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Thread: Recommend a lathe for Hobbiest?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    Recommend a lathe for Hobbiest?

    Anyone have a relatively inexpensive Lathe they recommend for machining reloading dies, barrel threading, etc? Any of the $500-1500 worth it? Or would I be spending a lot? Table top model only. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Boolit Master roverboy's Avatar
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    I like the Grizzly lathes. They're one of the cheaper brands but, I used one for awhile and it actually ran good. There's good used lathes out there too.
    Mrs. Hogwallop up and R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Look for a machine with a spindle bore of 1 3/8 or bigger, 8"-12" swing and a bed 36" long between centers. The Frizzly machines get pretty good reviews. Atlas clausing monarch logan sheldon are good used machines. While on the scarcer side delta rockwell made some nice lathes that seen use in a lot of school shops. Hardringe are very good lathes usually have a 1 1/2 bore but fall short on bed length. Most lathes that are capable of doing a barrel arnt going to be easily picked up and carried around. My 14 X 40 nardinni is 3500 lbs dry, My clausing 12 X 40 is 2500 lbs. Theres a lot of good used lathes available out there. Do a internet search for Machine vendors in your area and see what they have.

    The lathe mill grinder are the cheap part of getting started the cost of tooling to make it useable adds up fast. A 3 jaw chuck, 4 jaw chuck, tool holders ( this is quite an assortment from post to left right center boring bar knurling trepaning) live centers drill chucks collets and collet chucks. digital readouts can be another expense. One of the pluses to the used machine and a private sales is most of the tooling may be there and a part of the deal. Older machines may use a threaded chuck mount while newer heavier machines will use the d series mounts. Another is the taper sizes in the head stock and tail stock. A newer machine with quick change gear box is much easier to use than the older change gear machines.

    Check the tool shops in your area that cater to the machining industry they may have lets or others in stock and they may deal in used equipment. Look for tool shows in your area and make some contacts this may turn up some nice machines. Another source to check with are the equipment movers in your area they may also deal in used equipment.

    My equipment came from a friends one man job shop. I got the Narddinni lathe the smaller lathe a 9x48 bridgeport and surface grinder all for one money, and the big thing was all the tooling was included along with drills cutters centers grinding wheels and hubs. As I said contacts can make a big difference

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    Wow great info guys! Thanks

  5. #5
    Boolit Bub
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    You need to decide what it is that you need a Lathe for. That will dictate the size. I've always had good luck with Grizzle ( I live 2 hours away from one of their stores). Used their machines both at home and in the shops where I worked. Decent machines for the money. I always shop the used markets first.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    The heaviest machine you can afford would be one of my criteria. Heavier machines are more rigid than lighter ones as a General rule.
    Not always true But... My 14x40 is Much more accurate and repeatable than my 9X19.
    As was mentioned above need to match Your needs.
    "Don't worry what they think. In the end it is not between them and you, it is between you and God."

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  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    Many of the bigger lathes have 3 phase, this is very useful when reverse can be used as a brake or when power tapping. I have three lathes and all get used. The one I do most of my machining on is a Birmingham 14x40. I have a Grizzle 12x37 set up for boring out and reaming barrel for liners and an old Select 12x36 that gets very dirty doing polish on barrels. The Select was my main lathe for many years but the spindle hole ( 1.120") is too small for most barrel work. If you plan on doing a lot of work, get the biggest and best you can afford. When I bought the Select I took out a loan to get it, paid $3,500 for it 40 years ago ( a lot back then). It went out of production a few years later and I had to make parts for it as it wore. It has a taper attachment and milling vice that I found I didn't use much and not at all when I got a milling machine and made an off set adjustable tail stock center ( now made by Pacific tool and gauge). I learned on an old South bend that had the motor high on the wall and a long flat belt over 50 years ago.

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master

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    John, Not to sidetrack the thread, But the first job shop I worked in still had 5 or 6 machines running from jack shaft in the ceiling. a 50 hp electric motor sat in one corner and powered them. 2 were turret lathes 1 atlas lathe a big white lathe) 50" X 144 and a big old drill press. Your description of of the south bend brought back fond memories

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I think wapiti gave the first question you should ask yourself and answer, "what do I want/need to do?" I get along just fine with my Grizzly 9 X 19. I've also learned its accuracy limitations and how to live with them. The vast majority of what I needed/wanted a lathe for was working up brass cases and, while I do use it for other things I actually could have gotten by with a smaller lathe. As has been mentioned, the used market is a good place to look. That's how I ended up with mine. A local gentleman had bought it then didn't use it nearly as much as he thought he would. I didn't steal it but brother, I came close to it and I paid his price.
    "In general, the art of government is to take as much money as possible from one class of citizens and give it to another class of citizens" Voltaire'

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  10. #10
    Boolit Master Moleman-'s Avatar
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    If you're wanting to do barrel work the import 9x19/9x20 lathes are not a good choice but are often found in that price range. I have one and have made 16" barrels on it, but with the small .780" spindle bore and short distance between centers and no back gears it was a much more involved process than on one of my bigger lathes.

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    Thanks. Glad I didn’t waste money on something cheap yet!

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    1) I started with an ancient Nuttal lathe (pre ww2) flat belt drive - only came with a 4jaw chuck - that was good - it made me learn to set up stuff correctly with a dial indicator - that old girl paid for itself doing farm machinery repairs

    2)went to a yard sale later and paid $200 for an even more ancient horizontal mill - a small overhead belt drive unit - but it came with a box of assorted tooling - easily a thousand bucks worth in that box - reamers - cutting gear - slot cutters - never got the little mill going

    3)bought new a small chinese lathe 36inch between centres but a small unit - this gets the most use in my shop -

    4) cleaned up (partly) the farm scrap heap to the recyclers and spent the proceeds on a vertical mill/drill - will do any milling work that I need around guns

    5) inherited a good heavy chinese geared head lathe from my uncle's estate - retired the Nuttall to the tractor shed where it gets used occasionally to wind coils for my spooky energy devices.

    reinforce what others have said about the machine is only the first step - tooling costs heaps - I have ebayed a lot of stuff out of China and I cant fault it for the price

    favourite gadget???? a small parallel shank collet chuck and set of collets 1mm to 13mm - I use in the small lathe - cost me 60 bucks or less - holding small pins and such, bullet shells, make a firing pin for a shotgun . that little collet chuck is just so handy.

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy
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    There is an older lathe on the Reno, NV craigslist for $500 as of this afternoon. I think it was actually in Carson City, about 30 min drive from Reno.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Get the biggest lathe with the biggest spindel hole you can afford. usually the bigger lathes have correspondingly bigger steady rests so you can fit larger items in the spindle bore. I'm still trying to figger out how I can fit a section of 40mm anti aircraft barrel in a 13x40 lathe. As it is right now the steady rest is too small. And I have no way to make a bigger one.So maybe take it to a good machine shop. And yes it;s eventually going to become a cannon eventually. Frank

  15. #15
    Boolit Master


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    The OP stated "table top" only. That's going to be a tough one to satisfy if your wish list includes barrel threading. In your price range, You might consider a lathe with 36" between centers. A big spindle bore is wonderful to have, but you can drive a barrel between centers. You would be well served by a 9' Southbend or 10"-12" Atlas and they are readily available. Whatever you decide upon, spring for an Aloris or an Aloris style knock off tool post. Best money you will spend.
    Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

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  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I would and do recommend that the lathe be sized to the work you want to do. While small work can be done on a big machine its way more work and set-up. Big chucks dont close as small, most big machines dont have the upper end spindle speeds for small work, Tooling for the big machines is more expensive, Doing small work on a big machine may not take the play out of bearings and ways. Also when running that big machine everything is heavier, tool holders chucks drill chucks tail stocks carriage.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Buy AND spend more than you can really afford. Once you have a lathe, the world comes alive. There are MANY more times I use my 4 metal lathes to make "stuff" than just gun items! A lathe is the only machine tool that can make parts for ITSELF. Shop around. Going just a little larger will really pay off in the future. And beware of some of the Chi-Com junk out there.
    Last edited by bangerjim; 03-18-2020 at 02:49 PM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have two lathes, a 9" x 19" Bench Lathe (here is the Grizzly lathe which is an EXACT copy) and a Precision Matthews 12" x 36" lathe. Each serves me well in it's own uses. It's nice to have a small lathe for small items, brass trimming, converting, part making etc. The larger lathe has a powered cross feed, precision thread cutting and a CLUTCH! It can do most anything but is pretty useless to work on pins and small parts.

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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Someone has already said.....If you want to do do pins etc ......get a collet chuck and collets ...cost will be around 100 bucks for a reasonably accurate set ..........note that for a higher,guaranteed degree of accuracy ,price is considerable ,such as Hardinge.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by john.k View Post
    Someone has already said.....If you want to do do pins etc ......get a collet chuck and collets ...cost will be around 100 bucks for a reasonably accurate set ..........note that for a higher,guaranteed degree of accuracy ,price is considerable ,such as Hardinge.
    Big + one! I do small work on my larger Lathe using 20 & 30 collets in the chuck and tail with proper adaptors the repeatability is far better than my smaller lathe. The small lathe is handy but not as accurate. The collets in the tail with proper MT adapter are way better than a drill chuck any day.
    "Don't worry what they think. In the end it is not between them and you, it is between you and God."

    Je suis Charlie!


    "You won't know until you Actually try it"

    "The impossible just takes longer."

    "Don't let them beat you down with their inexperience."

    "You'll never accomplish what you don't try. " - Moldmaker

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