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Confused about lathe.

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Nigel McBurney 105/12/2018 20:37:35
549 forum posts
3 photos

I restore stationary engines as a hobby plus a few motorcycles plus have made a lot of parts/repairs for full size steam,and tractors,and have owned lathes since 1959. For models a Boxford or a Myford are very good, for other uses eg restoration a large lathe is essential ie a Colchester otherwise you will always be running out of capacity,I currently run a Colchester Master 2500 and a Super 7 The master has 3 phase motor driven by a transwave converter no fancy electronic speed control or dros, There is a new generation who seem to need fancy electronics to do anything,a good old style lathe is all you need .on the smaller lathes to much emphasis is placed on power cross feed on a small lathe, If you cannot manage to twiddle the cross slide handle to get a good finish go do something else. Where I started work the large instrument plain lathes had manual feeds and the Boxford cross feed was never used it was easier and quicker to manually turn the handle. When buying any lathe try to find one with a lot of accessories,its better to pay a good price for a well equipped lathe than try to find accessories later .For full size restoration a Spindle bore of 1 inch dia is minimum,I find that the 1 5/8 bore on my master is still too small at times,i I do miss my Triumph 2000 with its 2 inch bore but that had to go (my age) Wear in the bed can be lived with but a worn tailstock can be an utter pain the backside,bad tapers and centre height too low.You may not have enough room for a larger lathe,suggest make your shed bigger than live with an undersize lathe.

Dave Halford05/12/2018 21:06:06
349 forum posts
3 photos

In some ways it's a fairly simple choice you have limited space and a limited price + a limited weight.

Most large bench lathes are in the 300lb bracket so second hand is fine IF you can transport the weight or can phone a friend for help. 99% of commercial machines weigh in at double that weight and longer than the space you have. Lathes .co has the figures.

New machines are delivered so the weight issue goes and so cost and size are your limits.

Simply make a short list of those that fit under the limits and go and consult Google for all the moans (people love to moan) Pick the one with either the least moans or the one that don't concern you


SillyOldDuffer06/12/2018 11:12:12
3993 forum posts
810 photos

The new vs second-hand debate is a tricky one. New lathes for the professional workshop are six to ten times the price of a Chinese hobby machine, and hobbyists rarely buy them. Second-hand industrial and educational lathes can be had for bargain prices but may be too big for a home workshop, or have painfully expensive faults. For several good reasons Myford lathes are popular, but this has pushed prices up - often beyond what's justified by their condition. A 70 year old lathe that's been mistreated isn't likely to be a bargain unless you know what you're doing.

In another current thread Dave Whipp is discussing his Myford refurbishment. He's doing an excellent job fixing this lathe up and he has the right attitude and the resources needed to sort out the various problems.

But it does underline the risks of buying an old second-hand lathe, especially sight-unseen or if you are a beginner.

Dave says: 'I think my P.O. has assembled my S7 from a pile of various well worn S7 and ML7 parts, slapped on a coat of regular grey house paint, plus the custard yellow, and whacked it on ebay. When I stripped the paint down from all the parts, some were grey, some were green and some parts blue. Also several bolts / screws very loose, some bolts too long for their holes in the castings.'

This is probably not what a total beginner wants of his first machine!

The advantage of buying new is a poor machine can be sent back if its condition is unacceptable. The admin may be a bloody nuisance but there is a safety net. Conversely, you have little chance of getting your money back with a disappointing privately bought second-hand lathe. The risk of buying a dud is much reduced if you know what to look for and can see the lathe running before you buy it. Trouble is a beginner doesn't know what to look for, and is liable to fret over cosmetic issues whilst missing serious faults.

In the good old days buying a lathe was a once in a lifetime purchase because they cost a large proportion of disposable income. Not so much today. Now you have the opportunity to spend a few years learning on a new Chinese lathe before looking for a better second-hand machine. Beware though, I've found my Chinese kit does all I need - warts and all - and I've not found strong reasons to upgrade it. Much depends on what you use your lathe for, which makes life difficult for a beginner who doesn't know yet. This again favours making a start with an inexpensive new machine and changing it later once you know what you're about.


Chris Trice06/12/2018 12:05:58
1351 forum posts
9 photos

Could I recommend a visit and chat with Chris and/or Steve at Home And Workshop Machinery? No obligation to buy but lots of advice and demonstrations of non bodged second hand machinery. They've currently got some Boxfords in which apart from the colours, are in good condition with no "disappointments" lurking for the unwary. Also a good selection of all other makes. They're in Sidcup, Kent.

Andrew Johnston06/12/2018 12:29:15
4497 forum posts
520 photos

The OP mentions a 1" BSW, 8 tpi, thread as being the coarsest he would need to cut. Given that there are two questions to ask any perspective supplier:

1. Does an imperial version of the lathe actually have an imperial leadscrew?

2. Does the lathe have enough torque at the minimum spindle rpm to cut an 8tpi thread in steel?


JasonB06/12/2018 12:36:46
15027 forum posts
1532 photos

If the answer to No2 is no, then question 3 should be:

Can the lathe be run in reverse so I can cut the thread at a faster speed (more torque) without risk of not stopping it in time to avoid a crash?

Neil Wyatt06/12/2018 17:38:32
15700 forum posts
659 photos
73 articles

SC4 comes with a 127 changewheel for perfect metric to imperial conversion suitable for pedants


Howard Lewis07/12/2018 07:56:39
1812 forum posts
2 photos

IF you can find one, the Engineers ToolRoom BL12-24 comes with dual dials. The Leadscrews are actually Metric, but the geartrain to the Norton box includes a 120/127T gear, so you get the best of both worlds. Having a 5MT bore Mandrel, it has a 38mm throughway.

It does not claim to be a Toolroom lathe, but a sharp Tangential tool will reliably take cuts of half a thou.

It is the equivalent of the Warco BH600, which was available in Imperial or Metric versions, whilst the Chester Craftsman is Metric.

In standard form the belts give 6 speeds plus Back gear to make a total of 12. Both power feeds are from a drive shaft and not the Leadscrew.

Worth considering, or perhaps one of their gear head successors, if you can fit one into your space.


coggy clapsaddle10/12/2018 22:08:28
6 forum posts

Thanks very much for all the advice it has certainly helped me clear up a few points.

thaiguzzi11/12/2018 03:11:10
502 forum posts
104 photos
Posted by Chris Trice on 06/12/2018 12:05:58:

Could I recommend a visit and chat with Chris and/or Steve at Home And Workshop Machinery? No obligation to buy but lots of advice and demonstrations of non bodged second hand machinery. They've currently got some Boxfords in which apart from the colours, are in good condition with no "disappointments" lurking for the unwary. Also a good selection of all other makes. They're in Sidcup, Kent.


Highly recommended.

My Tom Senior M1 came from them, sight unseen in person, only pics, scruffy, but with the quill feed S type head at a very good realistic price. Sent to my shippers in Wales who shipped it here to Thailand. Zero problems, very helpful.

Bought other tooling & spares as well over the years inc 3C collets.

Excellent company.

Mark Elen 111/12/2018 23:49:38
107 forum posts
179 photos

Hi Coggy,

I have been in exactly the same position as you regarding a lathe just recently. I had pretty much decided on a Warco 280/290 and a DRO.

As I’m really just a beginner, I thought, get the biggest lathe I could afford. In the end, with the discount ARC have at the moment, I ended up buying a SC4 from them. Yes, it’s not got a threading dial, it’s only got a 20mm hole through the spindle and the power cross feed is a bit naff(it’s too easy on disconnecting the cross feed to engage the fine saddle feed and vice versa) but it’s nearly half the price of the 280 and with a fixed steady, the small spindle hole isn’t an issue - well to me it isn’t. I have got into the habit of winding off the top slide before disengaging the cross slide.

All metal change gears and it comes with the 127 gear, so both metric and imperial screwcutting. I have now cut M14 fine, M12 fine, M10 both coarse and fine and I’ve got 3/8 BSF and a left hand 1/2 BSF coming up shortly - hopefully they will go as well as the metric have.

I learnt when I bought my mill that the machine itself is only half of the cost. The other half is all of the tooling. My decision was really made on the fact that being from the ‘flat part of Lincolnshire’ ARC are not too far away in Leicester and they are a friendly bunch - whenever I’ve been there, the kettle has been on😂 (The other reason is that I’ve been to 2 shows and both times been on the Warco stand and been unimpressed as a potential customer - the first time nobody spoke to me, even though I was on the stand for about 10 minutes, the second, they seemed uninterested. Add to that, no stock. I was willing to wait for stock, but in the meantime, I made the decision)

I have made sure that all of the tooling I have bought is the biggest the SC4 will take, so if I’m future I decide to upgrade, hopefully I don’t have to buy another load of tooling.

One of the first things I did with it, was to screwcut a M14x1.75 thread and apart from my stupid mistake not setting the top slide correctly, the lack of thread dial, to me, is a non issue, just keep the half nut engaged and run forward and back.

As to a DRO, I bought a DRO with my mill but my budget wouldn’t run to one when I bought the lathe. Add to that, I had seen the LCD displays at the Midlands show. I had pretty much decided that was one of the first things to buy when funds ran to it. I have ended up buying more tooling with that budget. I think it’s going to be one of those ‘nice to have if I’ve got some spare cash in the future’ things.

I have no connection to ARC other than a satisfied customer



Howard Lewis12/12/2018 14:08:53
1812 forum posts
2 photos


You have a PM.

+1 for the comments re Arc. One very happy, small spending customer..


Stuw18/12/2018 12:19:09
6 forum posts

Try this place,,, it is a good site for buying and selling with a lot of information available on just about all the lathes which have been made, ever.

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