Lathe for turning wheels

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rkcarguy
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Lathe for turning wheels

Post by rkcarguy » Sat Oct 19, 2019 2:12 pm

I'm starting to fish around for a smaller lathe to use at home and call my own. It's easy enough to get blocks of time to use the big lathe at work, but when I need to start cutting the wheel and flange tapers it really falls short as the big lathe has no accurate dial on the carriage travel nor do we have any mag base indicators or anything. I also have to tear down my setup when I'm done for the evening should the shop need it the next day.
I have been looking around for about a month now, and the used market has been quite a **** show. People asking WAY TOO MUCH for old 6x18 Atlas lathes with sloppy screws, chucks that don't grip stock and run anywhere close to true, rusty and abused ways, broken gears, no tooling included, and so on. Most also severely lack in the through spindle hole size, and wouldn't pass my 1" round I use for axles although it's not a total deal breaker.
Grizzly Tools happens to be not so far away from where I live, so I've been eyeing their bench top lathes. Their 9x19, 10x22, and 11x26 come with both chucks, tool post, tool kit, dead and live centers, steady-rest, pretty much everything needed to get started in the $1400-$2000 range. Owning one of their large "shop fox" drill presses, I know they aren't perfect, but some preparation and disassembly/re-assembly, with a liberal application of Loctite upon taking it out of the box has resulted in it being a good machine. I also realize there will be no .200" depths of cut like the 15HP beast at work either, and I will likely have to whittle away at parts ~.025" at a time or so with a 3/4HP-1HP machine?
One of the caveats is it's hard to tell the true capacity of a lathe when it comes to turning wheels. I've had projects when I was in technical college where the lathe had plenty of swing but I couldn't get the tool post back far enough to turn a taper at the diameter I wanted. This was also in the days before the quick change tool posts and indexible carbide tooling became mainstream, so I know that now one can insert a tool in the back side of the tool post (for turning the wheel taper on a large wheel for example) and get a bit more reach out of a smaller lathe.
I'd love some feedback and comparison from those that are turning your own wheels, what lathe you use and what you do you think?
I'm modeling in 2" scale, so I will have needs to turn up to 9" wheels (for a future steamer build) and 19" long axles.

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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Greg_Lewis » Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:17 pm

With your experience, I don't think you'll be satisfied with a light-duty bench lathe. One question to answer is how many wheels will you turn and how often? When I bought my lathe a local dealer said that most lathe work is less than 3 inches in diameter and less than 6 inches from the chuck. So far he's been right. In fact, for my modified Allen 10-wheeler I think I could have done much of the lathe work on a Unimat, albeit not always with ease or speed, but the point remains.

So if you're only going to turn a few wheels every couple of years, a light-duty lathe might be fine. Suffering the pain of those .025 cuts would be a trade-off over getting a bigger, heavier, and more expensive machine. OTOH, if you're going to be turning up wheels regularly, then, as you know, get the biggest, heaviest machine that will fit into your shop (well, within reason....). You already know the limits of those small lathes.

I have an Atlas 12 and I've turned car wheels and loco drivers on it but it's time consuming and not fun. I often wish for something with a decent spindle bore; something that would take a full range of collets and a motor with respectable HP. I strongly recommend you consider this. I see a Grizzly 13 on their website that looks interesting but it's over twice the money you mentioned above. I wouldn't get anything less than a 12 x 36. Finally, be sure that the lead screws and feed dials are in inches. I've heard about one import lathe where the dials were in inches but the screws were metric, which meant that one turn of the wheel didn't equal an even distance in imperial units.
Greg Lewis, Prop.
Eyeball Engineering — Home of non-interchangeable parts.
Our motto: "That looks about right."
Celebrating 30 years of turning perfectly good metal into bits of useless scrap.

LIALLEGHENY
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by LIALLEGHENY » Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:39 am

I agree with Greg, don't buy a light duty lathe. Your accustomed to using the lathe at work, you'll get easily frustrated using a 9 or 10" lathe or smaller. I have a 11" x 36 Logan that I started out on that was my fathers. It had a 3/4 hp motor and is a flat belt style headstock. I couldn't take a decent cut with it even in aluminum and turning a 6" diameter part took forever. I bumped the motor up to 3hp and acquired a good belt for it. It was a night and day difference. I was now able to turn the drivers for my 1-1/2 scale Mikado and take a decent cut.
My recommendation would be at least a 12"-14" swing x 30" or 36" , at least 2 hp, capable of 5c collets which gives you ability to hold 1" bar. With a good tool post , and your fabrication/machining skills you could modify a couple of tool holders that would allow you turn anything up to it's max swing. Personally I would keep looking for a used Clausing, Logan or Monarch and stay away from the Import stuff, which I am not a fan of.

Nyle

Patio
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Patio » Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:28 am

For a little more this can be had.
https://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/tls/ ... 99126.html

Neanderman has one of these, and maybe he will chime in.
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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Greg_Lewis » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:07 am

I'd go take a look at that LeBlond that Patio linked to above. You could probably talk him down a bit.

Another thought about used: A friend of mine who was a machinist for John Deere said to watch out for used machines that were used for production. Those used for maintenance will be less abused.
Greg Lewis, Prop.
Eyeball Engineering — Home of non-interchangeable parts.
Our motto: "That looks about right."
Celebrating 30 years of turning perfectly good metal into bits of useless scrap.

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Bill Shields
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Bill Shields » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:43 am

Too many things going on to bother listing them.

Glenn Brooks
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Glenn Brooks » Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:08 pm

Ryan,

+1 for a 12” x48” lathe, or better. There seems to be a fair selection of used stuff on Craig’s list these days. Prices are a bit higher than they used to be, but you never know what somebody will take until you talk to them. Just be carful, old lathes are nearly always worn out. Not always, but nearly always....

Another possibility is to look in Canada and have them ship it to you- or Vancouver. Then go pick it up. There is a used equipment dealer in Toronto that sells a lot of Standard- Modern lathes. They used to be Canadian made lathes and are top quality, heavily built machines. Still a lot of them around up north, left over from school machining programs. If I can remember the dealer name, I’ll send it to you.

Followup: I think this is the dealer, in Mississauga,

http://www.hhrobertsmachinery.com/used- ... tml#SM1334

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

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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Greg_Lewis » Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:23 pm

Bill has a good idea. Government-owned lathes will have been bought new and more than likely be low mileage. Check your local university surplus or call their property management department.
Greg Lewis, Prop.
Eyeball Engineering — Home of non-interchangeable parts.
Our motto: "That looks about right."
Celebrating 30 years of turning perfectly good metal into bits of useless scrap.

rkcarguy
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by rkcarguy » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:01 am

I kind of came to the same conclusion before I checked back in here, that I need to find a larger machine even if the chuck is messed up and get a 5C setup for it. That would be the most useful for turning wheels, axles and spacers. Either that, or I was kicking around just getting a big used lathe compound and bolting it to chunk of I-beam with a series of holes, build this big beefy spindle and drive it with my 8HP Honda, like a big hillbilly dedicated wheel-set turning lathe. Toss the wheel-sets up into a drive plate with adapter bushings for various axle sizes, a drive dog slot and a fabricated support with a pillow block on the other end, spin and move the compound around as I turn tires and flanges, swap the wheel-sets end for end and away I go. I can get shorter chunks of heavy I-beam for free, hole pattern can be done on works beam line, and I can CAD and laser cut the plates for the head and "tailstock" support.
Back to buying a lathe though, limitations are no 3-phase unfortunately. I've got 50 amps of 220V to play with and I don't think I'd make it with an inverter? (isn't it 3x the 3-phase power in single phase draw, plus efficiency losses?) I also have limited space in the current place and eventually will be setting the "dirty-welding and chip flinging" portions of my shop in a 20' container, so I can't go too big. I'd seen that Leblonde on CL and have ran one of those before, I thought it was a good machine. I think the only concern with that one aside from 3-phase is it seems it was crashed(mentions the new cross feed screw and split nut repair) and that concerns me. Our big lathe was crashed by a guy that engaged the cross feed instead of the carriage feed, and it's never been the same even though we went completely through the chuck, screws, gearbox, etc. It's got vibrations like it didn't have before through the screws and so on.
I do have a 1-ton Super-Duty and a 3-ton flatbed trailer that tilts so as long as a seller can load it I can haul it.

Harold_V
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by Harold_V » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:17 am

The three phase requirement is easily met with a rotary phase converter, which is nothing more than a three phase motor started with a pony motor, or capacitors. With this setup, you'll get full power from the lathe motor. Static "phase converters" are not the solution, as they are nothing more than a starting capacitor that allows the three phase motor to start, then it single phases (runs on single phase, so you lose about 1/3 of the power).

A rotary phase converter generates the third leg, which may or may not be erratic, but so long as it's not used for a control circuit, or for a CNC, that isn't typically a problem.

If you can manage the LeBlond, or something similar, go for it. Having the type of equipment you are pursuing would be most difficult without one, and you may not always have access to the equipment on the job. Things like that have a way of going away. Frankly, I don't know what I'd do without my machines. They are never used for gain, but I use them regularly for projects.

H
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jcbrock
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by jcbrock » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:20 am

50 amps of 220v will run a 7.5 hp motor. I used a rotary phase converter as Harold suggests for many years and it was fine, but I've switched to VFDs on my machines to get my 3-phase because I like being able to set the ramp-up and shutdown times.
John Brock

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LVRR2095
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Re: Lathe for turning wheels

Post by LVRR2095 » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:41 am

Variable Frequency Drives are another way to get a 3 phase power supply. They are inexpensive and take up a LOT les space than a rotary converter.

Keith

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