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More dumb lathe questions

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  • More dumb lathe questions

    Ok here I go again. I'm looking for a lathe, even considering redeeming the wife's frequent flyer miles to go and see them under power. There are "showrooms" (warehouses, really) in NY and LA, and maybe I should spend a few afternoons there.
    In some listings I've seen on eBay, people will pose the question of "whether this machine has ever cut threads". Is there something about cutting threads that's especially hard on the machine? Or is it just the age old problem of the ways wearing out most in the area near the spindle?
    Also, what is meant by "first operation" and "second operation" lathes? They seem to be a whole lot cheaper than comparable "regular" lathes, so obviously, something's missing. Are these just really specialized machines, kinda like the opposite of a toolroom lathe?
    Once again, thanks for info, folks.
    The curse of having precise measuring tools is being able to actually see how imperfect everything is.

  • #2
    Are you talking new or used ("showrooms" caught my eye)? What range of work (size, precision, operations) would you like to do with it?

    Here's a guy in VA that I've watched for a while. He's had some nice machines from time to time.

    And then there is also Blue Ridge Machinery in Hurricane, WV.

    There have been numerous threads here on lathe types. Just search for "first op", "second op", "types of lathes", etc. Here's a good one:


    [This message has been edited by nheng (edited 03-19-2005).]


    • #3
      Den -
      Thanks for the info. The link to the earlier thread was especially helpful, and Mason Mechanical turns out to be in my old stomping grounds.
      I'm inclined to get a used machine, since it appears that a *carefully-selected* used machine can last longer, be easier to keep going, and be of generally better quality than a similarly-priced new (Chinese) import. The references to NY and LA are to Machinery Values, in the NYC area, and the venerable Reliable Tool in Irwindale, CA. My impression is that MV has higher prices, but RT has a horrendous geographical undesirability (for me). Also, I like that RT's eBay stuff has no reserve, therefore the market truely sets the *value* of the item.
      My further impression is that, if I were to purchase a Jet or similar Chinese import, I'd likely spend a week fixing up the paint, deburring various things, and generally cleaning it up so everything fits correctly. Perhaps the better plan is to buy such brands when they're only 6-12 months old. That way, they're probably cleaned up and decently broken-in, but not all clapped out.
      The size I'm looking for is probably 6"-12" swing, with the largest reasonable attainable bore in the spindle (but I know how that affects cost and overall size), threading capability, and hopefully of a brand that's already all over the place. My wet dream is for a Hardinge HLVH-EM toolroom lathe, but I really doubt I can convince the CFO - uh, I mean wife - to allow me to spend around $20-30K to get one. Besides, that's *way* more machine than I am a machinist - it'd be like getting a new Porche 911T for your 16-year-old daughter to learn how to drive.
      The other advantage of something like a nice South Bend or Hardinge is that, when well cared for, they maintain value based on real condition and capability, rather than just age, like a car.
      I actually bid on a lathe, a South Bend heavy 10, but as eBay auctions always seem to do, the price ramped up dramatically in the last seconds, and I didn't get it. Oh well.
      In any case, thanks for the info, Den, and thanks to all the folks here for a very informative board.


      The curse of having precise measuring tools is being able to actually see how imperfect everything is.


      • #4

        I see we're practically neighbors (I'm in Richmond), so I'll make a couple of local suggestions. First would be to sign up for the CAMS mailing list, as good used machinery is sometimes offered to the group before the general public. CAMS (Chesapeake Area Metalworking Society) meets monthly, alternating between Va. and Md. The next Va. meeting is _this_ Tuesday night, at 7:30 in Annandale. Be there or be square, you wil learn lots and get to hang out with lots of serious tool junkies, who are very willing to answer questions, etc. BTW, don't be surprised if someone there lives right in your neighborhood. I'm planning to be there also. The CAMS website is

        Also, we have a machine tool liquidator, Noel Dempsey, just off the Interstate here in Richmond. Inventory changes a lot, new stuff is "presented" on Sat. mornings at 10AM. I'm usually there every week, N. Va. & Md. CAMS guys often come down, too. Prices are usually excellent, most machines need cleanup, etc. A lot of stuff is sold before it ever makes it off the truck. Dempsey is also one of the most honest people I know. His website is

        If you have questions or need more info, my email is billbrittonatcomcastdotnet.