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Turret vs. tailstock

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  • Turret vs. tailstock

    I'm looking to replace my 11" Rockwell with something shorter and stouter.

    There are quite a few so-called turret lathes, which apparently differ from a "regular" lathe in having a revolving turret instead of a tailstock.

    The only need I see for a tailstock is to hold centers, drill chuck, etc and the turret will do that, and in fact both at once, which seems pretty cool.

    The only downside I see is that the turret may take up more of the bed length.

    Am I missing anything?

  • #2
    Unless you are running production, I would not recommend a turret lathe. Yes they can all you mentioned and a lot more in a production set up, and do it very well.
    The down side is that turret lathes take a lot more effort to set-up, worth it if you are running production, but a real time sucker for one offs.
    I have 2 turret lathes, #3 W&S and #5 J&L. The W&S weighs 3500 LBS the J&L 6500 LBS, and both machines take up a lot floor space with their respective bar feeders. These machines will take anything I can throw at them, although the W&S will grunt every now and then. I've even managed to stall the 15 HP J&L a time or two. Resetting the overloads was a PITA.
    Finding turret lathe tooling can be a real pain, and can often nickel and dime you death.

    An engine lathe, on the other hand is a lot easier to set up, and the tooling needed is not as extensive as what a turret lathe needs to do the same work, plus you can easily thread on an engine lathe, which, as a rule, is not true with a turret lathe.

    If you are having problems with rigidity with your Rockwell, you may be pushing it beyond its capacity. Maybe it's time to start considering a much heavier machine, but I warn you the footprint is going to dramatically increase. My small lathe (13-1/2" X 30") weighs 3450 LBS and occupies a space of approx 36" X 72", the next one (14-1/2 X 30") weighs 3500, 45" X 84", and they only get larger and heavier after that.


    • #3
      Turret takes up more bed length, and does not have micrometer feed. It also presents a bit of a problem in turning between centers because it's location is not from a positive locating screw. Your only real option is to run it forward "about right", and cinch down the "lock" screw, and hope it stays like you wanted it. And of course it takes more bed, and it's more fiddly to setup when you need to do something like drill or ream to depth (have to crank that screw stop, or set up a scale). But for most everything else (that I can think of), a turret is pretty much superior. I have one on my Rockwell 11, but basically I just use the tailstock because the turret is a heavy bastich to mount...

      And by the way, a "real" turret lathe is quite different than an engine lathe with a bed mounted turret...
      Master Floor Sweeper


      • #4
        Thanks for the info, sounds like I'm better off sticking with an engine lathe for my hobby stuff.

        I'm considering a 25" c-c version of the 13" Precision Matthews lathe:

        It weighs about 50% more than the Rockwell, which I hope will translate directly to higher stiffness.

        I have to call to see what the length is; they give the same length for both 30" and 40" versions, so I can't calculate the difference.


        • #5
          I use a small set of turret lathes at work fairly frequently, a Hardinge DV-59 and a HSC. I really wish we had like a #3 or #4 W&S.

          They do take setup, but I find they're a good compliment to an engine lathe. Sometimes you have to do something a couple times and I always find myself staring at the lathe, wishing it had a turret and some stops.

          Like everyone else though, I wouldn't want to have one without an engine lathe.


          • #6
            Many turret lathes are not set up for threading.

            Some high end machines do have attachments for this.

            The ones I have owned, and operated, relied on die heads for threading.

            A Geometric die head will run circles around an engine lathe, or cnc, for long thin thread jobs.

            For short parts, bearing housings, and similar jobs, the turret lathe
            is a real money maker.

            The carriage feed dial is great for cutting lengths.

            Most machinists these days are "too good" to run a turret lathe.



            • #7
              If you want something stouter than an 11" Rockwell, and you want it shorter. your choices are VERY limited....

              Stouter is really hard, since the Rockwell is almost the heaviest 11" you can find.

              Maybe one of the short-bed 13" South bend machines, but get the type with the larger spindle hole. Some have a very small one, about what an Atlas has....

              They will be considerably shorter, and very stout. Downside is between centers may be as little as 18".

              Stouter alone would send you to a Monarch, or maybe a Springfield, but you'd get a 16" or so machine with a 5 foot center distance and it would be BIG.. Shorter makes it harder, and the 13 short-bed SouthBend might be best.

              Backside view:


              Keep eye on ball.
              Hashim Khan


              • #8
                Turret and capstan lathes.

                Here are three of several that I used at various times when I was an Apprentice and later:

                First (sorry no pics) was a "Hercus" - an Australian made copy of the South Bend small lathe with a vee-belt and back-gear drive drive with a QC screw-cutting gear-box with both a SB tail-stock and a (I guess) SB/Hercus attachment capstan that I started my turning on. Did lots of small jig an fixture items as a conventional lathe and lots and lots of small special screws/bolts etc. on the capstan/turret. Taught good basic lathe and set-up skills as well as co-ordinating several repetitive separate movements. It was OK once you were "in the groove" - but it sure could get boring if a job lasted more than a day or so.

                The "Herbert" 4:

                Wow!! All those levers!!!

                Once I'd got my basics right, this was next - first under supervision/training and then once I was OK it was on my own. A great machine. I was 10 feet tall when I graduated to this. Machinist that I under-studied was one of the best machinists and tutors/mentors that I ever had.

                The "Ward" 7:

                This was my next one. This even was even better than my H-D or "Vincent "HRD"!!!! This was living!!!

                Those covered beds and power feeds everywhere were magic. A top class engine lathe as well. Screw-cutting was there and worked very well with a wide range of removable lead-screws!!! We made others to suit (with half-nuts). We made a removable compound slide. Lengths were set with guages and dial indicators. Levers everywhere - changed on the "fly" and lottsa "suds".

                I still reckon that I learned more on those lathes than I did on big "Dean-Smith-&-Grace", "Lang", "Herbert", "Macson" etc. engine lathes. The "cream" was the "Schaublin" lathes in the Tool Room. I was in total awe of those - and their mills!!!

                Tool-setting on those turret and capstan lathes was a huge benefit as was setting punches and dies. It never leaves you.


                • #9
                  Is shorter part of the requirement (space problems) or is shorter wanted because it'd be inherently stouter?

                  Regarding the Precision Mathews lathe, I'm skeptical. It looks like your basic third world machine badged with a name to imply English origins, "Mathews".

                  Either here or over on Practical Machinist site someone is currently having a problem with their PM machine, something wrong with the carriage feed apparently. That type of problem should have been caught prior to shipping , so much for the inspection procedures for these machines.

                  Also, on the site showing the PM lathe they say ISO 9002. Typical nonsense from a retailer. Who is the ISO approval for, the retailer or the manufacturer? When they throw out a buzz word like that it needs explanation.

                  Just to be clear, I'm not dinging all third world machines. It's just that this retailer doesn't give me a good feeling. Jet might be a better choice. (Wow, did I just say that? What's the world coming to when i recommend Jet?


                  • #10
                    ISO 9000 series/"family"

                    These links might assist:

                    ISO 9000/9001:

                    ISO 9002:


                    • #11
                      "Stouter is really hard, since the Rockwell is almost the heaviest 11" you can find."

                      I wonder if we're talking about the same machine. Mine is like this:


                      The bed isn't very deep (beam height) if you ask me, and it weighs 950 lb, a bit less than the typical Chinese 12x36. The PM is 1500 lb.

                      "Is shorter part of the requirement (space problems) or is shorter wanted because it'd be inherently stouter?"

                      It's the space; I thought about the second aspect but I doubt there's a lot of difference a few inches from the headstock where I do 99% of everything.

                      "It's just that this retailer doesn't give me a good feeling."

                      I think if you read more of his posts you'd feel better about Matt and his machines; I do, anyway.


                      • #12
                        Monarch EE, if you can find one?


                        • #13
                          Yes, a 10EE would fill the bill nicely, and I'd spend a few $K more if I could find a nice one within driving distance that I could look at first.


                          • #14
                            As a nice compromise between a tool room type lathe and a full turret lathe, some tool room lathes had optional "bed turrets" available that mount a turret assembly on the lathe bed, in place of the tailstock.

                            I have one on my Clausing 5914 and its pretty nice. Like a dumb ass I got it with the lathe when I bought it but never got around to setting it up so it sat underneath it in a box for while. Somebody on another forum commented how they liked using it on their Clausing better than a tailstock even for one off work so I got it out, cleaned it up and set it up.

                            Its pretty sweet and its pretty study. Some claim that tailstock is sturdier for turning between centers, but I doubt that on this one, its pretty rugged.

                            It has 6 positions with 1" shank holders. I bought a bunch of used but reasonable shape Jacobs chucks off ebay and populated every position with a chuck, one in a MT2 shank adapter that I'll remove to insert a center.

                            Now I just leave each chuck set up with my common tools, ie center drill, spot drill, countersink, etc.

                            For collet work there's no problem getting the carriage forward enough to be out of the way. I think I may have clearance problems when trying to use the turret with my 8" chuck, but we'll see, I haven't had to do that yet.

                            So far I like it a lot better than the tailstock, not only do you get the quick tool indexing but nice depth control also, but keep in mind I don't turn between centers very often, almost all the parts we make are short stuff.

                            Paul T.


                            • #15
                              I bought 3 Newall DRO's from Matt, and will probably buy a couple more when I get my new additions ready. He's a straight up fellow.
                              Go for the 10EE if you can find one. I've got 2, 1 running and the other being reconditioned.