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Looking to get a metal lathe for my shop on the farm. Hoping to make some of my own pieces and aid in fixing.
I don't know much about these machines and have no idea what to buy or what not to buy.
Anyone have any suggestions on what would be a good unit? Where to buy?
Thanks
 

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Id take a course in how to work with a lathe it will really help you out, do you have 3 phase a little good lathe for farm size will run from 3k to higher maybe you can get lucky on an auction
 

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Lots of options out there. Tooling can easily be more $$ than the lathe.

Mine will swing 20" over the bed, 12" over the cross-slide, 48" max between centers. Older WWII vintage machine, so it's a bit slower (max ~400rpm) , but I'm not doing production work, so I'm OK with that.

Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ya I'm not looking to do anything real fancy just help out with repairs for the farm and make the odd piece when needed.
Just don't know where to start looking.
I only have single phase power.
 

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I just went through this. Learned a lot in a very short period. 3 phase would be great but wasn't an option at first and neither was a phase converter. I bought a 13x40 unit with a 1.5 through spindle. Has a removable gap bed which is nice if you need to do larger items like flywheels. Also made myself a vertical mill post so I can do basic milling on the lathe.
Biggest thing to look at is wear on the bedways and anything that moves/slides. A lot of lathes are used in a very short area and wear more at that point. Problem arises with that when you adjust for wear there it becomes really tight at the rest of the machine. Also machining between centers is harder to keep things aligned.
When I was looking I was told to stay away from Chinese made lathes but Taiwan was fine. Higher speeds are needed for some of the stronger materials these days as well as if you want to use carbide tooling.
If you have any more questions let me know. There is a lot to know.
 

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If you are looking for a large 3 phase lathe you can do pretty good at an auction. If you are looking for a smaller shop lathe like most guys have, auctions can be tough. I went to a large farm sale last spring to bid on an old shop lathe, I couldn't believe how many people were interested in it. Lots of retired guys looking for something to play around on.
An understandably much smaller group were interested in the large 3 phase that sold after it at the same sale, it went very cheap.
 

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Keep an eye on Kijiji and auction sites, it took me 2yrs to find one for the price I wanted to pay. Now I have two and a standing offer on a third one, lol. I have no idea how to utilize even 10% of the machines capability, they are fun to work with and learning a new skill is rewarding. The first serious job with mine was a special bolt for the combine that was going to be 3days getting to me. I had the machine running overnight and finished up harvest the day before the rain started, paid for itself right there.

The older made in Taiwan machines seem reliable, my main one is a 13x40 house of tools model. The second is a war vintage Atlas 6x18. I've never run a Grizzly but have heard lots of good stories about them. As said earlier the lathe is the cheap part, the tooling adds up quickly.


A quick change tool post is worth it's weight in gold, they can be purchased after market, so not a deal breaker on the initial purchase. A taper attachment is also a nice option, especially if you need to cut pipe threads.

If you run across a deal on a 3phase machine, VFDs (used for phase conversion) can be had for a reasonable price. They make speed changes a snap, twist the knob or push the button.

Just buy one, it may not be used often but is worth it's weight in gold in an emergency!
 

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I went through this 2 years ago. I'll echo all the comments about the tooling. If you buy new you will absolutely spend as much on tooling as you do on the lathe. Used may include some tooling so take that into account. You definitely want a quick change toolpost. "Quick change" is a bit of a red herring - you need it for more than just speedy tool swaps. I ended up with a CCC (cheap chinese crap) model from Busy Bee and I don't regret cheaping out because it has let me learn. It may be all I ever need but if I buy a second time I'll definitely know what I'm looking for.

Before you buy I strongly recommend spending a few nights watching my buddy John "doubleboost" on Youtube. He does an excellent job of showing you how really basic day to day tasks are done on a lathe. He's also pretty good entertainment. If you put in 6 or 8 hours watching John's videos you'll understand lathe operations a lot better. I'll also warn you that the lathe is just the beginning - pretty soon you'll be craving a mill as well.
 

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Another option is if you fine a good price on a 3 phase lathe. Take out the electric motor and sell it and put a gas motor on it. Seen a guy do that and put a pipe on the muffler through the wall to vent the exhaust outside. For the amount of machining he did it worked ok.
 

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I would not want to be without the lathe in the shop. Granted it does not get used as much as it should, but it really comes in handy when down time is critical. Mine is a McDougall from the War Era. 20 x 72, so if you feel like horsing the top roller from the combine pickup into this beast, you can. (Done it once.)

A word of advice,...Never place the 4 jaw chuck into the 3 jaw chuck to save time. Remove the 3 jaw and install the 4 jaw properly. Was drilling through a piece of tool steel, Octagonal and when the drill pushed through it pulled the 4 jaw loose from the 3 jaw. even at 300 RPM that 4 jaw can cover a lot of ground!!! Good thing I was beside the tail stock and not the chuck.
 

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I would not want to be without the lathe in the shop. Granted it does not get used as much as it should, but it really comes in handy when down time is critical. Mine is a McDougall from the War Era. 20 x 72, so if you feel like horsing the top roller from the combine pickup into this beast, you can. (Done it once.)

A word of advice,...Never place the 4 jaw chuck into the 3 jaw chuck to save time. Remove the 3 jaw and install the 4 jaw properly. Was drilling through a piece of tool steel, Octagonal and when the drill pushed through it pulled the 4 jaw loose from the 3 jaw. even at 300 RPM that 4 jaw can cover a lot of ground!!! Good thing I was beside the tail stock and not the chuck.
That lathe must be the big sibling to mine! It's also a McDougall, but 20x46.

Andrew
 

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I have old turret lathe. 12,500lbs. only thing is for finish aluminum the head speed isn't quite there. but big bore through the head makes fixing shafts nice. beast of a machine so it is very accurate.
 

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We have several lathes, all of them aged before WWII. We picked up an old South Bend (9in swing 5ft bed) in really good shape at an estate sale for a few hundred and we purchased an 1890's era 14in 8ft lathe that was really tight for about 500 bucks at a garage auction. The thing was covered in grease and no one really knew how to operate it so it basically sold at the opening price. We also bought a completely restored camel back drill press for waaaaay less that you could buy an industrial new one. We do a fair bit of machining on our farm and almost all forms of equipment maintenance. However we have to look for stuff on a budget. Keep an eye on the internet and auctions. Not a lot of people know how to use these things and thus they often sell good quality older stuff cheaper. Oh, and if you find a crappy lathe with a ton of good quality tooling buy it, throw the lathe away, and take the tooling.
 

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Te big thig on a used lathe is the capabiliy to do metric threads. MOre and more equipment is becoming metric. I have a chinese 14 X 40 and it has been good just not heavy enough. There is 3 gears of Chinese lathes and the only way to tell the difference is to look at the head gears. There is 3 that they use; fiber steel and hardened steel gears. For the heavy things I have an old WWII lathe that is 27 X 96 and weighs around 16,000 pounds. Like a lot of people have said on here is that usually the tooling is worth more than the lathe. It will help you make your decision also if you take a course or 2 on operating a lathe and get the idea of what you want to be able to do on it. I hardly ever us a 3 jaw chuck as they are more for production and with the 4 jaw chuck you can center a shaft up.
 

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I only have single phase power.
Hello Fergy
Don't be afraid of buying a 3 phase machine, you can always run a rotary phase converter. If you plan on buying a lathe of some size, chances are that it will be 3 phase. 3 phase motors are cheaper to buy than a single phase of the same HP. Rotary phase converters are relatively cheap, simple devices. Heck, many (with a little electrical savvy) have built their own for their home shops. Keep an eye out for the volts though too. A lot of bigger machines will be wired for more than 220 volts. But again, not the end of the world. A guy can run a step down transformer, just adds extra cost though. I had a guy that used to own an electrical shop build me a rotary phase converter out of a 3 phase motor that I provided him with. Then I already had it for when I bought my milling machine & bandsaw, which are also 3 phase.:54:
 

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I have old turret lathe. 12,500lbs. only thing is for finish aluminum the head speed isn't quite there. but big bore through the head makes fixing shafts nice. beast of a machine so it is very accurate.
Yes, I find that putting a nice finish on aluminum (or bronze/brass for that matter) is very difficult!

I had a look at a turret lathe once, but didn't know if it would work for me as I do probably 25%ish longer material (shafts, etc). For close up chuck work (bushings, adapters, etc) it would be nice though! It was a smaller one too though. I think 12"x18" useable bed???

Andrew
 

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I have old turret lathe. 12,500lbs. only thing is for finish aluminum the head speed isn't quite there. but big bore through the head makes fixing shafts nice. beast of a machine so it is very accurate.
That's quite a lathe!! What is the through head diameter? Looks big enough for most modern farm equipment requirements.
 

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A vfd works good on a lathe. Take a look at practical machinist if pursuing the vfd idea. Works best on 200 series volts' You can have a phase converter, speed control, overload, forward, reverse, etc in 1 package
 

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I think its close to 3".

its at another shop now. waiting to get some concrete poured this fall at home to bring it home.

big machining equipment like that lathe are great values, no one wants them. take a nice 10-36 lathe to an auction next to a little clausing drill press and old bridge port mill. you will have some good bidding going on. take that turret lathe to an auction and people will bid it up to scrap value.
 
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