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  • What length lathe?

    Didn't want to hijack my own thread concerning restoration, but again, I got to thinking. And since you guys have been there, I'll confer with you.

    I am a hobbyist.... and nothing more. I want a lathe- for nothing in particular. At this point a freakin mini lathe would do what I need. But I want a larger machine, simply because I will be ABLE to chuck up some bigger parts. I have a lot of projects in mind. So I am settled on a 10" or larger (but not much) swing. Now we get to the length. Again, currently I need no more than six inches. But that is going to change. I originally thought, arbitrarily, that 24" was the shortest I'd go. That number came from the length of a typical gun barrel. No I am not going to make a gun (I might make a cannon though). But I have to quantify length in some way.

    Now this Monarch I'm eyeing for restoration (eh... maybe, maybe not) is a 20". So, how many of you wish you had gone longer? How about shorter? How did you arrive at the length decision, or was that all that was available to you at the time?

    I'm telling you, if you all put up with me long enough, I'll end up with exactly the right tool and will never regret what I did. So, thanks again folks.

  • #2
    My Sharp Hardinge HLV clone claims 18" length, and that's been just fine for me. In the five years I've owned it, the length has never been a problem for me. Once or twice a year I wish I had an inch or two more swing, but so far I've always found a "workaround."

    One thing for sure, I'd never want to give up that incredible Hardinge style threading setup - retractible tool post, auto stops, inch/metric gearbox!

    Most of my work is small - take a look at my Web site,HomeShopTech, to see the kind of thing I do:
    Cheers,

    Frank Ford
    HomeShopTech

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    • #3
      Sewveral factors enter in to this

      1) Where is the shop area? Garage? Basement? Detached Outbuilding, if a Basement does it have access at that level. If stairs in the house or bulkhead.

      2) How much room is in the shop? A 48" bed migfht be nice but if it does not fit is worthless.

      3) How many freinds and relatives do you have to help move the lathe into place? If ground level access do you have a way to move it with some type of roller once in the shop door?

      When you figure a lot of these considerations together IMO that explains the large number of 36" between center lathes out there.
      Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.

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      • #4
        Long means floppy or heavy or both.
        my 36" Barker would be better a lot,lot shorter. Dont lean on it while its taking a cut!

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        • #5
          My garage is 36'x50' with a 12' x16' wing added on the end. I COULD have almost any size machine made. But there has to be a practical limit. I have never used all 36” of my wood lathe, but that is what was available to me at the time. I won't be turning driveshafts with this machine, but I won't be making jewelry either. I restore cars and motorcycles. I build furniture. I maintain a house, and a boat, and a camper. I’m your average Joe. I’m sure that no matter what I get, sometime I’ll launch into a project where I wish the thing was bigger… or smaller. I’m just looking for the logical compromise.

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          • #6
            I would say the only way for you to know is to envision or predict the future needs of your projects, it's been often said you can turn smaller jobs on a bigger lathe but it's hard to do it the other way.......all of this is within reason of course. I would consider spindle bore, and swing as much as between centers but I work on a wide variety of stuff, course this could give you an excuse to purchase multiple machines.........LOL
            Opportunity knocks once, temptation leans on the doorbell.....

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            • #7
              My Pacemakers are 30" (actually about 32" between centers) and I wish they were 54", but that is more because I'd like the comfort knowing I could handle longer jobs, not because I often need to handle longer jobs. I can't think of a good example where I had to machine something longer than what would fit in 20-30 inches. You always have the option of going through the headstock, if the material is small enough, or removing the tailstock and putting it through a steady, so long as you don't need to machine the whole thing.

              For a hobby shop, 20"-30" is probably just right. That's my .02

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              • #8
                FWIW,
                The long bed of my 1440 is nice, but practically anything that I work on that is long enough to need all 40" between centers is usually small enough that it will fit through the 1 9/16" spindle bore... I don't do much work between centers, I prefer to resort to the 4 jaw and tailstock center as required.

                I am about to (for the third or fourth time in 4 years) set up a job that will use all of the 14" turning dia though.

                The last 12" of lathe bed is typically parking for the steady rest 80% of the time.

                I don't think my Dad used any more than 16" of the 12 x 36 lathe from his shop. That antique has about a 3/4" spindle bore.
                Design to 0.0001", measure to 1/32", cut with an axe, grind to fit

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                • #9
                  I went from a 15x50 down to a 12.5x20 10EE. The bed really does feel short when you put a chuck on it and have a roller tail in, but I can still do 99% of what I need to do on it without any problem, and with a little head scratching I think I could do the rest. I really enjoy using the 10EE, the scale is right, the DC drive is wonderfully smooth and powerful, and threading is easy with ELS and cross feed stops. This is the 5th lathe that I have used extensively over the years and my favorite by far.

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                  • #10
                    As a gunsmith, there are quite a few times when my 11x24" Rockwell is too short. Even though I can put most work through the spindle, I can't taper barrels longer than about 22". Since most of my work is single shot target rifles, that leaves me unable to do part octagon/part round barrels. For my purposes, 36" would be good, 40" would be great.

                    David
                    Montezuma, IA
                    David Kaiser
                    “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.”
                    ― Robert A. Heinlein

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                    • #11
                      I'd bet that if you get the Monarch you'll be pleased. I know I really like mine.

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                      • #12
                        I have a Sheldon with a 13" swing and a true 36" between centers. I would not want much shorter. True, I only use the full bed length infrequently, but when I do need it, there is little that can be done to get around it. I do some gunsmithing and model work, and when drilling a barrel for a liner or line boring for instance, the length is needed.

                        I did have a short bed Atlas for a very short while, and could not get rid of it soon enough, not because it was an Atlas, but because of the limited bed length.

                        I think you should sit down and make up a realistic list of what you would use a lathe for. You seem to want one, but have made several posts asking about widely different machines. The Monarch can be a good machine, but it can also be a never ending project, especially if it is in the condition of the one you posted a link to.

                        In my opinion, a 13" swing with 36" between centers is about the ideal size for the home shop. My Sheldon is a 13" X 56" overall bed length, the machine is about 5-1/2' overall length. The 14X40 imports can be considered in this same size, but most industrial 14" lathes are getting pretty big.
                        Jim H.

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                        • #13
                          A 13 X 40 is a very nice size. With a steady rest and follow rest, it can do things that are longer than 40" as well. They can get heavy, though. My Enco is around 1,500 lbs. with the stand and it's light compared to some of the non-Asian ones in hat size range.

                          .

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                          • #14
                            my 14 1/2" s-b can do about 50" between centers. i have used it all a lot of times and wished for more.

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                            • #15
                              my 10K is 48" and my clausing is 36" i thought 36" would be plenty but in the 2 years i have had the clausing i have needed to use the extra length of the south bend 3 times. which always makes me glad i kept it.

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