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Chester Craftsman or Crusader?

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Colin Bennett 105/01/2022 15:52:17
19 forum posts

The last few weeks I have been considering which lathe to buy. I want to buy a new lathe and not an old British lathe, so my choice is between Warco and Chester.

Initially I had settled for the Warco GH1236 as I need a reasonable distance between centres. Unfortunately when I looked on Warco’s website yesterday they have now increased the price by £600, from £4150 to £4750 which makes it uneconomical for the occasional use it will be getting. Even the Warco GH600has seen a price increase of £500. Obviously all to do with the increased cost of shipping and inflation.

All of this made me reconsider and have another look at my second choice, the Chester Craftsman. A belt driven lathe, with supposedly a distance between centres of 940mm. The closest machine to the Warco GH1236 is the Chester Crusader Deluxe but in all fairness the capacity of the Craftsman is very similar.

Having spend some time reading the forum it seems that Chester customer service leaves a bit to be desired at times. Whilst I don’t want to create another Chester bashing thread, I do would like to hear of people that have a Craftsman or Chester lathe and what their experience is. Are either of these lathe’s a good buy or should I steer clear of them?

The lathe will be predominantly used to make bushes and pins for mini/midi sized excavators. I have a small sideline of making excavator attachments and this is where these pins and bushes will be used. However, I only do it for a hobby and want to be able to make everything in-house.

I also want a plasma cutter and a new MIG welder so any money that can be saved on a lathe, without ending up with an inferior machine is welcome.

Thank you for your opinions.


larry phelan 106/01/2022 10:42:50
1169 forum posts
15 photos

Hi Colin,

Yes, sad to say, Chester service is a bit "iffy" at best but the Craftsman lathe is OK.

I have one, long bed model, for the past 20 years or so and am happy enough with it

They are built to a price so are not Tool Room quality, but good enough for your needs, I would think.

I have used mine for much the same type of work, with no real problems.

There is a good range of speeds and screwcutting in both Metric and Whit, and being belt driven is not a problem.

I feel that the topslide and toolpost could do with a bit more meat on them, just a bit light, I feel.

I bought the longbed as I had no idea what I would need to work on.

One of the items I made for it was a rear toolpost for parting off, crude but effective, well worth making.

Mine came with two chucks ,faceplate ,steadies, centres, ect, not sure they do now, faceplates seem to be extra.

If I can help anymore, please feel free to ask.

Colin Bennett 106/01/2022 15:30:49
19 forum posts

Hi Larry,

Thank you very much for your reply. It is greatly appreciated that you have taken the time to reply.

Until the New Year I had set my sights on the Warco GH1236 and hadn’t given Chester any serious thought after reading some of the threads on here. However after Warco’s price increase they have just become to expensive. I can’t justify have nearly £5k worth of lathe sitting in the corner to make pins/bushes that I can also make on a lathe that is sub £1k.

The Chester Crusader Deluxe is the closest to the GH1236 and of similar price, before the increase. However I then looked at the Craftsman and that is nearly identical to the GH1236 or the Crusader deluxe albeit being belt driven. And of course it is £2k cheaper then the GH1236, which is a considerable amount.

You also cleared another of my questions up. Looking at the specs of the Craftsman it mentions a distance of 940mm between centres. During my research I came across a video review of the Craftsman and he mentioned a distance between centres of 540mm. It appears that the only available option now is the long bed. Which is good as that is what I want. No immediate need for a long bed but as the spindle bore is a bit smaller the longer bed can make up for that.

The current offering comes with the following accessories:
160mm 3 and 4 jaw chucks
Stand and tray
Fixed and travelling steadies
4 way tool-post
MT3 steel centres
MT4 to MT3 reducing sleeve
2 axis DRO

As you mentioned, no faceplate.

What sort of power supply does this lathe require as it isn’t mentioned in the available documentation?. (I have the Grizzly documentation for this lathe)

I sent Chester an email this morning and had a reply back within 10 minutes. They have a Craftsman in the showroom and they are expecting the next shipment to arrive late Feb.

My only outstanding issue is regarding delivery. We live on a small lane and a lorry with tail lift will not be able to reach the house. Not an issue as such as we normally ask for bigger deliveries to made to the village hall and I meet them there with my trailer. However this requires them to deliver within a certain timeframe as I am normally away from for a week at a time. The lathe just turning up does not work for me so I need to see how willing they are to work with me.

Bazyle06/01/2022 19:40:01
6295 forum posts
222 photos

I see you knew when comparing suppliers to check which extras are included and if delivery is extra.

Given your interest in plant rather than clocks and small steam engines I'd be inclined to suggest a Colchester Triumph which are often available cheaper as they are too big for most amateurs. They might be problems of 3phase supply for you though. Must remember you when I need a narrow bucket for heat pump pipe trenches.

Howard Lewis06/01/2022 20:12:26
6005 forum posts
14 photos


FWIW my lathe is an Engineers ToolRoom BL12-24.

This like the Craftsman a Metric machine, but with dual dials, and a different paint job.

This assumes that they both came from the same factory, and to the same level of quality.

My machine was new in September 2003 (Made in May 2003) but by choice I had a VFD and 1.5 hp motor fitted from new) so on mine, the belts give three speeds (Plus the back geared versions of those speeds ) variable over a wide range by the VFD.

I have found it to be reliable and accurate machine, but no complaints over it's performance.

It has performed a wide variety of tasks, from facing /boring a 6 1/8" diameter lump of cast iron, in the 4 jaw chuck, to thinning the heads of 10 BA bolts in the 3 jaw chuck.

The 120/127T compound idler makes changing from cutting Imperial to Metric threads easy.

My machine came with a 30T gear as well as the 32T for cutting the full range of Metric threads. This enabled me to cut a 4 mm pitch thread, but using it instead of the 40T as the Norton box input gear..

It has cut a number of 1.5 mm pitch threads for ER collet holders.

With a sharp Tangential Turning Tool, it will take cuts of 0.0005" or maybe even less.


The Fixed Steady needs more hands that I can muster to secure it in position, so I made the bolt captive.

To halve the feed rate, I made an fitted a 80T gear for the input to the Norton box. This meant that the closure for the gear cover had to be relocated and breaking the knob led to a new one!

Silly feature, ,beneath the Cross Slide handwheel is a ball oiler. So, it is inaccessible. In fear and trembling, I removed the traverse controls, destroyed the oiler in removing it to fit a blank, and drilled a 6 mm hole on the side so that the new oiler would be accessible.

Somewhere in MEW there is an article detailing these mods.

DON'T run the Saddle into the Headstock! The shaft with integral gear that engages the rack is SOFT, and expensive to replace. I made a new one, for half the cost, including the gear cutter, (And found errors in the Division Chart for my Rotary Table, the hard way! )

I made a four way rear toolpost and fitted it to the rear T slot on the Cross Slide, allowing me to front and back chamfer as well as part off. Works so well that I now part off under power feed!.



Howard Lewis06/01/2022 20:24:42
6005 forum posts
14 photos


There are pictures of my Rear Toolpost and the long T nut that retains it, in my albums, if it is any help.

alan ord 206/01/2022 20:48:19
126 forum posts
35 photos

Hi Colin, I have a Chester DB11 Lathe and very happy with it. Does everything I want it to do. As for customer service I have never really had a bad experience. I also have a Chester Super Lux Mill, a Chester Champion 20VS Mill and a Chester multi former. So I am a little biased but happy all the same.


Gary Wooding07/01/2022 10:18:36
967 forum posts
253 photos

I purchased a Chester 12x36 Geared Head lathe about 20 or so years ago and have had no problems. I replaced the original 1ph 1.5hp motor with a 2hp 3ph motor and Mitsubishi VFD. The 1.5hp was adequate and 2hp wasn't really necessary but it was the right price. I also fitted a 2 axis DRO.

I'm happy with it.

Colin Bennett 107/01/2022 12:06:31
19 forum posts

Thank you very much for all the replies. You have given me some more food for thought!

-Bazyle, I had a look at the Colchester Triumph after reading your reply and ai would love to have one. Unfortunately the last time I used a late is nearly 30 years ago so truth to be told I am reluctant to buy secondhand. I just haven’t got the knowledge to judge if a lathe is good or if the bed etc needs regrinding.

The other big issue is the 3 phase supply. We live of a little track with above ground powerlines. I did enquire how much it would be to have 3 phase added to the property and they said that it would be over £20k!! On that basis, 3 phase is off the “wanted” list.

I don’t really make digger buckets as such. If needed I modify them to a Swedish style bucket with a longer toe. General buckets are relatively cheap from the big manufacturers. No money to be made in, even as a hobby.

-Howard, thank you for your detailed response. It seems that the Craftsman lathe itself is not a bad machine, especially after a few modifications. I will certainly have a look at your photo’s if I decide to buy the Craftsman.

-Alan, that is exactly what I would like to hear. Whilst there are quite a few complaints about Chester on this forum, there are obviously also people that are happy with their purchase and the service provided.

-Gary, thank you. It is good to see people with a positive experience. I am getting closer to putting an order in with Chester. 

In general, does anybody know what power supply the Craftsman need? Does it need a 16amp supply or a 32amp supply? If it is 32amp then I might need to upgrade the supply to the garage.

After Larry mentioned the faceplate I had a look on the Chester website if they can supply one for the lathe but they don’t show any. Would anybody know where I can buy one that fits the Craftsman lathe?

Edited By Colin Bennett 1 on 07/01/2022 12:06:53

Edited By Colin Bennett 1 on 07/01/2022 12:10:48

jimmy b07/01/2022 12:12:28
780 forum posts
42 photos

I've had a Crusader deluxe for 9 years.

I have to say its an excellent machine. I added a VFD a few years ago znd it's totally transformed the machine. I'd certainly recommend this upgrade, it wasn't cheap to do, but more than worth the effort.

Changing speeds with belts is ok, until you need to chage speeds a lot!

My purchase was based on biggest machine I could fit in the space I have.

I've also got a Sieg SC4, which is used less and less, such is the versatility of the Crusader.

Best of luck!


jimmy b07/01/2022 12:13:25
780 forum posts
42 photos

I have ran my Crusader off a 3 pin plug with no issues at all.


DiogenesII07/01/2022 12:14:59
517 forum posts
202 photos

Just pointing out the existence of this.. connections with this company, but am aware they've been around for years..

Project Machinery - Used Centre Lathes - Warco GH1322

larry phelan 107/01/2022 12:56:07
1169 forum posts
15 photos

Just thinking, How about trying Home And Workshop Machinery for a faceplate ?

BTW, I also got gears, 30, 32, 40, 46.

The 46 comes in handy for cutting both 3mm and 1.75mm threads, neither of which are listed on the chart.

1.75 is 12mm, one I use a lot.

larry phelan 107/01/2022 16:18:02
1169 forum posts
15 photos

Above should read 3.5mm 30 mm, slip of the fingers or the mind !

Had a look around for faceplates, nothing to suit Craftsman anywhere, strange !

Perhaps Grizzly ?, but postage from America ??????frown

Colin Bennett 107/01/2022 20:35:37
19 forum posts

Chester have updated their website today and increased the prices of all the lathes. The Craftsman is now £250 dearer at £3000 and the Crusader Deluxe has gone up to £4550 which is only £200 cheaper then the Warco GH1236. When taking delivery into account the difference reduces to £100. Unfortunately this makes the Crusader to expensive for what I need.

Jimmy, many thanks for your reply. If you are able to run the Crusader of a standard 3 pin plug then this should also be possible with the Craftsman. Glad to see another Chester customer that is happy with their purchase.

DiogenesII, thank you for the link. I was unaware of that company. The Warco GH1322 is a short bed and I would like something with a longer bed. Anything on their website is either out of my price range or has a short bed. However I will keep an eye on them as their inventory will change.

Larry, I have searched the internet today to try and find a faceplate for the Craftsman but nothing comes up. Even when searching in the States (Grizzly) I draw up a blank. Not sure if these can be made easily at home as that might be the only other option.

At the moment I have no need to cut threads but I am sure that it will change as I get used to the lathe and try different projects. I will keep the gears in mind.

I also had a look on the Home and Workshop Machinery website and they have a lovely Harrison L6 for sale. £750 more then the Craftsman but unfortunately it is 3 phase. Had a quick look what it would take to convert it to single phase but it is not as easy as it looks. The best way would be to buy an 230v - 415v inverter as that means that you can use the original controls but that adds another £350 to the price. 😞

Once again, thank you very much everybody. Your advice and ideas are really appreciated. If we ever meet then the first pint is on me! 🍺

DiogenesII08/01/2022 10:05:38
517 forum posts
202 photos

Don't know anything about this lot either, other that they are in Staffs and have ex-educational machines that might suit, there's a Warco 1440 & Ajax 165 amongst others:

Tracey Machinery - centre lathes

John Haine08/01/2022 10:28:56
4622 forum posts
273 photos

3 phase no problem, fit a VFD.

Mark Simpson 108/01/2022 10:53:26
111 forum posts
30 photos

Hi Colin

I've had a crusader deluxe for 5 years and turned most of my 6" traction engine bits on it. You get a lot of stuff for your money. The basic lathe is better made than I thought and the bed is still very true and does not twist easily; lots of 25-30kg bits turned in it... You can get more centre distance by overhanging the tailstock a fair bit. I've managed 970mm between centres (with a short headstock centre turned insitu)

The acccesories are more variable, check them all when you receive it.
Chucks are good, and the 12" faceplate is fine, the fixed steady is rubbish; twisted and about 1" off centre and 3/8' low... I fixed it but still annoys me that it was so crap! The bed stop was another poor quality item; so I remade it.

I killed the single phase motor, after a good amount of use, and replaced it with a VFD and 3phase combo... Infinitely better.

I'm happy with it, not the quality of my previous colchester student, but the bed turns parallel over 900+mm without having to adjust the gibs as it travels along at 5 years old...

Dealing with Chester was not the simplest thing, buy all you need at one go and make sure it fits together as you get it....

Gary Wooding08/01/2022 12:05:55
967 forum posts
253 photos
Posted by Colin Bennett 1 on 07/01/2022 12:06:31:

In general, does anybody know what power supply the Craftsman need? Does it need a 16amp supply or a 32amp supply? If it is 32amp then I might need to upgrade the supply to the garage.

My 12x36 Geared head came with a 1.5hp 1ph motor (same as the Craftsman) that ran quite happily from a standard 13A socket. After swapping the motor for a 2hp 3ph + VFD it still runs fine from a 13A socket. I didn't choose a 2hp motor because 1.5hp wasn't enough, I chose it because I could get it at a good price.

noel shelley08/01/2022 13:30:35
1278 forum posts
21 photos

I deal with diggers etc but more on the hydraulic side. While a 2Hp motor will work on 13A plug 3hp is pushing it. You mention welding and a plasma cutter, here you are going to need at least a 16A for anything of any power. Re wiring to 32A might be a good move. For what you want to do almost any lathe with a long enough bed not worn out would work even a long bed Myford. To solve the 3ph issue as I live in the sticks I used a car diesel engine and a 20Kva 3ph alternator - there's no 3ph in the village ! Good hunting, Noel.

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