Metal lathe suggestions?

We are seeking to purchase a mini metal lathe that is sub $1000. Can anyone make a recommendation to a good model? We have been considering the Grizzly 7x12 or 7x14, but are open to suggestions.

Look for used units too. The nice thing about lathes (and many other machine tools) is the tooling standards haven’t’ changed that much which makes anything made WW2 and later generally similar enough that one can swap tooling (might require a different tool post, but that’s an easy swap).

Yes we now have carbide tools and the like, but the holders for such will often fit right in. Heck, they make all sorts of carbide tips (a variety of profiles) in the same size as square HSS stock (I use those a lot at work for lathes and fly cutters), so with those you fit carbide to pretty much everything. Of course one can also use HSS and grind your own tips (depending on what you’re machining, HSS might cut better!); my point is you don’t need a new machine to use new tooling.

As far as the imports, some are better than others, but roughly it’s all the same and probably comes from the same shop in China. I’ve seen good and bad; like many imported units the quality is hit and miss.

+1 to older machines. Craiglist offers good deals on lathes, often for a lot less than $1000. Any new machine you can get for that little won’t beat a good used CL lathe.

If you are absolutely positive you want a new sub $1000 mini-lathe this is probably your best bet:

I was going to say that, but thought it was over $1K. (Its “big” brother, which has DRO instead of graduated dials but is otherwise the same size, is $1250–also worth it.)

I’ve used one at work, actually both of the mentioned types, and think it’s pretty much perfect for an FRC team. A little small, perhaps, but most FRC teams aren’t known for having a ton of space…

The 7" lathes are toys. I’d really recommend going to an 8" or larger. I’ve had the Harbor Freight 44859 (actually measures 8x14) since 2006 and I’ve been happy with it. Parts support could be tough though if you ever broke anything on it. Also, you may be able to use a 20% off coupon to buy it. And it fits nicely atop their 44" toolbox too.

The Grizzly G0768 looks decent, though I’ve never seen one in person.

I’ve generally not heard good things about the Chinese 9" lathes.

If you’re looking for used, something like a 9" or even 11" Logan is decent and could be had within your budget, but buying a used lathe is tricky business. First, if it’s big, you have to figure out how to move it. Moving a 9" or larger lathe is not a trivial task. Second, it could be a basket case, needing things, and with worn ways that just will not adjust nicely with the gibs no matter what. Third, if you need parts for it, depending on the lathe and the part, it could be impossible to find or cost you a fortune.

Look around on Craigslist or eBay for some local used stuff. I recently got late 30s southbend 9in lathe with a 26ish inch part capacity for $150 and have put about another $100 into a some maintenance of it, that $100 includes buying new tool post btw. So far ai have $250 into a lathe that will outperform most mini lathes you find for around $750. The lathe weighs 370 lbs total including the motor assembly, it’s likely that most lathes you find from this era will weight around that so that may be a game changer for you.

Maybe not the cheapest place to find these things, but at least you’ve got lots of options.

We recently got a 10x22 Grizzly for the team and are pretty happy with it. A couple suggestions for you based on our experience:

A lot of folks suggesting buying used. For many of us that are part of a school this is not an option due to purchasing rules. Make sure to check before you head down this path. Also consider your skill level with machine tools as a used tool comes with little or no support.

If you can come up with $1000 for a new tool you can also come up with $1500 for the right tool with a little more work. I’ve found it easier to get sponsors when you can say exactly what the money is for. Unless you go used I’m not sure your going to be happy with what $1000 gets you.

I would highly recommend getting a unit with digital readouts. I was under the mistaken impression that it was somewhat easy to add after the fact. It is not. For another couple hundred it’s money well spent.

We have the Grizzly 7x12 Lathe. I like it. I find that Grizzly is one of the best Chinese tool dealers and have several other tools from them. I have had good experiences with them (parts and service) and own several tools (lathe, mill, notcher) This lathe is essentially the same as the one at Harbour Freight, but Grizzly has better quality control. So, if you like it, pay Grizzly the extra $$. It’s a nice size (it can easily be transported) and it has been a good tool for our novice lathe operators. We use it intermittantly for bushings, rollers and other odd parts with good results.

+'s - Cost effective, portable, fits on any bench, not a bad tool, low power motor (if they crash the tool, it stalls and pops the fuse - No major disaster).

-'s - Not as accurate or repeatable as a better lathe. The handles are REALLY close together and you will knock your fingers. Low power motor will require you to make smaller cuts than you might want to - not good for hogging.

Overall, a reasonable - cost effective, light duty lathe as long as you aren’t going into a volume production scenario.