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Buying a Lathe, as always the age old questions...

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Del Greco22/07/2019 13:28:19
35 forum posts
13 photos

Ok, so firstly, I know many views are quite subjective, and I've also had a look through some of the forum history also.

However, I want to get/buy a lathe. I have access to a large Warco lathe in a community center I visit, but wanted something for home. Also, the warco is very large, so I've had a wee bit of trouble getting some of the tiny parts needed for my kits into it and setup properly. (I'm working on fixing this also, so this is not my main reason for buying a lathe!)

I do not have access to a mill as yet, but the community center are investigating getting one.

What I build:
So far... not much. A Stuart 10V. My next project will be a steam water pump, a larger Stuart engine (Beam or Twin Victoria), maybe a tiny boiler, and some fittings / decorations for in my house. I am not too concerned about spinning huge flywheels for a traction engine, (yet) and have access to the large Warco for that anyway.

I have a range of 12mm carbide tools, and various cutters for brass, alu, steel and stainless.

The Myford Super 7 seems hugely praised in the UK. Less so in the US.

I have found a Super7 from around late 1950s for ~£1000. I cannot tell from the pics if it is a Mk1 or Mk2. It looks in pretty good condition, however, I've not yet viewed it as I am in Ireland and it is in the UK. From what I can tell, it is a basic Super7, with no quick-change gearbox, and no power crossfeed etc. If it was in ok-good condition, would that be a reasonable price?

There are various ML7's and ML7R's available for a similar price, and also Super7's for anything from 900-2500.

I am keen to understand as much as I can before paying for a bunch of repeat visits to the UK, and ferries, etc.

I guess my questions are:

  • Super7 seems way more expensive than a ML7 of similar era. Main advantages seem to be the bearings, and also the ability for a power cross slide. Am I missing anything
  • Would a S7 Mk1 be a bad choice to buy for my current needs mentioned above? I hear you can upgrade a S7 mk1 to a mk2, but it requires a full new headstock. How could I tell if this has been done other than asking the owner?
  • Did the Super7 always have the logo embossed into the belt housing lid? Several units for sale online seem to just have a metal plaque stating Super7 and some spindle speeds, which seems suspect!
  • If I was viewing a lathe, what would you recommend checking? I am shooting in the dark other than paintwork, and scratches/chips etc. What are the core must-check things when looking at a 2nd hand lathe?
  • Is there anything significant about the paint colour? I had heard that the gray was the original 1950s-1970s colour, then green was the later models, then the new aqua (i think the call it) is the latest 2000 onwards?? One of the lathes I am looking at is white. I am guessing this is a custom paint job. Would this ring any alarm bells with you? (e.g. painted to hide something) Also, the white one (or any of the ones ~£1000) include the quick change gearbox. If i was to retrofit one, this would look silly as i doubt i'd find a white one!

Have I missed anything obvious?


Kindest Regards,


Edited By Del Greco on 22/07/2019 13:45:26

old mart22/07/2019 13:37:32
1911 forum posts
151 photos

What do you think of the Warco at the centre? They do a range of smaller models, although I do not know if they ship to Ireland.

Del Greco22/07/2019 13:42:34
35 forum posts
13 photos

Its good. I used one in my tech school, so was very familiar with it. Everybody seems to talk about Myford though. I was at the model engineer event in London around xmas, and most of the demos were on other (probably eastern made) lathes, but most of the stalls sold mostly Myford parts.

I'm not looking for a vintage piece of kit, but I like the look of the Myfords, and they seem well respected in the UK. As mentioned above, they seem to get a slating in the USA. I've no idea why.

I've also a very small shed where I plan do locate the lathe. The Mrs wants it out the house with all my other tools. I'm still working on that bit though!

old mart22/07/2019 14:06:13
1911 forum posts
151 photos

The main thing wrong with Myfords are their mystical properties which lead to inflated prices.

Edited By old mart on 22/07/2019 14:06:39

derek hall 122/07/2019 14:11:53
89 forum posts


I have a Myford S7 with gearbox, imperial and no powered cross slide circa 1962/3 (I don't really miss not having power cross feed to be honest). I bought it second hand ages ago. Its a dated design granted, but if it was good enough for T D Walshaw (aka Tubal Cain) and George Thomas (and others), it was good enough for me.

Plus there were loads of articles in the ME on building gadgets for it - head stock dividing attachments etc etc. I did without a vertical mill for years (young family+priorities = no money).

I am sure old Boxfords and Harrison lathes are cheaper and maybe better, but for a small lathe the Myford works well for me, but of course it depends on what you want to build.......but make sure that you give ANY future used machine tool a thorough inspection and observe it under power. There are others on here who can advise you much more on this issue.



Martin of Wick22/07/2019 14:26:12
196 forum posts
4 photos

This subject has been pretty much done to death.

Unfortunately, Myfords have generated a cult following and like all cults, the followers are blind to their own folly. As a long time Myford user, the general American view of them as shoddy and lightweight is closest to reality (possibly excepting the ML10 which is in a quirky class of its own). They didn't begin life this way back in the day, but because used machines are now so old and have been through so many users, each inflicting their own peculiar abuse, the majority of these machines are now in need of significant and expensive overhaul and are often a disappointment to enthusiastic new owners high on the Myford hype.

Because of where you live a used Myford is a high risk proposition unless you are prepared to afford a fully reconditioned machine direct from Myford. Otherwise, purchasing spares from the UK will be an expensive proposition. What will you do if the bed needs re-grinding? Remember that what is usually on the market at the prices you quote is getting on for 50 years old. Would you want a 50 year old car as your only mode of transport?

The question you need to answer is do you want to spend all of your time coaxing a piece of engineering history back into a usable condition, or would you rather just get on with some model engineering.

It is simply a question of how you see risk and reward - the probability of getting a quality used Myford is much less these days than the probability of getting a new, fully usable eastern machine with dealer backup that you can just plug in and go.

But if you feel a need to join the cult, don't let my prejudices deter you!

Del Greco22/07/2019 15:15:09
35 forum posts
13 photos
Posted by derek hall 1 on 22/07/2019 14:11:53:

.......but make sure that you give ANY future used machine tool a thorough inspection and observe it under power. There are others on here who can advise you much more on this issue.



Hi Derek,

Please could you expand on this point you mentioned. Are you talking about the lathe as a whole under load, or are you talking about the tools/cutters?

Please could you also include a method/concept for the testing. I didn't really understand.


Lastly, does your lathe have the embossed Super7 logo in the belt lid, or does it have a plaque?


Kindest regards,


Edited By Del Greco on 22/07/2019 15:16:47

Martin of Wick22/07/2019 16:12:06
196 forum posts
4 photos

To answer your specifics:

My S7 dates from 1978 and that has the non embossed belt cover with simple ally plate showing speed combinations and tacky plastic logo on the headstock castings - standard for the later lathes.

Don't know what year they began this, obviously done as a cost cutting exercise and probably denotes the exact point at which Myford's glide path to oblivion began.

Compared to the basic ML7 The S7 cross feed has a much more robust bed with larger leadscrew and is in the wide-guide configuration (carriage bears on the front and the back shear). Also cone bearing in the headstock and countershaft clutch. Bigger and stiffer al round. There are some variants ML7Rs that are essentially S7 without cross feed and clutch and with the weaker ML7 saddle cross and top slide. Some ML7s have retro-fitted clutches. For info on all the variants check out lathes,

Nothing wrong with the Mk1 S7 apart from the fact it is getting on for 70 years old. In some respects the bearing lubricator is much better than the Mk2 felt wick type,although prone to leakage from the sight glass. Would not recommend that you purchase any lathe with a view to replacing large and expensive components such as headstocks.

The condition of the paintwork is not necessarily a good guide to the mechanical condition of the lathe. PM me if you want a check list for used Myford tests.

Trouble is for a fully detailed mechanical test you will need some basic test equipment and some of the tests are quite intrusive, some owners are reluctant to allow such a detailed survey.

However, there are some basic checks that will tell you whether you need to walk away. Look at Myford Ltd. site and get an idea of the cost of the common refurb items such as feeduts, feedscrews, leadscrews bushes and bearings etc so you can assess how much the remedial work will cost you. For a significant number of machines, the faults will be legion, some are cheap simple fixes and some eye wateringly expensive.



Edited By Martin of Wick on 22/07/2019 16:20:15

Edited By Martin of Wick on 22/07/2019 16:28:07

Edited By Martin of Wick on 22/07/2019 16:31:39

Edited By Martin of Wick on 22/07/2019 16:32:12

SillyOldDuffer22/07/2019 16:21:51
6186 forum posts
1345 photos

Things to look out for in a second-hand lathe? Good question, and although I'll have a go, it will be incomplete and perhaps unbalanced. As always it helps to have wide experience of machines generally and the quirks of particular models as well. Generally, you're trying to assess how much the lathe will cost to get into a condition you can do work with.

First suggestion: Forget brand-names, reputations, and what great-grandad says, and look at the actual machine you intend to buy. Unless you trust the seller, I suggest personal inspection is essential. Part of the equation is your willingess to spend time and money refurbishing old machines. Doing up old lathes is a respectable hobby in itself, but not for me! I want a lathe for use, not as a project. Anyway:

  • Are all the parts and accessories present? (If not you may search long and hard to find them, they might be at premium prices, or even unobtainable. Myfords are well supported in terms of spares but have a good look at the prices. If you have to buy chucks, belts, a tail-stock, change gears, or even a motor the cost rises spectacularly. Be aware that dealers tend to sell second-hand lathes and their accessories separately as a way of maximising profits. Private sellers are more inclined to sell everything together as a bundle.
  • Can the lathe be shown powered up and are you able to cut metal with it? Using a lathe is a good way of revealing faults. Noises, poor finish, tapers, difficulty changing gear / engaging the half-nut, low torque from the motor, belt slipping and clutch damage all show up. It will also reveal if the chuck has bad run-out or bell-mouthed jaws etc. Tingles, erratic starting, failure to reverse, or magic smoke indicate problems with the electrics. All the controls and locks should work as expected, with no obvious binding. (Inexperienced chaps may have trouble with 'as expected' due to not knowing what normal is.)
  • Are there any signs of damage? A few dings are only to be expected, but some owners are clods. Watch out for multiple hacksaw cuts in the bed, hammer marks, chewed heads, bent leadscrew, bent anything, suspicious repairs, bad rust, or signs of deep damage due to rust. A particular Myford problem is broken back-gear caused by attempting to remove a stuck chuck. Look closely at the change gears for missing teeth.
  • Is the lathe worn out? Bed wear in old lathes is rather common, and it can be a serious problem if concentrated in one place, usually near the head-stock, put possibly under the tail-stock as well. Myford 7 lathes can be reground a maximum of 3 times, so watch out you aren't number 4! The headstock bearings may also be worn; replaceable but more time and money. In the worst case everything is worn to the point of needing replacement. Do-able but costly, especially if you paid over the odds in the first place. Another potential Myford issue is the lathes they fitted with grease points for inserting oil. Trouble is, people assume they are grease points, and accidentally starve the bearings of lubrication by blocking the oil-ways with grease. This can cause anything between minor and serious damage. One clue is headstock bearings that get warm quickly when the lathe is left running.
  • Is the saddle or tool-post loose? It should slide easily when the handles are turned without too much backlash. (Some backlash is always present, and it can be adjusted, but too much may indicate wear. With a DTI on the ways try waggling the saddle and tool-post in various directions by hand. A lot of movement could be poor adjustment (like loose gibs), or it could be wear. Stiff handles and the absence of backlash may indicate that the lathe has been overtightened to hide wear, and isn't actually usable.
  • There is a class of refurbisher that specialises in cleaning up lathes with a wire brush, lube job and a coat of paint. If a lathe looks as if it's been tarted up for sale, take extra care, especially if the seller isn't a dealer or hobbyist. Try to find out if there is a genuine reason for sale.

Before looking it pays to decide what matters to you. I don't want an Imperial lathe, you might insist on it. I'd like a clutch but it's not essential, The colour, cosmetics and Mark of Myford matter little when it comes to making Stuart-sized work. All things being equal, I'd rather have a Mk2 than a Mk1, but not if the Mk1 is in better condition. Other features like a taper attachment and milling slides might be important too. (Not in my workshop!)

You don't need a super-dooper lathe to make things like Stuart engines. Even a really bad Chinese or a seriously clapped out Myford can do marvels in skilled hands. In that sense, perhaps you can't go wrong. I think the main challenge with Myfords is avoiding spending well over the odds on a crock. A Myford in good condition is a good lathe, but so are lots of others, and they are probably better value for money.

As to the American view of the Myford, they had a good choice of home-grown lathes that didn't have to be imported at extra cost through a tariff barrier. Despite their qualities Myfords weren't best value or best quality in the USA as they were in the UK. Americans had more choice and perhaps wanted bigger lathes than the average Brit. (Apart from the price being too high for my taste, I think Myfords, being shed-sized, are a tad small. But that wouldn't worry a Stuart Builder!)

I expect I've missed many other things to watch out for in old lathes. I'm barely out of short-trousers when it comes to assessing machine tools. With luck more experienced members will chip in and explain more.



Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 22/07/2019 16:32:56

Del Greco22/07/2019 17:27:18
35 forum posts
13 photos

Hello again,

These are absolutely fantastic pointers and a huge help. Thanks again. I have received a several images from the owner, and would be happy to post if these would give any extra insight.

It looks like a lovely, well maintained machine but as you say, that may not be the best information to go on.

I'll print out the points you have mentioned above and take them with me so I do not miss anything.

@Martin and @Dave, thanks for your very detailed posts. Definitely covered way more than I ever considered, so will be of a lot of use.

I also called Myford and spoke with a very friendly and helpful gent there who advised me of a few pointers too.


  • Hold the chuck and try to shake/wiggle it. There should be no movement.
  • Use a DTI and rotate the chuck and it should run true.
  • As you mentioned above, try wiggle the cross-slide/saddle. Again, expect no movement.
  • Check for noise etc when turning on/off, grinding, whining, etc, as you mentioned.
  • Check the bed - Move the saddle the full length of the beds in both directions. Should be smooth and consistent along the whole length.

The points you chaps have given is hugely valuable and may end up saving me a fortune.

I'm open to more information too if you think of anything else. Quite excited to see it in the flesh.

I'd also read somewhere that it is strongly advisable to remove the lathe from the cabinet when transporting it. Apparently they are very prone to wanting to fall over which can be terminal!! Would there be any key transportation tips assuming all is well with the lathe? (Not that I'm going there guaranteeing to bring it home, but I am hopeful it is as nice as it looks, and dont want to have to make 2 journeys if it don' have to!)

Thanks again,


Dave Halford22/07/2019 18:03:40
870 forum posts
8 photos
Posted by Del Greco on 22/07/2019 17:27:18:
  • Use a DTI and rotate the chuck and it should run true.
  • As you mentioned above, try wiggle the cross-slide/saddle. Again, expect no movement.

Take a known round bar to do this anything more than 5 thou wobble is an issue.

The cross slide can be adjusted so test at each end of travel and in the middle, if its OK in the middle and tight at one or both ends the cross slide dovetails are worn and may need a scrape.

Any fool can paint a lathe and call it restored, normally done by dealers so look at the rest of his workshop.

The yanks like to make guns (more is better) Myfords are too small

SillyOldDuffer22/07/2019 19:10:56
6186 forum posts
1345 photos

Posted by Del Greco on 22/07/2019 17:27:18:


I'd also read somewhere that it is strongly advisable to remove the lathe from the cabinet when transporting it. Apparently they are very prone to wanting to fall over which can be terminal!! Would there be any key transportation tips assuming all is well with the lathe?

Thanks again,


A Myford owner will give best advice, but :

Yes, definitely take it off the stand. All lathes are top-heavy and unbalanced left/right with most of the weight at the headstock end. Beyond perhaps taking the tailstock off I wouldn't recommend any major dismantling to reduce weight.

Myfords are a manageable size and weight. Being an elderly weakling I wouldn't try and move one on my own but it's not impossible. It will go in the back of a car, but a van or estate is easier.

How difficult it is to shift depends mainly on access: they can easily be moved across flat concrete on rollers, or a cheap trolley. Carrying one up a flight of stairs or across a muddy back garden is more amusing, not!

Probably hardest part will be lifting the lathe back on to the stand. An engine crane (can be hired) will lift the weight easily but they are tricky to turn in a tight space like a small shed. Two or three fit friends are an alternative, or you can block the lathe up to height on a stack of 2 by 4 or similar. Main thing is to think it through and ensure the lathe won't land on anyone if it does get dropped. I wear steel toe capped boots in the workshop; don't ask how I know how much a dropped hammer hurts.

As the lathe is unbalanced, the lifting loop should be close to the headstock. Don't lift it by the spindle or chuck. Make sure the strap or rope is strong enough and in good condition, and have someone handy to steady the lathe. Make sure the strap doesn't squeeze anything delicate like the leadscrew. All fairly common-sense, and much easier with a couple of mates.

Other thing; if it's going into a shed, make sure the floor is solid under the lathe. A concrete floor is fine, but a wooden floor will probably need reinforcing underneath. Nothing elaborate (breeze blocks perhaps) but it's easier to get under floors before they have a heavy machine plonked on them.

Have fun!


Martin of Wick22/07/2019 21:52:42
196 forum posts
4 photos


PM sent

Del Greco25/07/2019 16:18:15
35 forum posts
13 photos

Gents, thanks again for all your fantastic advice. I am going to view a few lathes this weekend, and hopefully return home with one in the back of the car! From what I've measured, it will fit, but could be tight. ha.

I'll keep you posted, and send in some pictures if i find a suitable one. I've also managed to get some help from an uncle who happens to live nearby where the lathes are being sold, and has spent decades building model steam engines, so that is also a huge relief too.

I'll be taking onboard all your advice, and doing loads of tests and see the lathes spinning etc. Thanks again for all your help.

Fingers crossed my first ever lathe is not a complete wreck!


Howard Lewis25/07/2019 16:59:53
3536 forum posts
2 photos

One caveat!

With any lathe, get help, and ideally, lifting gear.

Don't try to shift a Myford 7 Series, on your own. You may be able to lift it, but it is unbalanced.

Because the motor hangs over the back, it is unwieldy. Two of you can manage one easily enough.

Moving the saddle to the Tailstock end of the bed makes for slightly better balance, but it will still be lopsided.


Barrie Lever25/07/2019 17:37:12
688 forum posts
76 photos


You must be a strong chap, my brother and I moved a Super 7 many years ago, we are strapping strong chaps (or were) I am 6'1" my brother 6'5" and we struggled lifting that Super 7.

I would always say to take everything off the lathe that is not alignment critical (motor. tail stock etc) .

Lathes are a pain to move.


Del Greco30/07/2019 10:28:33
35 forum posts
13 photos

Hello all,

After all you advice on assessing the lathe, and packing/moving it, I am now the very proud owner of a Myford Super7 Mk1, from 1957. It's beautiful. I will post some photos when I get them onto my PC.

The lathe was bought in Wales, and I imported it to Ireland, where it is now (temporarially) located in my living room, until my ManShed is complete. The Irish weather isn't ideal to take off the roof etc, but I'm hoping i'll get it complete over the coming months.

I managed to fit the lathe, stand, drip tray, multiple tools and fittings, etc all into a 2005 Ford Fiesta, along with 2 people! Cosy, but it worked.

Thanks again for all the advice and help. I am very pleased to now be part of the Myford family!!


Lainchy30/07/2019 10:48:16
247 forum posts
98 photos

Also, my input.... bear in mind the size of the Victoria / Beam / Half Beam flywheel... I believe that its 7 inch. (Edit - Just seen that line in your first post.... you're not worried about that bit!)

That is either VERY close or unmachineable on my Chester DB7 (Warco WM180 eq.) Whatever you buy needs to be able to swing this. I got a feeling that a Myford super7 will swing it in the gap? Just something else to consider.

Edited By Lainchy on 30/07/2019 10:50:48

ega30/07/2019 11:36:03
1786 forum posts
152 photos
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 22/07/2019 16:21:51:

As to the American view of the Myford, they had a good choice of home-grown lathes that didn't have to be imported at extra cost through a tariff barrier. Despite their qualities Myfords weren't best value or best quality in the USA as they were in the UK. Americans had more choice and perhaps wanted bigger lathes than the average Brit. (Apart from the price being too high for my taste, I think Myfords, being shed-sized, are a tad small. But that wouldn't worry a Stuart Builder!)

The American author of Spindles (WPS 27) clearly had a high opinion of the S7B. Interestingly, however, he says:

"Most of the work I carried out was done on a Myford Super 7 ... I did use a 10" South Bend lathe to do the heavy work when a lot of material had to be removed. However, all this work could have been done on the Myford ..."

The Americans are rightly proud of their machine tool industry but I think this has tended to blind some of them to the merits of the Far Eastern product.

Howard Lewis30/07/2019 13:17:17
3536 forum posts
2 photos

I have swung (JUST ) an 11" brake disc in the gap of a ML7, fixed to the faceplate. Using a chuck and an arbor, it would have been over the bed and impossible.


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