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Height of your lathe

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fizzy27/03/2015 20:31:24
1836 forum posts
120 photos

Ive just upgraded from an ML7 to a Harrison L5. Its a great lathe but I have to stoop to use it, and with my back that's a painful thing. Im 5'10 so not tall. I know people long ago were smaller than us but surely not so in the 1950's? I don't think jacking it up is a good idea, or even possible, and I don't want to dig a trench in my workshop floor! Any suggestions please?

JasonB27/03/2015 20:38:36
22017 forum posts
2540 photos
1 articles

Stop wearing the stilletoscheeky I have my lathe on a couple of layers of 22mm ply but 50mm paving slabs would do on a concrete floor


PS did you see my request for photos of the roller?

Edited By JasonB on 27/03/2015 20:41:35

mick H27/03/2015 20:48:46
763 forum posts
28 photos

I am also challenged in the lumbar region and simply raised the lathe to a comfortable working height and have never looked back. I suppose the centre line of the mandrel must be about 4 feet above the ground. At first I was concerned that flying chips would be a bit nearer the eyes but on the rare occasions this has proved to be a problem I wear a full face visor. Sometimes I need to stand on a box for setting up work.


Bob Brown 127/03/2015 20:50:51
1021 forum posts
127 photos

I raised my Boxford AUD on a couple of blocks to get it to a more workable height, I would have thought the same could be done with your Harrison.

I also raised the height of my Marlow milling machine such that the handles are for the most part are in a more ergonomic position.

5" for the lathe and 6" for the milling machine, works for me.


Edited By Bob Brown 1 on 27/03/2015 21:03:23

norman valentine27/03/2015 21:18:13
280 forum posts
40 photos

I use a Loughborough lathe which is particularly low on its integral stand. I have it standing on six inch high concrete blocks. It does rock around a bit so I must make a more rigid setup but it is much more comfortable to use than at the designed height.

Manofkent27/03/2015 21:27:33
141 forum posts
29 photos

Fizzy. My L5 has exactly the same issues. At the moment I have raised it about 3" using big steel billets, but that is not high enough yet. As I expect you will know it is a scary big beast to manouvere, weighing about 750 kilos!. But I reckon changing chucks will be more tricky when higher as they weigh a ton ( or just under). Nevertheless it is the best lathe I have ever owned - even with an aching back.

Jon27/03/2015 21:37:25
1000 forum posts
49 photos

Is this on makers stand?

Found my old scraped 140 ok which would be the same as the 11" and earlier still L5 and L5A. Need to be able to look over top of job without clothing catching, plus more room to debris to travel. I would certainly feel uncomfortable with chuck near on shoulder or head height.

140 weighs 580kg plenty of aluminium parts spindle the bigger L00 fit try an 11" chuck easy, L5 less with no Norton gearbox.

Oompa Lumpa27/03/2015 21:50:10
888 forum posts
36 photos

When I installed my new lathe I took the option of no stand and built my own from 30mm 3mm wall tubing. This gave me the opportunity to install the lathe at a height I felt was more suitable for my working position. Those who know, know I have serious back issues and now when I leave the workshop I am not stooped over, walking up the path like Quasimodo!

I think I might make a bit of duckboard just to get my feet up off the concrete but the one inch increase in height won't make much difference. Best thing I did. So what is the right height? The one you feel most comfortable with. One member on here gave the absolute best description of working height I ever read - make it the height that you would raise your watch to to wind it. And that is exactly what I did.


Bob Rodgerson27/03/2015 21:59:30
609 forum posts
174 photos

I made a couple of trolleys to mount my lathe (Warco BH600) and my manual mill Prior to this I used to get back ache when using the lathe for long periods but now it is about 6" higher an it is a pleasure to use. There is also the added bonus of having a lathe that can be moved about the workshop easily.


John Stevenson27/03/2015 22:22:54
5068 forum posts
3 photos

Try working a slotter then.

I bolted mine on two l0" Ṯ beams with stretchers in between but it was still too low.

Clive Hartland27/03/2015 23:20:26
2759 forum posts
40 photos

Get some space under it and when you drop something, it always rolls out of sight but is easier to retrieve.


DMB27/03/2015 23:47:02
1232 forum posts
1 photos
My Super7 is on a 2 bricks high pair of piers. The steel bar feet welded to the bottom of the stand by Myfords rest on the 2 brick piers with a strip of roofing felt between bricks and steel feet. This seems to stick to both. Nothing moves.
Mill is also vertically challenged so stands on some hefty blocks of timber.
I'm only 5'10".
Bill Pudney28/03/2015 01:07:36
591 forum posts
24 photos

Going back to my apprenticeship in the 60s, I can still remember the discussion at night school about lathe height. In particular there was an illustration of a typical lathe and the required attributes of an operator. The operator had arms soo long that his hands were somewhere around his (or her) knees.



floyd adams28/03/2015 07:32:48
1 forum posts

I raised my 1440 lathe 9" using square tubing. I was taught when I was much younger that the correct height for the lathe is for the cross feed wheel to be the same height as your elbow. This is the best ergonomic position.

Ian S C28/03/2015 07:38:58
7468 forum posts
230 photos

According to Lawrence H. Sparey in his book "The Amateur's Lathe". standing uprightagainst a wall with the arms extended downwards. Now bend the forearm upwards at the elbow and make a mark on the wall at the point where the bent elbow lies. It is at this height that the top surface of the topslide should be set.

Ian S C

pgk pgk28/03/2015 09:18:58
2431 forum posts
293 photos

Height and manoeuverability..

For those that don't want to sit?

Or dig a pit in front of the lathe.. when you're too low again then dig out the swarf..

I used to use these.. not cheap but very comfy for long procedures:

saddle stool

IanT28/03/2015 09:47:53
1946 forum posts
194 photos

And it seems to have a facility for "venting to atmosphere" too PGK - something which fortunately is not such a problem for me (when in the privacy of my Shed that is...not allowed in the house of course)


Jesse Hancock 128/03/2015 09:51:41
314 forum posts

Love the roller blades. Would ice skates be okay?

I'm not tall anyway but for those who find they are a bit too tall just give it a few years and you will find that it's not quite as far to the ground as it used to be. Or you can always wear leather slippers as the soles are thinner than on boots but don't forget to sew in toe caps.

Clive Foster28/03/2015 10:04:26
2990 forum posts
105 photos

Regrettably Ian's quote from the usually reliable Sparey is complete and utter nonsense. Especially with regards to the smaller variety of lathe which most of his readership will be concerned which will invariably end up back achingly low.

General industrial lathe practice seems to be that the forearm with 90° bent elbow should put the hand at approximately the same level as the cross slide feed screw. Shorter folk probably do better with the lathe a bit lower putting the hand around level with the cross slide handle at top dead centre or thereabouts. Taller folk probably want it a little higher with the had around level with or just below the cross slide handle at BDC. Its also important to set things so that the carriage traverse handle can be operated whilst standing fully upright. Small angles of stoop over long periods can become very uncomfortable. My Smart & Brown 1024 and Pratt & Whitney model B have both cross and top-slide handles at almost exactly the same height, centre lines 39" and 43" off the floor, which is just right for 5 ft 11 1/2 me. The P & W carriage hand-wheel is around 2" larger in diameter putting the handle about 2" lower, 29" off the floor at BDC compared to 31" for the S&B, and needs about 1" worth of stoop or slight knee bend for a full turn. Knee bend is fine but my back really complains after a couple of hours if I stoop.

For smaller lathes its arguable that the carriage traverse handle centre line should be put at bent elbow hand height lifting the spindle and making it easier to see whats going on without excessive stoop. I've used machines set so and found it comfortable despite having the hand a little more raised when operating cross and top slides which ought to be more tiring. Smaller lathes do have correspondingly less distance between the controls as compared to larger machines so the extra hand rise isn't in practice excessive. its arguable that the basic height setting should be spindle height ensuring comfortable observation of work in with minor modification if necessary for comfortable operation. My machines have a spindle centre line heights of 43 1/2" (P&W) and 44" (S&B) which again suits me just fine.


Edited By Clive Foster on 28/03/2015 10:06:40

Gordon W28/03/2015 10:58:43
2011 forum posts

I suspect a lot of people will have the same problem as me- short legs and long back. Lathe or vice at the "correct" hight for working, but head too far away to see properly.

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