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Smart and Brown Model L

Noob requiring advice

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Paul Doyle 126/10/2020 10:29:07
4 forum posts

Hi all,

I have been reading this wonderful forum for quite some time, the level of information available here, the positive and helpful community, and beautiful work is just so inspiring on so many levels.

I am a total noob (with some high school experience) who wants to get into model engineering.

I have the opportunity to purchase a Smart and Brown Model L lathe. It's a basic model and it does need work - the original owner was restoring it himself, but unfortunately due to ill health, has to forfeit the completion. From my naive POV, it needs sandblasting and painting, and reassembly, (as far as I know, the original owner has replaced bearings in the headstock. It has no motor or motor mount or electric controls.

It has no tooling or collets either, or as far as I know, no live centre in the tail stock. It does come with a 4 jaw chuck.

I would be very happy to have a little lathe like this and would have no problem undertaking the restoration, but I am concerned sourcing parts. Although they may not be genuine Smart and Brown parts, are there parts available from other lathes that may fit? For example, would Myford cutting tools and live centres fit?

Or would I be better to skip this lathe and look for another lathe, which may have screw-cutting capabilities among others?

I would greatly appreciate any and all help you may be able to offer me!
Many thanks,


Neil Wyatt26/10/2020 10:55:36
18322 forum posts
718 photos
77 articles

Hi Paul,

Welcome to the forum.

Most accessories like centres, chucks, toolposts and cutters are 'device independent' and can be bought in sizes that will fit, although the small size means more limited choice. Chucks are likely to need a custom backplate making up.

It's part like collets that you may find hard to source.

Check out


JohnF26/10/2020 11:23:28
1026 forum posts
143 photos

Hi Paul, It depends on what you intend to do/make but as a plain turning lathe for small parts you will find none better but it will never replace a surfacing. sliding, screwcutting lathe i.e. a traditional lathe such as Myford or similar whether its of home origin or Far Eastern origin.

If the machine is affordable I would go for it but you will probably find the need another more versatile machine as well ?


Andrew Johnston26/10/2020 11:26:31
5733 forum posts
661 photos

Paul; welcome to the forum.

Now for the bad news. The Smart and Brown L is a plain lathe. Although there was a toolroom version it was primarily intended for second operation work. In other words simple repetitive operations to finish a workpiece. Smart and Brown are long gone although there is a UK company (Bracehand) just down the road from me in Shefford, close to Biggleswade where the S&B factory was located, that deals in Smart & Brown (and Pultra) lathes. However in my limited contact he doesn't have much in the way of spares. It is highly unlikely that parts from other lathes will fit. Even the collets were proprietary. In short what was essentially a production lathe is of little use without tooling.

Interestingly there are some S&B collets on Ebay, but they are not dead length collets, so not intended for use with the L lathe.

Personally I'd pass and look for a more general purpose lathe with screwcutting and power feed capability.


David Colwill26/10/2020 11:45:34
676 forum posts
34 photos

I would have to agree with Andrew.

Unless you were wanting to make the most basic of models I think you would pretty soon hit the limitations of the lathe.

That said S&B are excellent (I have a 1024).

If you have a ton of room and the money is no issue, then as a project to learn on, maybe but demand for such lathes second hand is not great.

A Smart and Brown model A or a 1024 would be a good bet.



larry phelan 126/10/2020 11:52:09
868 forum posts
17 photos

Hi Paul,

I dont know the machine in question, but as you are starting out, I doubt if you would have it very long before seeing its limitations. Once you get into things, you will want to try screwcutting,,facing, boring ect, this is where the powerfeed comes in. Andrews advice is spot on.

PS Take care, you have been bitten by a bug worse than Chinese flu and harder to shake off !cheeky

Paul Doyle 126/10/2020 12:12:46
4 forum posts

Hi everyone!

Thanks for the warm welcome! And the swift responses!

I think I knew what everyone has been suggesting already, but just needed to hear it independently. SOrt of disappointing, but the reality. Thanks everyone. I suppose I really just want to get my hands on a lathe and start making.

With regards affordability, the seller is looking for ~ £340 (converted from €380 - although I would have been hopeful for some negotiation).

I suppose this is a subjective question, but...what would be a good alternative lathe? I won't be doing big work, but would like the option of using power feed and cutting threads, etc. Myfords are seen as the Rolls Royce of lathes, but far outside my budget.

What is the possibility of finding a nice S+B A or 1024? The 1024 tends to be the most desirable? What do they reach money wise?

Thanks again all.


Dave Halford26/10/2020 12:17:14
1022 forum posts
9 photos


It's OK to start with, it's good to learn steady handle winding skills on, plus you can normally turn much longer tapers on plain lathes. It swings 9" dia. where as Myford's only manage 7" But in it's current state it's not worth much being underdrive unless it has the stand and even then only just 3 figures. Don't forget a motor is at least £50 +, an 100mm 3 jaw chuck is approx £80. Morse taper #1 tooling is out there

Andrew is right if your budget goes that high, but if you just are testing the water the S&B will do for now.

David Colwill26/10/2020 13:30:33
676 forum posts
34 photos

In my opinion that sounds very high for what is essentially a project.

Sadly it is quite difficult to offer advice on prices of second hand lathes as condition is everything and this is not always obvious if you are new.

Having said that if you could find a Model A for £500 / 600 That would be not too bad.

Personally I would try to find one that is complete with chucks / collets and or other accessories and is or has been recently used. If you can have it demonstrated all the better.


old mart26/10/2020 13:54:29
2219 forum posts
164 photos

Welcome to the forum, Paul, there is information on the model L on the "lathes UK " website. A lot of good work can be carried out on one of these lathes despite its basic specification. As it doesn't have a saddle, and relies on the compound, you will need a lever type indicator on a magnetic base to check the alignment before turning anything parallel. The degree scale is not sensitive enough.

Unfortunately, unless you know quite a lot about lathes, this model is rather too basic for a beginner to cope with.

Edited By old mart on 26/10/2020 14:00:57

Edited By old mart on 26/10/2020 14:05:58

Paul Doyle 126/10/2020 14:11:24
4 forum posts

Hi all,

Thanks again for all your time and help.

I acknowledge myself that it's a little on the expensive side. Especially as David Halford points out, that as I add the motor and tooling, collets, etc - regardless of their scarcity, the price would be sky rocketing for what would still be a basic lathe.

I've been doing some research on the Smart and Brown Model A. What is the likelihood of finding one of those for sale? Preferably complete, with all the tools. I still wouldn't mind restoring a lathe, but, just want something that after investing time and money into, I wouldn't find myself at a dead end unable to source a specific part.



Bob Stevenson26/10/2020 14:20:45
440 forum posts
7 photos

At Epping Forest Horology Club we have a 'fleet' of S&B 'L' lathes and the required tooling,...we currently have a couple standing unused and there is a question mark over their future,.....just saying!

If there is no motor then that would be a very bad mark against that lathe as the massive 1 HP motor is kind of integral to the whole design.....other motors can probably be coerced into use but the originals were well designed for the purpose.

It's not generally well known but 'Bracehand' can supply some parts from new and still make collets to fit,...if you can afford the considerable price! In fact, Bracehand actually quoted some prices to us in 2013/4 for restoration of our 'L' models and included a new price of approx £14,000 per lathe, and basic restoration for £4,500 (if I recall).....not surprisingly we decided to do much of our own restoration and re-built three machines.

The 'L' lathes were/are superb small parts machines and turn beautifully when run nicely. They are/were built to last three life times but you really do need some other lathe(s) to com[liment them if you are doing general turning.

old mart26/10/2020 14:31:27
2219 forum posts
164 photos

Model A lathes are not cheap unless they are close to scrap, and you have to factor in the weight, 3/4 of a ton. 1024 models are even more expensive and heavier. The cost of a VFD of 1-2 kw to run one from single phase domestic power supplies is added expense.

larry phelan 126/10/2020 16:50:28
868 forum posts
17 photos

What,s wrong with a new Chinese "junk" machine at half the price ?

It,s new, no need to go hunting for parts, can be used right away and will do all you want it to do.

OK, it may not be a "Cult" machine, but so what ?, I bought one to begin with and am still using it 20 years down the line. I dont know about you, but I did not have either the time nor the skill to set about "Restoring" a clapped out lathe, I wanted something which worked and which I could use straight off.

Regarding cost, there might not be very much in the difference and remember, you are not making parts for spaceships. If you are like most of us, many of your efforts will end up in your scrapbox !

How do I know ? Ask me ! but it,s all part of the fun. Buy a lathe and get stuck in, remember

SWARF IS BEAUTIFUL !!!!! [ Just a bit messy ]

not done it yet26/10/2020 17:49:04
5141 forum posts
20 photos

Myfords are seen as the Rolls Royce of lathes, but far outside my budget.

In addition to what Larry has just posted, the myford is most certainly not the RR of the lathe world - it’s more like the Morris Minor of the car world, I would suggest. Works OK, can still get lots of parts (that are needed regularly?) and examples available range from desirable to worn out junk (that can be resurrected, if enough is spent on them).

Paul Doyle 126/10/2020 18:15:58
4 forum posts

@Bob Stevenson, thanks for the reply. I'd be very interested to know more about the unused Mode Ls you have at the Epping Forest Horology Club. Can I send you a message?

@larry phelan 1, I guess I'm a traditionalist or sentimentalist in some ways. I have a few old English cast iron woodworking machines that I have restored myself also.

So not only do I love the quality of build of the older cast iron machines, but I also get tremendous satisfaction out of bringing these machines back to glory and keeping them going. It's not so much about the half the price either.

@not done it yet, maybe not the same quality as a Rolls Royce, but definitely have built a fan base with a significant price tag - and as you mention, lots of parts available. Maybe they are over rated and overpriced.

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