View Full Version : Turret vs. tailstock

noah katz
07-28-2008, 06:37 PM
I'm looking to replace my 11" Rockwell with something shorter and stouter.

There are quite a few so-called turret lathes, which apparently differ from a "regular" lathe in having a revolving turret instead of a tailstock.

The only need I see for a tailstock is to hold centers, drill chuck, etc and the turret will do that, and in fact both at once, which seems pretty cool.

The only downside I see is that the turret may take up more of the bed length.

Am I missing anything?

07-28-2008, 07:20 PM
Unless you are running production, I would not recommend a turret lathe. Yes they can all you mentioned and a lot more in a production set up, and do it very well.
The down side is that turret lathes take a lot more effort to set-up, worth it if you are running production, but a real time sucker for one offs.
I have 2 turret lathes, #3 W&S and #5 J&L. The W&S weighs 3500 LBS the J&L 6500 LBS, and both machines take up a lot floor space with their respective bar feeders. These machines will take anything I can throw at them, although the W&S will grunt every now and then. I've even managed to stall the 15 HP J&L a time or two. Resetting the overloads was a PITA.
Finding turret lathe tooling can be a real pain, and can often nickel and dime you death.

An engine lathe, on the other hand is a lot easier to set up, and the tooling needed is not as extensive as what a turret lathe needs to do the same work, plus you can easily thread on an engine lathe, which, as a rule, is not true with a turret lathe.

If you are having problems with rigidity with your Rockwell, you may be pushing it beyond its capacity. Maybe it's time to start considering a much heavier machine, but I warn you the footprint is going to dramatically increase. My small lathe (13-1/2" X 30") weighs 3450 LBS and occupies a space of approx 36" X 72", the next one (14-1/2 X 30") weighs 3500, 45" X 84", and they only get larger and heavier after that.

07-28-2008, 07:21 PM
Turret takes up more bed length, and does not have micrometer feed. It also presents a bit of a problem in turning between centers because it's location is not from a positive locating screw. Your only real option is to run it forward "about right", and cinch down the "lock" screw, and hope it stays like you wanted it. And of course it takes more bed, and it's more fiddly to setup when you need to do something like drill or ream to depth (have to crank that screw stop, or set up a scale). But for most everything else (that I can think of), a turret is pretty much superior. I have one on my Rockwell 11, but basically I just use the tailstock because the turret is a heavy bastich to mount...

And by the way, a "real" turret lathe is quite different than an engine lathe with a bed mounted turret...

noah katz
07-29-2008, 12:55 AM
Thanks for the info, sounds like I'm better off sticking with an engine lathe for my hobby stuff.

I'm considering a 25" c-c version of the 13" Precision Matthews lathe:


It weighs about 50% more than the Rockwell, which I hope will translate directly to higher stiffness.

I have to call to see what the length is; they give the same length for both 30" and 40" versions, so I can't calculate the difference.

07-29-2008, 02:35 AM
I use a small set of turret lathes at work fairly frequently, a Hardinge DV-59 and a HSC. I really wish we had like a #3 or #4 W&S.

They do take setup, but I find they're a good compliment to an engine lathe. Sometimes you have to do something a couple times and I always find myself staring at the lathe, wishing it had a turret and some stops.

Like everyone else though, I wouldn't want to have one without an engine lathe.

kap pullen
07-29-2008, 07:34 AM
Many turret lathes are not set up for threading.

Some high end machines do have attachments for this.

The ones I have owned, and operated, relied on die heads for threading.

A Geometric die head will run circles around an engine lathe, or cnc, for long thin thread jobs.

For short parts, bearing housings, and similar jobs, the turret lathe
is a real money maker.

The carriage feed dial is great for cutting lengths.

Most machinists these days are "too good" to run a turret lathe.


J Tiers
07-29-2008, 08:08 AM
If you want something stouter than an 11" Rockwell, and you want it shorter. your choices are VERY limited....

Stouter is really hard, since the Rockwell is almost the heaviest 11" you can find.

Maybe one of the short-bed 13" South bend machines, but get the type with the larger spindle hole. Some have a very small one, about what an Atlas has....

They will be considerably shorter, and very stout. Downside is between centers may be as little as 18".

Stouter alone would send you to a Monarch, or maybe a Springfield, but you'd get a 16" or so machine with a 5 foot center distance and it would be BIG.. Shorter makes it harder, and the 13 short-bed SouthBend might be best.

Backside view:


07-29-2008, 09:55 AM
Here are three of several that I used at various times when I was an Apprentice and later:

First (sorry no pics) was a "Hercus" - an Australian made copy of the South Bend small lathe with a vee-belt and back-gear drive drive with a QC screw-cutting gear-box with both a SB tail-stock and a (I guess) SB/Hercus attachment capstan that I started my turning on. Did lots of small jig an fixture items as a conventional lathe and lots and lots of small special screws/bolts etc. on the capstan/turret. Taught good basic lathe and set-up skills as well as co-ordinating several repetitive separate movements. It was OK once you were "in the groove" - but it sure could get boring if a job lasted more than a day or so.

The "Herbert" 4:

Wow!! All those levers!!!

Once I'd got my basics right, this was next - first under supervision/training and then once I was OK it was on my own. A great machine. I was 10 feet tall when I graduated to this. Machinist that I under-studied was one of the best machinists and tutors/mentors that I ever had.

The "Ward" 7:

This was my next one. This even was even better than my H-D or "Vincent "HRD"!!!! This was living!!!

Those covered beds and power feeds everywhere were magic. A top class engine lathe as well. Screw-cutting was there and worked very well with a wide range of removable lead-screws!!! We made others to suit (with half-nuts). We made a removable compound slide. Lengths were set with guages and dial indicators. Levers everywhere - changed on the "fly" and lottsa "suds".

I still reckon that I learned more on those lathes than I did on big "Dean-Smith-&-Grace", "Lang", "Herbert", "Macson" etc. engine lathes. The "cream" was the "Schaublin" lathes in the Tool Room. I was in total awe of those - and their mills!!!

Tool-setting on those turret and capstan lathes was a huge benefit as was setting punches and dies. It never leaves you.

07-29-2008, 10:18 AM
Is shorter part of the requirement (space problems) or is shorter wanted because it'd be inherently stouter?

Regarding the Precision Mathews lathe, I'm skeptical. It looks like your basic third world machine badged with a name to imply English origins, "Mathews".

Either here or over on Practical Machinist site someone is currently having a problem with their PM machine, something wrong with the carriage feed apparently. That type of problem should have been caught prior to shipping , so much for the inspection procedures for these machines.

Also, on the site showing the PM lathe they say ISO 9002. Typical nonsense from a retailer. Who is the ISO approval for, the retailer or the manufacturer? When they throw out a buzz word like that it needs explanation.

Just to be clear, I'm not dinging all third world machines. It's just that this retailer doesn't give me a good feeling. Jet might be a better choice. (Wow, did I just say that? What's the world coming to when i recommend Jet?

07-29-2008, 10:32 AM
These links might assist:

ISO 9000/9001:

ISO 9002:

noah katz
07-29-2008, 07:06 PM
"Stouter is really hard, since the Rockwell is almost the heaviest 11" you can find."

I wonder if we're talking about the same machine. Mine is like this:


The bed isn't very deep (beam height) if you ask me, and it weighs 950 lb, a bit less than the typical Chinese 12x36. The PM is 1500 lb.

"Is shorter part of the requirement (space problems) or is shorter wanted because it'd be inherently stouter?"

It's the space; I thought about the second aspect but I doubt there's a lot of difference a few inches from the headstock where I do 99% of everything.

"It's just that this retailer doesn't give me a good feeling."

I think if you read more of his posts you'd feel better about Matt and his machines; I do, anyway.

07-29-2008, 07:44 PM
Monarch EE, if you can find one?

noah katz
07-30-2008, 12:42 PM
Yes, a 10EE would fill the bill nicely, and I'd spend a few $K more if I could find a nice one within driving distance that I could look at first.

07-30-2008, 08:50 PM
As a nice compromise between a tool room type lathe and a full turret lathe, some tool room lathes had optional "bed turrets" available that mount a turret assembly on the lathe bed, in place of the tailstock.

I have one on my Clausing 5914 and its pretty nice. Like a dumb ass I got it with the lathe when I bought it but never got around to setting it up so it sat underneath it in a box for while. Somebody on another forum commented how they liked using it on their Clausing better than a tailstock even for one off work so I got it out, cleaned it up and set it up.

Its pretty sweet and its pretty study. Some claim that tailstock is sturdier for turning between centers, but I doubt that on this one, its pretty rugged.

It has 6 positions with 1" shank holders. I bought a bunch of used but reasonable shape Jacobs chucks off ebay and populated every position with a chuck, one in a MT2 shank adapter that I'll remove to insert a center.

Now I just leave each chuck set up with my common tools, ie center drill, spot drill, countersink, etc.

For collet work there's no problem getting the carriage forward enough to be out of the way. I think I may have clearance problems when trying to use the turret with my 8" chuck, but we'll see, I haven't had to do that yet.

So far I like it a lot better than the tailstock, not only do you get the quick tool indexing but nice depth control also, but keep in mind I don't turn between centers very often, almost all the parts we make are short stuff.

Paul T.

07-30-2008, 09:48 PM
I bought 3 Newall DRO's from Matt, and will probably buy a couple more when I get my new additions ready. He's a straight up fellow.
Go for the 10EE if you can find one. I've got 2, 1 running and the other being reconditioned.

noah katz
07-30-2008, 10:52 PM

Yes, that's what I was talking about - an engine lathe with a bed turret.


I'm going to get DRO for whatever lathe I get as well.

What do you get for all the extra $$ for the Newall vs. the much cheaper DRO's?

07-30-2008, 11:47 PM
"Stouter is really hard, since the Rockwell is almost the heaviest 11" you can find."

I wonder if we're talking about the same machine. Mine is like this:


The bed isn't very deep (beam height) if you ask me, and it weighs 950 lb, a bit less than the typical Chinese 12x36. The PM is 1500 lb.

I try to stay out of this kind of thing these days, but couldn't help myself. What he is saying is that if you compare the Rockwell 11 to other similar swing (10-12") machines, there are really only 3 semi-common lathes that compare. Those are the Clausings, Rockwells, and Sheldons. These are all considerably more rigid than a Logan or Southbend in the same rated swing. And as for comparison to a Chinese 12x36, I won't even get into that except to say that weight is not everything, though it is clearly very important. For all I know that import lathe mentioned may be comparable to the 11x37 Rockwell (and the other 2), but I wouldn't want to bet on it, and I sure wouldn't expect to be in any way (other than wear) superior. Now, if you start looking at lathes like the 10EE (a 12" swing lathe) with superior design, quality AND several times the mass; then that's an entirely different game. In any case, I'll agree with J in saying that, if you want a typical engine lathe in that rated capacity, you're not likely to do any better than the Rockwell you already have. And if you need smaller footprint, you can always get an 11x24 Rockwell.

Oh, and the Rockwell 11 is also often found with a nice heavy Royal or Enco bed turret...

07-31-2008, 01:08 AM
Hmmm... sounds like you need a pacemaker :D

A tiny little 14 by 30 should fit the bill nicely, I think. According to the manual it only weighs 7900 lbs, though. Might want to find something stouter.

If the Rockwell is too flimsy, see about getting a larger lathe to take its place. You didn't say how long the Rockwell was, but my bet is that a 14 by 30 pacemaker will be the same lenght or longer than whatever you have now but it will be way heavier duty. This is true of many "heavy duty" lathes. I got antsy to buy a good lathe to replace a 3-in-1 that I had but if you wait a couple of months you might be surprised at what you can find. Try posting wanted ads in forums, like the PM forum. That is where I found my two lathes.

noah katz
07-31-2008, 03:31 AM
"You didn't say how long the Rockwell was"

It's a 12x36, footprint length is 71".

"That is where I found my two lathes."

Local to you? I don't think I could bring myself to buy other than new if I can't see it first.

Plus the extra $ for shipping.

07-31-2008, 01:06 PM
I wish local.... actually they were 1040 miles away, but the good thing about seeing machines for sale on a forum, is you are generally dealing with other home-shop guys and not "machinery dealers". I'll admit I did a little bit of snooping around and read some of the sellers earlier posts. It was obvious he was a nice guy and others had done buisness with him. Plus we corresponded via email for probably two months before hand and talked several times. That along with a bunch of pictures goes a long way, imo. I like to get a feel for the kind of person I'm doing buisness with. I felt like this guy could be trusted, and I was lucky. Not only was he honest, but he was very generous. He included alot of tooling we hadn't talked about.

Not that that happens all the time and its important to remember, even if you had to spend 200 or 300 in gas to go see the machine, its better to be out 300 bucks than several thousand if the guy wasn't honest.

I just like doing buisness that way better than dealing with craigslist or ebay where you get all kinds of people trying to sell a pig in a poke, so to speak.

As far as shipping, yeah that will kill you these days. Much better to drive out there with a trailer, inspect and then buy if you want it. You can rent trailers, even ones with a 10,000 lb payload to drive wherever you need to go. 1000 miles is excessive, ordinarily (we took a semi truck out there and thus made some money on the way by delievering a load of steel) but with a rented trailer, you might be able to expand your search radius to something like 300 miles. Thats not too bad of a drive, you can do it all in one day.

noah katz
07-31-2008, 01:43 PM
Good thoughts, thanks.

But just where is the For Sale section? I don't see one.

07-31-2008, 01:52 PM
It's a 12x36, footprint length is 71".
There is no 12" Rockwell. The first gen (round drive handle) long bed was denoted 11x37, and the second gen (lever drive handle) was denoted 11x36. There were only three swings ever made. The light duty 10", the much heavier light production 11" (which you have, based on that link/pic), and the much larger 14".

07-31-2008, 02:09 PM
Its over on the PM forum. Here is the link:


noah katz
07-31-2008, 05:26 PM
"There is no 12" Rockwell."

My mistake, I meant 11".

Fastrack, thanks.

07-31-2008, 06:01 PM
I enjoy my somewhat rare (only ever found mine) lever/tailstock/turret...works well on the little 9". Even found it in one of my SB cataloges 1950's or somethin. You have to index by hand, when the lever is pulled all the way back..it unloads the detent and you can click to a new position. As soon as the lever starts going foreward the turret is locked
(note this is not just the lever tailstock with a turret mounted but a complete unit..you can see the depth adjustments on the back of the ram)


07-31-2008, 09:41 PM
I bought my 1st Newall in '93 or '94 and was impressed with its performance, ease of installation, and basic indestructibility. At the time, the "cheap" DRO's were not available. I now have 8 Newall DRO's on my machines, and I can count the problems I've had on less than one hand full of fingers. The times that I did have problems, Newall has been very responsive, very quickly.
When I find a product that I like, I tend to stick with it. My shop is my livelyhood, not a hobby, and I can't afford to have a product I don't trust. I did try a different brand of DRO several years ago, it strongly resembled Newall with the tubular scales, and it was less than half the cost, but it would not repeat or agree with the dials on the machine; off it came and back to the dealer.

noah katz
08-01-2008, 03:58 PM

"it would not repeat or agree with the dials on the machine"

Might it have been leadscrew or nut wear, or was it way off, ?

Would you mind saying which brand that was?


noah katz
08-01-2008, 06:25 PM
This looks interesting - Tsugami T-SPL chucker; it has the turret on a cross slide, and does threading, though I don't fully understand it from the description


What do you guys think?

08-01-2008, 07:06 PM
Similar to a Hardinge Chucker with cross slide tool turret (really just another type of indexing tool post), but in a completely different category from the type of "turret lathes" you've been talking about.

08-01-2008, 07:07 PM
This looks interesting - Tsugami T-SPL chucker; it has the turret on a cross slide, and does threading, though I don't fully understand it from the description


What do you guys think?

Those lathes are a little more versatile, but like any turret lathe, the setup time is much longer than on a engine lathe. We have several of those style lathes (Hardinge AHC and it's clones), and they're useful. But they only really shine when you either have several simple operations to do on not too many parts, or if you keep them tooled up with a "standard" set of tools. The latter is how most of ours are used, and how I would recommend anyone looking at that style lathe use it. A couple turning tools, cutoff tool, drill chucks, one boring bar, etc. If you want to actually run more "production, a traditional capstan or turret lathe is more appropriate.

What you don't find out until you go to use the machine is that it can't work on stuff larger than 6"x4", and that's really, really pushing it. I tend to stop looking at that kind of lathe after 2x2ish. They are accurate (at least the Hardinge AHC is) and very rigid. There are zero chatter problems doing very aggressive cutoff operations on this type of machine. The spindles have a wide range (0-3000 or 4000 depending). The top of the turret is almost in line with the spindle centerline, so you can't turn any farther than the length of the toolholder. The tools must be shimmed to center, unless you have the adjustable height holders (most don't, or only have one or two to provide a 'quick change' spot on the turret). If you want to work on a 2" part, you need at least 2" holders. If you want to work on 3" parts, you need at least 3" holders, and so on.

Like any turret lathe, I'd say "buy it" if you already have an engine lathe you don't plan on getting rid of. These machines are great at modifying existing parts in any quantity, and are good at making simple parts if you have a lot of small, dumb stuff to make that justifies the time in retooling the machine and setting everything. These machines are more appropriate for a hobby than a hand automatic type (DV-59) or a big W&S style turret lathe would be.

Some things we've used ours for:

* Deburring 300 little disks
* Cutting the heads off screws
* Necking screws down
* Drilling & tapping the ends of long-ish bars
* Accurate (+.0005/-.0000) boring of bushings
* Turning a bunch of accurate press fit slugs
* Making quick spacers

Basically, anything that only takes thirty seconds to do in actual machine time is a good candidate if you keep the machine tooled. Throw a collet in, and turn the spindle on. Done.

At school, I've used one to turn "threading practice" blanks for the class - turn the OD in one pass, front/back chamfer, undercut the far end of the thread area, leave some meat for chucking, and cutoff. Popped out like 40 of these things in a half hour, used them all up and had to make more.

Hopefully this gives a better idea of what these machines do well. If you are thinking you're going to sit down on one of these for three hours to make one part of any more than moderate complexity like you would on an engine lathe, that's a no-go. It either won't work period due to design restrictions on the lathe, or you'll be there for days.

08-01-2008, 07:12 PM
I compensated for the backlash in the mill, a #2CH K&T, and it would not repeat, IIRC it missed by random amounts, sometimes .002" others by .030". I had ordered a 3 axis unit, and it did this on all 3 axii.
IIRC the DRO came from a company in CA, but I don't recall much else. This was over 10 years ago.
I wanted the DRO to help speed production on my product, and as things turned out, I bought a #4 Cincinnati a short time later and put a 3 axis Newall on it. The #4 is a much better choice for me because of the increased travel of the cross slide. I basically use the machine as a horizontal boring mill.

The Tsugami is a small production machine. It would be complementary to an engine lathe for small parts.
My advice is to continue looking.

noah katz
08-01-2008, 07:29 PM

Thanks much for the comprehensive and educational explanation.

Interestingly enough, your list of appropriate jobs is a lot of what I do (just hobby stuff BTW), but the limitations you point out make it a no-go.

I'll take everyones's advice and stick to an engine lathe.