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Capstan query

To keep or not to keep

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Plasma14/03/2019 12:21:24
192 forum posts
21 photos

Opinions are sought regarding the usefulness of a capstan lathe in the model makers workshop.

I have a Smart and Brown model L lathe on its original cast iron cabinet stand. But with no motor.

It has a cross slide, taikstock, part off slide and capstan unit and collet chuck.

I intended to renovate it to fully functional condition and fitted Newton Tesla motor drive to see how it ran, perfectly well was the answer.

But I'm now thinking a capstan may not be a usable machine for everyday applications. Plus I have three other lathes that do most of my work.

So what are your thoughts?

Continue with the restoration, keep her in case I have a sudden need to make multiple nuts and bolts?

Gain some much needed floor space by moving her on to someone who has a use for her?

Do some wondrous modification and turn it into a more useful machine? Not sure what though.

SWMBO states I already have too many machines and is glad our local dealer has glosed down now, for nevit just means I have further to go for my next fix. Lol.

Best regards Mick

Phil Whitley14/03/2019 12:34:24
821 forum posts
105 photos

As you probably know, S&B were very high quality machines, and I know and feel your addiction, if you really need the space you have to ask yourself if there is anything that the S&B will do that your other three (THREE!!) lathes will not. As I only have two lathes, I will give you my address for delivery! Seriously, it would give you the cash and the space for something else, and of course, we need pics of it!


East Yorkshire

Mick B114/03/2019 12:56:33
1001 forum posts
57 photos

The answer, as with many other questions about machinery, is that it depends on what ya wanna do.

If you're going to make your own fasteners for models, or you're making something that needs quantities of identical or similar parts that'll be tedious and time-consuming to make on a standard centre lathe, then you should keep it. Generally, capstans are so much better than centre lathes for repetition work, and the ones I've used were so straightforward to set up, that the quantity break for worthwhile employment of a capstan can sometimes be less than a dozen.

Of course you'll need some tooling that may cost - a couple of roller boxes, Coventry dieheads and reversing tapholders.

I remember seeing a You Tube of somebody's build of a W32 IC engine, and I felt a bit pale at the thought of all those pushrods, followers, rocker adjusters, gudgeon pins, bushes, yada yada yada ... A little capstan would be dandy if you were gonna take on summat like that.

Andrew Johnston15/03/2019 11:24:24
4558 forum posts
521 photos

It all comes down to space; can you afford the space to keep it? If so, then do so.

I've got a capstan unit for my centre lathe, which I've used on occasion. However, since I bought a repetition lathe the capstan unit gets less use. But I wouldn't want to sell it, as the repetition lathe is limited to 1.25" work diameter. I've used the repetition lathe a lot, mostly to make my own bolts, nuts and studs. There's no way I'd have made the items without some sort of repetition or capstan facility - no where near enough patience.


Involute Curve15/03/2019 11:56:54
326 forum posts
84 photos

I have a capstan unit came with my M300, it looks like its never been used but is missing some of the arbors, I'm still undecided if I should keep it or move it on............ or move again to bigger workshop

Clive Foster15/03/2019 14:16:54
1665 forum posts
46 photos

Capstan lathe is one of those things where you have to get motivated and decide "Dammitt, I am going to use it." Even if the first job doesn't really measure up to its strengths and, probably, will take longer than doing it the usual way. With things like a capstan, which trade off more set up time for faster working, set-up time is the issue. Especially as end on cutting, beyond simple drilling, is a new concept to most of us. Will get faster as you get used to it.

Actually getting started is the big stumbling block.

Took me 20 years to actually get round to using the Elliot 10M shaper I have. Once I'd done the first job it became "D'oh, why didn't you start straight away.".


Edited By Clive Foster on 15/03/2019 14:17:19

John Reese16/03/2019 04:01:45
717 forum posts

I have a South Bend 10K that includes the accessories to convert it into a turret (capstan) lathe. I rarely run sufficient numbers of parts to justify mounting the turret.

Hopper16/03/2019 04:17:04
3527 forum posts
68 photos

As you say you have three other lathes, there is no use for a capstan lathe unless you are planning on doing a lot of mass production work. Making 18 pushrods for a 9-cylinder radial engine does not even count. Those kinds of numbers are quicker and easier to do in a conventional lathe with maybe a carriage and cross slide stop or two. A captsan lathe only comes into its own when job numbers are in the hundreds.

Unless, if the capstan lathe is larger than your other three, or more precision, then it might be worth keeping for large or precision jobs.

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