By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Forum House Ad Zone

The perennial question...

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Alec Gunner22/05/2022 18:18:26
12 forum posts
4 photos

Hello Everyone,

In common with what appears to be 90% of people joining this site, my initial reason for doing so is that I am looking for opinions regarding choice of a lathe.

I already own two - a South Bend Heavy 10" and a Lorch KD50. What I need is something in between. I inherited the South Bend 15yrs ago from my father, it is still set up in his garage (where my mother still lives) about an hour from my house. It is on a cabinet and set up with line shaft drive, and I just don't have anywhere at my place to put it. I also inherited a virtually unused Chester mill at the same time.

Until recently I have had access to a cheap, nasty Chinese lathe in a small workshop at work (along with a small mill). The lathe really is nasty - plastic gears, and the metal handle on the toolpost snapped when trying to get it reasonably tight (but an M6 socket head cap screw now serves). I tend to spend my lunch breaks making simple things such as unobtainable BSF nuts, bolts and studs up to around 9/16". I tend to cut the threads with taps and dies, just using the lathe to start them square. Accuracy tends not to be critical for the things I want to make and any occasional bigger item can go on the South Bend; truly accurate items go on the KD50.

The workshop is now to be repurposed so I need to buy something which will do the job. It needs to be benchtop, and I need to be able to lift it off as it will have to share the limited working space on the garage bench. Not really having planned for this change in access, I have a distinctly limited budget - not much more than £500. Choices appear to be:

Another cheap, nasty Chinese lathe with plastic gears, accepting its poor quality and that I will have to progressively make new bits as they break.

A 1930s-1950s flat belt model such as a Zyto or a Myford ML1-4, checking for cracks in the headstock clamps, buying with as much tooling as possible and accepting that I will not want to lift/carry it far.

A Myford ML10 with minimal tooling. Realistically, a machine with just a 3-jaw chuck seems to fall within my budget and so long as there isn't too much play in it would do the job.

An Emco Compact 5 would be truly bench-top and moveable, and with luck I can find one with a milling column which would also address the occasional need for shaping things which are not round (e.g. hexagonal bolt heads) which will otherwise have to be done by hand with a file, or wait until I visit my mother's place.

I would welcome thoughts on the above or other ideas that I have missed.



Baz22/05/2022 19:59:45
725 forum posts
2 photos

Don’t really think there is much to say, you know roughly what you want, you know what to avoid, your only problem is getting something within your budget, hope you find something to suit you soon.

Alec Gunner22/05/2022 20:04:38
12 forum posts
4 photos

.. and since I forgot to mention it above and can't edit the original post, I have searched through the forum for previous threads on the topic as is usually recommended, and found a lot of helpful comment, but I couldn't quite find anything which addressed my specific question as 1. My budget is small; 2. The usual adage of 'bigger is better' does not strictly apply for the reasons mentioned above and 3. I can live with loss of accuracy (e.g. wear creating increased play) if that is the price to be paid for keeping within the other criteria. Hope that helps clarify thoughts.


Frances IoM22/05/2022 20:14:59
1268 forum posts
28 photos
Can you sell the South Bend (tho I have no idea of its 2nd hand value) as ?500 will not get you any new Chinese mini lathe (not that these are readily moved) and the smaller precision lathes (eg a Cowells) are considerably more expensive. Is there a local model engineering society you can join as often they may be aware of machines for sale.

A small SX-1 mill would be a better solution for milling but would now cost over ?500 new but 2nd models should be easy to find - possibly combined with a Taig/Peatol small lathe - the pair might be obtainable for ?500 2nd hand
SillyOldDuffer22/05/2022 20:38:23
8699 forum posts
1967 photos

I'm afraid everything depends on the budget, which requires you to get lucky, not impossible, or to accept plastic gears (they'll do)

Myford 10's were cheap compared with Sevens when I first took an interest in lathes, but that seems to have gone by the board - too many enthusiasts chasing them. There's a well accessorised example on,uk , asking price £3500, and another at Corsham - 3 jaw, tailstock and no stand - for £1975 Both much more than I would pay for an ML10!

Zyto are OK provided you can find one in reasonable condition, but basic and ancient. I don't rate pre-war British hobby lathes above today's far eastern equivalents, which - despite warts - are good value for money. (My concern there is also your limited budget - inflation is running at about 10% at the moment and the cost of everything is rising..)

I'd forget looking for a particular make and go for whatever can be found in reasonable nick and of about the right size. (Having found a lathe for sale, check out the spec on and ask here.  In my opinion condition matters far more than the brand.   Plain lathes are usually cheaper (because they can't do screw-cutting), but not all that common. The other option is to buy a wreck and do it up, hoping that nothing painful in time and/or money needs fixing. Not my cup of tea, but several members report good results.

Could you sell the big lathe and bump up the budget?


Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 22/05/2022 20:40:50

Hopper22/05/2022 23:26:42
6421 forum posts
335 photos

A Drummond M-Type is a better vintage lathe than either the Myford ML1-4 or Zyto etc. I've done a lot of good work on mine over the years. Cheap enough to buy too.

Ady122/05/2022 23:50:56
5095 forum posts
736 photos

The Drummond M is just a bit too heavy for most of us mortals but it's the next step up from weedy Myfords

You can strip off the head and tailstock, remove the banjo and flip off the belt then move it single handed if you're only going a few feet but it's a pretty big lift and a not-safe thing to do regularly

The head bolts into a tongue and the tailstock slides off

But it's like a mini South Bend, very capable and can do industrial rates of work, they were designed to be man moveable and go back together very easily and accurately, handy for installing in Maintenance Trucks, Submarines and Destroyers

Edited By Ady1 on 23/05/2022 00:05:11

Alec Gunner23/05/2022 01:06:41
12 forum posts
4 photos

Thank you for the thoughts so far.

I would prefer not to sell the South Bend as it is very capable and well equipped. If anything, I would be more inclined to sell the Lorch as they seem to be making extremely high prices and I really don't use it to its capabilities, but the main issue is that I need something I can move around and extra budget doesn't seem to help much with that.

I hadn't considered the M. There seem to be a few about at a reasonable price (unfortunately they all seem to be on the South Coast and I am in Essex, which is not ideal, but could be done). I am not that familiar with the different makes/models of 1930s-1950s British models so it's very helpful to have an opinion on which are preferable, as there isn't that much in it for price between them.

I seem to still have the same four options within my budget:

Something new, nasty, probably poor quality and needing various bits replaced due to premature failure (the gears stripped on the one at work the first time we set it in low gear!)

Something vintage, of which the M has a recommendation and I could shift it around, another option being a Zyto - there is one on Ebay currently at £75 which looks pretty decent on the face of it and another went on Facebook Marketplace a couple of days ago for £375 which had an excellent assortment of tooling with it.

An M10 - they do still come up within my budget. I was offered one a month or two back for £350 in good condition with a 3-jaw chuck and a faceplate but nothing else. Of course, at the time I didn't need one...

An Emco Compact 5 with milling head, which fits the bill of being multi-purpose and portable but I'm not sure how capable it really is. These seem to go for around £450.

I suppose the advantage of having many options is that something will definitely turn up, but if there are any opinions on which of them to rule out it and why it would be useful.


Pero23/05/2022 03:58:34
162 forum posts


Are you able to locate the lathe on mobile bench and shift it out of the way when not being used? This may open up your options a little, and also save your back if you are having to move the lathe on a regular basis.

In my case I have found that even the Sieg C0 and Cowells ME90 are getting quite heavy for frequent moves in recent times ( perhaps I am just getting old ) and are now in search of more permanent homes.

I have moved solo a Myford ML7 and Sieg C3 but it is definitely not something I would attempt on a frequent basis and definitely not if it was to be placed on a shelf under a bench - possibly the ergonomically worst location as the lifting positions just cannot be managed safely.

I have no experience with the other lathes mentioned so cannot comment on those. Best of luck with the search.


Hopper23/05/2022 04:46:00
6421 forum posts
335 photos

Yes indeed. You won't be lifting a complete running M-type on and off the bench as a quick change unit. Nor an ML1-4. Nor I should think a Zyto complete with motor and countershaft. If you want to be able to lift it off the bench and put it away in a cupboard, something like the Sieg SC3 Minilathe would be more suitable and have a better reputation than some of their Chinese competitors. But even then as Pero says, you need to be fit and well have the move well thought out. Bending over under a bench is probably a no no.


Edited By Hopper on 23/05/2022 04:47:25

DiogenesII23/05/2022 06:50:14
563 forum posts
221 photos

Hobbymat MD65 might be a possibility - will swing 80mm 3-jaw (or a somewhat larger slim-bodied 4J), screwcutting / finefeed, accurate, just about portable for a man in good health.

Standard Morse tapers in head and tailstock, reasonable availability of spares..

..and often overlooked - your budget should get one in 'ready to work' condition.

JasonB23/05/2022 07:04:32
22764 forum posts
2656 photos
1 articles

These hobby lathes are not made for industrial use or use by people used to taking industrial size cuts so that is most likely why you stripped the gears the first time you used it. Most other people tend to find they strip when the machine is crashed, jams or they simply overload it.

Treated with respect the plastic gears should give reasonably long life and do in a way protect the more costly motor and control board from damage.

Yes there are various qualities of mini-lathe type machines available and your budget will put you towards the lower end of these offerings so so can't expect them to have the best QC or parts backup.

If you are making bolts upto 9/16" (14mm) then that's going to be 1" or more round stock to start with so going down to Taig size will make the job a long process as depth of cut won't be great so many passes needed. Even the mini lathes will need shallower cuts that your other lathes can take.

Michael Gilligan23/05/2022 07:27:33
20200 forum posts
1053 photos
Posted by Hopper on 22/05/2022 23:26:42:

A Drummond M-Type is a better vintage lathe than either the Myford ML1-4 or Zyto etc. I


… and the Drummond “Round Bed” is another almost-forgotten gem

It’s very compact, but astonishingly capable.

[ someone should revive this great design ]


larry phelan 123/05/2022 08:14:06
1181 forum posts
15 photos

If you lived over here, you would,nt even think of going shopping with £500 !sad

Alec Gunner23/05/2022 08:26:39
12 forum posts
4 photos

Thank you for the further thoughts.

I had been advised against the Drummond round bed on the grounds that there is no way to take up wear in the bed (which may well be an issue in something the age I am looking at).

I had run across the Hobbymat, which looks promising so good to know that it is a worthwhile machine. Is there much to choose between Hobbymat, Sieg and Emco given the choice?

Light cuts are not an issue - the Lorch will just about do 100micron per pass in brass. It would be nice to be able to go a bit heavier than that but I can live with it if necessary. This isn't exactly a production operation - just making a handful of parts whenever I need them. That said, it would be handy to have something which responds to overload by slipping rather than stripping the teeth - the point of having low gear is more torque so you would like to think the drivetrain was up to the torque it can deliver. We actually stripped the teeth by trying to swage a piece of  fully annealed 15mm copper tube down to 1/2" using a well tapered mandral, but it got about a quarter of an inch in and the teeth went.

Whilst something I can lift would be useful, I can live with 'shift' rather than 'lift;. The moveable bench idea is close - but in my case it's a high-lift trolley which means so long as I can roll/slide something on to the deck then I can lower it to shelf height which means no lifting at awkward angles, just rolling/sliding which I can set up for easily enough. My bench top is a piece of inch thick steel plate so it's easy to bolt down on to it so rigidity is not a problem.


Edited By Alec Gunner on 23/05/2022 08:32:21

Edited By Alec Gunner on 23/05/2022 08:33:08

Edited By Alec Gunner on 23/05/2022 08:34:05

Nicholas Farr23/05/2022 09:41:34
3361 forum posts
1543 photos

Hi Alec, I don't know what you mean about a nasty lathe, I on the other hand think it would be a worn out very inaccurate one that you would have keep checking the size you are trying to achieve every step of the way. While a Zyto may or may not be a cut above the rest, it is still pretty much on the same band wagon of hobby lathes of its time. I don't know the weight of a Zyto, but probably close to 30 Kg, but like most of the lathes of this period, they didn't have the motor and drive train integral with the lathe, so you have to consider the weight of that as well, unless you like stripping things down into units every time you wish to move it. You must remember that all these old hobby lathes of their time were made to an affordable price for the average modeler and wouldn't stand up to industrial use. I've had a Chester mini lathe for six and a half years, which has plastic gears and I've not had any of them stripping teeth, but as JasonB has said, they are no more made for industrial type of use than most of the vintage hobby lathes. You say accuracy tends not to be an issue, yet you are bothered about the Drummond round bed one not being able to take up wear in the bed, but the Drummonds were very well made but are heavy with the round bed one at around 47.6 Kg just for the lathe and you would have to add the weight of any drive train to that and the M type is about 63 Kg for just the lathe. I have a round bed Drummond and it doesn't have any wear in the bed to be of any concern but of course it doesn't mean they are all like that. The Hobbymat is in order of 45 Kg but one disadvantage is the saddle is it contact with the leadscrew at all times, so can only be moved forwards or backwards by turning the leadscrew. Even the little baby lathes that were once available were in the 20 to 25 Kg range.

Regards Nick.

Tony Pratt 123/05/2022 10:32:19
1967 forum posts
12 photos

Sorry you will not get anything half decent for £500, I know you will have an emotional attachment to the Southbend but my suggestion is go for one decent lathe i.e. sell the SB & Lorch and invest in a decent machine, just my opinion.


Samsaranda23/05/2022 10:33:04
1430 forum posts
5 photos

Alec, I think it is not fair to assume that all Chinese lathes are cheap and nasty, I have a Warco BV20 lathe, which is manufactured in China, purchased quite a few years ago, it has a geared headstock and all the change gears are steel. It has given me exceptional service and the only problem encountered was a failed NVR Switch which was easily replaced, my only criticism, and I am probably a perfectionist, is that the gears in the geared headstock have always been noisy, probably because they are manufactured to a price and are not ground, however as time has gone on the gears seem to be less noisy but that is probably because I have got deafer, I do have a severe hearing loss now. So don’t discount Chinese lathes out of hand based on one bad experience, Chinese lathes are capable of producing consistent and excellent work. Dave W

ega23/05/2022 11:41:17
2543 forum posts
201 photos

A bench-top lathe could be stored under the bench and deployed from there if the bench itself could be rotated about its long axis in the manner of an engine stand.

There are designs online for this sort of thing. Stability and ease of rotation would require some thought of course.

Oldiron23/05/2022 14:46:29
976 forum posts
40 photos

There are many a Chinese lathe out in the real world doing good work. Not all are rubbish. In fact many of the top brand names source their basic lathes and mills from China. As said before China will build up to any price & quality you want.

If I were you and if the SB is is good nick would be ditch the line shaft & re-motor it with 3 phase motor and VFD. Either in underdrive or back mounted format.

Sell the Lorch as you will get a better return on it than the SB IMHO especially if you have the colletts for it. If you sell both you may be somewhere in the ballpark to buy a decent lathe.


All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Support Our Partners
Rapid RC
Eccentric Engineering
Eccentric July 5 2018
Subscription Offer

Latest "For Sale" Ads
Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest