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Need 9x20 Lathe Recommedation

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  • Need 9x20 Lathe Recommedation

    I'm looking for a good 9x20 lathe to do some small projects and hobby type stuff at home.
    I've been looking at the 9x20 models from places like Harbor Frieght and Northern Tools for under a $1000. I think these are all made out of China and I have no knowledge of their quality or accuracy.

    If anyone has any recommendations or bad experiences, please share. I would also consider a good used American 9x20 or slightly larger as long as I can keep the price under $1000.

  • #2
    This is a start, will give you links to other sites too'


    • #3

      [This message has been edited by PSD KEN (edited 03-09-2005).]


      • #4

        There are whole newsgroups including the 9 x 20 group on Yahoo that does nothing but discuss this question. There are thousands of posts not only on that group but you can find opinions galore on rec.crafts.metalworking, the Chaski newsgroup and the Practical machininist on Chinese 9 x 20 lathes vs the rest of the world.


        • #5
          herbf - Before buying an import why not look into a good used lathe. I found a Clausing 10X36" wih a bunch of extras for $800, I love it. I pat it on the head.....stock every time I make $'s with it!. Learn how to inspect a used lathe or have someone help you before you jump into a good deal. Set-up is very important and most often overlooked by week-enders. I have mine leveled out to less than a thou. anywhere along the bed. Hope you find yours!.---


          • #6
            Harbor Freight is the worst when it comes to tolerances... I've heard that Grizzley is OK, but you should expect to do some work on them to get a good setup. I have a Homier 7x12, and it's OK, but I'm doing a CNC conversion on it (as soon as I get finished with my Shizouka) with new ball-screws, a pressurized oil system, an adaptive control, and a collet system - when it's done it will be able to compete with the best of them (er, for it's size ).

            Expect to completely disassemble everything but the headstock, partially dissassemble the headstock, and clean everything.

            Make sure you get a quick-change toolpost - the "turret" style has no good tool height adjustment (no, I don't consider shims a good method )

            Accuracy in a manual machine is mostly determined by the operator - as long as the ways are streight, and not bowed.

            1) Measure.
            2) Turn some off the part.
            3) Go to step 1.

            The very first machine that I had - before I knew better - was a Harbor Freight mini multipurpose machine. It was supposed to be a combo mill and lathe, but lacked important features to make either aspect of the machine work. Don't get a machine that's inadaquate to your needs thinking that you are being cheap; as you will only frustrate yourself, and then have to buy the machine that you needed in the first place later.


            How about this lathe:

            With one of these toolposts:


            Depending on what you are doing, one of these might come in handy, also:

            Also, (I presume you are new to this based on the question, so if you are an old hand at this, this might be basic info) you will need a micrometer and caliper set (get digital, it's not much more, and so much easier to read), a threading guage (aka fishtail), and either a means of grinding your own tools (bench grinder or bench beltsander), or a set of carbide insert tool holders (or, both).


            • #7
              One point about buying a used lathe. In many areas they simply aren't available and often the neophyte will get taken up in the romance of it "I mean, hey its a South Bend!". Is a South Bend in the 8 or 9 inch range a better lathe? In like new condition sure. But just how many guys stumble across the low hour lathe in the basement that the widow wants to get rid off? About as many as fall into the pristine '63 split window corvette that the son bought before going off to die in a far off Asian land. The main faults of the Asian 9/10x19/20/22's all have is they copied all of the faults of the Emco 8x18 hobby lathe while not doing a good enough job of copying the good points.

              Fault 1) The spindle bore is too damn small. But then the SB 9" suffers from this too. IMO there is no excuse for a bore smaller than 1"

              Fault 2) Trying to persude the neophyte that these are precision lathes. Granted the skilled and talented can do some very, and I mean very nice work on one of these machines. But it takes a very good understanding of the strengths and waeknesses of the machines

              Fault 3) Not enough power IMO. Personally I prefer enough HP at the tool to over come the bearing and spindle rigidity. Not that I would run the machine at that point but if doing hobby work taking 1" off the diameter in steps of .025" gets old awful fast

              Fault 4) A weak compound set-up. Fortunately most of the web sites dedicated to these machines go into this in detail. And some of the manufactures have attended to this issue.

              Fault 5) Unless one is midget in the circus the lathes as sold on the stands have a spindle centerline height that is far too low. A small bench type lathe should have a center line of around 47" above the floor IMO. This is also the range where the Hardinge Tool Room lathe is. Close enough to see what you are doing with wrecking the average persons back

              Strength 1) They're cheap and allow a guy (or girl) to get into the machining hobby at a reasonable base level as long as they pay attention to Faults 1&2 and are willing to accept a learning curve. But the learning curve might actually be easier for the neophyte versus the vetern of the job shop or industrial tool room. These people will expect too much from the lathe even though they know intellectually what to expect

              Strength 2) They're small easy to move and if one wants to move up to a larger machine they should be easy to sell with out losing too much money

              PS. For the more socially and culturally sensetive, I in no way meant to disparage Circus Midget's. You never know I might be one
              Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.


              • #8
                Don't forget the dyslexic, nude, lesbian, politically incorrect, sexually neutral skydivers.
                Barry Milton


                • #9
                  >> IMO there is no excuse for a bore smaller than 1"

                  Oh, come on -- there's lots ah 'skeusezz, just confront a sales guy on it, and ya'll hear 'em fly!

                  >> Trying to persude the neophyte that these are precision lathes

                  Yeah... They vary widely. Pick a good one to start with, and your C.Q. (uh, that's Cussing Quotient ) will be lowered substantially.

                  I was taught on some seriously old hardware - one of the lathes we had was a Monarch, of about 6 feet between centers, that my instructor had found out in a field somewhere a while back... I was told it dated from pre-WWII. The bed was worn down, so it couldn't turn a straight rod across it's entire length, and it had a loose cross slide lead-screw; but we managed to get (short) parts within a thou off of it (the guy who used that machine the most in our class had never had any kind of shop class or experience whatsoever - he was retired if memory serves, and just took the class for kicks). My favorite of the ones we had was the 9" South Bend - it was, despite being a little looser then some of the others, smoother to operate. The other machines felt somewhat "gritty" - despite having taken apart the cross-slide, and cleaned it thoroughly.

                  >> taking 1" off the diameter in steps of .025" gets old awful fast

                  My little 7x12 will take off .100 in a pass - slow feed, but it'll do it. When I'm done CNC-ing it, it'll do it while I'm looking at this BBS...

                  >> A weak compound set-up

                  Yup - under or over stress it and it chatters - although, all lathes will do that to some extent.

                  >> Unless one is midget

                  Sounds like your bench is too low... I have a rather tall one in my garage that my mini-lathe is on, and it does help.


                  • #10
                    <font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">IMO there is no excuse for a bore smaller than 1"</font>
                    WRONG, the number is 1.25". My buddy says its 1.5", and another says its 2".

                    Point being that the bore is always too small, and the swing too small, etc. Once you freeze dimensions or specs they are wrong.

                    I agree on the 9 x 20 though.

                    The next step up is usually to a 10 or 11", and for some reason those are usually disproportionately stouter and better built.

                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan


                    • #11
                      I had a Grizzly 9x19" as my only lathe for several years. Out of the box, the only things I had to "fix" was the locking setscrew on the motor pulley, which had come loose and smoked a belt for me.

                      Griz replaced the belt free of charge, and a quick degrease and a dab of loctite cured the pulley problem.

                      Other than that, it was a fine machine for the cost. It paid for itself within months, and I still sold it for not much less than new a few years later. ('Course, I took it in the shorts on shipping, since I'm in Alaska, but that's not the fault of the machine. )

                      I worked mainly aluminum with it, and could easily hold a thou, and with pretty good finishes. In fact, a bit better than my Logans can do now, probably because of the higher spindle speeds the Griz was capable of.

                      The new owner yanked the compound, as seems to be the custom, and made a big stiff riser block to hold an A-size QC post. He's apparently quite happy with it.

                      No, it's not a shiny new Southbend or a rigid Colchester. It's a good, desktop sized machine for those with limited budgets or limited room. I had both in the beginning, and it did me just fine.

                      Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


                      • #12
                        Addendum: I would be FAR more likley to try and get the machine from Grizzly, or perhaps JET, than from Harbor Freight or Northern Hydraulics, or even ENCO.

                        Grizzly has pretty decent customer service, and will, if possible, work with you on a repair, if it's a minor problem, rather than an expensive and time-consuming ship-back-and-we'll-replace-it like you'd get with the others.

                        Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


                        • #13
                          Ah, you are looking to buy two or more lathes?

                          My experience with the small Chinese lathes are that they will force you to buy something else very quickly.

                          For the money I would look at a used lathe like the South Bend Workshop 9A or such. See if you can find a buddy that knows lathes and machining to help you select one, but the South Bend Workshop 9 is in a different class than the Chinese 9 by 20. You will be much, much happier with a good used Workshop 9 than any new Chinese lathe.

                          Good luck!



                          • #14
                            Random thoughts as I read through the replies:

                            I have a Logan 9x17 which I was lucky to get, and I intend to keep it. I think it's about as rare as that Southbend Workshop 9A. I've never seen one, nor run across the name on ebone or otherwise. But I have to think that a cared-for, 50 year old US-made lathe is getting pretty rare. And the average US iron one runs across may not be as good now as a new Chinese 9x20.

                            The only thing that tempts me to give up my Logan for new oriental iron is the Sieg 10x24. Grizzly & Lathemaster carry it. Or if you are brave, you can do the direct import thing and save some money.

                            9x20s have a couple known weaknesses:
                            - Compound mount weakness, easily fixed.
                            - No tumble reverse to change leadscrew roatation. Can't feed away from the chuck, nor turn lefthand threads.
                            Everything you want to know on 9x20's is at Steve Bedair's site:

                            If you can get a good used 9x20 with tooling and maybe the factory bench for $500, that's a good deal. In fact I agonized over one locally before finding a good home for it just last week.


                            • #15
                              Why not splurge and get a Monarch 10EE new. You can order one made to your specs from Sidney for a mere $150,000. Half down and the rest on delivery. Gives you time to reinforce your garage floor as well while your waiting on it...Naturally I will be tickeled to help you get it set up and running!!