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Newbie looking for advice

Metal lathe

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welder15/04/2022 19:43:02
8 forum posts

Hi everyone, My grandfather used to have a myford lathe 40 odd years ago, and I am now thinking about doing a little lathe work myself. broaden my horizons.

Thing is, I know nothing about lathes, seen loads of cheapie chinesium stuff but I like the idea of an old machine.

I would appreciate advice on good makes, something suitable for me to learn on and increase my skill levels.

I dont have a huge budget or huge amount of space....

240v only.

Thanks in advance.

Fowlers Fury15/04/2022 20:21:25
416 forum posts
92 photos

Don't think I'm being dismissive but since your question - or similar - has been posed a number of times may I suggest you use the "Search for" box with some keywords?
For example perhaps :- "Beginner's", "Foreign lathes" (recently covered), There is a great amount of experience and advice offered here often with links to other sources of information..

welder15/04/2022 20:32:06
8 forum posts

Sorry. I just followed the sites link and posted in the section that says 'newbies start here'

I assumed that was the correct place to begin, as this was my first post.

Nicholas Wheeler 115/04/2022 21:38:44
966 forum posts
88 photos

Phil, your question is like asking which house should I buy?

You need to give us more information like(mostly in order):

What are you going to make? -

How much can you spend?

Where are you going to keep it?

Do you have any experience with using tools to make stuff?

Fowlers Fury15/04/2022 21:49:23
416 forum posts
92 photos

Apologies if you felt it necessary to begin with "Sorry" - your question is welcome and no doubt others with more knowledge than I will provide you with more helpful advice.
What would be your intention once you've "broadened your horizons" ? Should you then wish to embark on building a small, simple loco or a big stationary engine then I'd look for a 3 1/2 inch lathe. These days, the Far Eastern machines seem to have acquired a reasonable reputation. Other than the small ads here and in the M.E. and MEW etc, one significant source can be the workshops of deceased members of model engineering societies. (Just last week I saw in a soc. newsletter a notice inviting offers for a Myford lathe belonging to a deceased member which had produced a number of good models). You might consider locating a local model engineering society and joining. I'm sure you'd be made welcome as a beginner. Additionally, they might have a small workshop where you could be guided in using a lathe. David Carpenter's website has a list of all such societies.
This is the url

I can't locate the list of societies on modelengineeringwebsite, but here is the link to all UK MESs:-

Definite source



Edited By Fowlers Fury on 15/04/2022 22:01:29

welder15/04/2022 22:15:18
8 forum posts

Nicholas, thought i was being a bit vague.

I would ultimately like to make small engines and parts that are no longer available for classic cars.

A grand would be the budget and it will be kept in a shed. It is heated snd has a dehumidifier running 24/7

As for experience i am a coded welder with 30 years in fabrication, mainly bridges, overhead cranes and pressure vessels. I have used press brakes and drilling machines.

I have no experience with lathes except turning a towball spindle for a tractor. Once.

welder15/04/2022 22:20:11
8 forum posts

Fowler, thankyou for your informative reply. 3 1/2 inch lathe.... that's tiny!! I suppose it will be a good starting point as I just want to learn and become proficient / confident right now so i guess this would be a good choice. Thanks

Calum Galleitch15/04/2022 23:56:42
194 forum posts
65 photos

Although the old adage is "you can make small things on a big lathe", there is a lot to be said for starting out on a smallish lathe. The 3.5" lathe was the standard hobbyist lathe for most of the twentieth century, and although 3.5" doesn't sound like much, swinging a 7" diameter part soon gets alarming, I promise! It can be quite surprising what can and has been done on such machines.

The thing about bigger lathes is that when you go from, say, 3" to 4", all the other numbers don't go up by 30%, they go up by 50-100%. Price, weight, power, danger...

There's a lot to be said for getting as big a lathe as you need, but speaking as someone who did exactly that, I will say that getting it fully equipped and doing what I want to do with it would (and will) have taken far less time if I'd curtailed my initial ambitions and gotten something smaller. On the other hand, the very small (7x14) lathes are really limited in what they can do out the box and it's questionable whether learning to deal with their inadequacies is time well spent.

The old metal v. Asian lathe debate will rumble on till the end of time and at the end of the day a well set up lathe is a good lathe, whatever its history. Old lathes now are, well, old, and perhaps sometimes fetch prices in excess of their value.

What I would suggest in your search is that you make some good notes, maybe start a spreadsheet, and think through all the different points that you and others raise, but at the end of the day, just get *something* and get started, and if in a year's time you need a replacement, you'll be that much better informed.

welder16/04/2022 07:53:58
8 forum posts

Based on above advice i am currently looking into buying a myford ml7 off ebay, has some tooling, spare chucks and an operation manual.

Also there is a chester 3 in 1 machine in the classifieds on here. Think i might go for that if the myford falls through and its still for sale.

Thanks for the replys. I will let you know how i get on...

Lee Rogers16/04/2022 09:08:21
176 forum posts
Posted by phil holmes on 16/04/2022 07:53:58:

Based on above advice i am currently looking into buying a myford ml7 off ebay, has some tooling, spare chucks and an operation manual.

Also there is a chester 3 in 1 machine in the classifieds on here. Think i might go for that if the myford falls through and its still for sale.

Thanks for the replys. I will let you know how i get on...

Your post is most welcome ,( even if someone did get out of the wrong side of the bed today)

I have yet to hear of anyone that was happy with the lathe / mill combo. The Myford is a good starting point and there's lots of kit available to go with it . Google ML7 buying advice, there are a few simple measurements that will tell you if it's ok or worn out . And don't be fooled by some of the ridiculous asking prices.

It sounds like you have a fair bit of engineering nouce so you'll do fine with it . I'm looking forward to hearing how you get on.

Ches Green UK16/04/2022 09:19:03
66 forum posts
5 photos

Hi Phil

I would appreciate advice on good makes, something suitable for me to learn on and increase my skill levels.
I dont have a huge budget or huge amount of space....

I would ultimately like to make small engines and parts that are no longer available for classic cars.

I'm not an experienced machinist and it's many decades since I was trained to use most workshop equipments.

But, now retired, I'm using a mini lathe and mini mill (from ARC) to happily build model static steam engines. Max turning diameter on the lathe would be 7". Neither machine is particularly rigid if taking big cuts, but perfectly usable if common sense is used ie smaller but more cuts.

Whatever you spend on the lathe/mill you will double on accessories etc but that spend can be spread out over a few years.

2nd hand equipment tends to come with accessories, but all may or may not be worn out. Also it's pedigree can be unclear and only an expert eye can determine it's current 'goodness' and life left in it. And it can be large and heavy so requiring a firm base to stand on.

Also your age and accommodation plans come in to it...if younger you may have time to start with a mini lathe and a few years later exchange it for a larger lathe that more suitably meets your needs. Also, if you plan/have time to move home a few times leading to larger and larger premises, then again you may be able to expand the workshop  in size and numbers of equipments.






Edited By Ches Green UK on 16/04/2022 09:20:14

Nick Clarke 316/04/2022 10:10:51
1476 forum posts
64 photos

A few comments -

Please get advice from someone with experience using the individual machine you are considering. Advice from someone who has purchased a larger lathe and condemns a smaller one they have not used is worthless.

If you wish to find out about the small mini lathes the book 'The Mini Lathe' by Neil Wyatt is excellent and will tell you lots - and many users here use them with success.

Finding books to recommend about Myfords is harder as while many talk about the machines as bought new buying second hand you may be looking at a lathe that is up to 75 years old and you will need to be able to repair or compensate for any wear which may be an unknown quantity - or may not, but a beginner might find this frustrating.

I have used Lathes for extended periods from Myford, Boxford, Denford and Raglan and Naerok as well as new imported lathes. They all have limitations I can talk about but others I cannot comment on - but a new machine at least has a guarantee.

Finally the difference in capacity between a Myford and a mini lathe can be as little as a few inches in bed length unless you count using the faceplate to turn something in the gap on the ml7 which can only be a couple of inches long. If you need more you need a larger machine than either.

Finally if you are looking to buy secondhand take someone knowledgeable with you - I know of one Myford where the spindle had been bored out to a larger size and the taper that is supposed to hold centres etc is no longer there - but the purchaser did not realise when he bought it!

Clive Steer16/04/2022 10:49:37
100 forum posts
5 photos

My advice would be to buy the biggest lathe your budget or space allows as you can always do small on a big lathe but not the other way around. Then find someone who has the lathe you are thinking of getting and ask what idiosyncrasies/problems the lathe has. Treat the lathe as a system so what you need to power it and the ease of obtaining tooling etc should also be considered. Do the leg work to see as many lathe types as you can including asking professional machine shops what they like best.

If you choose to buy a ex-industrial machine bear in mind that it will be 440V 3 phase so will need a phase converter, inverter or new motor to work from a domestic supply. The bigger the lathe the more difficult it will be to power it without special electrical facilities. Bear in mind an ex-industrial machine may have been worked hard but having said that they are designed for that so, unless abused, may still have plenty of lift left in it.

A good machine may be expensive to buy but should also be easy to sell.


SillyOldDuffer16/04/2022 12:32:59
8912 forum posts
2000 photos

Second-hand versus new?

The problem with second-hand is the 'good make' matters very little if the machine is badly worn or spent 5 years stored in a damp cellar! Condition is everything, and judging it from a position of inexperience can be difficult: an unpromisingly grubby antique might be in better nick than a well-polished jobby covered in fresh paint, but is a knackered machine reconditioned by Coco The Clown! Before buying it, I'd want to see the lathe put through it's paces - nothing like cutting metal to reveal problems! Not much protection if the seller is uncooperative.

This car is a 'good make' and cost a lot of money new - would you buy it now?


New from a UK supplier comes with consumer protection so the thing can be sent back if a lemon is delivered. Slight problem is hobbyists typically can't afford to buy a new industrial machine, so we troop towards Far Eastern Hobby machines. Plenty of choice, especially size, delivered by a nice man, complete with most basic accessories, and a good chance it will work out of the box. If it doesn't send it back. However, the machines are made down to a price, perhaps less than 10% of the cost of the industrial version, so relatively lightly built, rough finish, and reduced inspection which might allow an important defect out of the factory. If this happens, the mistake is fixed by replacing or money back, not by guaranteeing all will be well at all times by requiring all new purchasers to pay a hefty inspection surcharge.

After far too much dithering I started with a Chinese mini-lathe. Light enough to be lifted by a fit man, OK on an ordinary table or bench, quiet, and big enough to tackle small and medium sized work. Does all the usual basic lathe stuff including screw-cutting. Not ideal for clockmaking or big enough for motorbikes, but comfortably good enough for 60 or 70mm diameter and up to 250mm long.

I learned a lot from mine, including how to spot what's good and bad about lathes! I had a notion I would upgrade to an ex-industrial or ex-educational machine once I knew what I was doing. In practice, my mini-lathe's main fault was being too small, not being riddled with Far-eastern faults! So I upgraded to the biggest lathe and mill that would fit in my workshop, chosen from a catalogue, and delivered a week later. All of my Far Eastern machines worked straight out of the box. Both lathes benefited from minor fettling, but the milling machine needed no work at all. Worst item by far was the 6x4 band-saw, but replacing the blade and an afternoon spent filing worked wonders. Despite being rough as old boots the saw works well. None of these machines is suitable for hard production work, but they all do more than I need.

I wouldn't buy a Far-eastern machine other than from a reputable UK supplier. Not because machines from other sources are all rubbish, but because buying direct from China, or from a box shifter, or an opportunist could be admin trouble if a dud arrives. One 'bargain' I looked at required rejects to be shipped at buyer expense to a depot in Germany - not cheap or easy! ArcEuroTrade get plenty of positive customer feedback, and I had no bother with Warco when an expensive item went missing in transit - they just sent another. Searching the forum by supplier name will reveal who gets most kudos and brickbats, but in general all the main British suppliers do the right thing in the end.

Not really about the make in my view, more about condition and what happens if you get a wrong 'un. The make might even be a disadvantage: Myford lathes are so well thought of they attract premium prices, even in poor condition. The reputation is well deserved, but they aren't the best British lathes ever made: at the time, affordable rather than top-of-the-range. I'd rather own a second-hand ex-educational Boxford, provided of course it was in good condition.

Whatever you buy, manage expectations. Lathes don't automatically cut metal perfectly just like that. The operator has a lot to learn, so ask on the forum.


JA16/04/2022 12:47:40
1406 forum posts
81 photos


Nothing against your initial posting, I would have done the same, but the question does come up two or three times a year. The advice is always the same and sometimes I find myself disagreeing with some of it.

It is worth looking at the dealers of used machine tools, such as Home and Workshop, and see what they are selling. They will only sell what they can shift. If particular makes of lathes are missing there is a good reason.

Consider joining your local model engineering society. Obviously you will get advise but there are other advantages. You will probably get access to a lathe larger than yours, either a society lathe or another member's. My large lathe is a Big Bore Myford but my society's is a Colchester Chipmaster and friends have larger lathes.

Have fun


not done it yet16/04/2022 19:38:00
6891 forum posts
20 photos

I like the idea of an old machine.

I would appreciate advice on good makes, something suitable for me to learn on and increase my skill levels.

I do too. I dropped on a far better machine than my original piece of chinesium tackle. I wished I had bought one like it originally.  It would have been much cheaper (and far cheaper than some are asking for fymords).

I have since found a better replacement. Same marque, but their later (final) model. I’ll not claim they are all good - I looked at quite a few before actually purchasing. Some may have been a challenge to get into good condition again and were over-priced, but I eventually found a good one, at the right price, that will stay with me for the rest of my hobby time. Looking around likely added a few quid to the cost and a few months in time and patience, but it was definitely worth it.

I now have a very good example of their mill, which is a pleasure to use, as well as a Centec 2B which copes with the larger jobs.

Edited By not done it yet on 16/04/2022 19:39:14

Mick B116/04/2022 21:03:36
2227 forum posts
125 photos

It's all down to personal preference and the sort of work you propose to do, of course.

I've been a turner since 1975 - for several years for pay - and can't readily remember all the makes of machine I've used.

I have a Chinese-made Warco WM250V now and I'm completely happy with it. Sneering at far eastern equipment seems to me to be without any valid foundation, as it used to be at Japanese motorbikes.

I was reasonably happy with a Myford Speed 10 for about 15 years, but it was always too small and the spindle bore very severely so. When Iwas a working turner I thought Myfords were inexplicably overrated - Boxfords had proper feed and screwcutting gearboxes and were more useful, but I don't know how easy it'd be to find a good one now.

Howard Lewis17/04/2022 14:55:27
6317 forum posts
15 photos

Good work can be produced on an older machine, if it is in good condition. And in the long term, it may prove to be more reliable and longer lasting. Belts tend not be made obsolete, solid state devices, sometimes do.

People produce good work on machines that are upto a century old.

Am I biased? Probably not.

My first lathe was a Myford ML7. It was upgraded with longer Cros Slide, resettable dials, and a graduated Leadscrew handwheel.

Sold because I wanted something larger. A new 7 Series Myford, with the features that I wanted would have cost four times more than the replacement.

The replacement is a larger belt driven Taiwanese lathe. The possible vulnerability are the electronics in the UK manufactured VFD, where the electronic components may be of eastern origin, and less reliable.

(Not so far after 19 years of use )

The other lathe is a mini lathe, so the major vulnerability is probably the control board. Hopefully, feeding through a surge protector, and careful use (Always starting or stopping at Zero rpm and avoiding huge cuts or feeds will keep it running for a long time. )

Nothing is absolutely perfect, but you make the compromises that result in the best fit with your requirements.

I have had involvement with a few older lathes ( Adept, MYford ML4s and a Raglan 5 inch ) and despite their limitations, compared to my current ones, hold them in high regard. Given the facilities that they have, they work very well, and i would be happy to use them on a long term basis..

(One of the machines, provides an income for the owner. One of the others used to ).

You decide what you want to make, and what features will be required to do that, before searching for a machine that meets that specification, and is in a good enough condition to do what you want reliably and accurately..

If in doubt, choose a slightly larger machine. It will probably be heavier and more rigid, and able to cope with your demands when you wish to expand your activities, as you surely will.

Research carefully before spending money.

If a used machine, don't be taken by a smart paint job. All that glistens may not be gold! A shiny wreck will not be as good as a well cared for, dirty machine!

Take someone knowledgeable with you to check it over, before buying!



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