View Full Version : Lathe Help?

03-29-2004, 01:59 PM
I am in need of a lathe for small jobs such as turning down rear axle spacers on motorcycles and other small stuff like that. I dont know what would be a could lathe to get. Currently I only have single phase power so that is a consideration along with space issues as well.. Any and all help is appreciated. I have heard that the old southbends can be had for 500-1000. I am looking for something that will do what i need for now. Any ideas and suggestions is greatly appreciated. What would be a good swing to look for?

03-29-2004, 03:28 PM
Hi Ric!!!

Hmnn this is ALWAYS a tough one. In my very humble opinon the little southbends are greatly OVERPRICED for their capacity - however parts availability is really good. Instead of talking specific models I would instead suggest you look for some specifc FEATURES.

For me My preference is soemthing that will turn some RPM's (to take advantage of carbide insert tooling for one) - at least something that will turn 1500 rpm and preferably 2000 rpm.

I would also want soemthing with SPINDLE BEARINGS as opposed ot bushings - less likely to chatter on you - amoung other things.

VARIBALE SPEED - is like one of those thinsg where once you get it you wont go back - of course the advent of the VFD can expand this to otherwise lacking machines.

Stick with 3 phase - it will be cheaper - easier to run reverse.

PASS on those threaded spindles - a quick stop or reversing of the motor can provide the kind of enertainment that you would probably like to avoid :oops:

IMHO for home and general stuff 11-12" inch swing is a BARE MINIMUM.


THREADING CAPABILITY is a must - change gears are a pain!!!

Condition is paramount!!!!!

I have a 11" Rockwell and a 12" Clausing - and while there are BETTER machines out there - these both continue to serve me well.
Both Varibale speed, both hardened ways - both have a L00 nose taper. The Royal collet closer (lever type) is in my opinon a Cadillac and again it tends to spoil a fella.

I do lust after some of the Bigger LeBlond's and Monarch's though!

Like anything your mileage may vary!!!

Jacin in Ohio


03-29-2004, 08:02 PM
When trying to figure out what size to get my rule of thumb is figure out the largest piece you want to make,multiply times 1.5, and then get one size larger.

If you are checking on a used lathe condition is very important. if you are not familiar with lathes try to find someone who is.

If you are not experanced with running a lathe try to take votech courses or do a lot of reading.

Good luck.


03-31-2004, 05:42 AM
Thank you both for the advice. I went yesterday and looked at a small southbend. It has quite a bit of tooling and some other new stuff(cant remember the name but the guy said the part alone was $500). Its only single phase and one of the table ones. It seemed to be in good condition. He said I could turn down stainless but I'd just have to go slow. He wont take a penny less than $600 for it and all the tooling. I agree that I should probably reevaluate the size and maybe think about getting something bigger. Let me know your input. Also he said the belt is a little too long and should be shortened or replaced...

Kerry Pinkerton
03-31-2004, 06:32 AM
Rick, it would help to know the swing size and bed length on that SB. I made my first set of anvils on a Craftsman 1/4Hp hobby lathe. Took a while but they came out fine and you know what, the sheet metal didn't know the difference.

If the SB has a 4jaw, 3 jaw chuck, tool holder and is in good shape, it's probably worth more than 600 bucks. Southbends are HOT on ebay, especially the single phase ones.

03-31-2004, 09:10 AM
If the lathe will fit your needs,Isn't worn out and has tooling I would adopt it yesterday!
Appx 10 years ago I paid $850.00 for a cabinet model 10K. I have easily doubled that with tooling and always need more. A good 3jaw without backplate is $140.00 a good 4 jaw as about $100.00
So tooling can add up fast .
McMaster carr has belts, and laces,check them out.
South Bend lathes hold their value so if you want something different later you shouldn't lose money.
Hope this helps,


03-31-2004, 09:59 AM
I'd say buy it! $600 with tooling and it works you can't go wrong. In a few years if you out grow it just clean and paint it and sell it on Ebay for a $1000. I have three lathes in my shop a 24"X 10' a 14"X40" and a 9" South Bend. I use the 9" South Bend for 98% of all my bike work.


03-31-2004, 10:03 AM
Hi Ric, That sounds like a more than fair price IF it isn't all clapped out. As I recall the little 9" Southbends do not have hardened ways to inspect that carefully for excessive wear. I believe Southbend hand scrapped all their ways back then - there are lots of unscrupulous characters that do all sorts of things to disguise the wear on the ways. Those little machines are quite popluar and as such can get passed along like a good carbureator. Finding one in GOOD SHAPE will be the trick.

Granted all the tooling is a HUGE bonus, but don't let that be your overriding factor if the ways are smoked consider it very carefully.

For the price you really can't get hurt (financially) - the biggest factor in reselling it other than overall condition would be if it is set up to cut threads or not. And if it is does it come with all the necessary gears. I think there were 3 or so versions of that machine - a "9A" "9B" and a "9C" - I know one difference was the threading ability but don't recall what the other was.

If I had nothing I would consider it - but there are lots of better machines out there.

WITH ALL THAT SAID, if it does prove to be in any sort of condition I would grab it and sell it on Ebay - you'd probably make enough to step up to a much better machine.

Your mileage may vary,

Jacin in Ohio


03-31-2004, 10:29 AM
Its a 9" x 18length. I spoke to the guy who has it and he said it has a clutch or something in that most of the those original models didnt have. I told him I would pick it up saturday afternoon.

03-31-2004, 10:48 AM

The Yahoo SBL group has lots of info on these lathes.

Models ? A model A has a quick change gearbox for power feed and threading, a model B uses change gears but has power cross feed, and a model C uses change gears but has no power cross feed

IF the ways are in good shape almost anything else can be fixed/replaced. there are LOTS of these around so parts are not hard to find.

If it needs a thread dial I have plans for one, not hard to make and not expensive.

Good luck (and I hope you don't need it)


01-14-2005, 09:05 PM
hi rick , I know this reply is quite late but might help someone in a similar situation later on. When you check out a used lathe here is something that will determine the condition of the spindle bearings quickly. Part off a piece of round stock! Make absolutely sure the tool is on center and start cutting. If there is play in the spindle it will definitely show up while parting off. The best way I can think of to check the ways is to take a LONG straight shaft that is center drilled ON CENTER at both ends and put it in the lathe between centers. Now place the dial indicator base on the carriage and run the dial down the entire length of the shaft . If the gage reads steady for a while and then indicates a change when you get near the chuck you have found worn ways.As the carriage drops down the dial will drop below center of the shaft and the readout will change too. The most used part of lathe ways is usually right next to the chuck.

01-15-2005, 12:32 AM
If it has a "clutch" it sounds like a late model it should be a quick change gearbox unit and it might have hardened ways they were available as an option, . Look for a ridge on the front bedway right in front of the chuck this indicates how much wear the bed has, it will be a small line at the top of the "V" way just down from the top edge the greater the depth of the line the more wear it contains to guage wear when in the "field" put the carriage in front of the chuck were the most wear is likely to be then tighten down the carriage lock untill it justs contacts the bed way underside area but you are still able to move the carriage towards the rear of the lathe start to move the carriage toward the tailstock and take notice of where it starts to get harder to move, the longer the distance toward the tail stock end of the lathe before it starts to get harder to move the better the bed ways are. As for head bearings they are adjustable for wear and should have .001 inch of total movement when adjusted correctly, use only South Bend spindle weight oil as this is designed to take up the exact amount of space between bearing and spindle. The 9X18 is a good size for most projects, the rule for lathes is that 95% of the work you will do will be within 6 inches of the front of the chuck and most likely the 9 inch swing will be more than sufficient for most things you will tackle. I have seen some incredible work done on some really worn out 9" South Bends they are considered the standard in home shop small bench units and is why they command a high price one in good shape will last a lifetime in home use if you own an oil can and take care of it. People are turned off by the ones with bed wear and it is true that the least wear the better but even ones with lots of wear can do good work as the wear only allows the tool to drop slightly down the work since most work is small and isn't more critical than about .002 to .003 inches this isn't a big issue and if a real critical piece has to be turned there are ways to move the work toward the rear of the bed and use the mostly unused area. I recommend high speed tooling be used on the small low speed lathes it produces a much better finish than the carbide under most general turning projects. Good luck with your new lathe they are loads of fun and a world of projects opens up when you have one.