Thinking of upgrading to a larger lathe
I purchased an old model "O" 1930 Heavy 9x48 South Bend lathe about 3 years ago. At the time I wasn't sure that I would use it that much and wanted to cut my teeth on it before moving on. That machine is great and has served me well, however would like a little larger, faster and cleaner running machine now that I love his hobby. I am looking for something in the 11-13 inch size with a center to center around 36-40 inches. I live in North Dakota so the option of picking up a nice used machine even out 500 miles is rare at best. I have looked at Colchester, South Bend and Jet lathes. My budget is under 3K. I definitely don't want a Chinese machine if at all possible. I would welcome any and all comments/suggestions.
If you want new at that price range it WILL be Chinese. And $3K won't even buy you a new one in the larger of your desired sizes. For new your $3K plus a little more will buy you a Grizzly 13x36.
It's only my opinion but if you're finding that the Heavy 9x48 is limiting you size wise in terms of mass, rigidity and smoothness of cut then I doubt you will be satisfied with the lighter 10 to 11" swing lathes. Those size lathes will be too close to what you have already. I suspect you're looking at a 13x36 or a 14x40 for new. Or if you wait for some older fancy name heavy iron to appear that you'll end up with something larger and heavier than that.
I guess the other question is that if you really are lusting after some good condition classic heavy lathe then how patient are you? And are the ones that come up as rare as you're suggesting? Plus there's the issue that I'd be highly reluctant to buy a used lathe without inspecting it and bringing along a couple of pieces of measurement tools to get a feel for wear.
I do a wide range of projects, never know what might be next. My criteria for a lathe is - No smaller than 12 x 36, no bigger than 14 x 40 (due to space). It has to have a D1-4 or D1-5 spindle with a min. 1-1/2" bore, MT-5. MT-3 or MT-4 tailstock. Quick change gearbox. Min. 1 HP motor (most will have 2 or 3 HP, even better). I had a 12 x 40 Chinese one that I bought new for $2700 to get me by for a year or 2 until I could find something better. Ended up doing everything on it for 18 years and it served me well. It was still a perfectly good machine when I finally sold it after getting a 14 x 40. I had to do some initial fixing of things when I first got it, and replaced the motor once and the on-off switch twice, but it did a ton of work over the years.
I am with toolguy - the better chinese machines are really, really good.
Better = heavier.
I have a chinese 12x24 heavy version, from Chester UK.
Chester Craftsman. 350 kg in mass, 450 with stand, 600 kg with CNC refit.
MT5, MT3 TS, 38 mm / 1.49" spindle passthrough.
Now CNC refit to industrial levels.
Hold your water and wait for a Good Machine to come to you
You currently have a lathe so your not exactly lathe poor at the moment anyway. The Chinese metal is soft compared to American machines and not really Grey Iron. Althou you can find Chinese machines with very low hours you'll see quickly see why they have very low hours.
In my search for a good American made lathe I had a South Bend 14" Tool Room lathe in pieces that had the bed factory reconditioned. It had every attachment South Bend sold for it althou it was missing the rear legs. Poor old guy had developed Alzheimer's and had forgot about the project. His son sold it to me for $200.
Then I picked up a Le Blond 13" in rough shape for $500 that had been crashed fairly early in life and sat in the back of a warehouse for years. I measured the ware on the ways and didn't detect more then .0004" up close to the chuck. I then bought some parts off a guy who was scraping a Le Blond 15" to complete the machine and have been using it ever since.
Total investment - $1500
Parts and Service are still available and I don't have to worry about soft metal
Not sure if the "soft metal" is an issue for home use. The decent ones have hardened ways.
Even my 9x18 has hardened ways.
I got pictures of a Griz Mill with bulges in the ways from the table lock - is that soft enough
Originally Posted by pinstripe
And to be truthful I was happy as hell the day I brought it home. Don't know anyone who would prefer a chisel and file over a knee mill.
Its just that as the skill sets progress and your wondering why it is getting difficult to hold .010" over 12" piece it gets a little frustrating.
Last edited by JoeFin; 02-15-2017 at 02:12 PM.
Sure, but it doesn't appear to be a common problem (table lock damaging the ways). There are pros and cons whichever you choose. There are plenty of people that are happy with their Chinese machines, and also plenty that are happy to get rid of them. From what others have posted, bigger is likely to get you a better machine, and later machines may also be better than the early ones.
Originally Posted by JoeFin
Last edited by pinstripe; 02-15-2017 at 02:24 PM.
I would consider a jet 13x40 gap like this one