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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm reaching out to the 68 community for a little advice. I'm looking to pick up a smaller lathe to do basic machine work including small gun parts, basic fix-it projects, etc. I'm not looking at doing anything like barrel threading or things of that complex nature (leave that to pros). The majority of my work will be turning, parting, etc with rare events of non critical threading.

Im hoping some of you might be able to guide me towards a mini lathe or a small setup. I've considered everything from Taig (no threading option), Harbor Freight 7x12, Grizzly 7x12, and many other similar setups. People seem to have strong opinions on each, with rarely a consensus. I'm wondering if it is worth it to step up to the bigger models more in the 1000 dollar budget versus the 600. I'm not in a place where I can do a large Southbend or something, so that is out of the question. I rarely see used lathes come up in my neck of the woods, and I'm hesitant about buying a used lathe since I'm new to this game and wouldn't know a lemon if it hit me. I'm hoping some of you might be able to give me guidance as I get started in this hobby.

thanks!
 

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Most of them are made by the same few companies, mostly in China some in Taiwan. For the money I have to say the Grizzly is about the best deal with all the extras you get with them.
 

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Are wood lathes and metal lathes two completely different machines. Sorry for the stupid question.
Yes,...........

Scotty if you can bump your budget a little, look for multi-machine (lathe/mill/drill combo) ....once you start with a lathe you'll want a mill also.

And my honest suggestion is to buy as big as you can, buy once cry once thing (kinda like optics)

Don't forget the cost of tooling....the cutters, bits, centers, chucks etc get expensive fast

Wasn't H selling a CNC machine:a32:
 

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I would say for gunsmithing get one that can be used for threading. Some of the multi function machines have some limitations in different areas so just be aware of that and make sure of what you can do with it.
 

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If you're not itching for it yesterday, watch craigslist for awhile.. By definition the smaller lathes are hobby equipment and they do show up regularly in the bigger cities. Besides getting a cheaper machine, you'd also likely score some tooling along with it. Good Luck, Tim
 

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I have been shopping for long time, off and on. I would vastly prefer to find a USA made machine, but they are old, however occasionally one shows up from someones basement in good condition, but either they are overpriced or sell really fast. If I was getting one of the Chinese made ones, plan on doing some tuneup to it, right from the start and I would go with an 8" over the 7"'s. Not because of the swing, but the 8" is just a far bigger heavier machine which is going to make it much more useful. I am not a fan of the combo machines, they do save space, but everything always seems to be in the way and if you are doing any repeat operations, it seems like a lot of resetting is required.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've been on the search for sales, but haven't found much. A somewhat local guy had a JET 9x20 but wanted far more than I wanted to spend for the quality level. I have found an auction for a 7x10 Harbor Freight/Central Machinery model that I will likely check out in the next month near me. It isn't what I necessarily want long term, but I am hoping I can pick it up extremely cheap. This may get me started into machining, and whet my appetite for the next year. I am hoping that by this time next year I'll be changing jobs/locations, which will result in a new home and shop. If this happens, a larger US model will DEFINITELY find a home with me (along with a full size standalone mill, bandsaw, and other goodies). I appreciate everyone's feedback, and hope to update once I get something.
 

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I've been on the search for sales, but haven't found much. A somewhat local guy had a JET 9x20 but wanted far more than I wanted to spend for the quality level. I have found an auction for a 7x10 Harbor Freight/Central Machinery model that I will likely check out in the next month near me. It isn't what I necessarily want long term, but I am hoping I can pick it up extremely cheap. This may get me started into machining, and whet my appetite for the next year. I am hoping that by this time next year I'll be changing jobs/locations, which will result in a new home and shop. If this happens, a larger US model will DEFINITELY find a home with me (along with a full size standalone mill, bandsaw, and other goodies). I appreciate everyone's feedback, and hope to update once I get something.
What brands have you found that are US made?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'm not well-versed in all of them, but when I get my own shop I would probably look towards an older Leblond, South Bend, etc. The older stuff seems to rank highly among machinists on forums and those that use them professionally.
 

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I'm not well-versed in all of them, but when I get my own shop I would probably look towards an older Leblond, South Bend, etc. The older stuff seems to rank highly among machinists on forums and those that use them professionally.
Oh, yeah. Now you are talking but it just about has to be an older one. LaBlond is made by South Bend from what I understand and these days they are sold by Grizzly, many of the parts are made in China and Taiwan and the spindle bearings and such are made in Germany. I honestly don't know of a brand that sells a new US made model with the exception of possibly some hobby lathes. I had a chance to pick up a 22x96 LaBlond a while back for about $500 but I had to drive a few hundred miles, figure out how to load the behemoth without cracking the bed and also finding something that was heavy enough to haul it. Then when all was said and done, I had no room for it anyway. I have been looking at the Grizzly 10x22 pretty hard. If I sell that 7 08 I will probably buy it. I had an old Craftsman 7x12 that worked pretty well but was just not heavy enough for the kind of work I wanted to do so I sold it with plans to buy the grizzly but then several other things came up, like new tires for the truck, lawnmower needs to be replaced etc. It is always something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thought I would update. Picked up a 7x10 Harbor Freight mini lathe today at an auction. Had to pay a few hundred for it, but got a lot of tools and upgrades with it. I've turned some small aluminum this afternoon to familiarize myself with the machine. I think it'll turn the aluminum pieces I want, but i can already tell it won't be a go to for steel or aluminum. I think this will be a great tool for the right jobs, and will help prepare me for my bigger future lathe when I have my own shop.
 

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Thought I would update. Picked up a 7x10 Harbor Freight mini lathe today at an auction. Had to pay a few hundred for it, but got a lot of tools and upgrades with it. I've turned some small aluminum this afternoon to familiarize myself with the machine. I think it'll turn the aluminum pieces I want, but i can already tell it won't be a go to for steel or aluminum. I think this will be a great tool for the right jobs, and will help prepare me for my bigger future lathe when I have my own shop.
That is good. That is basically what I did, bought a smaller lathe to get familiarized then sold it with the intent of buying a larger one. Just haven't gotten around to it yet. I sold the rifle that was going to help pay for it so should be soon. Good luck with it. There are a lot of great youtube videos out there these days you can teach yourself almost anything with their help.
 
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