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Colchester 2500-too big for first serious lathe?

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area3fitter09/03/2016 14:21:31
17 forum posts

Hi everyone,

I am seeking your experienced opinions on the Colchester 2500 lathe please, firstly regarding its quality which I think is pretty much bullet proof from what I have read and secondly its suitability for a first time or first serious lathe. I have used larger lathes previously but not for a long time now.

I will be using the lathe for projects and general use.

many thanks


Martin Connelly09/03/2016 14:29:11
2177 forum posts
226 photos

Surely it can only be too big if it can't do small items or will not fit available space. Lots of postings say you can do small things on a big lathe but not big things on a small lathe. I think a lot of people with small lathes would like something larger if they had the space and money to buy one. It does not take much for a lathe to be too small, many modelers have problems with larger flywheels not fitting into their lathe's working envelope.


Michael Gilligan09/03/2016 14:37:33
20289 forum posts
1064 photos

All I can say, Gareth, is that when my Father set-up the 'Nuclear Physics' workshop at Lancaster University [in 1966]; he had free rein on what machines were installed. ... He specified a Colchester 2500 'Master' and was very satisfied with it.


Edited By Michael Gilligan on 09/03/2016 14:47:27

John Hestenes09/03/2016 15:07:07
5 forum posts

After ten years of lathe and mill ownership I am still a beginner due to lack of time, but I have had to learn some of the limitations of a small machine by experience. I first bought a new Sieg C6 lathe with a milling head, which served me well. Most of my machining is hot rolled steel which is simple to get in small pieces from the scrap containers of mechanical workshops. I have been very satisfied with turning, with the exception of parting off, but it has been the milling attachment that has really taught me the benefits of rigidity. Milling would always require very light cuts and the noise and vibration were at times downright scary. Later I came across an ML7 with quite a lot of extras for a small sum and came to realize how important rigidity is for both turning and milling. I still have those two smaller lathes, but two years ago acquired a Colchester Triumph 2000 from an auction site and haven't looked back. Now I also have a Bridgeport 2hp variable speed mill and can not see any disadvantage in the larger sizes of machine. Parting off was not really successful at all before, now its a non-event, I can cut a 50 mm hot rolled bar with automatic feed with an Iscar insert and toolholder as easily and confidently as on the bandsaw.

I have found that the purcahsing cost for a larger ex industry machine can be quite reasonable, spares can however be ridiculously expensive. But for both BP and Colchester, there are alternative sources. 3 phase power is also an issue. But if you have the space required, I am tempted to say bigger is better

David Colwill09/03/2016 15:35:17
779 forum posts
40 photos

If you can find or have found one in good condition then go for it. Make sure that it has all the accessories that you will need eg chucks steadies etc as these are hugely expensive to buy later.

I think that it may be an idea to look out for an old smaller lathe as well though. Although you can do small work on a large lathe it can be a pain. A less well equipped small lathe perhaps bought as a restoration project would not break the bank and would be a good project to get you back in the swing of things. Chucks and other items for small lathes are not too expensive and having access to a large lathe would make it an easier project.

I say this only because putting the 4 jaw on my Dean Smith and Grace is quite a task compared to the Chinese mini lathe.



Kettrinboy09/03/2016 15:49:17
94 forum posts
49 photos

In my experience the Colchester 2500 Master is an excellent lathe , we had two at work and in the 15 yrs i was there they did 40-70 hrs a week year in year out and i dont remember anything going wrong bar the odd drive belt needing replacement and the clutch adjusting now and then , if i had a decent size workshop i,d have one of these or a Triumph 2000 in a heartbeat as theres virtually nothing you cant do on these lathes if they have all the accessories with them

regards Geoff.

Ajohnw09/03/2016 16:01:25
3631 forum posts
160 photos

The Triumph is a very well regarded toolroom lathe. The problem really with these and others especially Colchester is that it's very easy to spend a fair amount of money xK on a machine that is well and I really do mean well past it's best. In fact I would go as far as saying that it would be hard to find one that doesn't show signs of wear unless it's been reconditioned and the standards of work when that is done varies. I am comparing against scarcely used machines that really are as new. I've used several including a few that have been made regardless of cost. Curious as it might seem I don't see Colchester in that class. As some one mentioned their Dad mine spent millions on machines. His view of Colchester is that they sorted lathes out and forced others to make more consistent machines in terms of the results from them so bought lots. It would first choice unless unusual accuracy with a decent life was needed.

So really this is the first question. It's possible to buy Chinese lathes that toolroom etc do use these days and it will be brand new. It might not last as long but even that is questionable really as in some areas they all wear fairly quickly if used 8 hours a day / lots of heavy work.

One thing that bugs me academically speaking is how many have got up to carbide speeds - fit a dual speed motor. I really do wonder about that given the spindle sizes in them. Nothing miraculous has happened in the bearings area that they use as far as I am aware.

Another option is a smaller well made machine. I'm happy with my Boxford. It's very easy to buy lathes like this that are well worn as well. The "sad" thing about the Chinese lathes of this sort of size is that to get vaguely similar it has to be somewhat bigger and also a gear head. This seems to be the way lathes are graded these days if it isn't a gear head then it's a hobby machine. There will be exceptions so perhaps hardened, ground, quiet gears has to be added.

Really a lot depends on what you want to make and your expectations. Lathes in particular where there are several of them tend to get used for different jobs as they age because the precision drops off. Often as in toolrooms things get hardened and ground so finish and the rest doesn't matter within rather wide limits. When it does they are disposed of. Colleges are sometimes very stringent in that area and get rid of them a long time before a toolroom would. Schools to for a different reason but it's a good idea to check for abuse damage rather carefully.

Just add another point - a bad one really but it illustrates a principle. Being keen to own one I have  a Pultra. Tiny thing but it can turn at 10,000 rpm. Size does matter in this area.



Edited By Ajohnw on 09/03/2016 16:05:24

MW09/03/2016 16:12:40
2051 forum posts
51 photos

I am a big fan of this machine, it was essentially my tutor through formative years. I learnt on two of them, one a long bed version and the other a short bed. The long bed one was fantastic, the short bed one, through no fault of it's own, went through years of abuse and neglect.

I don't know what on earth they did to it (probably alot of hard parting off). But the bearings were shot to pieces. Those precision gamet bearings were no more. The housing must have warped because it put a constant taper on to things that was just truly unacceptable (0.5mm over 25-50mm length). So watch out for quality, just because it's got a good name, doesn't mean it's always in a good state.

Michael W

Chris Gunn09/03/2016 17:56:37
430 forum posts
27 photos

Gareth, it is a good lathe, I had 3 or 4 at one time, and a quality item, but it is a big lathe, so a lot will depend on what you want to do with it. Think also about the power supply you will need to run it, and things like changing the chucks, they are heavy!! If you plan to make small steam engines, go for something smaller, I am afraid I do not buy into the "you can do anything on a big lathe brigade, so get the biggest you can". There is nothing worse than constantly trying to make small stuff on a huge lathe, yes it can be done but a long long way from being ideal. Get a lathe that suits the size of work you will do 95% of the time, and borrow a big lathe from a club or a friend to do the big flywheel when it comes along once in a while.

Chris Gunn

Chris Evans 609/03/2016 18:03:27
2067 forum posts

I worked in a tool room where we had a new Triumph 2000 every 5 years. The lathe was worked very hard for 60/70 hours a week sometimes more. At the end of 5 years they where worn out. I also worked at a tool room with a 20 year old lightly used Mastif that was just superb. Check it over well and look at the horse power requirement if you intend to run off single phase inverter.

area3fitter09/03/2016 21:26:23
17 forum posts

Thanks guys, some great information in the replies for me to have a think about.

There is model of this type in the classifieds and I guess thats a good place to start!

thanks again



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