lathe advice

Offroad VW based vehicles have problems/insights all their own. Not to mention the knowledge gained in VW durability.

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lathe advice

Post by fusername » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:28 am

so i was gonna finally buy myself a cell phone/camerea for all my adventures, then i saw a go-pro was about hte same price w/ no monthly fee, and now i have done a 180 and want a lathe instead. I just found this local to me

would somethign that small be usefull for general off road toy mfr? I will probably sell my oxy setup to pay for this as it has been nice but not exactly what i expected. maybe i'll just sell the bottles and get smaller ones, but anyways back ot the lathe. I have been keeping an eye out for a few months now for a lathe, and my only real requirements be:

uses modern tooling (lots of vintage/antique stuff on ebay for cheap/free)
big enough to bore the centers out of flywheels for T4-T1 conversions.

this one is not big enough, but i think it is big enough to cut my teeth on, and the flywheel cut is a mod i wont need for qutie a while, and most importantly I don't currently have space for a lathe. this one is small and I can give up my last open work space to become a home for it. I really just want to get a convo going on how to shop for lathes, what is practical, etc.

or i could just make an offer on AJs...
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Re: lathe advice

Post by Ol'fogasaurus » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:56 am

(Opinion) Keep the smoke wrench; you will probably use it more often than the lathe and if you don’t have it you will need it. You should be able to find tooling for this older lathe and it can be expensive and as usual, what you need will be what you don't have (voice of experience here). Exactly how much will you really use the lathe (rhetorical question).


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Re: lathe advice

Post by winifredevw » Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:14 am

Ol'fogasaurus wrote: and as usual, what you need will be what you don't have

haha, truer words were never spoken! :lol:

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Re: lathe advice

Post by doc » Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:28 am

The lathe is really old and (apparently) underconfigured, so my guess is that you wil spend another couple $100 getting everything where you can do something. Even at $500 total, you wouldn't be committing the farm.

But I've never had much luck with buying "learning tools". You always want the upgrade sooner rather than later. Always a toss up for me.

Have you looked at Grizzly Machine? ... hines.aspx They have everything in lathes and mills and combos. From hobby to pro. They have a pretty good reputation. And many lathes/mills are pretty reasonably priced. More than what you're looking at, but worth a look.


(I've been ogling a lathe/mill combo for months. Would be pretty handy!)

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Re: lathe advice

Post by bajaherbie » Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:58 am

i've had good luck with grizzly products too....
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Re: lathe advice

Post by DesertGuy » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:29 pm

Fuse, here are a couple of my "revelations" from buying my lathe, FWIW:

Im sure other folks such as Devastator, bdkw1 and ntsqd would have a better insight but here are my two pesos worth...

- First, decide what you want to use it for... from Machine Shop production all the way down to Model Engine fabrication. IMHO, a Home Shop lathe is somewhere in the middle.

- For a Home Shop level lathe, I narrowed it down to the 12x36 range. It may sound large for a home garage/shop but after you start attaching a tailstock drill chuck, Morse Taper drill bits, etc... your "working envelope" will tighten up considerably, limiting the work that can be performed.

- The machinery is the initial investment, it is all the associated tooling (chucks, drillbits, DTI's, Taper bits, Dead Centers, Live Centers, Bull Nose Centers, Faceplates, Dogs, etc...) that will start to add to the overall cost. That being said, LOOK for a lathe that comes with as much tooling as possible... it IS better to pay a little more up front to SAVE mucho dinero in the long run.

- I decided to look for a lathe that is considered a "forever" machine. Meaning, from a company that has been in business quite a while, they still have parts readily available and the machine can be "user" serviced/repaired, for the most part. As for my lathe, I have a manual with all part numbers and I can simply order any part I need and replace it myself. Import Chinese/Taiwanese lathe's typically are "part maintained" for 3-5 years... after that, finding a replacement part may be difficult to find. Many folks end up buying junked lathes to use as spare parts... from what I have found.

- If necessary, consider what electrical investment will need to be considered in wiring the lathe... many are 3 phase power, so purchasing the necessary equipment to convert to single phase must be considered... if it did not come with it initially.

- From my research prior to buying the lathe (I am also looking for a 3/4 mill)... there is a definite trade-off. More robust machines can perform work significantly faster than smaller machines. Although I was not looking for a large "production" lathe, I did not want to be at the lathe hours on end making a very basic part... rigidity is a BIG player, I have found, in what and how fast things can be done.

- Time and Money are directly related to each other... Depending on the intended use, be cautious regarding mill/lathe combo machines. Alot (not all) of them lack the "robustness" to get work done in a timely fashion or lack "construction details" that make life easier. Initially, they may seem like a wise investment, but many folks lose their enchantment quickly afterwards... from what I have found. Simple things, such as the milling portion having a round column, may seem trivial initially... quickly becomes a source of frustration in its use.

Im sure there are other things but that is what jumps to mind while I wait for the turkey to get out of the oven. There are alot of deals out there... just need to be on the lookout. Here may be a resource in your neck of the woods, he seems to have pretty good feedback, from what I can tell.

...All that being said... they are a pretty schnazzy piece of equipment. If you are only going to make one or two parts... well, yeah it is probably better to pay a shop to do it. However, once you get it up and running... you "see" all the things "needing" work on a lathe... :lol: :lol: :lol: Plus you did it yourself..... priceless!

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Re: lathe advice

Post by fusername » Thu Nov 25, 2010 9:17 pm

DG I hear you on a lot of those points. The biggest thing that has stopped me from getting one yet is the feeling of "buy once" and knowing I don't have the money to by the machine i need just yet. probably best to just hold off. the sad thing is I was offered a free machine shop monster of a lathe, only problem with it was water damage to the engine, rest of it is fine, but I would need to hire a hauling company to dig it out of the shop its in, and more importantly somewhere to put it. now really is not the time for me to be buying a lathe, but that affordable one got my fire burning (its gone now btw). sounds to me like I should put it out of my mind for a while, although I am always feeling like i could use one. I think I am just looking at all these stupid transmission specialty tools and saying "I could make that if only..."

however this thread should live on, those of you in the know, chime in with your 2 cents
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Re: lathe advice

Post by Dale M. » Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:35 am

I have a 6X19 inch lathe and always find it a little small in diameter for what I want to do with it... Things like flywheels for model steam engines and fan pulleys and what not's....

Consider at least a 9 inch as a better size and like somebody else suggested a 12 inch (still to small for VW flywheels)...

Used lathes are fine but can take some restoration.... For my 6 inch I have almost as much in lathe tools and add-on milling table as price of original lathe.....

Unless you are doing a lot of machine work (almost production) lathes are expensive items to have sitting in shop.... There are times when my lathe has set there for a year or two and not been touched except to be sure its not rusting and ways and shafts and what ever are properly clean and greased to prevent rust .. I guess what I'm trying to say is only get one if its is really a need.... IF you are going to machine a flywheel once ever 2-3 years its cheaper to send it out....

Really about all mine gets used for is cutting pushrods and putting some grooves in valve cover fittings (for vents) so hoses do not slip off.... The other 364 days a year its sits there as a dust collector (although I keep it covered)...

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Re: lathe advice

Post by turboblue » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:56 pm

I have a lathe here in the shop.
It's an Enco 12x36"
Indispensable but seldom used.
I got it at a vocational school auction probably 10 years ago.

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Re: lathe advice

Post by Tom in PA » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:59 pm

Don't be afraid of older lathes. MANY times they are much better quality than the imports by a long shot. The tooling is pretty much the same for most of it. Parts can be an issue but most can be had. is a great resouce for the home machinist whether you go for an older machine or state of the art cnc setups. There is a ton of old american iron out there floating around, you just have to be patient. If you can find something that came out of a shop and not a factory (ie production) they're usually well maintained and in good shape. As has been mentioned, you'll quite easily find yourself spending more on tooling than you will on a the machine so if you can find one with some tooling, you're miles ahead. And as a newbie it really helps to have some stuff to play with before you go buying new stuff willy-nilly and wasting money. What I'm trying to say is don't write off that old lathe if it comes your way.

I'm still very deep in the newbie stage and learning as I go so I know exactly how you feel. I'd agree 9-12 inch is probably fine for a home shop unless you plan on producing the flywheels for sale, just pay someone to do that for you. Not only will it weigh a ton, the cost of some of the tooling may go up some as well.


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Re: lathe advice

Post by Hot Wheels » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:25 am

we picked up a small atlas lathe years ago, probably a 6", nice little thing, Dad still has it in his garage for making little bushings etc. to small for brake rotors. I picked up an 8" south bend lathe for $500 and it was a great little tool, i could do some brake rotors on it and drums ot work on half shafts but it was just barley enough. I sold that one off this summer for $850 and picked up a larger 17" clausing for in the shop here but I have 480 power and room.

Most of the farmers and hobby guys seem to hone in on the the 8" south bend units. they are older units built pretty well and hold thier value well. I bought the SB and a brigport mill for $1000 from a guy and was very happy with them both for what were doing at the time. biggest thing you need to look for is the power requirement and cost of changing the motor to what you want or a 3 phase converter and slop in the ways (tracking) most of them have adjustments for the screws and ways but if they are worn badly it can be a problem.

Im no machinist, i just make things smaller, lighter and build bushings and pins for things along with the occasional pinewood derby wheels...

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Re: lathe advice

Post by ntsqd » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:54 pm

All that I really have to add is to underscore the idea of looking, patiently, for older American or European tools. Though be careful with the European motors as they are 50 hertz, not the 60 hertz supplied in the States and those that are 60 hz can be less efficient (more amps per HP) than a U.S. sourced 60 hz motor. Keep this in mind if you end up needing a phase converter, you might need the next size bigger to handle the starting in-rush loads.

For work's minor modification small budget shop I bought an import lathe from Enco. No way would I pay that price for my own use, the ROI isn't there. With work dismantling my location I offered them $400 for that lathe. They paid $2400 for it ~5 years ago. I offered what I think it is worth. They haven't responded so I'm guessing that they have an inflated idea of it's value.

I have a rotary phase converter. They are more expensive than the solid state converters, but they are also more efficient. Since I had two tools that needed 3 phase this was the less expensive way to get running. Had it been only one tool I would have purchased a new single phase motor.
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Re: lathe advice

Post by 560 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:30 am

Get to know people in the area with machine's that you can use and become really good friend's with them. That is the cheap way out. It is really nice to have right there when the machines are needed but a short drive is not all that bad if looking at the whole picture.

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Re: lathe advice

Post by Scabbyfab » Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:15 pm

Umm, I have machines and I always like making offroad friends

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Re: lathe advice

Post by fusername » Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:40 pm

Thought I would bump this to the top again. still collecting money and work space, but I got thinking once a gain. very dangerous I know...
now that I have a (horrible) cross slide on my drill press, I like the idea of a lathe more than a mill.
give a man a watch and he'll allways know what time it is. give him two and he can never be sure again.

Things are rarely just crazy enough to work, but they're frequently just crazy enough to fail hilariously.

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