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Old 04-14-2013, 07:06 PM   #1
jamison
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Default Bench Lathe Capabilities

You can only learn so much through reading and research, so I was thinking about purchasing a cheap Chinese made metal bench lathe from an undetermined store/manufacturer probably in the range of $600 to $800 and 7" x 16" size and about 1/2 a horsepower.

I want to ultimately buy a much larger CNC lathe far into the future, but I want to learn how to make items with the traditional manual controls first without relying on G-Code 100% in the future.

When thinking of small enough projects I could attempt, I thought about a large set of punches (pin, taper, center, etc). So, my question is, with proper quality tooling, accessories, and setup, would the lathe be powerful enough to cut tool steel (specific metal TBD)?

Any info would be awesome. I tried Google to get somewhere on this type of question but nothing will help as well as someone with years of experience or someone who has even potentially tried this project before.

Thank you!
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Old 04-14-2013, 07:12 PM   #2
Dick in Wisconsin
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

I've thought about doing something similar ... but I'm a 1,000sf shop build away from having a place for it.

I don't want to discourage any of the expected great GJF answers, however ... have you considered going to this site with your question:

http://www.hobby-machinist.com/forum.php
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Old 04-14-2013, 07:31 PM   #3
deere2210
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

There are a lot more experienced tool/die/machinist guys on here that can give alot more detailed advice, but I went down the same path. Bought an Enco benchtop and then pulled the trigger and went CNC. The Enco benchtop was really just a big paperweight in my opinion. I'd recommend looking for a used Southbend.. They are available and have rigidity. I ran into a problem with my Enco in that it sheared a gear welded to a shaft.. Called Enco and they don't stock replacement parts and said it would take a month to get an answer back from China on whether they could or would make a replacement. That was the end for me on the Enco.
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Old 04-14-2013, 07:41 PM   #4
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

"Power" is not a real useful term in lathes. What you care about is rigidity and thus how deep of a cut you can take.

Can a small lathe cut tool steel? yes. Can it take a 0.25" depth of cut in tool steel. I wouldn't

The smaller the lathe the smaller the cut it will take, otherwise it will flex and start to shake violently. Bad news all around.

For the home shop a CNC lathe is very far down on the list. Just not nearly as handy as a CNC mill and a standard lathe.

Depending on your budget I would look for a used (but not worn out check this link http://www.mermac.com/advicenew.html) South bend, Clausing, Logan, Monarch, etc bench lathe. Look for something with power feeds and a full threading gear box. A 9" south bend will do quite a bit of work. I currently run a 10" south bend bench lathe and a 15" clausing. The south bend is used much more than the clausing. Just handy for making pins and the like. I reserve the clausing for the big heavy work and rifle barrel work.

If you are set on a new lathe, grizzly makes some nice stuff for the money.

I personally would avoid the craftsman and atlas 6" lathes. Not nearly as rigid and thus useful as a south bend or other full on lathe.

Last edited by zkling; 04-14-2013 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 04-14-2013, 07:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

I would second the suggestion of getting a used southbend 9" lathe. They will be far more capable than the 7x10,12,14, or 16 lathes. I had a 7x12 from Grizzly at one point. The drive gears inside the head were plastic. I'm not 100% sure but if I remember correctly the change gears for theading were also plastic. If you took took deep of a cut in steel you would break the gear in the headstock.

For $600 to $700 you should be able to find a good southend on craigslist. If you really are set on buying new instead of used then at least look at the 9x19 lathe that grizzly sells.

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Old 04-14-2013, 07:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

Yes, the lathe would do what you are asking, you would be limited by the size of work that would fit in your chuck and the length of the bed and small cuts would be required.

I suggest you consider a South Bend, you could probably get a good quality machine for just a little more that you are looking to spend if you keep your eye on CL.

Last edited by gloveman132; 04-14-2013 at 08:00 PM.
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Old 04-14-2013, 07:58 PM   #7
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

Great info, thanks. I'm not dead-set on new, but my one concern is repair costs if something were to go wrong shortly after the purchase.

I absolutely don't have the knowledge required to tackle potential lathe repairs, so if something broke inside a Southbend, are there any useful generalizations that can be made such as "you're screwed" or is it reasonable while obviously dependent on the severity? For example, German cars are much more expensive to repair compared to Asian cars.
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

A used South Bend is less likely to break and is more serviceable that anything made in China, in my opinion.

If you can build lego's, you can work on a South Bend.
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Old 04-14-2013, 09:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

The OP didn't say where he lived; geographical location has a alot to do with the availability of used equipment. If he lives in, say, Las Vegas, he's not going to find a South Bend within 500 miles, and certainly not for 600-800 bucks.
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Old 04-14-2013, 09:32 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

things to consider.... for any of the small bench top lathes, your limited to softer materials, and very light cuts and smallish parts... If your making brass bushings, aluminum spacers, derlen stepped washers... sure it'll work. just fine.

the other thing is tooling and accessories,, pretty much anything you buy for a small bench top lathe will not transfer over if you go larger / better later.. Tooling and accessories are an additional 2 to 10 times or more than the cost of the machine.

Measuring equipment... Mics, dial calipers, dial test, coaxial dial, dial indicators, inside mics, is a good investment either way,, as it works no matter the machine.

If you're set on an entry level machine,,, consider one of the bigger 3-1 from Smithy Buy in is more, but tooling, vices, clamps, rotary tables, spin indexer, and the like can be used on other "second" machines.

And I'll not say the mythical $900 9" southbend with tool rest, vice, ways that are not worn or trashed, power feed works, head stock bearings are not loose , rough, worn out, minimal backlash in x and y axis, minimal run out in a working 3 and 4 jaw chuck... is not out there... but I have not seen one for sale within 1000 miles of me for the last 5 years of looking.... Same for the "cheap" bridgeport folks keep telling me I should buy......

Maybe in some parts of the country old serviceable, working machines grow on trees and sell for cheap, but not near me.

Last edited by bronco78; 04-14-2013 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 04-14-2013, 09:46 PM   #11
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

An older American made lathe like a South bend, Logan etc, will cost you perhaps a bit more than a new mini lathe but, the resale will be much better with the American lathe. In many cases you can buy a lathe, use it for a few years and sell it for more than you paid. As you may have read the machine is just the beginning; chucks, tool holders, cutting tools and, lots of measuring and set up tools are some of the extras needed to do meaningful work. Some of these things you may have or will keep after the machine is gone but, they make the lathe do work. Buying a rather complete package of lathe and tooling will be more up front but very likely less costly in the end.

Steve
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Old 04-15-2013, 11:30 AM   #12
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

I've had those Chinese lathes, they are junk. I love my 9" Southbend.
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Old 04-15-2013, 11:44 AM   #13
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard D View Post
I've had those Chinese lathes, they are junk. I love my 9" Southbend.
Of course, the "machine" is junk, no one can use them at all
http://www.home-machine-shop.com/projects/


Or perhaps it is a lack of skill and knowledge of the user.
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Old 04-15-2013, 11:44 AM   #14
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

I picked up a 10x24 Logan on Cape Cod for $300. In the northeast, there are plenty of machines and prices aren't awful. You just have to be very quick to act. I missed a Gorton mill for $600 recently... 10 minutes too late in calling.
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Old 04-15-2013, 12:00 PM   #15
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

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I picked up a 10x24 Logan on Cape Cod for $300. In the northeast, there are plenty of machines and prices aren't awful. You just have to be very quick to act. I missed a Gorton mill for $600 recently... 10 minutes too late in calling.
Great deal

In my part of Texas, the only used machines I have seen are WAY overpriced, and / or HUGE 3 phase power, 6-10,000lb machines used in the oil industry, or off a battle ship
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Old 04-15-2013, 12:01 PM   #16
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

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or off a battle ship
I like those kinds of machines. Mine came off a sub tender though.

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Old 04-15-2013, 12:08 PM   #17
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

You can buy just about any part for a southbend lathe if something does break. A quick search of e-bay for the part will usually turn it up. There are also some good yahoo groups as well as a forum on practicalmachinist.com that will get you in the right direction if you have to make a repair.

Like someone else said, your location will have alot to do with what you can find and what price you are going to pay. I live in the northeast and was able to find my southbend with a ton of tooling plus all the other parts to another southbend minus the actual bed for $750. My bridgeport I picked up for $900 including some tooling and a large 15" powered rotary table. Keep an eye on not only craigslist and ebay but also local ads for machinery or business auctions. My mill was from a plastic injection molding company that went out of business.

Keith
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Old 04-15-2013, 12:12 PM   #18
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

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I live in the northeast and was able to find my southbend with a ton of tooling plus all the other parts to another southbend minus the actual bed for $750. My bridgeport I picked up for $900 including some tooling and a large 15" powered rotary table.
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Just so we are clear......YOU SUCK
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Old 04-15-2013, 12:22 PM   #19
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Default Re: Bench Lathe Capabilities

CNC...? Are you sure you don't really mean NC...?
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Old 04-15-2013, 12:24 PM   #20
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Just so we are clear......YOU SUCK
You'll need a powered rotary table like you need another hole in your head lol
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