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I Forge Iron

Buying/Building My First Lathe


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Hi Y`all.
I have got intersted in machining . I want to either buy a small lathe or build one. But I not 100% sure which would be the best thing to do : buy one of these HF lathes Harbor Freight Lathe 1 or Harbor Freight Lathe 2 (the last one I like best but Is a little out of my budget) . Or Build one I`ve heard about (most uns know I like to build stuf LOL:D)

I Don`t really want to spend NO more thean $400.00 Plus tools or $400.00 with tools . If anyone has one for sale I`ll consider it .

PS sorry i got long winded

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dont give up on trying to find a cheap one...i got mine for FREE from craigs list...had no tools and needed a rebuild and paintjob but thats about done now....last week i saw another one for $150 on craigs list....we also have a used machinery dealer here in town that sometimes gets small lathes in stock. go to MSC and order their catalog and you can find lots of inexpensive tooling as well as Enco and Wholesale tool...both available online. just keep looking and one will drop in your lap...Good Luck

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My brother had the same consideration. For him, time was the biggest concern. He just did not have the time to do real construction.
The advantage of building your own, is that when you are done, you can make just about anything. You will have had the experience needed. Look at the end of my note in the WOODWORKING LATHE note and see the link to the David Gingery web site. They have books on making different kinds of lathes.
One book my brother has, tells about how to have the lathe build itself. All you need is a drill and being able to cast metal. Most of the books assume that you don't know how to weld. If you weld with some skills, more design options open for you.

The big advantage of buying a lathe is that you get started and fast.
the best suggestion is to buy the best lathe you can afford,. Even a bit more than you can afford. Whatever you get is not going to be good enough. My brother ended up with a SMITHY https://www.smithy.com/ The bigger the machine, and the more it has going with it, the better in the long run. There are times when my brother said he wished he went up one step higher in the line of machines they had.
Having the lathe is only part of the job. One then needs the tooling and appliances so that you can do real work. My brother has made many of them, but has a long ways to go to do serious work.

Good luck.

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The lathe alone won't do much without accessories and a lot will depend on what you want to make. For example, I have a ongoing job making modifications to spark plugs for a local inventor (don't laugh, I've made close to 300 plugs at $30 a piece over the past few years). This job simply would not work without a variety of 5C collets so I had to make a draw bar, buy the collets and holder, etc. Although I already had the lathe and a variety of chucks, it took several hundred dollars to tool up for this project.

I have Gingery's book and do not believe a beginner should undertake making a lathe - it can be done but why go to the trouble when so many are on the market these days? Diligent shopping may well turn up one in the price range you are targeting.

In addition, if you know little or nothing about machining, I'd make the same recommendation as for someone who becomes interested in blacksmithing - find someone who has the equipment and can use it, then have them show you a few things. A picture is worth a 1000 words but hands-on beats all...

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Gday Hammerkid,

try looking up "fonly lathe"(stands for If Only I had a lathe) its a home built lathe from timber/metal etc, minimal cost and minimal equipment needed, no casting. Most educational, and achieveable, to start with. I know the pages have been archived, but are still on the web. If you can't find it, I'll see what I can find for you.

Brisbane, Oz.

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