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beginners lathe

AndyP123

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Hi, I'm looking for advice if i were to buy a beginners lathe, what is a good make to look for?
is a lathe the best machine to start with for a workshop?
thanks
Andy
 

bruce linde

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when i first started out everyone said "oh, you'll need (want) a lathe". the question you need to ask is: for what? a lathe equipped with the right parts will let you turn stock at higher speeds. reasons you'd want to do that would include: polishing pivots, turning exactly sized pieces, making screws, etc. for all of those purposes you'd want a lathe that runs true... which means you don't want a 'beginner's lathe'... if you're going to spend any money, spend it wisely and get a good lathe... and budget for collets (expensive!), tools, accessories, etc.

btw... i'm juist a hobbyist... wait until the real guys show up. :)
 
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gmorse

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Hi Andy,

What do you intend to use the lathe for? There isn't any single 'best lathe', but what you need depends on the type of work you intend doing and what level of precision you're aiming for. Lathes are certainly amongst the most versatile machine tools, along with mills, but if you're working on clocks, a watchmaker's lathe will be of limited use, and similarly a Myford Super 7 will have limitations if all you want to do is turn pocket watch balance staffs.

Regards,

Graham
 

Jerry Kieffer

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Hi, I'm looking for advice if i were to buy a beginners lathe, what is a good make to look for?
is a lathe the best machine to start with for a workshop?
thanks
Andy
Andy
As others have mentioned, it depends what you are going to use the Lathe for.

Since you are in the UK, I would suggest attending a model Engineering show and find those doing what you wish to do, be it watchmaking, clock making or whatever. This will also allow you to get some hands on experience to determine what works best for you.

Jerry Kieffer
 
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measuretwice

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Another "for what" response. What do you want to do with it? clocks, watch balance staffs, making tools/general machining?

I' also encourage you away from the notion of a "beginners" lathe. You need it to do a task, make a part to certain tolerance say, and neither the lathe or part knows whether you're a seasoned hand or beginner. Is just a question of is it up to the task? In a way you could argue the lower quality and or condition of an appropriate lathe for the task, the more skilled an operator you need to be to get good results. Its tough enough as a beginner getting good results machining without a low end lathe unknowingly thwarting you every step of the way.

Asking what lathes would deliver good value to do _______________ is maybe the better question.
 
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Mike Phelan

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Hi Andy,

Like others have said, what do you actually want to do? I repaired clocks before my teens, and didn't get a lathe for many years after, but still successfully repaired clocks.
I have never had an expensive lathe - the two I have had for many years are my Myford ML7 - 1947 and my Unimat 3.
The logical progression is to acquire simple tools and learn to repair simple clocks then decide what more complex equipment you need.

What NOT to do is to buy a lot of expensive equipment, then wonder what to do with it and then get some complex clocks :emoji_anguished:
There's a very useful model engineering show in Harrogate in May - don't know if it's still on this year due to Covid, but very useful place to go - qv Chronos.
 

measuretwice

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The lathe's Mike mentions are in good solid quality lathes. I've owned both. I also like Mike's idea of tapping into the model engineering community. You'll end up with lathes not really suited for watches, but ideal for clocks and general tool making (which can be a big part of horology)

I had almost 30 years of intensive machining and model engineering endeavors before I realized horology was a great set of new challenges (as well as new excuses to buy more stuff lol). Coming to it that way brings a different perspective; I don't know how someone gets through their day without at least several lathes and horology is but a small percentage of a lathe is useful/necessary for.

Unless your interest was specifically watches (that pretty much needs a watchmakers lathe, collets and gravers, where you can stick your face right into it), you couldn't go to far wrong with a used Myford in good shape with lots of accessories. That would cover clocks and general machining and they are a well made a capable machine. If you found it wasn't for you, you are unlikely to take a loss on it. Of course that path is influenced by my bias and experience.
 
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Kevin W.

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I have a watchmakers lathe and a Taig, the Taig is ok, but i always wanted a Sherline, so i have ordered one. Finding it more difficult finding acessories for the Taig.
 
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wefalck

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Just to note, when budgeting, that the basic machine typically is less then half of what you need to spend to make it a useful tool - chucks, collets, other accessories and lathe tools can easily double the price of the basic lathe.

Another rule of thumb seems to be that one should buy a lathe of twice the capacity (swing, distance between the centres) of what you initially think you would need ...
 
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AndyP123

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thanks for the comments and really helpful advice before i go out and spend a fortune only to end up getting frustrated it isn't what i want/need. Basic clock repair and hopefully to progress onto making is my aim. This has given me lots to think about but i feel i'm heading in right direction...
thanks, Andy
 

Betzel

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We don't always know "what we're going to do with it." Things change, so what's likely to last?

A career servicing modern watches is increasingly being driven by the industry, in and out of service centers. Their requirements usually include only using OEM parts, and a need for speed in the shop is part of being profitable. If this is what you do, you may not use any lathe very often, but likely a watchmaker's when you do. I could be wrong, and there are exceptions, but I think that's one path. On the other hand, repairing clocks, vintage or pocket watches, where you will need to make replacement parts, or an entire mechanism, maybe just for personal satisfaction rather than to earn a living, especially if you're older, learning from a book, self-taught, etc. going slower, may take you into a wider range of work, so needing different tools to do all that. Looks like this is what you're thinking?

So, a "first" machine you can expand and will want to keep, as others have suggested, is very solid advice. As you learn, you'll want something to make other machine parts and tools for yourself, as well as horological stuff. Not just to save money / avoid cheap or inferior modern tools, but to develop your skills, range of abilities, and make more unusual things as you go. Many traditional educational programs (horology as well as machining) have you making your own tools from the start for all these reasons. Make sense?

One good quality desktop-to-bench size (mini, modeling, etc.) lathe can get you off to a good start, depending on the space you have now and in the future, and it's likely grow and go with you. You may want a smaller lathe someday, and a mill, etc. but one of these should get you through a broad range of work and tons of learning starting from scratch. If I had it to do over, I would buy new, rather than used. Especially since you are in the UK, I would echo the advice of going to lots of model engineering events. Asking questions is free, fun and will help you think about it all and eventually decide. Try it before you buy it? See what makes you smile? Otherwise, something like a Sherline, Cowells, Proxxon or Warco would be my suggestion, as they all (IIRC) fall within a specified quality tolerance, come with test papers, have parts and extensions ready to buy now, etc. To me, learning curve frustration is not worth saving a few bob on, meaning unknown quality, for a first tool. Do that later.

Shirlines are great, but may have high shipping / tax issues. The Cowells (90) seems both right and proper, and there's a huge UK based community. The Proxxons (like the 250) claim a good balance of quality for price, and the Warco Mini Lathes (IIRC) still come with a test certificate. These (and others you may run into at these events) are all reasonably priced, good to great quality, easily extended, fully supported "keepers," giving you a range of options to go in whatever direction this takes you, so pretty much no matter what you end up doing.

Eyes and fingers are hard to find. Learn safety first? :)
 

gmorse

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Hi Andy,
Otherwise, something like a Sherline, Cowells, Proxxon or Warco would be my suggestion, as they all (IIRC) fall within a specified quality tolerance, come with test papers, have parts and extensions ready to buy now, etc.
My work is primarily on watches, and of the four makes mentioned by Betzel I'm only qualified by ownership to talk about the Cowells machines. There are two flavours, built on the same basic framework and with the same high level of precision; the 90CW which takes 8mm collets, and the 90ME, (which I have), and is a small machine lathe with a cross-slide and the ability to screw-cut, (and with accessories, also cut wheels). I'll leave you to browse their website, but as you'll see, their prices are pretty steep, although the quality is excellent and the construction is very robust. I use my 90ME mainly as a complement to my 6mm watchmaker's lathe, to make tools, jigs and parts which are too large for the 6mm; it isn't used very frequently but it's essential for these bigger jobs.

Another of Betzel's alternatives which I haven't used personally is the Sherline range, and a strong advocate here of the system is Jerry Kieffer, and there are many posts to be found regarding these machines, including this one. These are marketed here in the UK by Millhill Supplies. The cost of a comprehensive Sherline system will be somewhat less than an equivalent Cowells, but as with most things, and as pointed out in an earlier post, cheaper and possibly used options, purchased without due research, will result in frustration and sooner or later replacement or complete abandonment. 'Buy cheap, buy twice'!

Regards,

Graham
 
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