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Forum topic by cabmaker posted 02-12-2011 12:28 AM 1276 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 2956 days

02-12-2011 12:28 AM

I know from previous posts I have read that we have a few machinists on board. My question is : what small metal lathe wood you recomend ? My intent is to simply fab. small parts,etc. for support of my own machinery needs. One example is on my lathe duplicator, there is a follower guide pin. I could use one a little smaller in diameter but it would need to maintain the shoulder as on the existing. This is just one small example of the things that I typically run down the road to get machined. My needs in this arena are not great but would be handy at times. I have looked at an old atlas but that is about as far as I got. Floor space is not a big problem but as usual is a consideration. Thanks for all in put ! cabmaker

7 replies so far

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3145 days

#1 posted 02-12-2011 03:45 AM

It is pretty hard to beat the value of the little 7X SIEG lathes (Harbor Freight, Grizzly, and other sell them) I am surprised more people don’t get them for wood turning, especially pens and other small stuff. Now, having said that, unless you want to turn stuff on one for it’s own enjoyment, you can get a whole lot of stuff turned for less that the purchase price.

Don’t forget, you can turn metal stuff on any lathe. Dedicated metal lathes are a pretty recent invention. Turning aluminum isn’t much different than turning many hardwoods. Brass is pretty easy as well. I have turned a lot of brass ferrules on my wood lathe. People used to turn steel as well but I think that is more dangerous than I want to think about. The swarf can be very sharp and hurt you before you know you are in trouble. They don’t make the kind of tools that you would use to turn steel by hand anymore. Probably a good thing.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View horologist's profile


104 posts in 3887 days

#2 posted 02-12-2011 04:48 AM

If you are willing to spend some time shopping around, you can find great deals on used lathes. I bought a Derbyshire Model A lathe at a University surplus auction for $365 and got a Habegger 8” for a comparable price. These are first rate tools and too expensive for the hobbyist to buy new. In good condition your Atlas would be fine and there are a lot of South Bend lathes out there. There are problems with buying used lathes though. Some are only for sale because they are so worn out that they are useless, also they frequently are stripped of accessories. The lathes are cheap, accessories are where you can spend some serious cash, and they may not be readily available.
A great source of information on older lathes with some good buying tips is:

If you buy a new machine I would avoid the Chinese stuff, the prices are attractive but the quality is abysmal. There are groups devoted to rebuilding and modifying these machines in an attempt to make them into good tools but you still are limited by the materials used in their construction. A wise man once told me that you should only buy a Chinese machine if you will be satisfied with always making parts that look like they were made on a Chinese machine.

For a new machine I would probably recommend the Sherline, I don’t have a Sherline lathe but will likely be buying one of their mills in the near future. The advantage here is the company is still in business and accessories are readily available. I hear nothing but good things about their customer service.


-- Troy in Melrose, Florida

View Servelan's profile


39 posts in 2928 days

#3 posted 02-12-2011 07:17 AM

I’d suggest you check out reviews here: as well as the other sites mentioned…

View auggy53's profile


159 posts in 2827 days

#4 posted 02-12-2011 07:48 AM

i bought a lathe/mill from HF and it worked well for small parts . one thing you might want to consider , if your like me , the cost of tooling and accessories like micrometers , calipers , dial indicator , ect. it doesnt stop with the initial machine cost.

-- rick

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3145 days

#5 posted 02-12-2011 08:28 AM

On a lot of the Chinese tools, I would agree that the quality control can be a bit hit or miss. There are some dark horse surprises though. I have one of the little SIEG 7×10 lathes. No, it is not a Myford Super 7, but it holds the tools and spins the workpiece. It has some real benefits. It has great support from companies here in the US like A2Z CNC, Little Machine Shop, Grizzly, and Micromark where I can get replacement parts for everything and a wide array of tooling and accessories. Even with a top quality lathe, the lathe is the cheap part. It is all the tooling and accessories that are the real expense.

The Sherline is a nice little lathe (I have 4 of the lathes and 6 of the mills to play with at work) but to get a threading feed, a compound slide, and a chuck, we are looking at a $1200 starting price with no tooling or accessories versus the $350 I paid for the SIEG—Gotta love those 20% off coupons. Aside from having a larger turning capacity, the savings allowed me to purchase a 4 jaw chuck, milling attachment with tool holder and a few endmills, a real nice faceplate mounted ER32 holder, full set of ER32 collets, quick change toolpost, steady rest, follower, set of boring tools, index tool holders, calipers, a couple dial indicators, a small rotary table, drill chuck with center bits, a couple sets of taps and dies (English and metric), metric and English thread leadscrews, a Proxxon rotary tool with tool holder for the lathe to use as a toolpost grinder and slitting saw, and other goodies as well.

I would argue against buying an older model used lathe unless you are really familiar with them and have ready access to parts or the where with all to make replacement parts. The amount of work getting a used lathe back within tolerance is not much different than getting a not perfectly finished new lathe fitted in. Then you still have the problem of where to get parts and accessories.

The real questions you have to ask yourself though:

Will you use it enough to justify the expense, mess, and space?
What size work will you be doing?
Are you willing to give up your wood working time to do metal work?

It was a pretty easy choice for me. I am just doing it for fun. If I need a bigger or smaller equipment, I just take it to work.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Dandog's profile


250 posts in 2922 days

#6 posted 02-12-2011 08:58 AM

If you have the rite chuck and you want to turn steel you need to turn your lathe to as slow as possible.your tooling has to be( solid!!!)Aluminum you can turn a lot faster.I agree with David it can be done if your careful.Remember lubrication is very important.

-- life an woodworking is one big experiment

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 2956 days

#7 posted 02-16-2011 05:18 AM

Hey all, I really appreciate the responses. I m still on the fence with it right now as I am barely keeping up with the work load in the shop right now. But I think its coming soon. I m still watching for deals out there. I ll keep you posted.

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