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Which beginners lathe is best

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phil Ingram04/05/2022 22:41:51
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Quick question which is the best lathe to start with as a total novice? Have been looking at a Emco compact 8, is this a good lathe to start with???

Jon Lawes05/05/2022 06:58:48
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926 forum posts

Welcome Phil. This is without a doubt the most asked question on the Forum; it crops up a couple of times a week, and the forum has been around a long time!

Have a go with the search function (either in the top right for a basic search or the google search box on the home page) and you'll find you have enough data and opinions to keep you reading for hours. Best of luck with your research and purchase. There are a lot of people on here with lots of varied opinions, so keep an open mind!

JasonB05/05/2022 07:14:26
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The Emco lathes were well made but as they have not been made for quite a while and were never as common as some others any parts you may need will be hard to come by so condition and what comes with the lathe will be a big factor in whether it is a good one or not.

I used to have it's predecessor the Emcomat 8.6 which was the same basic lathe but with a better geared head, never did find a set of change gears for it and when I eventually found a fixed steady it was not cheap. But it did good work and was in good condition when I got it.

Chris Evans 605/05/2022 08:50:29
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2057 forum posts

First decide what you want to make on the lathe.

Baz05/05/2022 08:59:36
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I am sure that if you search the forum you will find plenty of posts about which lathe is best as the subject has been done to death many, many times in the past. As Chris says you must decide what you want to do with it and how much you can afford to spend etc etc.

Ady105/05/2022 08:59:45
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Emcos or any other postable lathe are totally the way to start off, unimat SL etc

Then spend 6months using it, the dirt, the mess, the swarf in your fingers, the COST of it all

Then you really know where to go at that point, no more chicken and egg situation

1. Stick it in the post and take up birdwatching

2. Upgrade!

Phil Whitley05/05/2022 09:10:18
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1443 forum posts
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I think the answer is "any lathe you can get your hands on" The space you have and the type of power available from your electicity supply being the only limiting factors! Another question you must ask is about the scale of the parts you want to make You can do small work on a big lathe, but not big work on a small lathe! small tabletop new machines are reasonably expensive and very variable in quality, Myfords/south bends etc are generally very expensive for what they are, but also very versatile and capable machines, and having attended very many auctions where machinery is sold I can tell you that anything that can be lifted by two men into a van carries a premium price! For my money go for Harrison,Colchester bantam or student as they are plentiful, well built and very capable, and can often be had for less than a myford, to which they are very superior machines. Watch youtube lathe videos!

How much money have you got!

Phil

Mike Poole05/05/2022 09:26:35
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I would not really call any lathe a beginners lathe as the operation and the skills required are broadly common to all lathes. The so called “Training” lathe is a simple plain lathe without screw cutting or self acting feeds, these are rare but I would avoid buying one if you should find one. The various machines described as mini lathes are popular as they are affordable and capable of good work and the skills are transferable to other lathes. If you have some idea of what work you are likely to be interested in then this can be a factor in selecting a large or small machine. Larger scale models can need large machines to handle components like wheels and flywheels. To an extent small work can be done on a large lathe but large work will not be possible on a small lathe. Two fit people can manhandle a small lathe like a Myford or mini lathe but larger machines need more care and equipment to install safely. I would say be prepared to upgrade if you choose a small lathe and then your interests roam into larger work. Emco machines have a good reputation but are not so common as other makes. Used machines can often be sold on without losing much money and even the depreciation on a new machine is not usually very severe if you find that a machining hobby is not for you or you want to upgrade.

Mike

Hopper05/05/2022 09:26:48
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The Emco would be a good little lathe to start with, if it's in good condition. You can learn the basics on it and always upgrade later if you feel the need. They were Austrian-made and cost as much as a Myford when new in the 1980s so they were a quality machine. if you can get it at the right price it would be a good place to begin.

SillyOldDuffer05/05/2022 09:44:28
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The wonderful lathes.co,uk website describes most Western lathes, read what it says if you want to be put off the Emco Compact 8 But bear in mind what makes a lathe good is its ability to do what you want, not what you read on the internet.

Size matters: clockmaking and motorbikes are not the same. Will you major in metric or imperial work, or do a bit of both? Does the lathe have to work quietly inside the house? Do you value the guarantee that comes with a new made-down-to-a-price Far Eastern hobby lathe more than the risk of buying a second-hand machine that could be badly worn, foolishly modified, or have unobtainium parts missing?

Beginners often start by seeking reassurance from a brand-name or particular model but in my view condition and the machine's match to what you do in your workshop matters more. Budget and practicalities too: don't buy a superb giant lathe if your workshop is perched at the end of a steep garden, has a flimsy wooden floor, and the only access is through your tiny back passage, oo-err matron.

For learning almost any lathe is a good lathe! Best general advice is to buy the biggest machine you can, simply because big machines can do small work, but little machines can't do big. But buying big is bad advice if you intend to specialise in small work, because big lathes are clumsy. Likewise, a mistake to buy a hobby machine if it will be worked hard. If hacking through lots of metal all day is your game, buy an industrial machine. Also a mistake to fling big money at high-end kit and use it for tinkering, unless that's what you enjoy.

After far too much dithering I started with a Chinese mini-lathe and learned enormously from it. They do all the basics. An EMCO Compact 8 in reasonable condition would have done the same job for me, and I'd have been happy to start with one.

Actually using a lathe in anger soon reveals the machine's shortcomings, but these may not matter to you. For example:

  • EMCO not good at running in reverse, very handy to have but not strictly essential
  • Mini-lathes have a fiddly change gear banjo - works fine, but a time-waster if a lot of different threads have to be cut. (Unlikely in most home workshops, but possible.)

In ye olden days buying a lathe was a such a major event it was only done once in a lifetime. Thus it paid to buy carefully. This is much less true today because lathes are more affordable. So I bought a mini-lathe expecting to change it later, and - after discovering it was too small for 10% of what I was doing - I replaced it with a much bigger Chinese machine, also expecting to replace it if I found a better ex-industry or ex-education machine. In practice, the Chinese machine does all I need, except of course, it's too small for 10% of what I do...

My advice, whatever you buy, get on with it. The time I wasted dithering is gone forever!

Dave

Howard Lewis05/05/2022 10:47:45
6104 forum posts
14 photos

How long is a piece of string?

What do want to make?

How big is your budget? (You will need almost immediately to buy some cutting tools, and measuring equipment. And later as you gain experience and confidence, you will find a need for other accessories. )

Find and join a local Model Engineering Club.

You may be able to see various lathes, possibly even allowed to use one, to help your decision making.

Learn about the various parts of a lathe and what they do, the information will be a help..

S O D's advice is all good, particularly to study the Lathes UK webs.. It contains a LOT of information on a large variety of machines. Some of that info will help to clarify your thoughts.

Note the advice about buying a machine that appears to be larger than you need. Your horizons will expand as you gain experience and confidence.

Before buying a machine, it may well be worth buying one or more books about lathes and how to use them.

It can answer a lot of questions, and explain a lot of things before they become a problem or a puzzle.

The "bible" used to be L H Sparey "The Amateur's Lathe"

Possibly a good companion would be Ian Bradley "The Amateur's Workshop"

But there are others, (Some devoted to the mini lathe ) by such as Stan Bray, Harold Hall, Dave Fenner, David Clarke and Neil Wyatt, former editors, and the current editor of Model Engineers Workshop.

HTH

Howard

Thor 🇳🇴05/05/2022 14:29:27
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1628 forum posts
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Hi Phil,

I own an old Emco Compact 8 and it is still delivering good work. I don't know why Dave say the Emco is not good at running in reverse as there is no chance the chuck will come off, cutting left-hand threads might be more difficult though. I have made extra change-gears for it to cut Module threads and some other tools. Good luck with your first lathe.

Thor

JA05/05/2022 17:39:27
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1359 forum posts
80 photos

Running a lathe in reverse. Why?

I have not done so for 35 years. The last time was on a college lathe, at evening class, that lacked a lead screw engagement indicator (or what ever it is called).

JA

Edited By JA on 05/05/2022 17:42:08

SillyOldDuffer05/05/2022 18:25:05
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8691 forum posts
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Posted by JA on 05/05/2022 17:39:27:

Running a lathe in reverse. Why?

I have not done so for 35 years. The last time was on a college lathe, at evening class, that lacked a lead screw engagement indicator (or what ever it is called).

...

Should be a prize for coming up the most reasons! How about:

  • Parting-off with a rear-mounted tool-post, because reverse running pushes the saddle firmly down rather than lifting it and chattering
  • Avoiding crashes by cutting threads away from headstock, which also can be safely done at high-speed.
  • Left and right handed threads are equally easy.
  • Thread dial not required - back out instead. Those dials are great for turns per inch threads, but mistakes get made and they're not so hot for cutting pitch system threads.

Dave

JA05/05/2022 18:42:58
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Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 05/05/2022 18:25:05:
Posted by JA on 05/05/2022 17:39:27:

Running a lathe in reverse. Why?

I have not done so for 35 years. The last time was on a college lathe, at evening class, that lacked a lead screw engagement indicator (or what ever it is called).

...

Should be a prize for coming up the most reasons! How about:

  • Parting-off with a rear-mounted tool-post, because reverse running pushes the saddle firmly down rather than lifting it and chattering
  • Avoiding crashes by cutting threads away from headstock, which also can be safely done at high-speed.
  • Left and right handed threads are equally easy.
  • Thread dial not required - back out instead. Those dials are great for turns per inch threads, but mistakes get made and they're not so hot for cutting pitch system threads.

Dave

I will rise to the bait.

Parting off - by your reasoning an ordinary mounted tool on the top slide would work better than an up-side-down parting off tool in a rear tool post. The latter works but I have never accepted the conventional reasons. I think it works because the chip formed falls away by gravity and is not trapped between the work and tool. On the larger lathe I always part off using a rear mounted tool and running in forward with any chatter or other problems

Avoiding crashes. This is just dumb useage of the lathe. High speeds may be true.

Left and right hand threads are equally easy with the lathe running forward.

Thread dial not required. See above.

JA

The above may be wandering off topic. Perhaps a new posting should be started; "Why have reverse on a lathe?"

Edited By JA on 05/05/2022 18:43:48

Edited By JA on 05/05/2022 18:46:28

JasonB05/05/2022 18:58:29
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I find it handy when turning large diameters as you can put a boring bar upside down to reach the rim and don't have to buy lefthanded ones just for that use.

Also when you gave the topslide set at an angle for turning male and female tapers it can be easier to do the female with a tool cutting the far side of the hole.

Threading at several hundred rpm does not need such fast reaction times to avoid hitting a shoulder if cutting away from it.

I also like to use a die under power and being able to reverse the direction spins it off easily

Think I also did a spring that had to be left hand wind as well on a tapered mandrel

Edited By JasonB on 05/05/2022 19:01:48

Hopper06/05/2022 01:45:55
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6393 forum posts
334 photos

The only time I have used the reverse on my Myford is for screwcutting metric threads where halfnuts must be kept engaged so reverse allows the carriage to be wound back to the start.

I have found from both experience and deliberate trial and error (of the blade-snapping variety), that parting off with an upside down rear parting tool on the Myford or Drummond is far superior to "right way up" parting, front or rear. Mostly due to the chips falling out of the groove and not jamming up the works.

Also, ISTR that GH Thomas in one of his books points out that the upside down tool puts the cutting load on to the lower half of the headstock bearings, pushing the spindle downwards on to the very solid headstock casting. A right-way-up parting tool puts the load on the upper bearing caps (on Myford etc) which are nowhere near as solid and distortion-free as the lower headstock casting. That's his theory anyway. All I know for sure is the above experience from my own experiments and practice.

But when I worked on DSG toolroom lathes, we always used front mounted, right-way-up parting tools without chatter or breakage. But they had plenty of flood coolant and were a larger, very rigid lathe and the HSS blades would have been good quality old-time British or Swedish steel. Hobby lathes and today's hobby HSS are not in the same category.

not done it yet06/05/2022 07:06:31
6809 forum posts
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Personally, I think lathes are lathes and beginners are beginners..

Title would be better as “what lathe is best for a beginner”.

The simple answer, to that, is a simple lathe. The simplest lathe that was suitable for what the beginner wants to do.

Hopper06/05/2022 07:27:34
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6393 forum posts
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Posted by not done it yet on 06/05/2022 07:06:31:

Personally, I think lathes are lathes and beginners are beginners..

Title would be better as “what lathe is best for a beginner”.

The simple answer, to that, is a simple lathe. The simplest lathe that was suitable for what the beginner wants to do.

His specific question was is an Emco he is looking at a good beginners lathe. I would think yes. Simple but good quality - if not worn out.

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