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Getting started basics

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  • Getting started basics

    I have never used a lathe, but I am in the middle of rebuilding a Logan 820. As of right now, I have a QCTP and that is it. What are the basics I should acquire first to get started turning? This will be strictly hobby use, and I know that I need indicators, mearsuring devices, hss blanks, etc..

    As of the moment, I am adrift in the sea of lathe information, I don't really know where to start. I know that this is going to be the expensive part, but I want to purchase the needed items to get going.

    Thanks for any and all help.


  • #2
    As long as you have a chuck and a cutting tool, you can make chips. I am in the same(ish) position. I simply started cutting round cylinders at first, and then when I wanted to do something more or different- then I bought the tooling that was needed. It is still accumulating as we speak.

    There are some who will have you buying all kinds of things... but for me, I just got as I went.

    I would suggest some sort of grinder to make cutting tools. But you probably already have one.

    Now lets see what bells and whistles suggestions you will be offered.



    • #3
      Be careful using the power feeds until you get used to them. This is one place were newbies get into trouble and crash their machines. Not watching your feeds & speeds is another. To heavy or to fast a cut bugger a machine too.

      You must accept the fact that you have THE disease and for the rest of your life you will be buying machines and tooling. There is no known cure. The only partially effective treatment is a wife with a rolling pin but eventually that fails too.
      Last edited by loose nut; 12-29-2011, 03:41 PM.
      The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

      Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

      Southwestern Ontario. Canada


      • #4
        You may want to look at the posts in the "New Lathe" thread.


        • #5
          You don't say where you are located but...... Enco (watch for the 25$ free shipping deals) has been a good place to get alot of needed stuff. A few things I use alot. There are a lot of good places to get stuff but they aslo have some raw materail, drill rod, plastics etc. YMMV.

          You can skimp a little here depending on the precsion you need.
          6" dial caliper
          6" steel Rule and 12" staightedge
          Small 2-6" machinists square
          Protractor of some sort
          Dividers for layout
          Carbide scribe
          black felt pens or layout dye
          set of transfer punches are nice.

          Quality drill set at least thrugh 1/2"
          drill chuck on taper arbor for the tailstock
          Cutting bits you shouldn't need alot of some HSS 3/8 or 5/16 should do.
          a boring bar or 2

          The rest just buy as you need it or to make a big enough order to get free shipping.


          • #6
            A copy of SouthBend's How to Run A Lathe would be a good start.
            I would also recommend Machine Shop Practice volume 1 & 2.
            Those books will give you the basics and provide a wealth of good info.

            Then just order up some brazed carbide tools that will fit the toolholders for your QCTP and start turning. You can use these as basic patterns when you start grinding your own HSS toolbits, as well.

            You really don't need much to start, a 6" dial caliper, a 1" micrometer, and a 6" steel rule, and maybe a green wheel for your grinder to touchup the edges of your carbide tools.

            Just chuck up a piece of stock, give your self a diminision to turn it to,
            and go for it. Start by taking light cuts and gradually take heavier cuts as you get used to how the machine works and learn what it is capable of, don't be afraid to try different speeds, if your going too fast, your tools just won't last as long

            If you run into specific problems or questions, your already in the right place.

            The biggest problem I had when I first started, was learning enough to know what questions to ask.
            I cut it twice, and it's still too short!


            • #7
              After the rebuild, play around with the lathe under power, but no stock or tooling mounted. Get to know the knobs and levers and what they do, put it in and out of backgear, etc. Then start turning some brass or aluminum and get a feel for what's going on.
              After that, I'd suggest concentrating on a simple project, but one that's just advanced enough to challenge you. You'll get experience in beginning (planning and layout), middle (machining) and end (actually bringing the project to completion)

              Appearance is Everything...


              • #8
                I disagree completely with every answer thus far for one very simple reason - you should LEARN how to use a tool BEFORE using it. Anyone who has ever taught marksmanship or welding will tell you that a student who knows nothing is significantly ahead of a student who taught themself.

                Sign up for a class at your local VoTech/Community college, spend a few nights each week learning for a few weeks, use their equipment (so you know how yours should feel/perform), ask questions as they pop into your head and get answers from someone with patience and who is used to answering them, and lastly enjoy making chips. You will come out of the experience miles ahead with a solid foundation in the basics and with a good basis to begin teaching yourself advanced operations. You will also have good habits, not bad ones (which can harm equipment easily), and wont have to worry about being frustrated during the process.

                Barring this, become friendly with a professional local machinist (coffee/donuts/beer works wonders) and pick their brain. If you can find a shop to hang out in during your off hours (with said friend) you can learn a ton.

                Regardless, read as much as possible. Books have good advice, internet forums and youtube are often a toss up of a lot of bad mixed with a little good. The best textbooks on manual machining IMHO were written between 1945 and 1970 (when manual machining was in its prime), and can usually be had for literally a dollar or two. Try your local library to start with for free, then ask them about searching their Interlibrary Loan system (your library borrows from other libraries to loan to you), but also keep your eyes open at yard sales and flea markets. You could also post a WTB on the PM site for old basic texts, most machinists have too many of these books. The South Bend series of pamphlets are also a good source of basic lathe knowledge, but are seriously lacking. I strongly urge finding textbooks, not pamphlets, as usually the pictures alone in them will teach you a lot about setting up the machine.

                Before you begin worrying about buying tools, acquire knowledge. You could spend a fortune on tools, but not have the right ones or have bad habits preventing you from using them to their potential, and that makes it all a waste. You could also end up spending that fortune on tools that are piss poor and not even realize it without the knowledge/experience to compare it to something.
                Last edited by justanengineer; 12-29-2011, 06:28 PM.
                "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."


                • #9
                  I'd suggest posting where you are & maybe a forum member is close enough &would be willing to show you the basics. I think most would. Just an idea,
                  "Let me recommend the best medicine in the
                  world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant
                  country, in easy stages."
                  ~ James Madison


                  • #10
                    Just a note. I bought some tooling from discount machine on ebay. It had Shars item numbers & the prices are about 1/2 of Shars. When I paid the receipt said Shars. So I'd look there & also ezaccessory for tooling.
                    "Let me recommend the best medicine in the
                    world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant
                    country, in easy stages."
                    ~ James Madison


                    • #11
                      I'm going to echo something justanengineer said because I think it is the best advice you can possibly get to put you on the fast-track. Find someone who already knows machine shop to teach you. You could visit some shops as the previous poster mentioned or simply place an ad in the newspaper stating exactly what you posted here. You might be surprised to find that there are a lot of people who would be glad to offer their advice. You might be able to barter your time or offer something in trade for their information to keep it economical. I happen to teach machine shop and I guarantee I could teach you more in 15 hours than you could learn in year by trial and error. I'm sure any dedicated machinist could do the same.


                      • #12
                        Excellent point!!!!!!!!!!!!

                        The grief and dissapointments of screw ups during the self learning process can be lengthy for some.
                        Sure, you learn from the mistakes as we all do and did, but learning the correct way FIRST is so much easier.


                        • #13

                          True Story. More fun too.


                          • #14
                            cleaning it up is a good way to learn how it functions, but I have to say your first purchase should be some books. Its a technical, cerebral subject, so you need some knowledge to get results (and not hurt yourself or machine). The Amateur's Lathe, Amateurs Workshop or some used Sr high school texts are all good. You'll be getting a compendium by someone who knows what they're doing and who took the effort to properly present and package it.

                            ... If you're keen you'll plough through those books in a couple of days and approach trying out the lathe from a whole different position.

                            Then you'll start thinking in terms of if I want to do this....I'll need a such and such. Keep in mind incredible work can be done with basic tooling - while its fun to collect and make the tooling don't be one who lazily tries to skip learning thinking having one of everything will make up for it...... I love my garage stuffed full of crap (my kids will hate me for it) but its not like I wasn't having just as much fun at it 20 years ago with a fairly meager kit.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by goose
                              After the rebuild, play around with the lathe under power, but no stock or tooling mounted. Get to know the knobs and levers and what they do, put it in and out of backgear, etc. Then start turning some brass or aluminum and get a feel for what's going on.

                              I really like this idea.

                              I've been using a small lathe for 6 years as a hobby. Although I am self taught, that learning was supported by reading books, perusing forums like this and verifying what I learned by practice. I do OK.

                              But the idea of using dry runs to get used to the controls is a great idea. That's how I learned to use a stick shift. That's how you build muscle memory so that you can react properly when it's time to react, like when you disengage a power feed, and how to get used to advancing the cross-slide instead of moving the carriage.

                              I think I'll use that technique when I use the lathe and mills at the co-op.

                              At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.