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Should I pick up this old metal lathe? Answered

There's an older metal lathe that's going to the scrap yard, a reed-prentice co., looks to be from the 40's, and I could probably get it for scrap price. Would it be worth fixing up and using? I don't need to hit super-tight tolearances with it, just turning parts as a hobbyist / beginner. What questions should I ask about it? What should be there for it to be complete?


Do you have someplace to put it and work with it? Do you have a circuit that can power it? (It may be 220V, it may require a lot of amps) ... and/or are you willing to have that circuit installed, and/or are you willing to find another motor?

If the bearings aren't shot, it looks like a nice piece of equipment. It may be massive overkill for your needs, and the exposed belts are a bit of a safety issue unless you're careful (most modern equipment protects you a bit better... but a lathe always presents moving-parts risks). The question will be whether it makes sense to adopt something this substantial before you know whether you're actually going to be using it more than occasionally. Transporting it is going to be... uhm... interesting, and between that and the issues mentioned above it *might* be better to get something smaller.

I'd go for it, despite having about as much turning experience as you do (ie, none to speak of). But I don't claim to be sane.

When considering this, don't forget to budget for the cutting tools and for keeping them sharp, plus whatever's needed in the way of parts to tune up/refit the lathe. I'd guess start at another $200 and work up from there.

I don't see a Reply button on Steve's post, for some reason, but yes -- if you can get the chuck as well as the faceplate shown in the photo, that would be a Good Thing. (You can buy one when you need it, but they aren't cheap so scavenging is desirable.)

And good point about one-phase versus three-phase; that's the other point related to my 120/240 voltage question. (Again, replacing the motor is possible but would be another added-cost item.)

I'd be interested in it myself, though getting it into my basement shop might require a crane to lower it through the bulkhead space. (Which brings up another point: Besides a place to put it, make sure there's a path you can navigate it through to get it there. If there's any question, walk a cardboard mockup through the space first.)

Thanks for the great reply, (all of them really). Yet another reason to love Instructables!

Yes, yes,yes!

You can make small things on a big lathe.

You can't make worthwhile things on a lathe that isn't set up right and working correctly.

Old machinery is often well made and reliable BUT hard to find parts.

You might/will find helpful information here http://www.homemodelenginemachinist.com/index.php

Although not the same lathe this site gives some idea of what is involved in restoring an old lathe


Absolutely not! This way too heavy to just "pick up". Put it on wheels and get help to load it.

Take it home and rebuild it. Even if it won't do everything you need it to do, you will learn so much that when you buy a better one you will know what you need and what you are capable of.


It's a real shame it's going to scrap, take everyone's advice here; get it before it gets melted down. I wouldn't worry too much about its age either, at my high school's machine shop, most of our lathes are from the 40s (maybe 50s?). Machines were made to last in older days.

. ROFL. +1
.  If you find out that repairing it is beyond your capabilities, you can always adopt it out to a good home.

If you have somewhere to put it, somehow to get it there, power to run it, money to buy it, skills to and a reason to use it? Hellyah.

Check to get the 3 jaw selfcentring chuck. A 4 jaw either as well, or instead of, that won't be selfecentring is OK - the oldtimers didn't have self centring.

Given you're looking for a rough sort of thing, you can readjust for a fair amount of slideway wear yourself, so don't worry about that,.

Take a look at the motor. Is it single or three ?