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Lathe quality/price question

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  • Lathe quality/price question

    To all,

    I realize this question has been put forward before,but I'd like to re-address it again.
    I'm in the market for a new manual lathe having had a 12x36 Birmingham for about 10 years. Although
    a reasonably good lathe it has enough short comings to warrant a search for a replacement.
    On a previous thread Sharp was highly rated and the 13" or 14" models are both over $10K plus freight and most of the common accessories, chuck, steady rest etc that quickly add another $2K. A close look at the photos show many of the components are suspiciously the same as those used in the Birmingham and several others of similar size and if so, what make this lathe so good with a $10K price difference.?
    The question remains, what moderately priced quality lathe in the 12" size warrants a closer look?
    Many thanks for any input.

  • #2
    According to a rep from Lost Creek Machine Sharps are made from mainland Chinese castings and machined in Taiwan. So take that info for what's worth.

    Willis is a Clausing clone from Taiwan. Probably worth looking at them.

    Standard Modern is out of Canada and has a good reputation. When I checked with a SM salesman he told me they are being made in Pennsylvania. I made further inquires, but he never responded.

    If, and that's a big if, you can find a good condition late model Logan by Powermatic, an Emco (not Enco) [see recent thread], the small version of the Webb/Cadillac lathe, Romi, and several other industrial grade machines I believe you would be better off than a low end import, but that's just my opinion.


    • #3
      I'm a big fan of Nardini lathes made in Brazil. I believe Clausing now owns them.

      I also like Polamco lathes made in Poland. And I believe there are quality machine tools made in Turkey as well.

      As far as Taiwanese lathes, I once owned a 14" YAM which was a very heavily built pro machine.


      • #4
        I hesitate to comment much on this hotbutton issue for the obvious reasons... One thing I would like to point out, though, about this category of machines. Look at the feedback for a particular machine. For example, the Sharp lathe I see most often praised is a specific model. It has been made for decades and not just with the "Sharp" brand label. It is the Hardinge HLVH clone also made under the Feeler, Cyclematic and possibly other brand labels. The other models have mixed reviews from what I read. In general, I see the brand label holding very little weight in this category. It could go either way.


        • #5
          It may help to know where your located to be able to give a better answer.
          "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


          • #6
            Thanks for input, I'm located west of Seattle so freight from anywhere tends to be in the $1K range. I did check the favorably reported TRENS lathe, it looks a very good machine but at almost $40K can't imagine they sell vast quantities. The research continues and I do appreciate the input.


            • #7
              There is no magic bullet, where one manufacturer decides to give you a $20,000 lathe for ten grand.
              Most all home shop quality lathes are pretty similar, at any given price point.

              Generally speaking, all new lathes under ten grand are going to be made in China, and have compromises. I personally have found a pretty direct correlation between price and quality.

              The fact that lathes look similar does not mean they are the same, or that they are made in the same factory- there are dozens of lathe factories in Taiwan alone, and, probably, more than a hundred in mainland China.

              If you are shopping for new, you might call up Matt at Quality Machine- he is in Pennsylvania, but he is a smaller direct importer from China and Taiwan, and he is a pretty straight shooter about what you get for how much money.
              I have no connection with him, and have never bought anything from him, just talked to him online, but he knows a fair amount, and you dont have to buy anything.

              Most people find Grizzly and Jet have better quality control and parts and service, and associated higher prices. I have had good luck with Jet machines made in Taiwan- usually their biggest and most expensive in any given category. They both sell plenty of very cheap junk as well. You just dont get much lathe for three grand, no matter whose name is on it.

              Eisen, Sharp, and Acer have better reps, and higher prices.

              The european lathes are mostly about twice as expensive, or more, than the Taiwan.
              So, you can buy a pretty decent Taiwan lathe from Kingston or Sharp or Victor for fifteen to twenty grand.
              Or, you can get a Trens, Tos, Lion, Polamco, or similar eastern european lathe for about double that.
              Western European lathes, double that again- Schaublin, Weiler, and various german, swiss, italian and french companies still make manual lathes, and, yes, in the size range you are looking at, they run fifty to a hundred thousand dollars, easily.

              These are all NEW lathes.
              There are no american lathes made new, except maybe a hundred thousand dollar rebuilt by the factory Monarch 10EE. with a six month or a year lead time.

              Used, as you know, Western Wa. is a desert.
              Have you checked Halladie?
              worth a call, to see if he has anything not on the website.
              other than that, just watch craigslist like a hawk.