Metal Lathe

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ToddK

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Hi all,
Been thinking about picking up a bench top metal lathe, but I do not want anything huge. I really need to be able to put in the bed of a truck and be able to move it fairly easily. What is the minimum size that might be useful for run of the mill airplane construction? I can't image that I would ever need anything larger then 8x16, but a small 7x would be so much more convenient. And no. There is zero chance that I am ever going to get a giant South Bend. Its bench top or nothing.
 

Aviacs

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For size, determine the maximum diameter you might want to swing over the compound or cross-slide. An 8" lathe won't swing an 8" diameter piece in a jaw chuck, and probably won't swing much more than a couple inches over the cross-slide. That may well be enough. Just a reminder to check.

I like small lathes with large holes through the spindle so bar work will fit through. (work off the end of a bar, instead of cutting short pieces and leaving enough extra on one end to drive or hold it). You can also thread each end of long parts, or machine each end to some smaller dia configuration, if it will fit through the spindle. I especially like small lathes with integral 5c collet system. Bars up to 1-1/4" will fit through the spindle and a jaw chuck, or up to 1" through 5c collets.

If you do get a lathe and work off small diameter bars at higher speeds, be careful to support the bar so it does not whip, bend, and kill you or damage the lathe. :)

Workholding is the key to easy/efficient/productive lathe use. Sometimes the best method is old-school between centers with a dog driver. Sometimes collets. A 4jaw independent will be most versatile. 3jaw is almost useless unless it is perfect or is an adjust-tru design. Point of this comment is think about your work-holding requirements and whether the small lathe in question supports the type of chucks/closers/drivers, etc you expect to use.

Good luck - get one and start making chips. You'll soon know when to sell it and upgrade.

:)
smt
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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I can imagine a use for a lathe for aircraft building because I've been doing it. But there's a big difference between "I need to make custom bushings" and "I need to bore a 2" dia shaft 12" deep into a 2.25" OD chromemoly tube for a landing gear leg.

I've made some good little parts using a Sherlinre lathe and that weighs all of maybe 20lb wet. And I've made some junk with a 1440 engine lathe.

If say for a 6-8" type all you really need to do is make sure to watch this video:


Generally it's more about budget than size usually but it all depends on particulars.

I'd say a 10x22 would be a good balance of doing some larger and serious tasks while not being outrageously expensive or overly big. It definitely qualifies in my mind as a bench top machine but it's a big step towards "legitimate" without breaking the bank. Then again it wouldn't be a machine you throw in the truck to take on the road then setup in the field. But if you're just needing something you can move from one shop to another in the back of a truck without too much work or hiring riggers, it's going to live on a bench otherwise the 10x22 or 10x30 is worth it. I'd look at Precision Matthews.

Otherwise thee machine in the This Old Tony video looks about right.
 

gtae07

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I have a little HF mini lathe from Craigslist. It's nothing fancy but I've made little bushings and spacers for the RV. An extra AN bolt makes a good drill bushing for your pilot hole...
 

TFF

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The Chinese small lathes, pick the color, are fun as long as you have good tooling and the metal is not too hard. I have had the head move with lots of pressure. Moving much bigger than the smaller table model becomes a chore.
 

Dana

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I accidentally picked up an old Atlas/Craftsman 6x18 for $50 (!) about a year ago. Still acquiring tooling for it, but if I need to do big flat things I have a rotary table for my Jet benchtop mill.

IMG_20190303_171109.jpg
 

TFF

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If you don’t have to have, right away, Craigslist is great for deals especially for older high quality stuff. A friend went to buy one like Dana’s. He loads it up and the seller says, don’t you want the tooling? Wall to wall, top corner to top corner small bins of tools. 100’s of perfect little bins.
 

Pops

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I accidentally picked up an old Atlas/Craftsman 6x18 for $50 (!) about a year ago. Still acquiring tooling for it, but if I need to do big flat things I have a rotary table for my Jet benchtop mill.

View attachment 90820
I have one like this. OK for making small stuff like bushing, knobs, etc. Made the larger bicycle type spoke adjustable ends for the tail wires on the SSSC and JMR. Front seat adjustment knobs on the Bearhawks, etc. Small, light work. Anything bigger, Dallas has a large Lathe and more tooling than he will never need so I get him to do the larger lathe work.

Dana -- I like the large oil drip metal tray that is used under the lathe. Better than what I have. I just have a small metal tray that is way to small.
 

wsimpso1

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I accidentally picked up an old Atlas/Craftsman 6x18 for $50 (!) about a year ago. Still acquiring tooling for it, but if I need to do big flat things I have a rotary table for my Jet benchtop mill.

View attachment 90820
A friend has one of these. A BUNCH of my airplane parts and gunsmithing stuff have been through the machine. Really useful too.

You can get it up or down the stairs by yourself by removing the headstock and using a hand truck.

Billski
 

proppastie

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A small lathe can be useful for those small parts we all need to make.

IMG_20170401_154621.jpg
 

Dan Thomas

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My son bought one of those small Grizzly Tools lathes. I had told him he should find a used Taiwanese 12 x 24, at least. He was never happy with that Grizzly machine. They're too small and light and everything flexes when you cut unless the work is really small. Can't get any accuracy that way. He tried my Sharp (Taiwanese, 1980) 12 x 24 and was impressed with the rigidity and accuracy. He now owns a 16 x 60 lathe (4500 pounds) among many other large machines including horizontal and vertical mills and a nine-foot-tall drill press. And an eight-foot sheet metal brake and a four- or five-foot power shear. Everything has to be bigger than mine. And I get to use it. He still uses the tiny lathe for tiny stuff that the big lathe can't grab.
 

BJC

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My son bought one of those small Grizzly Tools lathes. I had told him he should find a used Taiwanese 12 x 24, at least. He was never happy with that Grizzly machine. They're too small and light and everything flexes when you cut unless the work is really small. Can't get any accuracy that way. He tried my Sharp (Taiwanese, 1980) 12 x 24 and was impressed with the rigidity and accuracy. He now owns a 16 x 60 lathe (4500 pounds) among many other large machines including horizontal and vertical mills and a nine-foot-tall drill press. And an eight-foot sheet metal brake and a four- or five-foot power shear. Everything has to be bigger than mine. And I get to use it. He still uses the tiny lathe for tiny stuff that the big lathe can't grab.
That’s just not fair. I’m jealous, but I’ll bet that he has no room left in the garage workshop for cars .....


BJC
 

FritzW

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I really need to be able to put in the bed of a truck and be able to move it fairly easily. What is the minimum size that might be useful for run of the mill airplane construction?
Get the biggest one that you can move easily and it'll handle 99.87% of run of the mill homebuilt airplane work.
 

Dan Thomas

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That’s just not fair. I’m jealous, but I’ll bet that he has no room left in the garage workshop for cars .....


BJC
My shop is 26' x 26', so he had to have his 26 x 30. He can still get vehicles in it even with the two lathes, a big compressor, the two big mills, the huge and smaller drill presses, the manual and power shears, and the big pan brake and small box brake. And a bead blaster. And welders and plasma cutter. And powder-coating equipment. And spray-painting stuff.Woodworking stuff is in another building.

Not many young fellows with that stuff. Not many young people know what any of it is, either.
 

ToddK

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I have decided to keep my eyes open for a fair price on a larger Atlas/Craftsman or South Bend bench top lathe.
 
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