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Beginner Lathe, Chester Craftsman.

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Blake Nesbitt05/05/2017 22:28:18
9 forum posts


I'm looking into buying a Chester Craftsman lathe. There is however a small problem with the online manual Chester offer on the forums. It has next to no information about the actual lathe, and is more a general overview of lathes and the functions.

I have found Grizzly make a very similar lathe, the G9249. Can somebody who owns a craftsman just do a quick pass of their lathe with this manual and tell me if these sections are similar.

Back gear selection.
Spindle speeds.
Metric thread table.

Here is a link to the Grizzle manual.

Many thanks.

Bazyle05/05/2017 22:55:04
6042 forum posts
220 photos

Same as the Warco BH600 the G9249 is off the same Chinese production line just different paint. I expect the speeds are slightly different by a factor of 60/50 but the uk speed plate should take account of this. Metric threads should be the same except if there is a typo or silly mistake no American will ever have tried them to notice.

I wouldn't call it a beginner lathe. Lot of investment if you decide the hobby isn't for you and a lot of power to do harm if you make a mistake. The gearbox is more capable than the similar sized gearheads with more modern looking knobs so it is a good lathe in itself.

Blake Nesbitt06/05/2017 00:44:06
9 forum posts

I'm looking at that size for the simple reason I don't plan on buying another any time soon.

Also it's going in a tin shed, and I don't think the electronic controlled motor units will like been occasionally damp. A motor and V belts the very worst I'll get is a dead starter cap or relay. I can keep rust off anything with a good lick of paint and plenty of grease and oil. The shed is water tight, but all tin sheds sweat a little.

I've wanted my own unit since the age of 20 but never had a stable place to live and store one. Now I have that place I'm working on building up a small tool shop.

Tig welder is in and working well, Grinders, Bandsaw, Tables are been made by me to fit my space. Chester have said there is at least a 6 week wait on stock and I'm not in a rush to have the machine.

All lathes are dangerous, even one that can't do a deep cut at 4" will kill you pretty fast. I'm very much aware of the dangers, but I don't see a larger machine been any more dangerous than a smaller one. The only difference is I'll have more torque and be able to take deeper cuts than with a standard hobby machine. The gap in the bed will probably never get removed as I can't see me needing all that swing.

The advantages of that lathe are numerous when you look on the retailers websites.

It has a machine stand included, and a cheap DRO. When you look at the unit prices for those you are dealing with £400. It's also got a lower spindle speed that a good portion of it's class. The warco ones do have slower speeds but then it's with the inverter drives so I'm back on complicated electronics and damp.

I did have a really good look at a few on the warco site as well. The GH550 and WM250 would both suit me but the craftsman seems to beat both of them of features and robust design.

I'll still be looking at them in a few weeks so things might change.

not done it yet06/05/2017 04:31:35
6346 forum posts
20 photos

tin sheds sweat a little.

The shed doesn't actually 'sweat'. It is the water vapour in the air condensing on cold surfaces. Install a dehumidifier, make the shed fairly airtight and condensation problems can be solved. But choose you humidifier carefully - compressor types don't work well below 15 degrees Celsius.

Mark Simpson 106/05/2017 07:46:04
103 forum posts
30 photos

I bought a crusader deluxe, from their summer show last year (got 15% discount and free transport so worth a bit more wait).

The lathe is mechanically well finished and works well; a hell of a lot of kit for the money.... The DRO is excellent and the ways smooth and well finished. I checked various locations for sand and swarf and found nothing; so I guess basic quality control is pretty good...

A few annoying niggles: the accessories are clearly to a price... fixed steady was not centred to the lathe by 1/2", Micormeter bed stop was poorly bored (quick sleeve), burr on the head stock bush made me think the spindle alignment was poor( 1 min with whetstone fixed problem)
Paint job is not the best, certainly not to Myford or Colchester quality but it runs like a dream...

Get a firm delivery date from them and don't pay all your cash till you get delivery; Chesters communications are terrible. (In stock can mean in a container on the way from China apparently... ) Took two months to get it and a few phone calls; then it turned up one day on the back of a pallatex wagon unannounced...The driver had a pallet truck and we wheeled it in.
Why new Chinese not Old British? I've done both had a South Bend and a Colchester student... Both worked but spent more time fixing them than using them... Tired lathes with worn ways require endless coaxing to get a good finish and accurate work... I also needed a bigger lathe and there were no reasonable M300's in my price range (loads of clunkers)

Bazyle06/05/2017 08:35:22
6042 forum posts
220 photos

Some good points there, Blake. Electronics only last ten years even in dry conditions. Remembering that it is the same as the BH600 you will find some useful threads on here and elsewhere on the internet. Warco nearly re-introduced their version a few years ago but didn't get enough interest (except from me) at the Ally Pally show owing to the gearheads coming down to only a few hundred pounds more.

I think Fred above is a bit pessimistic about 15C as I run several dehumidifiers in chilly conditions. For more advice about rust here is an article on the St Albans club website that might help.

Blake Nesbitt06/05/2017 09:22:00
9 forum posts

One of the main reasons for going new over second hand is guards. If it's a new machine I know they haven't been tinkered with. So while I still need to make sure they work, I shouldn't have problems with rewires, incorrect switch types, or bodge jobs.

It's the bodge jobs I fear most. If they have wired switches to cut 240v mains feeds rather than replace low voltage cut outs. I do not fancy getting a shock, or worse getting cap/back emf through the metal.

The other huge reason is I don't know where to look for signs of significant wear. Ebay isn't an option as any major flaws will simply be sold no returns or the return postage would be on my own neck. Local services are an option but I have yet to see a machine on them that suits me.

I think one of the problems there is I'm looking at the higher end of hobby lathes almost breaking into light industrial. I don't want a lower swing than 12" because a lot of the jobs even on scale steam need bigger flywheels. I don't actually plan on scale steam work but that may change and I don't want to then have to upgrade or go service finding when I could have just got a bigger machine from the off.

I was originally looking at the combination machines. I soon realised how bad an idea that was. It's not that either part is bad, it's just you make loads of small compromises with one of those machines.

Same with the bolt on mills. So for the time been I think I would be safer saving any investment on a machine block and vertical slide, and making space for a small mill with rotary table and an oversize vice.

I'll look into a dehumidifier. And see what the operating costs are. I'll also have a good dig about and see if there are any passive solutions. ATM it's only the floor that suffers with damp areas. Anything held off the floor and walls is not a problem. I was actually thinking about a greenhouse frost heater just to keep the walls and internal air over ambient.

Chris Evans 606/05/2017 10:21:44
1960 forum posts

I have a dehumidifier but am not convinced on its use. I find that just running a simple desk top style fan to move the air about does all I need in the damper months.

Philip Powell06/05/2017 21:40:45
67 forum posts
15 photos

Blake. I have a Chester Craftsman that I purchased the back end of last year. Underneath the paintwork that must have been applied with a trowel lies quite a decent and reasonably priced back geared gap bed lathe. The machine is very similar to the Grizzly 9249 and I use the Grizzly manual as the Chester one is useless.

The machine has not had an awful lot of use yet and I'm still in the process of setting it up. The supplied and fitted DRO is of pretty good quality and so far seems to be quite accurate. The stand supplied is not the same as the one they show on the website and needs some work to make it useable.

Chester customer service leaves a lot to be desired, nice people but not always delivering what they promise although I'm told that they have a new customer service service person who will sort things out.

Make sure that you don't install the machine too close to the wall or you will never be able to change the speed on the motor pulley. You also need to remove one of the covers to get at the motor pulley. I've read that some people modify the motor mounting plate with a lifting arm to make the speed changing much easier. I intend to modify mine at a later date. My machine is installed with the tailstock to the wall so I have unhindered access to the back of the machine.


Howard Lewis06/05/2017 21:56:42
5328 forum posts
13 photos

My lathe is an Engineers ToolRoom BL12/24 which is a BH600 / Chester Craftsman in a different colour scheme. Came with a couple of alternative Input gears for the Norton box (32 and 36T - needed for some Metric thread pitches).

The 5MT Mandrel bore is a boon, (38mm bore) as is the supplied 5MT/3MT adaptor sleeve.

Had to make up my own Drawbar ( Two actually, the mostly used 3/8 BSW and a combined M8/M6 one for some fitments)

The comment about electronics only lasting ten years is a bit worrying. Mine came with Imp;orter fitted VFD in late 2003! But is still functioning satisfactorily

I do have a thing about keeping the shop dry. Hence 50mm glass fibre insulation in walls and ceiling, with the floor on 8 x 2 bearers, well protected from the weather on three sides, and with a vent at both high and low level. If the temperature drops, a 60 watt tubular heater is switched on. So far no problems with rust.

The 8" four jaw chuck is heavy. Made a rough chuck board to carry wooden packing to aid changing chucks.

The thread on the Mandrel for the chuck is 2.25" x 8 tpi Whit form.

Apart from stupid things that I have done, no problems with the lathe. It has a few mods:

A rough plywood tray fitted over the hinged cover to the Headstock Now home to chuck key, toolpost screw key and parting tool clamp key, Micrometer Stop and Centre Height gauge, squeezable bottles for soluble oil, neat cutting oil, Angels Breath,and a load of other junk that I leave there.

Screw Thread Dial moved to the rear of the Saddle

40T input gear to the Norton box replaced by a shop made 80T, which needed the closure to be resited, and new Knob fitted. (This gives a finest feed rate of about 0.0025"/rev)

The BL12/24 came with a guard over the Toolpost, very soon removed.

The acrylic Chuck Guard fouled the faceplate; relieved locally to clear., (the guard not the Faceplate)

Made up a four way back toolpost, but this sometimes fouled the spindle of the Chuck Guard when working with a collet chuck. Spindle for Chuck guard parted off and sleeved, so that it can be removed for use with a collet chuck.

After carelessly driving the Saddle into the Headstock, as part of the shop made repair, the first four teeth of the Rack were removed. 1 and 2 had never been used, and 3 and 4 were damaged. The Pinion now disengages from the Rack just before the Saddle touches the Headstock.  From the off the shelf availability of spares, am not alone!  But chose to make my own repairs, believing the material used to be superior to O E.

Thought that I had major belt slip problems. Turned out that the shaft for the short belt tensioning lever inside the Headstock had too shallow a dimple for the grubscrew. Once found, soon rectified.

The foot for the fixed steady was a pain, with the bolt not being retained. Milled a slot to take the bolthead and stop it rotating, and a simple sheet steel cover fixed in place to stop it falling out. Problem solved.

Wasted two afternoons checking the wiring trying to find why the lathe would not work, until on both occasions, noticing that, I had touched the Emergency Stop button and latched it down!

A heavy wooden shelf behind the lathe carries various drill chucks, 2MT/3MT adaptor sleeves, Faceplate, shop made catchplate, and Steadies. At the far (tailstock) end, an aluminium extension carries two Chamfering Tools, (1/2" and 3/4" two 3MT centres and a half centre.

Am I satisfied? Does it do what I want? Threads are usually cut with taps or Dies, but have screcut several 1.5mm pitch threads for ER collet holders.

After nearly fourteen years, it is still here, and little prospect of replacement, so the answer has to be Yes to both questions!

So Hope that all this rabbit is some Help.


Edited By Howard Lewis on 06/05/2017 22:04:14

Andrew Johnston07/05/2017 10:05:42
6279 forum posts
677 photos
Posted by Howard Lewis on 06/05/2017 21:56:42:

The comment about electronics only lasting ten years is a bit worrying.

Best thing is to ignore it.


Philip Powell07/05/2017 11:17:35
67 forum posts
15 photos
Posted by Andrew Johnston on 07/05/2017 10:05:42:
Posted by Howard Lewis on 06/05/2017 21:56:42:

The comment about electronics only lasting ten years is a bit worrying.

Best thing is to ignore it.


There are no electronics in my Craftsman, one of the reasons I chose this lathe as I'm wary of those variable speed machines. It does have a box full of electrics to control the various safety cutout switches and the reversing lever. When I got the machine I wiggled all of the connections and found a couple of them loose. I hope it last more than 10 years, fingers crossed.


Steve Millward30/07/2021 20:52:33
14 forum posts

Hi I bought a Chester craftsman 11month ago had a few problems at first

the main problem was the electrics machine stopped working after 1 week

had to get an electrical engineer to sort nearly all cables had been clamped on

plastic instead of on copper cable also earth cables missing of main board

reported to Chester but not interested the machine is running fine for now

not sure weather to change for another brand or just stick with it

i hope customer service has improved since my complaints

all the best


Howard Lewis31/07/2021 09:51:05
5328 forum posts
13 photos

My BL12-24 was delivered in September 2003. It came fitted with VFD, as part of the deal, so only 6 speed ranges instead of 12 fixed.. (Only a single sheave of the pulley on motor can be used instead of the normal two - No problems with that )


Tumbler gears loose and noisy, as received. Replaced, almost as bad, Replaced by expensive "Nylon" gears.

The oiler for the feed selector is inaccessible. Blanked and new oiler fitted where it can accessed.

After several years, apparent belt slip. Actually the dimple in the shaft, for the grubscrew on one of the levers was not deep enough. Soon cured.

Capscrews for worm housing on Saddle were loose Needed a very modified 5 mm key to tighten. Almost inaccessible, totally invisible. Took two hours to tighten all four. This may be a side effect of fitting the VFD.

The clamping for the fixed steady is a fiddle, likely to cause dropped bolt, unless you have more than two hands.

(Probably true of many lathes )

Clamp block modified to make the bolt captive. No more problems.

Tailstock clamp seems to need the nylock nut tightening from time to time.

The capscrews for the Compound Slide seemed soft, changed for better quality ones.

Of my own making:

Twice wasted an afternoon trying to find why the lathe would not work, only to discover that i had inadvertently locked down the Emergency stop!

Ran the Saddle into the Headstock. damaged the rack, and bent the pinion shaft. Ground off the first 4 teeth so that the drive disengages before collision, and made new shaft and cut new gear. (Enabled me mto find out that the chart with the HV6 was wrong and had to be revised.

Halved minimum feed rate by making and fitting 80T gear for input to Norton box. This meant relocating the closure, and breaking the knob, but happened to have a suitable replacement in stock.

Overall, quite satisfied. Over the 18 years, it has done all that has been required , from turning, drilling, reaming boring and screw cutting from 1 mm pitch to upto 4 mm (Supposedly you can't, but my 12 -24 came with an extra changewheel, 30T )

If you need a Vertical Slide, with a simple adaptor, the one for a Sieg SC6 fits.



Dave Halford31/07/2021 12:16:43
1746 forum posts
19 photos
Posted by not done it yet on 06/05/2017 04:31:35:

tin sheds sweat a little.

The shed doesn't actually 'sweat'. It is the water vapour in the air condensing on cold surfaces. Install a dehumidifier, make the shed fairly airtight and condensation problems can be solved. But choose you humidifier carefully - compressor types don't work well below 15 degrees Celsius.

My shed at the previous house (80's) was entirely metal corrugated sheet and sweated badly enough to rain inside due to the shallow pitch.

The simple application to the roof of old suspended ceiling tiles rescued from the skip at work stopped it, and those were only 13mm thick, so even an inch of polystyrene sheet will be better. The down side is under these conditions the roof is acting as a better dehumidifier than your tools.

To avoid anymore confusion

Use of the words sweated and rain are not used in their normal meaning - moisture forming on cold metal looks like beads of sweat upon my fevered brow and these beads fall like rain when they get big enough. There were therefore no clouds forming in the roof of my shed.

The word pitch does not refer to a thread.

larry phelan 131/07/2021 18:55:13
1095 forum posts
14 photos

Hi Blake,

I have a Craftsman lathe for the last 20 years and offer my comments, for what they are worth, [perhaps not a lot ]

Mine came with two chucks, faceplate, two steadies, centres and a few gearwheels.

Mine is a belt drive, not a gear head machine, with a low speed of about 40 RPM, great for screwcutting.

There is quite a wide range of threads which can be cut, both Metric and Whit., Two threads which are not listed are 1,75 [12mm ] and 3.5 [30mm ], both of which I use from time to time, but they can be cut [ask if you want to know ]

Did not have any issue with the fixed steady, but the traveling steady seems to be WAY OUT OF LINE ., N ever needed to use it until recently and thought I was seeing things.

Most of the screws used at assy seem to have been total shit, I replaced most of them. Paintwork not great, but I dont care about the look of a machine as long as it works.

Regarding response or service from Chester, I will say nothing ! They did have a man called John there some years ago, who was helpful, to a fault, and never failed to respond to a call, sad to say, he was not replaced when he retired, [Hope you are keeping well John ]

Perhaps Chester are more interested in the bigger market, who knows ?

However, you must remember that Chester are regarded as a "Sacred Cow" on this Forum.

To sum up, I am happy enough with my machine, it was built to a price but does all I want, that seems to be the name of the game, you want better, you pay big bucks.

When I was a young lad [dont ask when that was ], did I ever think I could afford a lathe ?

Did you ?

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