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Import vs Used lathe

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  • Import vs Used lathe

    OK, so I'm a bit discouraged and testy. But here goes.

    I have been looking for a small lathe (9-12"ish X 36"ish). I have looked at every blasted one for sale within ten counties of here. My eyes are bleeding from searching the blasted internet for both new and used. I've run out of anti depressants, and I’ve pulled what’s left of my hair out. I’ve even considered punching a few guys in the face for advertising ‘perfect condition’, only to drive an hour and a half to look at a broken down rust ball in their back yard.

    Oh, and I’m not made of unlimited money. Wife has even threatened to divorce me if I try to bankrupt her just one more time.

    But now I’m leaning towards a new machine to eliminate hurting someone who lies to me… but it would have to be an import (see the part about my financial situation). So my inquiry centers around the most bang for the buck. HF, Grizzly and several other importers have offerings, but they are a bit different in things like accessory packages or stands. And the big question is whether you owners of your import think (or know) that one brand or the other is or would be of better quality?

    And if there is a way to find a GOOD used machine within my $$$, how in hell am I supposed to find it?

    This may have been talked to death earlier, but I’m new, and hopefully get to plead ignorance at least one more time.


  • #2
    Don't get depressed -- we've all gone through the same thing. The way Machine Karma works, the "right" machine will drop into your lap at the absolute worst possible time, as defined by finances, spouse acceptance, and/or space

    For your requirements, you might consider the Grizzly 12x36 "Gunsmith" lathe. I think it's part of Grizzly's free shipping deal right now. Run that for awhile, and if a good Western machine drops in your lap, you can re-sell the Grizzly for a large fraction of what you paid for it.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


    • #3
      You find them when and where you find them. My first lathe back at the dawn of time was a nice SB toolroom machine. From a dealer. Couldn't move it and was without one for a while. Next was a clapped-out-piece-of-junk-SB on which I made many precision parts. Bought from a local shopper magazine for cheap and invested many times it's cost in tooling. Next a bigger machine, a new import. Looked for a used one and couldn't find any local. When I was looking for a mill, looked for a year on Craigslist and saw two. Then 6 in one week. You never know.

      New, they're mostly similar. Harbor Freight a cut below and Jet maybe a cut above. Drive up to Grizzly and have a look. Throw one on the truck and you're done. Drive up to Philly and a few dealers there. Quality Machine Tool is good. Sometimes a used one, but new start around $1500.

      A really GOOD used machine for cheap, stand in line behind the other 90,000 people looking. Good ones at a fair price on Craigslist around here are sold before you can you can even get there. I've had several sold while I was on the way over with cash even though I called and said I was coming.


      • #4
        This is the standard low-cost 9x20 lathe.

        I've used one, I like it. I am a beginner newb.

        You can find lathes around but as you're finding out it can take time. Hit EBay and plug in your maximum driving radius into a search. Ebay will send you a daily email. Remember, the tooling that comes with a lathe runs the price up. But tooling is good. You want tooling. You need tooling.

        If you must have a low-cost lathe with long ways then you're probably looking at a low-end South Bend or Atlas/Craftsman. The former is held in high regard. The latter loses points because some parts are cast from a metal called ZAMAC to reduce costs. Discussing this lathe in general and ZAMAC in particular generally starts a religious war on forums. Just watch.

        I have a 12" Atlas/Craftsman lathe. Mine is an abused wreck - I didn't know what I was buying. I am confident, however, that it will eventually do everything I need it to do.

        Another thing - 12" lathes are enormous and expensive*. There's a world of difference between lathes with a 9" swing and those with a 12" swing in terms of mass and expense. Which were you needing?

        * My Craftsman is a 12" lathe but only by a limited definition. It doesn't have the mass or rigidity to truly be categorized as a 12" lathe. It should be considered a 9" lathe with a great swing!


        • #5
          I just recently went through the same thing and I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! I bet I spent enough on gas driving to look at what you correctly described as "Broken down rustballs" to have paid a good chunk on my lathe. I did some serious research on this matter before buying and this is what I found. Most of the imports are pretty much the same thing regardless of what some might say, not all are the same but most are. I know for a FACT that the Harbor Freight 9x20 is the same thing as the Jet version (I have used both machines and the JET is not built any better than the HF version) even though the Jet costs twice as much and comes with FEWER accessories such as a splash guard and live center that the HF version includes. I wound up buying a HF 14x40 because after researching it I found that, like the Jet 9x20 vs the HF 9x20, it was the same machine except for the color that ENCO sells for around $1000 more. Using a 20% off coupon I saved $639.73 off the (still current) $3199 price tag with no shipping charges to the store, pick it up there. I have a friend who is very familiar with the Enco 14x40 and after looking at my new HF lathe he agrees that they are indeed the same machine except for price and color, apparently the same is true for the 12x36 outfits also. I have not looked at a Birmingham YCL1440 except for pictures in catalogs and on the net but it too APPEARS to be the same as the HF/Enco, it looks identical except for the color but again I have not actually inspected one close up, I am however still stinging over paying so much for that Jet when I could have gotten the HF model so much cheaper. I have been using my HF 14x40 for a month now and I am delighted with it as it is doing a really good job and has done so "right out of the box", all I had to do was wire it in and level it up-well I did change the oil in the gear boxes and I would recommend doing that before running any import because of cuttings that may be left in it. All in all I am delighted with my new lathe and do not regret for a second not finding an old used one especially when I look at the cost of less than $2800 for a new 14x40 set up and ready to run. I looked at the 12x36 "Gunsmith" lathe at Grizzly and it was my first choice for a while but I found I could have the bigger 14x40 for almost $200 less. I do however still think the Grizzly "Gunsmith" lathe is a super nice outfit for a good price, depends entirely on what you want to do with it.
          Last edited by radkins; 02-06-2009, 02:34 PM.


          • #6
            Alright, I found one more zanax in my briefcase, so I am sane again for a few minutes.

            Thanks for calming me down again. I just get hot when an ad in the local rag exclaimes a cherry, when in fact it is a cherry pit. I ask all the right questions, and I get the right answers, and damned if they aren't full of s*** when I get there. Thus the 'new' thinking.

            I have indeed looked at the Grizzlys. They have two machines that would suit the bill for a long time to come (I am not the kind that will use a tool for a while and then trade up. Once I have it, I usually keep it for a long time unless I hit the lottery).

            Question: Two of the Grizzly models I am considering are http:// and the http://

            What is the difference, other than belts vs gear drive? They are the same cost.

            No, these are not set in stone. Read original post about divorce. I'll have to work her into this slowly if I can pull it off.

            Remember, I am only a hobbiest. I know I could 'get away' with a smaller machine. I just have the Tim Taylor syndrome. So I'm still listening to you all.


            • #7
              Originally posted by tony ennis
              This is the standard low-cost 9x20 lathe.

              I've used one, I like it. I am a beginner newb.
              Oh, please don't tell him to get a 9x20 -- you'll turn him off of machining forever!

              I think, like Mill/drills, we've all had a 9x20 at one point, and they're terribly frustrating. The 9x20 topslide mount is so flimsy that the machine chatters badly on even the lightest cuts. So nearly everyone does the 4-bolt compound fix first thing...

              Some other critical deficiencies of the 9x20 that even the most basic lathe has:
              • No back gear (130RPM minimum spindle speed!)
              • No tumbler reverse
              • No bearings on the crossfeed or topslide
              • Tiny (5/16"!), whippy little leadscrews on the crossfeed and topslide

              If you want to go down a price point from the Grizzly 12x36, consider the 8x14, which addresses most of the 9x20's weaknesses.
              Last edited by lazlo; 02-06-2009, 02:44 PM.
              "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


              • #8
                I would hold out for a nice used one. Used often come with tooling, and getting one tooled up normally costs more than the machine itself. With the economy like it is, more and more machines are going to pop up and need a good home. The big one for me is that old machinery seems to almost be alive, where the new chinese stuff is more like a washing machine or toaster.


                • #9
                  now now Robert, easy does it on the 9x20. I had one, did a ton of mods to it and made some beautiful parts with it.
                  Out of the box it has err... ahem...cough...a couple issues.
                  But these parts were made on my 9x20-
                  Stirling cold and hot side- stainless and aluminum-

                  The stainless top cap was turned from solid and is only .020" thin in the neck. No chatter issues when properly setup.

                  This 1144 ER collet chuck was made on the 9x20.

                  Sorry, but just had to defend that machine a little.
                  I understand your point that it might frustrate a noob with it's short comings though.

                  Course, if I showed all the mods I did to that lathe you just might think I was insane,lol..muwhahhhhaaaaaaa ha ha ha! yeah..

                  Ahh the good ol' days of the yahoo 9x20 group. Made some friends and enemies over there!


                  • #10
                    Found this one a HF http://

                    Doesn't look too shabby, as compared with, well nothing. I have nothing to compare to, but I have a Harbor Freight store in my town. May go over and talk to them and see if shipping would be different if going to their store.

                    Keep em coming guys. This is fun when I'm stoned on pain killers.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by lazlo
                      Oh, please don't tell him to get a 9x20 -- you'll turn him off of machining forever!

                      I could not agree more and whenever I used my Jet I was constantly scratching my head and asking "Now what the hell were they thinking when they built this thing?" I only mentioned the Jet to make the point that the bigger HF machines are not to be confused with the other tool shaped lumps of scrap metal they sell. When I bought my Jet I was told "Oh but the HF lathe is just a cheap copy or is just a reject that Jet would not accept from the factory" but I know now that is BS! I could have gotten the HF version for $599 at the time and it still comes on sale for that but I instead paid $999 for the "Better built" Jet, better built- yeah right! I since have used both machines a bunch and there is exactly NO difference between the Jet 9x20 and the HF lathe except the price, color and the fact HF throws in a few more accessories and a splash guard and for less money! Apparently the same is true for the larger lathes or at least it is with the Enco versions vs the HF lathes. Sorry for ranting about the Jet vs HF again but somehow it makes me feel better after getting stung by paying an extra $400 for a "Brand name".


                      • #12
                        If your going to buy new, you need to research by model, and not brand, as all the big resellers have multiple suppliers.

                        The following small machines are all of good quality, and made by the same factory in China.
                        HF 8x12 (really 8x14)
                        Lathemaster 8x14
                        Lathemaster 9x30

                        For larger lathes, I have read good things about Precision Mathews.

                        I'm pretty sure the PM12x36 is made by the same manufacture in China as the 8x & 9x30.
                        -Dan S.


                        • #13
                          My view on the matter is simple buy what you can afford remembering that you also need some cash left over for all the bits and pieces you need to do jobs. Not everything is just a bit of turning and when you are learning the best lathe in the world wont stop the mistakes that will sure as eggs is eggs will occur.
                          In the past all my maching was done on a Myford but I just could not afford to buy one, well not one that looked good anyway as the affordable ones looked like rejects from the ark!
                          So go for the HF or whatever and if you ever have the need get something better and keep the other for the rough jobs(well thats how mine end up!)

                          I have tools I don't know how to use!!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by garagemark
                            Found this one a HF http://

                            Doesn't look too shabby, as compared with, well nothing. I have nothing to compare to, but I have a Harbor Freight store in my town. May go over and talk to them and see if shipping would be different if going to their store.

                            Keep em coming guys. This is fun when I'm stoned on pain killers.

                            For whatever reason I can't get any of your links to work?

                            There is a link to a current 20% off coupon at HF on the board right now and they will honor it on items from the special order catalog at the store. This catalog is for larger items that they don't have room to stock but they will ship them in at no extra cost, for some reason it is much cheaper to order from the in-store special order book than the web prices- for example the 14x40 was (and still is) $3199 at the store but $3399 on the web site. For the next 4 days you can get the 20% off of the $3199 for a substantial savings or for the 13x40 I think is only like $1999 or the 12x37 belt drive for $1799 and these prices are BEFORE taking off the 20%!


                            • #15
                              That HF actually has quite a lot of avid followers..

                              Im a long time visitor at the yahoo 12x36 lathe group and there are several/many owners of the HF there and across the board they have very good reviews, in fact there were a couple guys put them into work shop situations and proclaimed they were pleasantly surprised.

                              And....if you call in the next 10 min ---- ,As we speak there is a 20% off coupon good through mon, and if it happens to be on sale, (it often is at $1799) and take the 20% off --- that aint a bad deal.

                              They probably wont have one 'in store' but it seems most of the managers will honor the coupons on the store orders ... be worth asking!

                              Heres the link to the coupon....

                              Radkins beat me to it!
                              If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something........