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What Lathe Sould I Buy?

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Malcolm Samuels08/07/2017 15:39:05
2 forum posts

Advice Please:
I'm considering buying a lathe, but which one?

I looked online at:

a: Myford Super 7
used & recons in all prices.

b: Sealey SM27
...at greatly varying prices, approx £1,209 to £8,123
for what appears to be the exact same new machine.
And in similar other brand names, eg: Clarke CL430 @ £958.80 / CL500M @ £1,138.80

I have only seen these online, so I don't know how capable/durable these different models are.
Or how they compare in features, as they don't list them all.

The last time I used a lathe was at school, and that was when Adam was a lad,
so I'm not that knowledgeable about all the available & desirable features.

I don't want to go a buy a lathe, and then discover that I've bought one that's not up to the job, or

doesn't have a certain feature.

The Job ?
Well there's the first problem.
At the moment I'm not thinking of becoming a model maker as such,
so I can't say specifically just what I would need it to do,
mainly for the odd repair, make a bolt, etc.

I know that's not very helpful, but let me know your thoughts.

Also where is the best place to get a good deal?
Obviously there's ebay etc,
but as I'm a complete newbie I don't want to buy something with problems.

Many thanks.

Howard Lewis08/07/2017 19:07:23
2452 forum posts
2 photos

For a start, you need to have some idea of the use to which the lathe is going to put, plus space available, and not least, your budget. The neighbours will not thank you for using a noisy machine within a semi detached house, or in a block of flats. Nor will you relish hauling a 200 Kg machine up two flights of stairs!

If in doubt, go a little larger; your horizons WILL expand over time.

If you were into watchmaking, a 21" Dean Smith and grace would be little use, similarly, a watchmakers lathe is no good if your ambition is a 6" scale Foden lorry.

Having said that, it is amazing what has been made on a Myford 7, far in excess of what would be imagined, initially.

Myford used to be almost the standard model maker's lathe, but with anything at least secondhand, beware of the example that is worn or has been abused rather than used. They tend to be pricey, and you can spend quite a bit on new spares or upgrades..

Boxford is another popular make. The later Far Eastern products have improved a lot over the last 15 years or so, in quality, reliability, and specification. For larger, used machines, Colchester and Harrison spring to mind.

A machine ex Industry is almost certain to have three phase motor(s). Equipment to convert single phase supply to three phase, will increase costs, as will changing the motor to single phase, (which some might regard as a retrograde step), if that were to be your chosen solution.

Before the education system lost it's way, and shortly afterwards, machines with a little wear, but some scars would become available from Technical Colleges and Schools, but having rid itself of these nasty dirty practical machines, the supply has virtually dried up.

For secondhand machines, research availability of spares, or accessories. You can get very frustrated not being able to obtain the changewheel that you need to cut an unusual thread, or the steady that you need for a particular job.

There have been many tales of woe about mini lathes with variable speed. Some of this is down to failing to heed the instruction always to start with the speed control set to zero. Hopefully, reports of quality/reliability problems, have resulted in improvements from the manufacturers.

Very often, Far Eastern machines are imported from the same manufacturer, by various companies, differing only in paint scheme or the range of accessories provided as standard.

When I retired in 2003, for roughly the same specification, a new Myford would have cost me four times what I paid for a larger Far Eastern machine, with all the Chucks and Steadies, and hardened bedways, as standard, plus Inverter Variable Speed drive.. No machine is totally ideal, but I have very few complaints about my machine. It does what is required of it, with as great a degree of accuracy as I would expect from a new Myford 7 Series, and is more rigid. (As you might expect from a machine weighing three times as much) It replaced a ML7!

Good luck with your choice!

Howard

mechman4808/07/2017 19:15:43
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2522 forum posts
377 photos

Hi Malcom

​Have a look at other threads similarly named & you 'll get a wide swathe of opinions, recommendations from other members, or fill in the 'keyword' & 'All topics' boxes at top which should take you to relevant threads.

George.

Chris Evans 609/07/2017 09:38:55
1505 forum posts

As said above, you need to decide just what sort of things you want to do on the lathe to buy the correct one. I do mainly motorcycle stuff so need a bigger lathe than some on here. Where are you ? I am between Lichfield and Burton in the midlands if you are close you are welcome to see my set up.

Hopper09/07/2017 09:57:17
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3785 forum posts
79 photos
Posted by Malcolm Samuels on 08/07/2017 15:39:05:

Advice Please:
I'm considering buying a lathe, but which one?

I looked online at:

a: Myford Super 7
used & recons in all prices.

The Super 7 is a pretty nice bit of kit IF you get a good one. But it's like buying a 30 year old (or older) used car: you need to know what you are looking at or you could get sold a pup. If you can find a good condition genuine low mileage job, or one that has been properly reconditioned by Myford themselves or a competent professional etc, and can afford teh price tag, it should be a good machine. Beware the dungers that have been "reconditioned" with a lick of paint and a bit of bodgeying up though. Like I said, much like buying an old used car. And don't believe teh old chestnut about them being the "Rolls Royce" of lathes. They were made int he same country but the Myford was definitely built down to a price for the everyman home hobby market.

It's a good size for home workshop use on run of the mill modelling work and motorbike restoration etc. There are plenty of parts and accessories available and multiple books on maintaining, operating and making accessores for the Myfords too.

It seems the other big choice for beginners is a Chinese mini-lathe such as the Sieg C3 available from reputable sellers such as ArcEurotrade etc. Smaller than the Myford but very popular and you get a brand new machine delivered to your door, with also plenty of accessories, parts, projects, books and information available. Might be worth a look.

Edited By Hopper on 09/07/2017 09:59:22

SillyOldDuffer09/07/2017 12:12:55
4858 forum posts
1021 photos

As a complete beginner I rejected the idea of buying second-hand mainly because I didn't know how to spot problems or how to fix them or how much spares might cost. Nor did I have a clear idea what accessories would be needed, what I would do about 3-phase power (if needed), or even getting the thing home. And if it's a crock, you're stuck with it.

Unless you have very deep pockets, a new lathe will probably be Chinese in origin. A range of similar designs are rebranded for sale in the west. On the positive side, they usually come with all the basic accessories and, I think, are fine for most hobby use. But they are not of identical build quality or specification (eg motor power and type varies).

I would avoid buying one direct from China or cheap from a random ebay supplier in case it happens to be a dud. By buying from a reputable UK supplier, you de-risk the purchase if something is wrong. Also, it appears that the reputable UK importers of Chinese kit put some effort into sourcing better examples of the breed.

I bought most of my kit from Warco with only minor issues. When there was a problem, they responded.

Others speak highly of ArcEuroTrade, and I've not noticed showers of complaints about MachineMart, Axminster or any of the other advertisers in MEW and ME. I know nothing of Sealey.

One snippet of advice that turned out good is to buy the biggest you can. BUT bear in mind it has to fit into your workshop, and will be heavy. I started with a Minilathe partly because they are affordable, but mostly because it was easy to move into the limited space I had available at the time. I'd say at least 80% of what I do can be done on a mini-lathe, but a bigger machine just makes many jobs easier.

You didn't mention metric vs imperial. Buy the type you use most. For me this is metric, but you might be better off going imperial if you're going to build classic locomotive designs because old plans are usually imperial.

Dave

Antony Powell09/07/2017 12:39:53
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147 forum posts
19 photos

Hi Malcolm

It's a mine field !!

Having just purchased a new lathe again ..... I bought from Warco and went through three before sending it back and buying from Axminster, two minor issues, DRO had one segment dimmer than the rest - changed immediately, misprint on the add said it included a live center but I was supplied with two dead a new live center was supplied without argument.

I would advise as follows....

1) See it and feel it before buying it (even if you don't know what you are doing, you can still learn from it ) go and turn handles and slide thing about the difference can be dramatic.....

2) Shop around as previously stated many similar machines are available from different sources at vastly different prices for basically the same machine.

3) Ensure you know the warranty you get in detail, in writing and up front, as these can vary from six months full + six months parts only to three years full from Axminster who is the only one to offer this long (as far as I know anyway)

4) Buy a machine with as many extras as possible you will need them all eventually anyway

5) The bigger the better your projects will grow in size (you may also need a small lathe to accommodate the little jobs)

6) Sit down and think hard on what you want to be able to do BEFORE spending any money

7) Attend a short course from the likes of Axminster they are excellent (Bob Rolff will answer many questions honestly and show you how to set up a new lathe correctly) and then decide what you want.

8) Don't forget as previously pointed out..... Space required...noise level......Access.....Power supply etc

Tony

Edited By Antony Powell on 09/07/2017 12:42:28

Edited By Antony Powell on 09/07/2017 12:49:42

Edited By Antony Powell on 09/07/2017 12:51:24

richardandtracy09/07/2017 13:03:29
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938 forum posts
10 photos

The differences between a Sealy SM27 and a Clarke 430 are small. I have a Clarke 430 and the Warco version of the Clarke 500, a WMT300/1. The are plenty good enough for .05mm on diameter and using the compound slide improves accuracy too. The Clarke needs a new gear spider to permit LH threads to be turned. Changing gears on these lathes is best described as a right pain. Not having a half nut does slow things down.

Don't bother with the milling head, it really isn't up to much, and isn't worth paying any extra for.

They are good, sturdy, and very cost effective machines if you can get one for sub £850. They are not good for the nth degree of precision, but few things really need precision better than .01 mm, which is achievable with these machines. If you find you need better precision - try changing the design maybe?

Regards

Richard.

Mike E.09/07/2017 15:53:48
194 forum posts
1 photos

Check out G and M Tools. They have a few lathes listed on their site. I have bought a lot of tools and machine accessories from them. The quality and price for used tools was better than most anything I've seen on the "bay". Depending on where you are located, it might be worth your while to visit their shop.

Malcolm Samuels11/07/2017 12:19:28
2 forum posts

Thanks everyone so far:

What about the more industrial type lathes, which will probably be 3-phase?
Are they a better option? And is it OK to change their motors to single phase?
Then there's the issue of parts etc.

My schools workshop (many years ago) had two laths, and I think the smaller of the two was a Colchester Student?

Many thanks.

Andrew Evans11/07/2017 12:44:55
272 forum posts
1 photos
Myfords are nice but completely overpriced for a decent one - some are just ludicrously priced. I would go for an ex school / college Boxford, Denford or Harrison with as much tooling as you can. Keep an eye out on here, eBay and homeworkshop.org and you will get something if you are patient. Dealers tend to be very expensive and you pay VAT so buy privately. Or go for a new one.
steamdave11/07/2017 13:33:15
418 forum posts
32 photos

3 phase motors are not a problem these days, so don't let that put you off. A VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) will enable your 3 phase motor (subject to original motor power, but up to 3 h.p. should not be a problem) to be powered from single phase mains and among other advantages, speed control of the motor is infinitely adjustable.

Dave
The Emerald Isle

richardandtracy11/07/2017 13:57:13
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938 forum posts
10 photos

With more industrial lathes, consider what weight you can move.

Hobby lathes like the Clarke 430 are pretty heavy at 130kg, but are very light compared to more industrial lathes. The one we have were I work is a medium sized Colchester & weighs 8 tonnes (when being installed they had to use both 5 tonne fork-lift trucks to lift it). Can your workshop cope with this weight & is access suitable for the equipment needed to move it? I helped a neighbour move his 3/4 tonne mill. It was 'interesting' getting it along his garden path because the thin 1950's concrete path broke up as the trolley rolled over it.

Regards,

Richard.

SillyOldDuffer11/07/2017 15:40:04
4858 forum posts
1021 photos
Posted by Malcolm Samuels on 11/07/2017 12:19:28:

Thanks everyone so far:

What about the more industrial type lathes, which will probably be 3-phase?
Are they a better option? And is it OK to change their motors to single phase?
Then there's the issue of parts etc.

My schools workshop (many years ago) had two laths, and I think the smaller of the two was a Colchester Student?

Many thanks.

Hi Malcolm,

I suggest you have another think about what the lathe will be used for. Unless of course money is no object!

Generalising wildly, Industrial machines tend to be physically bigger than hobby lathes and they come with more powerful motors that will run for hours on end. They also have operating conveniences that speed up certain operations. Those conveniences matter most when time is money and you are working the machine hard to make a living. Very few of them extend the sort of work that can be done by a lathe, they just help you do it faster. Very nice to have in an amateur workshop, but probably completely over the top when the job is "mainly for the odd repair, make a bolt, etc." Apart from the extra cost of an industrial machine, the weight, space and power requirements are likely to be more problematic too.

I started with a Mini-lathe. It's main restrictions were:

  • the maximum size of the object that can be turned. (A little less than, say, a Myford 7. It easily did 80% of what I wanted, only failing when I wanted to trepan a 5" diameter disc. )
  • A slightly limited range of threads. (though this can be fixed)
  • An awkward gear banjo. (Swapping change wheels is a fiddle, taking perhaps 15 minutes. )
  • Lowest motor speed is too fast for thread cutting under power ( but a hand-crank in in the spindle works very well)
  • You can't easily bolt work on the cross-slide
  • The chuck is bolted to the spindle and it pays to have small fingers! Takes a few minutes to change the chuck.
  • Metal removal rates are on the slow side: it's a small lathe.

I now own a WM280, a much bigger machine. It's main restrictions are:

  • the maximum size of the object that can be turned. (Rather bigger than, say, a Myford. I haven't hit the limit yet. )
  • The chuck is bolted to the spindle. It pays not to have big fingers or to want to change frequently between 3-jaw, 4-jaw, collet chuck, or face-plate.
  • It has a good range of imperial and metric threads but some of them are approximations
  • The gearbox range is limited to three speed options from each change-wheel combination. This means that it's still likely that change wheels will have to be swapped, wasting about 8 minutes.
  • No automatic stops on self-traverse
  • No clutch
  • Noisy cooling fans.
  • I use an Engine Crane to move it. For safety reasons a two man job.

As it happens, a WM280 sized machine is pretty much the biggest lathe I could fit into my single garage workshop. (Don't forget you will probably want a milling machine, bench grinder and bandsaw as well.) If I was to upgrade, I'd be looking for something with a full gearbox, a clutch. and a camlock spindle. It's not necessary for me to have any of those features, but it would mean I could work faster with fewer set-up changes. Now I'm retired time isn't the issue it once was so I prefer to spend the money on other toys.

When buying a lathe a huge amount depends on what you going to do. For learning and most smallish work, a mini-lathe should be fine. The Myfords hit a sweet spot in terms of physical size and capability for model making, OK for a small loco, and were also popular for light R&D work. The big problem with Myfords is that they are likely to be overpriced, even in poor condition. There are several Chinese lathes in the same capability bracket, though not as nicely made.

If you want to thread scaffold pipe, make a half-scale traction engine, or produce parts for motor-bikes, you need something bigger.

The other factor is precision; people occasionally come unstuck buying a cheap hobby lathe when they really wanted something high-end. If you really need precision expect to pay big money for it.

Dave

Andrew Tinsley11/07/2017 15:42:26
926 forum posts

You can still get a decent Myford for a reasonable amount, provided you have someone with you to examine the lathe! Local buys are better, Ebay seems way overpriced!

The advantage of a Myford is that there is a huge range of tooling you can get for it. No other lathe compares in this respect. Are Myfords the best? No they were built down to a price, but then so are the majority of Chinese imports.

Boxford are also a good buy, but these can be as worn out as a Myford, or indeed any other second hand lathe! Boxfords do not have the huge range of tooling made for them as the dread Myford.

I would not buy a mini lathe, they are too restrictive in what you can do on them size wise, unless you are only going to build very small models. I have a Norwegian friend who built a Rob Roy 3 1/2" gauge loco on an old bar Unimat, so it can be done, but I would not want to try it!

Andrew.

Andrew.

Andrew Tinsley11/07/2017 15:42:27
926 forum posts

You can still get a decent Myford for a reasonable amount, provided you have someone with you to examine the lathe! Local buys are better, Ebay seems way overpriced!

The advantage of a Myford is that there is a huge range of tooling you can get for it. No other lathe compares in this respect. Are Myfords the best? No they were built down to a price, but then so are the majority of Chinese imports.

Boxford are also a good buy, but these can be as worn out as a Myford, or indeed any other second hand lathe! Boxfords do not have the huge range of tooling made for them as the dread Myford.

I would not buy a mini lathe, they are too restrictive in what you can do on them size wise, unless you are only going to build very small models. I have a Norwegian friend who built a Rob Roy 3 1/2" gauge loco on an old bar Unimat, so it can be done, but I would not want to try it!

Andrew.

Andrew.

Henry Artist27/07/2017 09:30:21
avatar
68 forum posts
46 photos

It may be better for you to buy a mini-lathe from a reputable UK dealer for a few hundred pounds and work on renewing/improving your machining skills before you invest several thousand pounds in an industrial lathe. You should have little difficulty in selling the mini-lathe when you are ready to upgrade your workshop.

Your biggest expense may not be the lathe itself but everything else that goes with it to actually make things. Accessories for mini-lathes are much cheaper than those for larger machines.

Take some time to consider what are likely to be the largest and smallest diameters you might like to turn and which materials you will be working with. This will help you to decide which lathe to go for first.

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