View Full Version : Why not a used larger lathe?

06-14-2012, 05:22 PM
With no intent of starting a word war over Chinese vs other machines this question is now bugging me. Recently there have been a couple of posts asking about the purchase of larger used lathes, one about American Pacemaker and one about Standard Modern. After reading these posts I looked on the popular 'Bay site and saw that there are a number of older used lathes that appear to be in good condition for about the same money or less than some new Chinese or Taiwanese machines. The machines I'm speaking about are in the range of 13" swing, or so. There have been Monarchs, Clausings and a couple others. So to the point; why would someone purchase a new Chinese or Taiwanese machine over a good used American or Canadian made machine? From what I've gleaned from posts on various sites these older machines are heavier and just overall built to a higher standard than new imports are. Is it just because it's a new machine or are there other reasons?

John Stevenson
06-14-2012, 05:27 PM
Probably space, not everyone has the room for one of these older large machines, or the power to run it.

The Artful Bodger
06-14-2012, 05:32 PM
For the same reasons I drive a 1.8 litre car to the supermarket instead of an old 6 litre pickup truck. But some people here perhaps would prefer the pickup, thats cool.

06-14-2012, 05:43 PM
They are slow and heavy. Which is fine if you are doing heavy work and have the equipment to move such a beast. Many of these lathes are 3 tons +. Most people will have to call in a rigger and that is going to be $1k right there.

For most if use doing smallish work the slower speeds are not ideal.

And like John says, they usually have some pretty big motors. That means a lot of power.

06-14-2012, 05:51 PM
They are slow and heavy. .

Used manual machine tools have a sweet-spot in resale value in machines sized for hobbyists and small job shops.

Heavy iron is often free if you haul it off...

06-14-2012, 05:51 PM
Space, power to run, often lacking in high speeds to handle typical smaller pieces, more bulky/tiring to run, larger heavier tooling to fool with storing/loading/shipping (when bought), rigging fees, structural support/location limitations, etc. Also on older stuff high probability of problematic wear from production, and/or broken pieces no longer available (or $$$$$) that must be repaired/restored for suitable use.

However, I have frequent need of turning larger stuff, but also need to do dellicate small stuff, and didn't want to have 2 or more lathes to cover it all. So I now have a big heavy (moderately 4.5k lbs) 17x60 Gap Bed 7.5 hp true industrial taiwanese lathe with top speed of just over 2k rpm and supporting a wide range of metric/imperial threading without any gear swapping (though diametral requires transposing gear). It also has D1-6 spindle and 2.2" spindle bore. Perfect for me, and near impossible to find that combination in any single "old iron" option out there.

06-14-2012, 06:27 PM
I agree with John and think space and power are the critical factors. Speed is a concern, but that depends upon what youre looking at - flatbelt machine of any size = slow. BIG swing (16"+) = slow. Most of the 13-16" machines produced in the last 40 years that I have seen/used have a good top end (~3k rpm), which is better than many of the Chinese machines I have seen.

Another key factor for many is the age old "newer is better" argument.

06-14-2012, 06:52 PM
Most of the 13-16" machines produced in the last 40 years that I have seen/used have a good top end (~3k rpm),

Most 13-16" at 3k? list 'em.

condition matters more than anything, large lathes with modern features (ie not a conehead without thread cutting) in good condition sell for reasonable dollars.

As they become older the odds of them being perfect are less and less. I'll sell you project 10ee loaded with tooling for 2500.....but if you found one that's perfect it might 25M...monarch might want 50M guaranteed perfect. Its all condition (and a probability discount because it is impossible to 100% determine condition until you're tearing it apart and surveying it)

06-14-2012, 06:58 PM
Most of the big used lathes aren't in that good of condition. they've typically been used in production for many years. When you see a really good, one with very little wear, it goes for a pretty penny.

06-14-2012, 07:42 PM
This is only my opinion. It's like tractors. The small Fords,Cubs,etc sell for more than their big brothers. But in my opinion if you have the space & power the Big machines are a super buy right now. I had a brand new chinese 13x40 lathe & a rong fu table top mill. I sold them & have a nice mix from my watchmakers lathe, a 618 Atlas to a 10,000# Boye & Emmes(too big). A Prazi combo with mill,a Wabeco D6000E, a 14x40 American ,a 17x60 Leblond & coming the Pacemaker. Also 7 full size mills, an 35 ton ironworker, a 14" shaper & a punch press coming. Close to 100 new motors up to 100HP. I'm not bragging I'm just saying everything related to heavy manual machining is on sale at give away prices but it won't be forever. As I've said when it's gone it's gone & look at the prices on new bigger size tools. My little Wabeco sell for over $7k new! When I'm all set I'll keep about half. But I only buy top quality, top to new condition & only when it's a steal. My shop will more than pay for itself so how can I go wrong? I can't. If it's a quality tool in great shape at or close to scrap price you can't go wrong. As far a riggers I have the truck, equipment & know how I haven't needed a rigger. I passed up an entire flat belt machine shop for $1500 because I'm not into flat belt & it was worn out.
I'm setting up a full size shop with large tools & keeping a set of small tools for later when I may not be mobile. Like John said the ole boy had in the retirement village. Just in case.
So laugh at me if you want but it's better than money in the bank at 3.1%. I'm a blessed man to be having so much fun.
I'm learning many new things every day & having a blast! :D

Bob Fisher
06-14-2012, 08:11 PM
Fly, where in hell do you get 3.1% in any bank around SE Mich? Bob.

06-14-2012, 08:20 PM
Lake Michigan Credit Union on checking, $15K max. Lake City Bank northern Ind. Checking $50K max but you can have 2 accts per SS#. So $100K per person & it's always liquid. Was 4.1% last year.

06-15-2012, 01:24 AM
Its a combination of personal preference and knowledge. you must remember that new manual machines in general are on the decline. they are being overtaken by CNC equipment and a shrinking market in general in the US. Thats why there are virtually no US manufacturers making manual equipment anymore.

bigger swing = slower, this is true, mainly because its supposed to be. your not going to spin 16 inch diameter stock the same RPM as 3 inch. its simple geometry, therefore why would you make a 16 inch lathe that can do 2500 RPM when you would melt any tooling ever made spinning 16 inch stock that fast?

as far as weight, well, mass matters. my monarch 10ee weighs 3400 pounds. its only 12.5 inch swing. it doesn't HAVE to be that massive, but the fact that it IS that massive leads directly to its amazing accuracy.

IMHO, there is no such thing as an out of the box lathe. if you buy a brand new grizzly (and i don't care what color its painted), its out of box quality is so poor you will have to uncrate it, dismantle it completely, clean it, get the compound slide reground, get the cross slide reworked and scraped true, scrape the bed true, dismantle the transmission, debur the gear cluster, then realign and reassemble everything before you have a lathe worth anything. Why not do the same operations to an older, much better built machine and end up with a superior machine that will last another 50 years?

ill take a 70 year old monarch or hendey over a new grizzly any day.

John Stevenson
06-15-2012, 04:51 AM
Also remember that around the late 50's, early 60's decent machine tools took a massive redesign to make use of carbide tooling.
Up until then max speeds were often only 750 revs, a lot of plain bearings were used and the first machines that were put onto carbide tooling in production were soon worn out and very quickly.

This brought in the more modern design of machine with higher speeds more bearings and better lubrication systems.

06-15-2012, 10:33 AM
Guess I should qualify what I said earlier about larger lathes being well used. Really large machines can be in good shape and still a screaming bargain because they're generally too large and take too much power for the average residence. For instance an industrial mig welder that takes 440vac can be cheaper than a mig from Home Depot. You just gotta figure out where to put it and how to power it.

06-15-2012, 01:01 PM
Anything less than 5hp is easy to power in the home shop. Slightly harder in the 5-10hp range if you want to cook and eat at the same time. Larger doesn't always mean lower high speed. My 14x40 is 28-2500. It's larger 16 inch cousin is 25-2200.

There are more alternative than "worn out American or new Chinese". For example, I have a 1988 Polish lathe - TUM35. 14x40, built like tank, and 5hp. Easily run at home. Two pallet jacks and a come-along, and the 3600lb lump was moved (with some cuss'in) by two of us from a lift trailer and into postion in my garage. Easily powered at home with some form of a three phase converter.

Yes, there are some screaming deals in mid-to larger machines as shops move more and more to cnc. Mine was... $3000 including $2k of nearly new Dorian tool post/holders, taper attachment, steady, and a ton of other tooling.

I have nothing against the larger Chinese/Taiwanese lathes. But.. look in the Grizzley catalog for what I could have got for $3000 to (or inside) my door... I'd rather stay with my old lathe.

06-15-2012, 01:18 PM
bigger swing = slower, this is true, mainly because its supposed to be. your not going to spin 16 inch diameter stock the same RPM as 3 inch. its simple geometry, therefore why would you make a 16 inch lathe that can do 2500 RPM when you would melt any tooling ever made spinning 16 inch stock that fast?


That not totally true;) While you wouldn't typically spin a 16 inch chunk at 2500 rpm :eek: often you are turning features much smaller than the max capacity of the lathe.

1/2 inch diameter at 300sfm (typical LOW carbide speed for say mild steel) = 2300rpm

16 inch disc at 300sfm = 72rpm.

Move to aluminum, and the 2500 rpm often isn't fast enough for optimal work.

06-15-2012, 04:24 PM
It's all my fault.
For years I was on the USA/Import fence because every USA lathe I saw was a clapp'd out POS for the same price or more than a new import in the same size. Finally this winter I came across a local 12x36 Clausing at $1300, which I considered a steal price.
Since buying mine, there's a ton of lathes available under $2000 or less.
There's a decent looking Clausing on Ebay that the guy has listed a couple times at $850 and gotten no bids??

My fault.

06-15-2012, 07:04 PM
I find a fair percentage of big older lathes are well worn as well...

Simply because the owners would not have spent $200 000 in today's money on something to sit around doing nothing...

There are still good ones out there though..

06-15-2012, 10:35 PM
Thanks to all who have commented for your thoughts. I currently have a good 10" Logan and have been toying with the idea of a second lathe which would be more substantial. If I have to rebuild/rework the thing before I can use it I'd just as soon buy a decent used piece of heavy American, Canadian, Polish, Japanese or Russian iron if the price is comparable to Asian stuff. Having seen several older large machines at comparable prices to new Asian machines I just wondered/ why not go the used machine route?
Thanks again!

John Stevenson
06-16-2012, 05:14 AM
I fully agree with you and unless it's for the experience / hobby I have never seen any mileage in buying a worn out machine then restoring it.

All that time spent scraping slide ways when you could have just bought something a bit better.
I see people complaining that machines are not available in their area but find that hard to believe. I have heard the same here and there are loads about IF you make the effort to look.

06-16-2012, 05:33 AM
When I first decided I wanted a lathe I hit every machine shop, machine shop supply house plus checked the want adds, and local quick sell type magazines. The only lathe that I found was a south bend that looked like it had seen service during the civil war.. Stored outside one 3 jaw chuck, rusty to beat the band and the wiring looked to have been cut with an ax. So I went with a jet 13x40 gearhead. This is supposed to be the heart of the oil patch down here. You would think that you could find a decent lathe for a decent price. The rusty southbend was tagged at $3000 and no telling what would have to be done to it to get it up and running. You just don't see lathes down here for sale that often.... Frank