View Full Version : new 12x36 lathe

08-19-2009, 08:39 AM
I am considering ordering a 12x36 lathe from Busy Bee Tools.


We don't have a lot of options up here in rural Canada. I have tried to find a good used machine with no luck.
It looks like the standard 12x36 import lathe. I have been told that Busy Bee's machines are on the better end of the import scale.
Does any one have any experience with this machine?


08-19-2009, 09:05 AM
I don't have any experience with that lathe, but it does have has decent specifications and a full compliment of the usual things likes Chucks, steady and follower rest. There is no back gear as typical on most small imports and perhaps a rather slow RPM for that size lathe, that's not there because of the price though.

I don't recall ever reading any bad news about Busy Bee


David Powell
08-19-2009, 09:16 AM
I have a much earlier Busy Bee machine as my " big" lathe. It is a DF 12 37 G.Mine has a Vee belt drive but appears generally similar , but far from identical to the one you are considering. The motor and controls burst into flame one day after about 10 yrs,so were replaced with North American equipment. I replaced the 3 jaw with a Bison, that was a good move. I have a Shooting Star readout fitted. I have used it both commercially and for hobby use for over 15 yrs. It has been good value for money, though not the nicest strongest nor most accurate lathe I have used. Beware, I completely dismantled mine to move it and it took a lot of work to get the headstock aligned properly, maybe that difficulty has been overcome with more recent machines. Regards David Powell.

08-19-2009, 10:19 AM
Looks like a generic Chinese 12x36.

Mostly good machines.

May need a good going-over out of the crate, especially lube and snug up the thrust bearings on the cross slide to minimize play.

Weakness is the motor starters. High failure rate. Motor caps have been known to fail, too. Run the original electrical until it breaks, then spring for a 3ph motor and VFD.

When the original v-belt becomes stiff and cracks, replace it with a Fenner link-belt which will be noticeably smoother.

I think you'll be happy with the 12x36.

08-19-2009, 10:50 AM
Looks like the same unit as the G4003 Griz and the HF 65044


My next upgrade in equipment.

08-19-2009, 11:00 AM
Enco also sels the same machine. They also have a 13 X 40 that looks suspictiously similar to the one I have that I purchased 15 years ago. They are on sale now for $2,400 or so without the base.

One nice thing about a new Chicom machine is that they are fully equipped with two D connected chucks, two rests, a faceplate,and even a can of touch up paint and some tools. I even got a cute little red toolbox with my lathe.

On thing to note is that many of them, my Enco included, have dials on the cross feed that read in actual thousandths so that you need to remember that one line on the dial (.001) will reduce diameters .002.

That's not typical for lathes in general so I understand but I've learned to deal with it. In any case I will soon add a DRO and then the dials will be more or less irrelevant.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd just pay the extra money and get one with the DRO already installed and have done with it.


08-19-2009, 12:37 PM
thats the lathe i have. Feel no rush to buy it, busybee has had it on sale for about 9 months now :P

Busybee is great, ask about thier freight subsity, I got it droped off at my doorstep (liftgate service included) for free (I live only like 50miles from the store mind you)

There was a small flaw in the thread gearbox casting that caused it to leak oil outta a roll pin when ever so slightly overfilled, I just filled it up with silicon sealant and its been fine since. (Maybe I like my lathe ever so slightly overfilled)

Down sides with this lathe is it doesnt come with the cool spindle brake some lathes have, it does have a sorta 2 pully arrangement for 'backgear' if you can be bothered to change it, I havent ever seen the need.

No overhead lamp or coolant pump, though flood coolant in a home shop is gonna be a MESS, Not to mention lathes that do come with that system usally have a coolant pump that lasts all of 24 hours.

comes with all the good basics.. get a QCTP for it of course.

Great capacity and rigidity, I can take 0.25" deep cuts in aluminum (0.5" diamiter reduction) at higher feeds and rpms with carbide insert tooling with it. 0.1" in steel (that is, assumeing I can dodge the SCALDING hot blue chips that it spits out at that rate)

Sealed gearbox is a big plus over some of the other lathes however. (Assumeing yours comes sealed that is), much less oil/grease everywhere.

Does all the major TPI's afaik, even pipe threads I think but you gotta get do the math as those arnt marked iirc. Gearchanges beween course/fine threads are a pain however.. I really wish they added 1 more lever for that. but I think thats similar to a lot of lathes.

You should however open it up and clean out the gearboxes, mine had lots of magnetic swaff/sand in the bottom and the oil that comes in (all) import chinese machines I sware is the used car motor oil we send to china for 'recycling'. Clean the leadscrew/rack and regrease it all too, lots of dust seems to get all over it in the shiping process.

Random warning of the day: allways put some wood over your ways whenever messing about with anything bigger then a wrench on the chuck. Ie: setting up facing arrangements with parallels or 123 blocks.. 123 blocks can ding your ways if they fall out while your doing setup.. Don't ask how I found out.

08-19-2009, 06:16 PM
Busy Bee tools also sells a 12x37 belt drive back geared lathe.


For $500.00 more you get a D1-4 camlock spindle and a geared head. I think it's worth the extra cash.


08-19-2009, 06:31 PM
Busy Bee tools also sells a 12x37 belt drive back geared lathe.


For $500.00 more you get a D1-4 camlock spindle and a geared head. I think it's worth the extra cash.


Kinda strange, the more expensive one is 113 pounds less weight and looks stouter, it also does not have the thread range the lesser cost unit does.

08-20-2009, 04:05 AM
the CT041 does NOT have a sealed threading gearbox (noisy, messy) but the unsealed pin/lever style. (Unknown if it requires a manual gearchange beween fine and course pitch threads and for 'oddball' threads but I suspect it does, the CT043N does)

the CT041 also has a threaded spindle as noted. Booo. Can cause problems when cutting in reverse, or sudden stoping with later VFD addon.

the CT041 does do a slightly higher max TPI (112 vs 60 and 0.25mm vs 0.4mm) but honestly, thats pertty DAMN fine.
Imperial Micrometers only use 40tpi. #3 screws are 56tpi fine thread.
as well as #2 course screws, so unless you really wanna try and thread things at 1/16" or smaller OD (Good luck with the item flexing away from you) you probley won't need such high TPI.

the CT043N also has a smidge bigger spindle bore and compound feed and a few other nice tweaks over the CT041. Get the CT043N its totaly worth the extra $500 (Thats only like 16% incress in price! I try and consider anything within 20% price of eachother to allways get the more expensive one if it has any features that really look worth it)

I went through all this when picking what one to buy myself :)

08-20-2009, 10:57 AM
it looks to be pretty solid machine, i have the 10x18 and its been very good to me and extreamly accurat as well, the accuracy of a machine to me is more dictated by the operator more so then the machine it self, busy bee machines are the better imports no question there , even my ct129 mill is the cats meow, \

now on any manule lathe or mill unless you have a DRO the dials should not be overly trustedm,as iam finding and oppisit to that in cailapers vs micromters the mics or 1000 times more accurat then the digitial cailapers, so its a mater of choicein some cases and quailityis others and so on,\\
if you are going to by imports you cant go wronge with busy bee stuff

Mark Hockett
08-20-2009, 03:24 PM
There is no back gear as typical on most small imports and perhaps a rather slow RPM for that size lathe, that's not there because of the price though.

Gear head lathes don't have back gears, thats a belt drive lathe thing. The slow spindle speeds are built in to the gear train on a gear head lathe.

08-20-2009, 04:20 PM
Terry, I've had an earlier version of your lathe for over 20 years now a bit larger, 2 hp 14-40, and an 8 speed. I really don't have too many beefs with it, the ways are worn now due to my own lack of maintenance so it is a bit tricky to do accurate work now and also my tailstock cam is difficult to set when turning different length stock.

I guess my biggest complaint is that the headstock alignment on my machine changes seasonally, and is difficult to align. Originally, I had to get out my rotary file and carve down some of the case iron around two bolts so I could get a wrench in there. Although they may have corrected this problem in the current model.

I remember graduating from an old Clausing that had the standard back gears to this 14 - 40 and how noisy the gear head drive was by comparison when using the higher speeds. But now I don't even notice.

Good value for the $. I would go for it.

08-20-2009, 04:35 PM
Gear head lathes don't have back gears, thats a belt drive lathe thing. The slow spindle speeds are built in to the gear train on a gear head lathe.

Never knew that, and never put the thought together with gear head vs belt drive.


08-20-2009, 08:49 PM
User's generally seem pretty happy with these 12x36 machines, although you'll hear tales of lemon ones.

A common problem with these import machines is poorly fitting chucks that don't seat consistently or show too much run out (more than 0.003" and I'd complain about it), so if you get one check this carefully.

Paul Ti.

08-20-2009, 09:41 PM
Well... my 14x40 has the equivalent of a "back gear". The main speed selections are in the lower transmission and there's an addtional 8:1 reduction that can be selected in the headstock.

08-20-2009, 09:44 PM
My gearhead lathe has a back belt! This is not madness, THIS IS SPARTA.
Seriously though, it has a quad pully (2 diamiters) for 2 belts to switch from 'high' to 'low' right on the motor.
though oddly it only adjusts about 50%, ie lowest speed from 60rpm to 100rpm

08-30-2009, 02:49 PM
Does anyone here have any experience with this machine?


It's not a lot more money. Considering I'm hoping to use it for at least forty years.
It comes with a quick change tool post. I don't think the stand comes with it.
The local dealer believes it is made in Taiwan.

The Artful Bodger
08-30-2009, 05:14 PM
terry_g, it looks like another product of the Great Peoples' Generic Lathe Factory and has many features appearing identical to various other models of Chinese lathes. I do note that this one has the non-enclosed type of feed screw quick change otherwise it could be a close relative of mine...


I am very happy with mine and yes the motor did fail after a few minutes of use and the supplied vee belts self destructed even sooner but otherwise I am very pleased with it.

It would be nice to think I could get 40 years of playtime from mine but I expect I will be nailed in my box long before then.:rolleyes:

08-30-2009, 06:32 PM
That Busy Bee looks like the South Bend lathes shown on southbendlathes.com,except the new taiwan made South Bends use a South Bend looking tailstock,which I like,but it seems out of place with the more modern rest of the lathe. Busy bee will be the South Bend distributor in canada(or something like that.)

Actually I haven't remembered ity right. On the Practical Machinist's Forum in the classifieds,there is a South Bend badged lathe that looks like the Busy Bee. Now,I'm not convinced I haven't got that wrong too.

I wish I could delete this post. I got it wrong on both counts. Must be a senior moment. Sorry.

uncle pete
08-30-2009, 08:45 PM
You have far more options than you think. I also live in The Great White North, (Princeton B.C.) You can order out of just about any tool suplier in the U.S. with a credit card or send them a certified bank draft, And hire your own trucking company to move the freight. Just cause Grizzly won't ship to Canada dosen't mean squat. If you buy it thru them, Have it shipped to Canukisan, They will do full parts back up, And ship directly to you thru the mail for any parts needed, Check it out.

There is no duty on machine tools, Only shipping/money exchange/ And GST, Shipping is probably cheaper than you think, I just recieved a 600 lb. lathe from Quebec to B.C. And trans shipped from Vancouver to Princeton, $550 Canadian, I'm leaving for work Tommorow for 16 day's, Any questions after I get back I can talk you thru it. I used to be in the shipping business, (Long haul truck driver) But I don't get any deals. But I do know how to squeeze the trucking company's.


08-31-2009, 03:36 AM
I would'nt worry much about grizzly, Busybee is basicly the canadian grizzly (grizzly won't export because they signed a do not compete agreement with busybee!) though they do miss a few things, like carbide toolroom grinders, they do have a pertty good stock. Also often have 'freight subsity' (Free money put towards shiping only) on most big things.. I got my 12x36 lathe delivered with liftgate *free*

uncle pete
08-31-2009, 04:16 PM
Black Moons,
Sorry but Grizzly will export if you arrange the shipping, It would require a personal visit to the store but from where Terry lives to Bellingham it's a one day (long drive) But I used them as one example, And my first post was incorrect about ordering from Grizzly, But I have ordered from them using a credit card for prepayment on special order items that were out of stock and drove down to pick it up. It's really less than an hrs. worth of phone calls to get the best shipping cost. I also used Grizzly as they have a far better selection of lathes than Busy Bee does and also maintain much better parts avalibility. I'd run the money numbers between Busy Bee and Grizzly, Yes the travel expenses come into it, But the equipment may be better suited to what Terry wants. Enco would be another example that will allow exports, And anything can be ordered over the phone. Too many people think it's complicated to arrange shipping for a heavy item from the U.S. into Canada, But in reality it's pretty simple and a lot cheaper than allowing the shipper to do this.


09-21-2009, 06:42 PM
I phoned BusyBee today and ordered a 12x36 geared head lathe today. It should arrive late this week.


The Artful Bodger
09-21-2009, 06:56 PM
Terry, I have a lathe that appears to be a very close twin of the one on the BusyBee website as 12x36, except mine is metric and painted a different colour. I am very happy with it and a trust you will enjoy yours too!

09-21-2009, 08:04 PM
Terry, if you have any concerns about that machine's Chinese heritage I will say DON'T worry. Before buying my Chinese import I searched for weeks before deciding and the scare stories I heard all seemed to have one thing in common, they came from people who didn't own one! The Yahoo group dedicated to these machines has a bunch of feed-back from people who do own them and except for the occasional glitch, which could be expected from most anything, they are very happy with them, as too am I with mine. Mine has been used daily since January of this year and although that's not a long time it has been accurate and trouble free, well except for the engagement handle breaking off but I think accidentally backing into it with my pick-up truck just MIGHT have something to do with that! :mad:

Bottom line is from my experience you are going to be quite satisfied with that lathe and I can assure you that these machines are a lot better quality than smaller Chinese tools.

Congrats and have fun! :D

09-21-2009, 08:32 PM
I had an Atlas 12" lathe at first.Next,I got a 10" Jet,and it was light years better. My present lathe is a 16" Grizzly.had it since 1986,and it does very accurate work,though I would not recommend it for a production situation by any means.

You have to consider the price. When I bought mine,it was the cheapest 16" lathe available. You can't expect it to be like a Monarch. Like I said though,it does VERY accurate work. Turns very true,and faces very flat. If you can get a lathe that does both,you have done well. Most lathes face a little hollow,which is permissible in Government specs. The Jet faced about .0015 hollow in 10". That is just about to government spec. I prefer my lathe to face flat,though.

All these modern lathes have headstocks that can be loosened on 4 bolts,and swiveled slightly,usually by jack screws on the back edge. You can adjust them till they turn a true test cylinder. Then,take a VERY light cut across the face plate,and see it it is flat. To do this,you need a truly accurate straight edge.

Once you get the lathe to turn a true cylinder,the facing depends upon how square to the ways the cross feed dovetail is.