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Thread: Craftsman/Atlas lathes?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    jefferson,georgia
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    Question Craftsman/Atlas lathes?

    Any of yall familiar with the craftsman\atlas lathes? Models,certain years,specific probs...that sort of thing.I know they are def not heavy stuff,what are the limits of these?Worth owning for smaller lightweight work or junk to tie the fishing boat off?What are they worth (condition in consideration)?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    253

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    The Craftsman/Atlas lathes. are OK. They are not built as stiff as other more expensive lathes but will make the same parts just can't take off as much metal in one pass. There were so many made that parts are easy to find (ebay). Clausing Corp. took over Atlas and still provides manuals and some parts. As with any used lathe condition and tooling should control the price. The weakest parts are the gears. The metal used to make them is soft and over time they wear out. Check the gears in the headstock if the top of the geat is not flat but worn to a point the have a lot of wear, they will still work but make a lot of noise and can effect the quality of finish you can obtain.

  3. #3
    tony ennis Guest

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    These lathes are common. A well maintained Atlas/Craftsman is not a boat anchor. I have a wreck I am slowing bringing back to life.

    These lathes are good lathes for smaller tasks - they do the same sorts of jobs done by 9" lathes. They have been engineered to hit a price point. One of the engineering decisions was the use of ZAMAK, a type of zinc and aluminum alloy, instead of iron for many of their parts. ZAMAK is not as durable as we'd have liked. But it was cheap...

    You will commonly see Atlas lathes with busted parts. Common issues include:
    1. handlewheels replaced with odd things ;-)
    2. tailstock bearings replaced, sometimes with odd things (there's a thread on the boards right now showing someone using a 1-2-3 block
    3. the housing that connects the carriage's handwheel to the rack is frequently broken.
    4. depending on the lathe's vintage, it's location, and the phase of the moon, some people report the ZAMAK crumbling. That's a bad thing.

    ZAMAK aside, the lathe's ways are too light for heavy work as you've noted.

    Now, all that being said, if you limit yourself to what the lathe was designed to do, you'll be pleased with the result.

    Their value is dependent on the associated tooling. A bare usable Craftman 12" with no QCGB (what I have) should cost perhaps $400. With a QCGB and a robust set of tooling, maybe $1000 or a little more.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Toledo, Ohio
    Posts
    9,890

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    Tony's site has plenty of information on both Atlas and Craftsman lathes;

    http://www.lathes.co.uk/atlas/index.html

    http://www.lathes.co.uk/craftsman/index.html

    It is important to keep in mind that Atlas did make lathes for Sears, but not all Craftsman lathes are Atlas. Double A, Sherline, Emco and maybe others all have made lathes that sold under the Craftsman badge.

    The lathes Atlas did make for Sears are not altogether the same as Atlas machines. Most will have some design modifications and differences that were probably mandated by Sears. The Dunlap line looked like Atlas, but used more Zamac castings, notably in the compound as a cost cutting measure. The Craftsman 12" lathe is basically a 10" lathe that has been increased in swing by raising the castings. Atlas did not produce a 12" lathe in the earlier series.
    Jim H.

  5. #5

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    Hey,
    I bought a 6" craftsman with Timken bearings 8 years ago. I make primarily small steam engines. The lathe I bought had All the tooling. I have been very happy with it. I have not bought a bigger lathe though looked at quite a few. For a beginner, as I am, it is GREAT!!! I also have a couple of Unimats. Great for work on very small stuff. Junk? No, Fit the lathe to your needs and you will be happy. Fred

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    jefferson,georgia
    Posts
    105

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    Thanks yall...My old Clausing is getting pretty tired,as I noted in an earlier thread.Problem presented is that while Clausing still sells MOST of the parts I need,selling one kidney wont cover the cost,and I cant get rid of both.That pretty well leaves me with making or repairing what I need.....cant do that with the lathe apart and pieces scattered everywhere....soooooo,(in my crainal deficient world) thats more than enough justification to hunt ...you guessed it,another lathe.This is a fill in (I dont do production work) while the Clausing is be re-hashed,and then sold or traded (heh heh....as far as the wife unit knows thats what'll happen.....I suspect differently....as Ron White might say "I know....I've seen me do it")....any rate....thanks for all the info...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Menlo Park, CA
    Posts
    990

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    I had a 10" model 10F Atlas for 24 years - good lathe, if quite light. You can do a lot w/ one within its limitations. The beds are quite flexible. so a good stable bench and careful leveling is important. Negative rake tooling is a non-starter in terms of both power and rigidity; these lathes really want nice sharp HSS tools.

    - Bart
    Bart Smaalders
    http://smaalders.net/barts

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    East Iowa
    Posts
    376

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    I've been hacking away with a 12" Atlas for nearly 15 years. As bad as it is, I've made alot of swarf with it, and actually quite a bit of money.
    Is it a jewel?? No, but is functional within it's limitations. As long as one is careful you can make acceptable parts.

    A couple advantages:
    1. Apparently they made a TON of them, as they seem to be one of the most common lathes out there. 9 times out of 10 if you find a 10 or 12" lathe for sale it ends up being an Atlas.

    2. Since they are so popular there are a ton of parts, either stock or upgrades, are available. Most of the common wear parts are available of Ebay on a regular basis.

    #3. And this is a big one. In order to become proficient and make decent parts on an Atlas, you have to follow the rules. Proper tool centering, grinding, and orientation. Proper feeds and speeds, on the very conservative side. And proper lathe "tuning", setup and maintenance.
    If you do all this and become comfortable with lathe operation on a Atlas, you will look like a machining GOD when you lay hands on the likes of a Monarch. You will do very impressive work right from the start on a real lathe.

    The 618 Atlas is a really decent lathe in it's class. I had one for a couple years and foolishly sold it when I got my 12". I wish I had it back as it was a very nice little lathe.

    That said, if you are used to running a larger Clausing, you will be very disappointed with an Atlas.........

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    186

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    you can also find a lot of good information on these lathes here:

    http://www.machinistweb.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=6

  10. #10
    gregl Guest

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    I have had an Atlas (Craftsman) 12 for about 20 years. I agree with the others. Within it's capabilities, it's fine. I also find it a bit flexible, and some days I get chatter no matter what I do. Come back when the moon is in a different phase, having changed nothing else, and no problem. It likes surgically sharp HSS toolbits, and even then my max. depth of cut is usually .050.

    What I like is that the carriage and tailstock are light and easy to whip around, which I do a lot of when making one-offs for small models. Most of what I do is less than two or three inches in diameter and within 6 inches of the chuck. If I was making parts for race cars, rebuilding axles and differentials, or other heavier stuff, I'd look for something with more mass. I still may get something heavier but I'll probably keep the Atlas.

    Also, since it's a hobby thing, time spent on making parts isn't that important. If I had to get x number of parts out per hour, I'd probably go for something more substantial.

    The hole through the headstock is about 3/4 inch and this is, to me, it's most limiting factor. You have to use expensive and harder to find 3AT collets, which max out at about 1/2 inch, and not being able to get longer pieces larger than 3/4 dia. back into the chuck is an inconvenience. (Yes, I know that you can get 5C collet chucks, but it seems to me that a collet chuck is almost an oxymoron. The whole idea of a collet is to max out the accuracy, and adding another piece of tooling between the collet and the spindle seems like it would work against this.)

    The flat ways have some advantages; you can measure from them easily, and stuff like steady rests and carriage stops are easy to make. I set the belt drive a little loose so when my grandson comes over for shop class the belt will slip should he take too deep a cut. It's a benchtop machine with the motor behind the headstock, so the bed will twist when the belt is under tension, so you have to level it with the tension lever engaged.

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