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What lathe pointers

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Derek Lane14/06/2021 15:30:44
504 forum posts
94 photos

Here we go another lathe question to bring out the "Here we go again" brigade.

This is not a what lathe should I buy thread but a general question on what do "YOU" look for in a lathe if you were to buy another now ie swing, length of bed screw cutting facilities etc.

Steviegtr14/06/2021 15:37:31
2225 forum posts
311 photos

My lathe is a Myford Super7B & i love it. However i know it is only a small lathe. If i had room of which i do not, then something like a Colchester student 2000 would be what i would like to have or a similar machine with bigger swing etc. Or a Harrison M300.


Ady114/06/2021 15:48:03
4685 forum posts
713 photos

Simple reliable, man portable, decent stiffness, with backgear and easy to fix

How long could I use it if I was on an island with a single 240v socket and a pile of barstock

Edited By Ady1 on 14/06/2021 15:48:38

Zan14/06/2021 16:02:21
280 forum posts
19 photos

If there’s 5000 members of this forum, there’s 5000 different answers. Every single person has different specific needs and space

Speedy Builder514/06/2021 16:09:34
2388 forum posts
183 photos

Electronic leadscrew and cross feed which could be programmable for simple taper and ball turning and auto retract for screw cutting .

Thor 🇳🇴14/06/2021 16:10:19
1395 forum posts
41 photos

Hi Derek,

When I bought my lathe some years ago I wanted a metric lathe with 280 to 300mm swing, preferably a 1000mm between centres and 40 to 50mm hole through the spindle. Didn't quite manage to find a lathe that ticked all the boxes but the one I bought has worked well and has been good value for the money I paid.
What you want may be different, what swing and what length between centres do you need for the work you do?


Nicholas Wheeler 114/06/2021 16:13:46
723 forum posts
51 photos

I'm limited for space, so the 10x22 WM250 is as big as I can fit. Fortunately it's also just about big enough for most of my jobs. I bought my first lathe for all the adapters, bushes and tools for my hobbies of restoring/modifying cars.


Things I look for mostly in order: enough power to do jobs in sensible time, variable speed, large spindle bore, rigidity, ease of use(eg, locks actuated by captive levers/knobs rather than tools), power feeds which ties back to #1, sensible chuck changes(the three bolt fitting is easy and fast, but would be improved with a few mm more access), screwcutting gearbox with lots of range, QCTP with lots of easily made holders.

The gearbox is the thing I miss most, as setting up change gear combinations sucks a lot of time. A good electronic leadscrew would be even better; any thread pitch or power feed rate you want just by entering a number on a keypad. Quieter than a gear train too.

Edited By Nicholas Wheeler 1 on 14/06/2021 16:14:12

Mick B114/06/2021 16:23:04
2003 forum posts
114 photos

Screwcutting is something I only do if size or precision requires it. Most hobby lathes won't have a gearbox with a comprehensive selection of pitches attainable by moving 2 or 3 levers, and independently of machining feeds - so we usually have to accept faffing about with change gears to set up the threading, and then faffing it back again to normal afterwards when we want to use longitudinal or cross feed machining. If I can, I'll duck the issue and use a die.

Bigger, ex-industrial lathes in decent condition can be excellent, but you not only need the space for them but the capability to move them into that space, and that can add vastly to the expense and complexity of the process.

If it's going to be your sole machine, even for a period, you need to be able to mill on it, which means the capability to fit a z-axis slide, and power cross feed is highly desirable.

Dial-controlled variable speed is also highly desirable.

A good 3-jaw chuck with concentricity in the order of a thou or better will save a lot of clocking-up time for almost all turned parts needing machining from both ends. In the 70s when I started this was not believed readily attainable, but I think that today it is.

Because of the wide acceptance of the Myford 7 series, many model plans and casting sets require a swing of 7" or more. This is one of the factors that in my view severely limited the usefulness of the Myford Speed 10 I used to have.

Length of bed is less of an issue unless you're going to do work on rifle barrels or suchlike - and even if you are, headstock bore may be more important, still more so if you've a variety of components you might want to part-off from bar in some quantity.

Nothing in this world is ever perfect - nor can it be, as perfection for one type of work is bound to make another type more difficult. You just have to settle for the balance of imperfections you can live with, and afford.

Edited By Mick B1 on 14/06/2021 16:24:02

Andy Carruthers14/06/2021 16:27:27
317 forum posts
23 photos

I stumbled upon a WM180 and bought at the right price, doesn't get a great deal of use but got me here and into a hobby which I really enjoy. I enjoy enhancing its capability - a mate and I just fitted DRO for example and starting on ELS conversion soon

At various times I have hankered for a bigger lathe and will probably treat myself when I am settled, house move has interfered recently and I have one more to go - had to move the WM240 on which would have been a sensible upgrade just not viable right now

I think the answer is what do you want the lathe to do? mine is a lot more capable than I am!

SillyOldDuffer14/06/2021 16:48:37
7476 forum posts
1648 photos

Biggest lathe and milling machine that can fit in my workshop please!

Actually an oversimplification, because tools ought to match the size of work being tackled: clock-makers don't want a massive lathe, and Sherlines are too small for motor-bikes. Myford 7s are a very suitable general-purpose small workshop size, though a little small for me, doing work where a bigger swing, wider spindle bore, and longer bed all come in handy.

Most of the time a basic metric screw-cutting lathe would be fine in my workshop, but there are plenty of features I have or would like to have. In rough order of value to me:

  • Machine runs off an ordinary 13A socket - doesn't require special electrics,
  • Electronic speed control of a 3-phase or brushless DC Motor. (Or brushed DC)
  • Enough power and rigidity to allow a reasonable work rate. (No waiting for the motor to stop smoking, and hefty cuts.)
  • Forward and Reverse without any risk of the chuck coming off!
  • Power traverses
  • Fast and powerful enough to get the best out of carbide inserts.
  • Speed Change Gearbox, or - better - a full threading gearbox.
  • Delicate parts protected by swarf and coolant guards
  • Being able to move it without a trained team
  • Safety interlocks
  • Clutch
  • Automatic Stops
  • Back-gear
  • DRO
  • Long Taper attachment
  • QTCP
  • Gap Bed
  • Machine light
  • Coolant system

There's other factors that may be important. Hobby machines are made down to a price, and although mine are 'good enough' for what I do, they aren't as smooth to operate, or as positive in action, or as robust as ex-industrial machines in good condition. In short, lathes made to support fast production work that cost a fortune new are easier and less tiring to operate than most hobby machines. The latter do much the same job, but demand a shade more of the operator. (Also true of clapped out industrial lathes: skilled operators can compensate for many shortcomings. It just takes longer.)

It helps if lathe and milling machine tooling are compatible. (Having an MT lathe might be a good reason for not buying an R8 mill.)

For some, the look is important. A collector might value authentic paint work. signage and gleaming chrome without needing machines to work at all. Others only want tools that work and don't care what they look like. Enjoying a hobby, it's important to be comfortable with the machine, and if that means polish, paint and putty rather than performance, then go for it.

And features may not be as important as first thought - I do far less screw-cutting than I expected because most small threads are better cut with taps and dies. I could almost manage with a plain lathe because my machine is mostly only used to cut big or unusual threads.

JA14/06/2021 17:52:29
1217 forum posts
73 photos


  • Work straight from the box (leveling accepted)
  • Runs from the domestic power supply
  • Screw cutting with gear box (both metric and imperial)
  • Gap bed
  • Back gearing
  • Coolant supply
  • Power cross feed
  • Collet chuck
  • 4 jaw chuck
  • Good lighting
  • Clutch
  • Smooth motor start
  • Quick change tool post
  • Rear tool post
  • Cross slide and top slide locks

Nice to have

  • DRO
  • Taper turning attachment
  • Spindle brake
  • Variable speed control
  • (Addition in edit) Access to the back of the lathe which I have not got

Not interested

  • Electronic lead screw
  • Reverse running of chucks (I have not needed this in the past 25 years)

I could go on.




Edited By JA on 14/06/2021 17:55:54

not done it yet14/06/2021 18:39:08
6273 forum posts
20 photos

I’m sufficiently pragmatic to realise that I am unlikely to find a better lathe. About the only things I might prefer would be a larger spindle bore and a gap bed, but accept that it is unlikely unless I were to buy something rather lager, most likely much more expensive and possibly it having had a hard life. I am quite happy with what I have, after my original chinese purchase.

I have over 260mm swing, reasonable swing over the cross slide, full power over the whole variable speed range (I can also vary the speed with the VFD to venture well outside the original speed range), a wide range of metric and imperial threading (with only a single gear change from one to the other) both axes power feed with auto trip on the long travel, easy feed/threading by selection with just two levers, programmable functions on the VFD, a separate feed shaft. Also movable with a small hoist (or by two persons after removing the motor, carriage, tail stock and chuck).

Edited By not done it yet on 14/06/2021 18:40:17

Dave Halford14/06/2021 19:16:59
1669 forum posts
19 photos

A less knackered than mine one of these, bench model, 54 threads in the gearbox and no change wheels required + spindle speed change by twirling a hand wheel all with no electronics to blow.


Derek Lane14/06/2021 19:56:03
504 forum posts
94 photos

Thank you all for your thoughts. Some interesting ideas of how people see what they want from a lathe

Nigel McBurney 114/06/2021 19:59:16
910 forum posts
3 photos

Cannot beat a Colchester Master 2500 long bed, ( Imperial) reversing clutch to make metric threading easy,1 .630 inch spindle bore ,carriage handwheel to the right hand end ,to avoid hot swarf on your hands,full threading /screwcutting g/box, g/box includes DP worm cutting. Easy to use. d1-4 spindle, though I do miss the 2 inch spindle bore of the now departed Colchester Triumph. I dont worry about weight you can move anything on rollers and a crowbar.

mechman4814/06/2021 20:21:42
2933 forum posts
460 photos

Would second JS's listing for my likes, otherwise a nice Harrison M250/300 will do nicely.


JA14/06/2021 22:55:23
1217 forum posts
73 photos

Looking at my requirements it appears that I want a Hardinge HLV-H lathe. Where on Earth am I going to find one of those? Could I afford one?


Emgee14/06/2021 23:18:39
2147 forum posts
265 photos
Posted by Speedy Builder5 on 14/06/2021 16:09:34:

Electronic leadscrew and cross feed which could be programmable for simple taper and ball turning and auto retract for screw cutting .

Sounds like you need a cnc lathe, does all you call for.


Calum Galleitch15/06/2021 00:05:07
95 forum posts
27 photos

One point easily overlooked, I think, is cost and availability, or ease of manufacture, of accessories and tooling. If you buy a common lathe which is or was sold by the hundred, finding a chuck or a milling slide or a design for a taper attachment is straightforward. Something a bit rarer may be the ideal price and size and so forth as a lathe, but you may find yourself taken aback when you discover how much more expensive and rare D1-5 chucks are compared to their D1-4 cousins, say.

All you can really do though, is work through what you want to do, identify what will be necessary, and then get something a bit bigger if you realistically can.

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