Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

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Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by DarinReiss1 » Fri Aug 01, 2003 4:16 pm

I now need a lathe. 12 or 13" x 40" is plenty big. I will use it for gunsmithing that I do in my free time. I want it accurate as I can afford to buy it. I have built several barrels on a friends Smithy 3 in 1 and it works OK. You just can't trust the dials. Measure everything with a caliper.

I am considering the lathes from Smithy, Grizzly, Jet and Enco. Is the quality on all of these the same? Same manufacturer in Taiwan/China and just different names and paint?

Any input is appreciated!

Thanks for a great website.



Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by Pazuzu » Fri Aug 01, 2003 6:17 pm

I've heard bad things about Smithy and Enco, quality-wise.
Grizzly has a good reputation for customer support, but I don't know how their machinery quality is. They might be worth a try.
Jet has been around for a long time. I own an older (1980's) JET 1236P, 12"X36" lathe. The lathe is solid, and very easy to use.....but parts are a nightmare to find. Jet farms out their work to several different Tiawanese factories, so you have to provide every bit of info (including the serial #), when ordering replacement parts.
Also, the spindle thread is an oddball size. It's a 2.350 - 8 T.P.I. All of my chuck backplates had to be custom-made by 'yours truly'.
My opinion: Investigate Grizzly.

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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by DarinReiss1 » Fri Aug 01, 2003 6:27 pm


That is exactly the kind of information I need to know!

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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by SandyH » Fri Aug 01, 2003 8:04 pm

Disclaimer: I am just a hobbyist and have no idea of the specific requirements of gunsmithing. My recommendations go for simply run of the mill general machining.

I have a Grizzly Mill Drill (1006, I think. . . ) and it seems on par, but not spectacular. The lead screws are not imperial, so you get the .003" error per inch. The motor is fine. Quality is very reasonable and for the price, I have no argument.

If you're looking for a lathe of that size, compromise should not be accepted, in my opinion, as it isn't pocket money. Also, consider the ramifications of single vs. 3-phase power. If it's single, it draws a lot of current and this should be accounted for in your electrical box. If its three phase, I wouldn't recommend skimping on a static phase converter, as you get 60-ish% power and it generally isn't as good on the motor and builds extra heat. Also note that many static converters are rated for more constant run, instead of start stop run. Do some research if you go three phase.

My opinion, is that Grizzly might have an excellent machine for you. They do have good documentation and customer support. Use that support pre-sale for best knowledge before purchase. A used lathe is also not a bad way to go. With the economy where it is now, you might be able to pick up a used good condition lathe with imperial screws, big motor and many accessories. Keep in mind that accessories often cost more in total than the machine you use them with!!

Hope this helps out.

Good luck with your decision.



Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by Preston » Fri Aug 01, 2003 9:28 pm

I have had experience with the JET tool company and find there imported products to be a cut above the rest as far as finish and tolorance. You can't beat there service and parts either. If you looking for an Imported product Jet is the way.

Have had there tools warrenty with just a phone call. Parts sent at no charge even a small collett for a die grinder. Service was Great.

Preston the Cornwell tool man.

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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by Jacin » Fri Aug 01, 2003 10:35 pm

I've not seen the Grizzly or Smithy - Can't even remeber the Enco , but I did see one - anyways We do have a Jet lathe at work and if these are the top of the heap as has been suggested I think I'd ahve little doubt in pursuing a USED domestic (read INDUSTRIAL) machine. Surely not as convenient as ording one up off the catalog BUT you'd probably be MUCH happier in the long run. For instance I bought a broken down Clausing for $100 - went through it - made a couple parts - in the end I'll put that old machine against a new Jet anyday - more importantly - do I sound jaded??? Well OK I admit it I am- BUT I also don't like tossign money away either - as tiem goes on my OLD IRON will ALWAYS be worth more than I paid for it - the Jet (or any other in that stable) is comparabel to buyign a new car - depreciates the second you get it.
Now could a JET (or other hong kong fuey brand) be perfectly acceptable - sure it might be perfectly fine BUT befor eyou buy it go to yoru nearest used tool dealer - LOOK at the stuff he has - crank some handles - run some tailstocks in and out - I'll bet in absolutely NO time you will start to appreciate the difference. I personally have a Variable speed Clausing and Rockwell - and they are decent machines to say the least - but they can't hold a condle to some of the other machines out there. Point being it's ALL perspective - For me I find it so annoying to crank the carriage handle only to constantly bang my knuckle on other parts that I'd NEVER HAVE ONE!!!!! even if it were free. BUT then again there's LOTS of guys who LOVE them - different strokes for different folks - or maybe it's all rooted in my gorilla hands - I dunno.

Good luck and work safe what ever way you decide!!!!

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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by Dave_T » Sat Aug 02, 2003 9:46 am

One thing that I would find annoying, is on some of the "cheaper" lathes is that the cross slide collar is graduated in .002" increments. That means you are guessing alot or you are setting up the compound for fine infeeds. Which is then a pain for cutting to a shoulder. I guess if you can swing a digital it wouldn't bother.

Mike C.

My $.02

Post by Mike C. » Sat Aug 02, 2003 10:10 am

I have a Jet 9x20 lathe, and we have a Grizzly mill at the shop. If you get one, go over it and tighten every screw you can reach. Both these machines have been found with loose fasteners all over. These are both decent machines, but I have to agree with Jacin. You will be MUCH better off, especially in fine work like gunsmithing, if you go and buy a quality used American-made industrial machine.

I have an online friend in PA who was looking at getting a 12" import. It was going to run him about $3500-4000 with all the shipping and such. I found for him, and he later bought, a like new, hardly used late model variable-speed South Bend 13" toolroom lathe with taper attachement, steady rest, follow rest, collet holder and closer, full set of 5C collets, precision three-jaw and four-jaw chuck, coolant system, a handful of dogs, centers, quick-change toolpost and holders, and even a real live American Jacob's chuck and arbor for the tailstock. He paid less than $3000 for the machine and got a HELL of a lot more machine out of the deal.

Get online and look around. We found the machine I previously mentioned on Ebay. For gunsmithing I'd suggest the toolroom lathes as they usually have a larger spindle bore, which will make it easier to get the big end of a barrel in the spindle.

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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by DIX » Mon Aug 04, 2003 11:39 pm

I've been running an ENCO 12x36 since 1997 and it performs well enough to allow me to make precision optical hardware. Aside from checking everything and tightening all the lose parts plus a good break in period I think I made a good buy. It is a bit more plain looking than a Hardinge or Clausen but it also costs 1/10 the price.
Be aware that lift gate delivery can cost more than the freight charge to your driveway. Lift gate is where they lower it from the truck. Those last 3 to 4 feet are expensive indeed.

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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by evines » Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:27 pm

I bought a Grizzly 4016 about a year ago. I have had a few minor problems with it, which were quickly corrected by Grizzly. The only big problem was the fit of the Chucks. I had to return them twice before I got one to fit the machine correctly.

The lathe is very accurate and I just used it to chamber a barrel with great results. I also bought a G4027 mill from Grizzly. It was perfect from the getgo.

Good luck and have fun.


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Re: Which brand of Lathe to buy-Smithy, Grizzly, Jet??

Post by Sam_E » Wed Aug 06, 2003 11:33 am

take a look at a Birmingham. It will be the same as all the others, Enco, Griz, Jet, etc., some companys will have differances in there talerance standards.

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