looking at comes with pretty much nothing. If you add a set of collets, a 4-jaw chuck, an aloris-type toolpost with a pile of toolholders(note that the toolpost in the picture does NOT come with it according to the description), a live center, a drill chuck, a steady rest, you're going to be way over $3,000.

Steve

Steve

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:59 pm

If you're buying small and/or used because it's what fits your budget, fine, but if you can easily afford bigger and newer, it's the way to go.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

Harold_V
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by Harold_V » Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:55 pm

SteveHGraham wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:59 pm
if you can easily afford bigger and newer, it's the way to go.
Yes, within reason. Several of us have already commented on buying too large. If one plans to do a lot of small work (less than an inch, often smaller than ¼"), I'd certainly advise against a 16" machine.

H
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

curtis cutter
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by curtis cutter » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:25 pm

I have an old 12x36 Enco. It cost me $400 to have a machine to learn on. It most likely will not be the last machine I buy and I have learned a tremendous amount by using it. It makes what I need for around the shop and farm and basically nothing I make leaves my 75 acres.

As mentioned above, taking the time to learn to grind your own tooling is invaluable. There is SO MUCH to learn in that process alone. I have some insert tooling like thread cutters, but for relaxation I grind my own tooling. I know, maybe I need a life but when it is raining out....

I also figure a cheap machine is the one I want to learn the reason to not run the carriage into the chuck...

My two cents worth. Enjoy whatever you get!
Gregg
Just let go of it, it will eventually unplug itself.

spro
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by spro » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:00 am

Curtis man, Somehow this relates to the 3595. I bought a new Enco 12 x 36 back when I needed to turn metric threads as well as Imperial. It was the cat's meow for 2-3 years. You must know that it cost 5 times what you payed- for near the same experience. There was good and the bad along the way but did we learn!? Right. How does it come that over 700 lbs is equal to 210 lbs with less ability. Heck. We knew what we were dealing with and wanted NEW baby New! I can barely see a pic of my 12 x 36 on the net now. It is so over.

spro
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by spro » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:29 am

Hey. We knew specifics. Knew it had large heavy spindle bearings and helical gears. Knew the beds were hardened. Knew that there were three rods. One of course, the 1" x 8 tpi lead screw, the next one to drive the table or cross slide by ratios set in the QCGB, the third a connection to traveling apron of carriage.. so at moments, the motor would shut down or reverse by apron lever.

spro
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Re: Newbie - Buying first metal lathe

Post by spro » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:38 am

There is value to it and quite sturdy dependable lathe. It is kissing a pig but not quite throwing her out yet. Somebody else will do that when my brick walls and terra cotta are smashed to pieces.

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