The more I think about it, the more I think you need to sit down and
do some research first.
Lathes are tremendously capable machines, if you (A) know what
you’re doing with them, and (B) have the right tooling.
The problem with (B) is that tooling is expensive. My big lathe is
worth a few thousand by itself. The tooling? Tens of thousands.
Don’t think that you’re done just because you bought a lathe. Then
you have to get it working. Budget at least as much for tooling as
the lathe itself, to start.
If you look at American lathes from the late prewar era (1930-1940)
you’ll find that they were designed to be very, very tough machines,
easy to work on, and frequently designed to be the “everytool” for
small rural shops. Most of them can be run off of flat belting,
which means that if you have to, you can frankenstein them to run
from just about anything. Water wheel, car, steam engine, what have
you. (Assuming you can find somebody who still knows how to set up a
shafting run.) You’ll also find everybody and their uncle hunting
those same machines. They do turn up, but you need to get your
feelers into the water, and then be patient.
One advantage you have is that there were a bunch of 'knockoff’
versions in made in Latin America that were pretty good. You may be
able to find those, and the Americans won’t touch them. The lathes.
co.uk site that I used for the examples will usually list the known
copies of various machines.
( http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep812s ) Might be a starting place.
A Latin American knockoff would also probably have the controls
badged in Spanish, which would be a plus from your point of view.
(it’d knock the price down for the Americans, a double plus for you.)
The problem with an 80 year old machine, especially one of the
knockoffs, is that they’ve probably been used to death, and may have
If you know what you’re doing, and what the machine is supposed to
do, you can usually deal with them until you get them fixed. If
you’ve never done it, and have no idea what’s right or wrong, you
may be in for a real learning experience. Your goal is to make parts
for your kids, not become a lathe repair guru. A used machine may
not be the right answer, unless you can find somebody local to
advise you, and go along to inspect whatever machine you look at.
For reasons known only to the great Orchid gods who occasionally eat
a line or two of my posts, my suggestion to look at the Sherline
lathes got garbled, but they’re good, small lathes, available new.
Pricey, but well made for what they are. (Hobby class lathes.)
Certainly a better place to start than an ancient machine in
questionable shape. (Much as I love my “old ones”, even I have to
admit that they both took some serious TLC before they got to the
point where I could shave tenths with them. And they were in pretty
good shape to start with.)
In follow up to Ted Frater’s reply, oddly enough, we (Knew Concepts)
do actually have a small(ish) capstan lathe that we’re getting ready
to sell off.
(Turret lathe, for everybody but the Brits.) It’s a Taiwanese
knockoff of a Hardinge chucker. We were using it to second-op some
of the saw parts. Our new CNC will handle those jobs now, so the
chucker goes. That is a production machine. But it weighs…750?
pounds, takes three phase 220V, and you really need to know what
you’re doing to set it up. Of course, once you do, it’ll spit out
part after part, all identical, all day long, as long as somebody’s
there to pull the levers. For serious mass production short of a
screw machine, or CNC, that’s the sort of machine you’d be looking
( http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep812t ) It sort of looks like a
blue version of the DSM 59, second picture down from the top, or the
color picture at the bottom. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you end
up thinking you’d need it, it’s available. (Don’t know about a
price, but somewhere around a thousand USD, probably.)
So, the questions you must ask yourself are:
(A) how big is my part? (Length and diameter)
(B) out of what? Brass? Sliver? Steel? (If it’s brass you don’t care
about saving the chips. If it’s silver, you do, and that argues
for a smaller machine. If it’s steel, you need a beefier machine.)
© How many of them?
(D) How fast do you need to make them in order to make money?
(E) how accurately?
(F) how many finials total?
(G) what next, after the finial run is done? Use it for general ‘one
off’ work? Use it for more production work?
I second Jon’s recommendation of the various "how to run a lathe"
books. Southbend first published theirs in the 1930’s, and they’re
still printing it. (So it’s expensive.) Sheldon lathes did a similar
one, and since they’re long gone, that one’s available in reprint
The Audel’s series are also worth reading.
Southbend book: http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep812u
Turns out there are various reprints of it available, from various
points in time. They get cheaper as they get older. Look for one of
the more recent ones. It’ll have more modern practice in it. Some of
the things the old timers did are terrifying to contemplate.
While I was digging around on Amazon, I ran across this.
I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard good things about the author,
Fenner. For whatever that’s worth. Looks like it’d be a good place
to start, with modern info.
The Sheldon book is: http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep812w
Audels lathe book: Couldn’t find it on Amazon.
One last thing before I go feed the (!hungry!) cat: I’m not too keen
on the modern mini-lathes from mainland China and India. (Harbor
Freight) I’ve had to help people unsnarl a bunch of them, and none
of them were worth the time it took to get them running right. The
Taiwanese are a different story, but it’s hard to tell which one’s
which. I’d go for 80 year old American iron before I’d look at the
7x29’s or other similar machines. At least with the antiques, you
know they were built right to start with, no matter how screwed up
they may be now.
The cat is about to claw through the door, so I need to get on my
way. He hath no sympathy for my encylopediae.