View Full Version : Atlas lathes

10-03-2005, 09:58 PM
I have been looking for a better lathe and would like to find some old iron in good shape. An atlas 12x54 model t54 has come up in the local paper. The guy said it had all of the bearings replaced a couple of years ago but it doesn't have a quick change gear box which is one thing that I wanted. My question is about the flat ways that are used on these lays, is there any problems with this versus v type ways on most other lathes? Are these decent lathes? I would like to hear from those who have them or have run them. Thanks for any info.

[This message has been edited by japcas (edited 10-03-2005).]

j king
10-03-2005, 10:38 PM
I wouldnt suggest getting one without a QC gear box.These lathes are really flimsy.I would look for a more rigid machine.

J Tiers
10-03-2005, 10:58 PM
If you cut a lot of different threads, the change gears will keep you dirty (guess how I know). You would prefer the QC.

Or, if you insist on wearing out the leadscrew using it for power feed, you might also prefer the QC. I don't think any Atlas has power feed picked off the leadscrew slot....

Otherwise, you come down to the Atlas being lightweight and limber, not as rigid as other machines. Usable, though, not "junk".

Flat ways are not a problem in and of themselves. If they were, Gisholt and others wouldn't have used them on heavy -duty machines.

10-04-2005, 12:09 AM
What are you upgrading from?

FWIW, I've been much happier with a Clausing 5914 12x36 lathe than teh Craftsman 12x36 that preceeded it. The Craftsman was a good upgrade from the Sherline that I still have, but you might want to set your goal a little higher.


10-04-2005, 06:37 AM
If it is cheap enough buy it, part it out on ebay and buy something you can use.

The tame Wolf !

10-04-2005, 02:07 PM
If you're after "old iron" skip Atlas. More than half of an Atlas is "old zamak" - a zinc alloy, not too terribly bad at what it does, but not what I suspect you're looking for.

Flat ways are no problem. I have come to really detest change gears, though. A change gear lathe would have to be just about free before I'd consider it.

10-04-2005, 03:17 PM
I have and use almost daily a Atlas 10F42 flatbed lathe... it has been a good machine and I would not hesitate in recommending this model lathe to a friend. It was not designed to be a hog... so taking 1/4" DOC is out of the question. Mine can and does hold + or - .0002 over a 14" cut. The change gears are not that big a hassle to change most can be done by switching a single gear in the drive train. As far a Zamack... the only thing on mine is the gears and pulleys every thing else it cast iron and steel. And the gears show no sign of wear even after all these years. I say buy it you'll be happy you did.... but please don't buy it just to tear it down and sell it off... unless it's already trashed beyond usefulness. To many good machines are lost doing this and then your stuck holding a heavy bed that no one wants to buy do to shipping cost so you scrap it and the Chinese buy it and melt it down with some 40's K ration cans... British gun barrels and send it back as a Grizzly/HarborFreight/BusyBee/Homier tool. with plastic change gears. Or leave it for someone who will appreciate it for what it is.

My .10 cent

10-04-2005, 04:17 PM
The above is all true. An Atlas is a fun lathe that can do good work. However, it's the lightest metal lathe of comparable size of any other sold during it's time. And Atlas did use potmetal (OK, Zamak) on many critical parts. Thos are the parts that bring silly prices on ebay, and which never break on other lathes. Best example is the little gearcase that bolts to the backside of the apron and is driven by the carriage traverse handwheel. It's a little cast Zamak frame about 2" x 2" x 1", holding two gears, and allowing the leadscrew to pass through it. You can see it by looking behind the apron, on the HS side. The part closest to you has an ear to hold a nut, into which a screw is threaded from the apron. That little ear is broken on nearly every Atlas 10x or 12X you will run across. Clausing no longer offers them, and they go for $80 or more on ebay. Most of us just JB Weld them every so often.
The other thing is the halfnuts, also Zamak. Since automatic carriage feed goes through the halfnuts, whether threading or not, this is a frequent repair item. These are still available new, at a reasnable price.
That F-R box right below the headstock reverses the leadscrew. If the carriage jams, either that box breaks, or the leadscrew bearing at the other end (also Zamak) breaks. I don't think any of these pieces are available from Clausing. The pieces for the F-R box go for lot$ on ebay. In fact, some are listed this week. See how much they go for.
Having said all that, these are fun machines to restore or to use...lightly. If you intend to produce stainless steel 1/4-scale field cannon, you might want more lathe.
Even if you don't think threading is a big deal, you will end up doing some, maybe more than you anticipate. Sure is night to move a couple of levers and get the right pitch, rather than dig through your oily gears. Remember too that on an Atlas, the gear ratio also determines the longitudinal feed rate. If you want to cut faster or slower, out come the gears.
For the same money, or less, you can buy a Logan or Logan Powermatic (Wards). All iron and steel, heavier construction, no common weak areas, and all parts are available.
I started with a 9" Logan, have since had two Atlas's and a Enco. The Logan is still the favorite, and the one I use to fix all the others. And though some will accuse me of heresy, the old Enco is gaining my respect. Don't dismiss the imports out of hand.

10-04-2005, 06:01 PM
Man, you guys are on the ball. I appreciate all of the quick responses. I believe I am going to pass on this lathe. He was asking way too much for it anyway but said that it was negotiable. I am currently running an import 9x20 and don't care much for it. I use bigger machines at work, such as a monarch 10ee on up to 34in. lathes and I am sorely disappointed. I knew when I bought it that it wouldn't be in the same ballpark but thought I could work through it's shortcomings. I am not putting it down, it will cut metal at a slow rate but I just need a little more rigidity and I don't like the change gears at all. Old iron is very rare around these parts and I don't like the idea of driving 500 miles to look at a lathe and then find out it is junk. Especially with todays gas prices. I also looked at a southbend 9in that a guys dad used and the ways were grooved badly and he still thought it was worth $900. I don't need 10ee accuracy but I'm into building model IC engines and I would like to have something that will cut at least within .001 over a foot.

10-04-2005, 06:39 PM
You be surprised the amount of parts the are still available for these lathes. I have a 2005 price list and the prices I see people pay on ebay for items is whacked. Most times you can get new parts cheaper... people just assume they're not available and bid to the moon. Yep I rather bust a $28.00 gear or a $50 lead screw bearing then bend a $318.00 lead screw.

10-04-2005, 07:47 PM
"I say buy it you'll be happy you did.... but please don't buy it just to tear it down and sell it off... unless it's already trashed beyond usefulness. To many good machines are lost doing this and then your stuck holding a heavy bed"

So don't you think other folks NEED those parts?
I think my Atlas QC 54 is great for a hobby lathe.I thought about selling it many times or parting it out ,Hell the QC unit will bring more than I paid for the lathe,all attachements and a spare parts lathe,but no,I will keep it intact but it is for sale.

The tame Wolf !

10-05-2005, 06:15 AM
The shaft of the Atlas scroll (which engages the half nuts) is another zamak weak point. So are the handwheels, but they don't break unless the poor thing falls off a fork lift. The change gears hold up well enough, but the bull gears don't.

Clausing (ex-Atlas Press) still sells some of these parts, but they have the annoying habit of cheapening the part without notification. For instance, they now leave off the index holes on the bull gears. So it's not always obvious that you can buy "the same part" from Clausing - hence some of the eBay demand for these pieces.

They're not junk (well-designed lathes, in fact, albeit cheaply made) but I wouldn't go to much trouble to get one. There are better machines available for less.

The trouble with the change gears isn't changing one gear, it's moving the other gears around every time you change one - that gets old fast. And reading the nasty little changegear chart inside the cover gets to be a real challenge as we all increase in, ahh, maturity.

10-05-2005, 12:53 PM
I've looked at a number of SB lathes, have yet to buy one. All seemed overpriced because of the name. And I prefer V-belts, thank you.
Plenty of Logans and a few less Clausings, both at least the equal of a SB.

If I ran across an Atlas with a QC for $400, I'd buy one, because I know it's fun to restore them, and I can always get the money back out of it. If it's the later model Craftsman Professional or the Atlas variant, they are better lathes, and worth up to $1000. But even those are basically consumer quality, despite the name. Zamak in all the same places.

That's a shame about omitting the index holes in the bullgear. That's a unique and valuable feature.

J Tiers
10-05-2005, 01:29 PM
Zamak is the single worst feature of every Atlas and even some Clausing machines. it's enough to suggest avoiding them altogether (aside from the shapers, and maybe the mills)

I found out that even Clausing used that *&^$%^%$ Zamak also....

I have an Atlas Clausing model 1800 18" industrial drill press (It's big...nothing like that "toy" craftsman stuff).....

In it are SEVERAL Zamak parts..... http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//mad.gif

1) The gear that turns the table (and head) lifting screw.

2) The entire enclosure of the quill balance spring, aside from the cover.

3) All the 1 1/4" split cotters that hold the head, the table, and the lifting screw gearbox collar on the column.

The gear needs to be replaced, zamak is flaking.

The split cotters all swelled and locked into their holes. I had to turn them down so they'd actually slide (once I beat them out of their holes with a big hammer and punch). Some had split, and had to be re-made of brass.

The quill spring enclosure seems to be OK aside from a couple chips..... A good thing, it would be a pain to make.

At least no structural or other essential parts (like pulleys) are made of that crap.

10-05-2005, 03:06 PM
I figure Atlas scored several tons of Zamak from French military surplus after the war.
"Good stuff, we make ze forward gears for ze tanks with it!"