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Buying a lathe

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  • Buying a lathe

    Hi everyone:

    I've finally got enough wealth to waste some on a lathe. I've read around this forum a bit and have decided I need a used one with hardened ground ways. I'll be doing small repairs, making bushings, sometimes machining steel. Nothing serious.

    Of course I'd like a 9" Southbend but am willing to settle for less.

    Please comment on this one.


    My Dad always said, "If you want people to do things for you on the farm, you have to buy a machine they can sit on that does most of the work."

  • #2
    Decent lathe and probably worth $1000, at least in my market. It's a 12" Craftsman/Atlas with flat ways. Accessories add a few hundred dollars to the value. Rust on the base and chucks tells me that it hasn't been loved but may still be in good shape.


    • #3
      Wonderful lathe for the price, IF its still working fine, I payed $3000 for my new chinese 12x36" lathe.
      Looks like the stand has been rusting at the bottom, like it has been in a light flood or two.. or three or four, or just on a damp floor.. id check all the ways and leadscrews for rust or visable signs of rust being brushed out or still existing..

      As someone here had there leg snaped in a few places recently by a lathe falling on them, id highly recommend thinking about fixing/replaceing the rusted parts on the stand before use if the rust is anywhere close to deep as it looks.

      Some serious rust on the chucks and stuff too.. moreso cosmetic but still kinda nasty.

      Unfortualy as a new lathe operator there is a lot to learn before you can even begin to test how well a lathe operates, but $1000 is kinda hard to pass up for a lathe of that size even if it may be damaged, and if it is, it will teach you what to look for and how to use a lathe, the cheapest of chinese minilathes are $1000 for anything even remotely worthwhile, And atlas is a good name
      Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.


      • #4
        DO NOT BUY THAT LATHE!!!! I had one of those. It was a terrible lathe. You couldn't take off more than 1/32" at a pass. The bed deflected anyway,and the lathe did not turn the diameter you set the dials to ct. Took forever to make anything. The pot metal half nuts had to be changed every 6 months. I'm not sure if you can still get them. Hole through the spindle-3/4",was too small.

        When I got my first 10" X 24" Taiwan lathe,it was a revelation,an INFINITELY better lathe. despite all the bad news about Asian lathes,the Taiwan lathe was light years better than the Atlas. You'd best heed my advice,I've been there!!

        Re: Lathe that size: You cannot expect that Atlas lathe to be able to machine ANYTHING that is close to its swing,unless it is aluminum,maybe.
        Last edited by gwilson; 11-20-2009, 10:28 AM.


        • #5
          That is the final generation of the Atlas lathe. It is a true 12" lathe, not an upsized 10" as the Craftsman 12" was. It has a stouter bed and is a very good machine for the home shop. It is a better machine than the South Bend 9" lathe in comparable condition.

          The initial cost af a lathe is not always the cost of getting into operation, tooling can easily double the initial investment before metal can be cut. At $1000, with the included accessories, that looks like a very good buy.

          It deserves a good look, make sure there is no undue wear on the bed and all speeds function. Physically inspect all gears to make sure there are no broken/missing teeth.

          It won't last long at that price.
          Jim H.


          • #6
            Thats a rather nice looking lathe -- The rust looks to be very minor surface rust and pretty much normal for something that has been idle for some time. The price is "good" - neither a steal nor overpriced. It seems to have pretty much has all the necessary 'goodies' to get started using it, and with the gear box being a really good bonus.

            Re the South Bend, the Atlas/Craftsman lathes are generally considered a notch or two below the SB's, but still a quite decent lathe - and many a chip has been made with them....
            If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something........


            • #7
              That is the same model lathe I bought in 1974. I assure you,it is all I have said about it being BAD!!!! Still WAY TOO THIN. I was Master Toolmaker in Col. Williamsburg,now retired,and I know what I am talking about. You will regret it if you get this lathe.


              • #8
                Depending on your market the price is only OK, $7-800 would probably be better. As has been mentioned, you have to watch the Atlas lathes, the earlier ones had 3/8" thick bed ways and were very flimsy, this one should have 1/2" thick ways and a sturdier bed which would help, but still not a great lathe. I have an older 12", I've made some improvements which have made it better than factory, but still not good.
                The handy part is, once you've learned to work within the limitations of a POS lathe, you'll look like a hero when you get to lay hands on something like a Monarch.
                South Bends are good lathes, however many of them are getting to the age where you have to be really careful. Most SB's have babbit spindle bearings, which if not taken care of ovwer their life will likely be pretty well worn by now. Check carefully.


                • #9
                  The lathe would be worth in the $700-$800 range less the accessories. The steady rest alone will cost $150 if purchased separately. The boxes in the photos are worth taking a good look at.

                  That lathe as pictured is a better machine than a 9" South Bend. It is more rigid and much more capable. Points taken about the half nuts are valid, but with proper care and lubrication, they will last a long time.

                  The needs of the HSM are quite different than those of the job shop or toolmaker. This is a Bill Harris steam roller I made on a 10" Atlas with milling attachment and 40+ year old half nuts.

                  Jim H.


                  • #10
                    You can make things on the Atlas if you have all the time in the World. the reason that accessories are valuable is that Atlas lathes are sought after by home shop types WHO ARE AFRAID OF TRYING TO MOVE A HEAVIER LATHE. There are a lot of them around.

                    I know a guy who has an Atlas,who actually feeds by HAND,so that he doesn't wear out his half nuts. That is incredibly silly to have to do when better lathes are freely available.

                    The lathe uses the lead screw to BOTH feed and thread,which will wear out the leadscrew much quicker. the gears are diecast,another reason to avoid it.

                    I would NEVER have an Atlas over a decent 9" South Bend lathe.


                    • #11
                      JCHannum: Woah awsome steam powered steam roller
                      Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.


                      • #12
                        It has 3 chucks, a QCGB, a steady, and a nice stand.

                        Unless it's been terribly abused, it's an ok price. You'll be spending a little on tooling.

                        /guilty. And I have no space for a man's lathe :-D And my basement floods.
                        Last edited by Tony Ennis; 11-20-2009, 12:12 PM.


                        • #13

                          Thanks for your help guys!

                          I'm shying away from the Atlas, because of what gwilson said, as well as some info I found about the casting material used.

                          I found this other one. A Southbend this time, double the price but closer to me and I can still afford it. I don't see any oil cups on the spindle bearing caps. Does this mean it has roller bearings?

                          Comments appreciated.



                          My Dad always said, "If you want people to do things for you on the farm, you have to buy a machine they can sit on that does most of the work."


                          • #14
                            The SB is beautiful. If I could afford a $2,200 lathe, I would not consider an Atlas for $1,000.

                            I don't know what it is worth.

                            For $2,200, you're getting into new-Chicom territory. There's something to be said for a new lathe.
                            Last edited by Tony Ennis; 11-20-2009, 12:36 PM.


                            • #15
                              The South Bend is nicely tooled, including collets. It is plain bearing and change gear. It would be a good buy at about half the price.
                              Jim H.