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Recommend a Small Parts Lathe for 2k.

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John Mitchell 928/11/2019 12:57:01
17 forum posts


My company needs a lathe for some prototype work. Custom screws, standoffs - small items mostly. Material - aluminium and steel, including stainless.

We have a budget of approx. £2000. Even though we do some light fabrication this will be our first lathe. So we need to get it right first time.

Our research so far:

Axminster/SIEG SC4 is a strong contender. Right for the money if not over the top for what we need? I've read some comments on here and it looks like a good lathe to buy.

What else is out there that's worth considering?

How's Proxxon PD400? It's a fair bit smaller (which is a bonus as all our space is occupied by other machinery) but it looks well made and exactly the type of lathe I had in mind for turning of small parts. Personally, I like it better than the SC4 on size alone.

What would the board say?

Our main requirements:

- It has to be ready out of the box.

We have plenty of old machinery that we restore and service but we haven't got the time to do another restoration right now.

- It has to be compact.

Big and bulky lathes are out of question as space is an issue for the amount of use our lathe will have. Ideally it would be a machine we could put on a bench when needed and store away when not. A couple of people should be able to lift it.

- *Ideally* we need one with warranty but a second hand lathe with small use can work too. Again, this is for prototyping / small batch work, not a production lathe.

Any ideas are welcome and many thanks for taking the time to read and respone.


Andrew Johnston28/11/2019 13:49:39
5519 forum posts
648 photos

I'm not going to spark the sterile debate about new far Eastern versus old Uk or US. smile

I suspect that the choice will be influenced by the threads you need to screwcut. Are they metric, imperial or both? And what range of pitches or tpi? Some smaller far Eastern lathes have a fairly limited range of threads that can be cut out of the box, compared to a more expensive industrial lathe. Of course extra threads can be cut by playing with change gears (possibly involving making extra gears) but presumably you're not equipped to make gears, or want to spend the time doing so?


John Mitchell 928/11/2019 14:00:39
17 forum posts

90% will be metric work, imperial the rest. Can't tell anything about the pitches or tpi but common sizes. COO is not important so long as we end up with a quality lathe (some of our equipment is made in Taiwan and it just works).

Not set of making gears. I suspect we will be doing some light work of cuting and turning and adding tooling as we go. So at this stage it's down to getting a good lathe, that we can expand later on.

Vidar28/11/2019 14:02:40
56 forum posts

Is that budget including the various other accessories and tooling you will typically need?

One of the main benefits of getting something used is that there is often lots of accessories and tooling coming along with it. The value of that can be similar to or exceed the value of the machine.

It is also a question about how much time you got. Waiting for the right good condition old machine can take time.

Edit: Ah, you posted the tooling as you as I was typing this


Edited By Vidar on 28/11/2019 14:03:37

Andy Carruthers28/11/2019 14:43:15
279 forum posts
23 photos

Presumably you would like manufacturer support therefore a new machine from Warco, Axminster etc rather than a second hand machine

I think Andrew exposed the most salient point - something with a screw-cutting gearbox would be best noting your comment regarding not refurbishing an existing machine which I presume would include not modifying a lathe to add an Electronic Lead Screw as per recent threads on this forum

Your 2 man lift requirement is interesting, my WM180 is just about a one-man lift whereas the WM240 is a 2 man lift so I suspect from the Warco range you are looking at WM250 to WM290 - they have open days where 2nd user machines are available to try before purchase which given your budget may suit your needs

Rockingdodge28/11/2019 15:48:54
210 forum posts
35 photos

Be aware, if you buy what is termed as a 'hobbyist lathe' and use it in a manufacturing environment it might invalidate the warranty! Ask before you buy.


Edited By Rockingdodge on 28/11/2019 15:50:21

Vic28/11/2019 16:33:09
2500 forum posts
14 photos

The 920 Lathe has a Norton style screw cutting gearbox.


It has belt change speed adjustment but there is enough money left in your budget to fit an inverter and three phase motor to give you a reliable variable speed lathe.

Or if you can up the budget a little:

Edited By Vic on 28/11/2019 16:37:29

John Haine28/11/2019 16:50:56
3108 forum posts
162 photos

My experience with Proxxon tools is not encouraging.

Bazyle28/11/2019 18:41:06
5242 forum posts
201 photos

Don't forget that in industry you will be limited to a 20kg lift for one, 30kg for two man lift. Think instead of a bench on wheels that can be moved out of the way if that is a problem.
All the metric hobby lathes at the moment in the UK have really crap gearboxes trying to compromise with a few metric and few imperial threads. You might get something better off a German source but as most things are governed by the American market I wouldn't bank on it. They will all say they do 200 threads of each kind but in practice that is only with faffing about with extra change wheels.
Having accepted that is won't be a little one to tuck under your arm bite the bullet on space and cost and get an Harrison M300 (no not a 250 because it is smaller but it doesn't have the right gearbox) from a dealer with the necessary tooling. I know, I hate it too when people recommend a SUV when you asked for a runabout but you are talking industry and that puts it in a different world from hobby stuff.

John Mitchell 928/11/2019 19:42:14
17 forum posts

First of all, thanks everyone who participated. This is a lot to take onboard as it's all new to us. Thread cutting won't be something we'd do right from the start. The worst thing we can use a local engineering firm for this (as we did in the past but have now decided to take small matters into our own hands).

I hate mission creep as much as the next man. By this I mean starting out with a small lathe (that's easy to put on the bottom shelf) idea and ending up with a bulky 3 phase machine we have absolutely no space or need for. Heck, we'll run it for a couple of days and then turn off until a few months later. So sadly a big machine like Harrison M300 is not an option for us. I'd be laid off as soon as that thing is delivered and the lathe will have to come home with me.

By the sound of things, Axminster might be the one we'll go for. If we end up needing something better, I will pitch the Harrison M300 to the management. Thanks again everyone, very helpful!

Edited By John Mitchell 9 on 28/11/2019 19:44:39

Edited By John Mitchell 9 on 28/11/2019 19:45:39

Edited By John Mitchell 9 on 28/11/2019 19:46:09

JasonB28/11/2019 19:51:14
18154 forum posts
1998 photos
1 articles

As trade use is likely to invalidate any gaurantee from any hobby supplier why pay extra for it from Axminster, One from Arc will cost less

Vic28/11/2019 20:15:09
2500 forum posts
14 photos

Single point threading on a machine without a thread cutting gearbox is not a problem for the home hobbyist with plenty of time on his hands. I can’t see it being very popular in a production environment though given the faff of looking up and changing gear wheels etc?

JasonB28/11/2019 20:50:59
18154 forum posts
1998 photos
1 articles

OP says it is "not a production lathe"

If you are only going to do a bit of thread cutting now and again a few mins changing the gear train is still going to be quicker than subbing out the job. Even for small batch work you only need to change it for that batch and then back again.

Neil Wyatt28/11/2019 21:04:52
17917 forum posts
706 photos
77 articles

I can say I'm very happy with my SC4, but the relatively high slowest speed (100rpm) might put off someone who isn't used to screwcutting.


Martin Hamilton 128/11/2019 21:25:04
173 forum posts

If you are thinking of the SC4 then i would get one from ARC rather than Axminster as they are cheaper for the same machine, also ARC are a very good company to deal with + Ketan from ARC is often on this forum. To answer questions or any problems.

Howard Lewis29/11/2019 16:22:52
3294 forum posts
2 photos

What is the largest work ( diameter or length ) that the company envisages producing on it?

If you are not going to cut threads bigger than 12mm or 1/2" you can always use Dies and Taps. Probably quicker to set up than change wheels, and screwcutting the thread.

If it is going to be a small lathe, a simple Mandrel Handle will allow the larger threads to cut, and at a lower speed than the machine can provide.

A Norton gearbox will make setting feed rates, easier and quicker than using changewheels.


Former Member30/11/2019 08:53:08

[This posting has been removed]

Hollowpoint30/11/2019 13:11:12
331 forum posts
31 photos

I don't know why everyone is always quick to recommend new stuff. For small parts a Myford ML10 would be ideal and it will be higher quality than the Chinese stuff.

A £1000 will get you a minter. The spare £1000 will buy you all the accessories you will ever need.

JasonB30/11/2019 16:52:48
18154 forum posts
1998 photos
1 articles

Further to my comment above Axminster do class the SC4 as Trade/Engineer so you will probably get the 3 yrs gaurantee, I thought it started at the SC6 with the SC4 in the hobby range.

One think to watch with any old machines in a business enviroment is that they may not have the current safety features like chuck guards and leadscrew covers etc.

SillyOldDuffer30/11/2019 18:03:08
5800 forum posts
1235 photos
Posted by Hollowpoint on 30/11/2019 13:11:12:

I don't know why everyone is always quick to recommend new stuff. For small parts a Myford ML10 would be ideal and it will be higher quality than the Chinese stuff.

A £1000 will get you a minter. The spare £1000 will buy you all the accessories you will ever need.

Just had a quick look on ebay. Admittedly not an ML10, but this Myford has reached £410 after 12 bids and the auction has 2 days to run.


Had a good look at an ML10 when I was looking to move up from a Mini-lathe and wasn't impressed. Decent enough machine but not in the same class as an ML7 or a Super 7.

Even worse, chaps seem keen to pay for the Myford name despite obvious wear and tear. In consequence I feel Myford lathes are generally over-priced for what they are, especially compared with the likes of Boxford. Although ML10 prices used to be more realistic, they've crept up.

One major advantage of buying new is it can be bought now. It's not necessary to find an ML10 for sale, or to confirm it's in good nick, or make an offer. And, in the event the machine is found to be a dud, it's easier to sort out the financial consequences when buying new.

Second-hand Myfords aren't top of my list. Not because I think they're rubbish, it's because they're too popular!


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