View Full Version : Lathe suggestions?

15-10-2015, 09:47 PM
I'm being slowly drawn into buying a metal working lathe, although I'm struggling to think of why I want it and what I'd make with it!

Anyway, enjoying doing the research, plus hope to look over the Warco lathes at the Engineering show tomorrow. Anything in particular I should ask or look at?

I'm drawn to this sort of model:

Or may stretch to this:

I've looked at the used Colchesters, Myfords etc and keep coming back to a new Warco. Possibly helped by the Warco pillar drill I bought last year which I'm really pleased with.
I also looked at the small introductory lathes at 500-800 but have decided that I can still cut small stuff on a big lathe and that it will probably generally perform better and be a bit nicer to use.

So what sort of features do I think it should have? Well this is where I'm at:
Bench top mounted (no space for floor standing) up to 1300mm long
Reasonable quiet so I can run it without upsetting the neighbours (invertor spindle would be nice)
Swing of >240mm sounds good
Control of feed speeds slightly independent of spindle speed (i.e. A B C selector)
Thread cutting popular metric threads, plus thread dial indicator
Camlock tailstock
Spindle bore of >20mm so I can feed ballscrews through if I need to machine the ends
I'd also like to upgrade to a quick change tool post plus DROs at some point.

So there is it, any thoughts on the above? Any experiences of similar spec Warco models? Thanks

15-10-2015, 11:02 PM
Thread dial indicator not much use for metric threads I think. QCTP IMHO indispensable from the start. You may get more feedback on these lathes over on the Model Engineer website where there has been a couple of threads on them.

16-10-2015, 03:31 AM
These lathes are are basically made by Weiss Machinery in China http://www.weiss.com.cn/ and I have the 290VFF in the livery of Amadeal.


Now I am not an expert machinist and my previous experience of owning a lathe was a Clarke CL300, so the new machine was a hell of a shift upwards. I am glad I did it, it is a great new toy.

I have fitted a QCTP and had to make a new mount for it, as the QCTP would not fit on the cross slide. It just means I have to put the cross slide back for taper turning, although I have since found a type of QCTP that would have fitted on the cross slide.

I think whoever you buy from, you have got to look at the price and service offered and I found Amadeal fitted my requirements.



16-10-2015, 06:49 AM
Thanks John, Rob that's useful feedback.

I'll have a look at the model engineer website as well.

John, I thought that the thread dial indicator rotated around and told you when to engage the feed to start in the same place? If the lathe is metric with metric leadscrew wouldn't this make the indicator OK for metric thread cutting? Never done this so am not sure. Can you expand on that ?

Thanks for the link. If these machines are all generic re-brands then I have no issues buying from Warco - previous experiences of their customer service were excellent, and I like their prices.

Edit - just gone to the Weiss website and their model names are all WMxxx (Weiss Machinery). In the Warco catalogue they are also WMxx which I assumed was Warco Machines but clearly not.


16-10-2015, 10:12 AM
I've got the WARCO 1322 gear head lathe in Metric and the indicator works OK on thread cutting for me so see no reason why it wouldn't on the smaller lathe? their customer service is good, had to use it a couple of times although it can be quite hard getting hold of them sometimes but then they're a small company.

16-10-2015, 11:16 AM
Cheers Neal that's good to know.

16-10-2015, 12:44 PM
My only advice really is make sure you get one with a separate drive shaft for the saddle and cross slide. you are better of saving wear on the leadscrew so you can produce accurate screw threads.

16-10-2015, 02:55 PM
Go for the largest through capacity, swing and length that fits your budget which is still suitable for the projects you currently have in mind, with consideration for the fact that a cunning machinist can always do jobs which are too large for the spindle through capacity over the bed, if he has the length to work with.
Keep in mind that to "fully tool" a lathe can easily involve greater expenditure than the initial machine purchase price ;-)

16-10-2015, 06:48 PM
Since we are on the topic of lathes anyone familiar with this company http://www.epple.co.uk/turning-machines?zenid=d359bcn9vpc48n1qlvv0irj5b5 ? I found one local company which deals with them and might get a lathe in the future and want to know if this is a good brand?

16-10-2015, 07:03 PM
"Epple UK, are the exclusive UK stockists and distributors for Epple Maschinen Germany"

I've never heard of them but I've never seen poor German engineering equipment so I can't see you going wrong if they are entirely manufactured in Germany.

- Nick

16-10-2015, 08:05 PM
These Epple machines look like Chinese machines (could they be German copies of Chinese machinery:hororr:)

16-10-2015, 08:58 PM
Not sure when "tomorrow" is (might have been today, Friday?) but if anyone is around Saturday, I'm on the SMEE stand, probably standing next to the spark eroder. I was there today as well, but no reason why anyone would have recognised me.

I was having a look at the Warco lathes myself. I bought a second-hand British "toolroom" machine a little while ago, and still wonder whether a new similar size (and similar price) Warco lathe would have been a better choice. I was more interested in the bigger floor-standing machines so can't really comment on bench-mount lathes. I would also be looking for things like imperial/metric screwcutting which might not be on everyone's list. Whatever the machine, I'd find it difficult to live without a QCTP, and now my lathe had one, DRO. Makes the whole imperial/metric issue redundant (except for screwcutting).

Thread dial indicator - my lathe has a metric leadscrew, and for the TDI to work correctly for all the threads available on the gearbox, you need three different wormwheels for it. Fortunately, my favourite threads are covered by the one on there as this is one of the few accessories missing. Imperial leadscrews and threads generally seem to work fine without this fiddly detail.

16-10-2015, 11:11 PM
Hi Mike,
That's good info on the separate shafts, I'll see if that is available in my price range.

Hi Nick,
I'm starting to see where you are coming after today - totalled up a few goodies, QCTP, DROs, tailstock chuck, tailstock live centre, range of tools . . .it runs into hundreds of pounds. So I need to think about the whole package before I decide.

Hi Neale,
Apologies, I had to leave work very much later than planned today so it was a whistle stop tour, making sure I at least had a good look on the Warco stand, then back home again before my passout expired. I don't think I even walked around the whole show as I didn't see the spark eroder this year. So very sorry I didn't seek out the SMEE stand.

By chance I bumped into an old friend who happened to own a Warco lathe (WM240B). This is cheaper than the models I posted in post#1, is very slightly smaller, does not have the electronic variable speed (all belt changes), but in the end would probably do the same sort of jobs that I would need. So for the price of the more expensive lathe I could have this one with all the toys thrown in. In terms of thread cutting he asked whether I would really do that much and if required you can add a die holder to the tailstock if the thread is on the end of the work, which it often is. I was starting to get drawn to this 240B model then he added that he had thought about upgrading to an AC motor and invertor to get more torque when running slower. Well that feature is already on the more expensive 250V model so now I'm going back round in circles!

Time to park it for a week and let everything soak in. Big thanks to all the comments above it is very helpful.

17-10-2015, 09:19 AM
Hi Pete
The reason i highlighted the separate feed shaft was the fact that i was in the same situation as yourself when i bought my lathe 40 year ago(strapped for cash) I bought an Elliot Emcomat7L and @ the time it cost GBHP750 which was a fair lump of cash. I have always regretted not getting the next model up that had the power feedshaft and larger capacity. to try and save wear on my leadscrew i rough a job out using the handwheel on the saddle and reserve the leadscrew for the final finishing cut. trust me this can get a bit old very quickly.One major benefit of owning a lathe is you can produce a thread of almost any diameter and pitch, external and internal.
The choice is yours but i would buy the best spec machine as previously advised and wait till you can afford the additional toys. I only got my QCT about a year ago and i am not over impressed as the tool holder overhangs the the end of the topslide adding a levering action. you can manage perfectly well without one, all you do is keep your packing with the tool so you don't have to set the hight until you do a regrind.

17-10-2015, 11:44 AM
Don't buy lathe that isn't capable of screw cutting, you will at some point down the line regret it bitterly or have to swap.
Don't over-estimate the value of a gearbox, it forces you to choose metric or imperial (unless the lathe is very posh and does both), you then still have to add changewheels to cut threads in the other system and oddball pitches.
If your leadscrew and half-nuts are kept clean and lightly oiled wear should not be an issue, my 1950s Myford has no perceptible wear in the leadscrew and I know it saw production use before I bought it in the 1990s.
Power cross-feed is nice, but like any power feed it allows the novice to achieve bigger crashes, faster and doesn't make jobs much easier, neater or faster, don't ask how I learned this! ;-)
DROs are absolute magic on a lathe, I wouldn't go back to working without them, almost all turning jobs are quicker and easier with a DRO.
Don't over-value built-in motor/controller combinations fitted by the manufacturer, IMHO a good separate VFD and standard size 3-phase motor is always a better option where the power and torque can meet your needs.
You can always find a good replacement VFD second hand or off the shelf, even if your lathe model is obsolete.
You don't need a QCTP, but if you do have a DRO and are making a batch of parts you can set Zero 1, 2, 3, 4... for tools 1, 2, 3, 4.... and get stuck in, saves you a bunch of buggering about, but then if money is tight and/or time means nothing to you it's perfectly possible to do without a QCTP.
Some people will tell you that you need only inserted tooling, some people will tell you that you need only hand ground HSS, ignore them all, your needs will vary from theirs, buy what you need/is appropriate for the job in hand, you'll probably end up with a mixture of inserted, brazed tip and HSS.


17-10-2015, 04:17 PM
Hi Nick,Mike,

All good advice thank you, really appreciate it. The separate leadscrew m/c starts at 1850 (WM280V) and I think that would be a bit too expensive. I only get an hour or 2 in the workshop at most each week, often less, so wear probably won't be an issue.

I've had an offer from the friend I mentioned above to have a play with his WM250B but it will have to be in a couple of weeks time, so I'll do that to give me a start point.

17-08-2016, 07:41 PM
Well I visited the Warco open day last weekend and finally ordered a lathe ! :biggrin:

I had narrowed my choices down to the WM250 (1195) and the WM250 with invertor (1475). I started asking a few questions and asked about the special offer on their website for one of the lathes (free extra goodies which I wanted to buy anyway). Turns out that the offer would apply to any of the lathes above, plus they would offer a show discount.

So I asked for them to be run up. The WM250 has a DC motor with variable speed control and gave a constant hum all the time which although not loud could get annoying. However the WM250 invertor had a VFD control and sounded much nicer straight away. I also asked if the invertor had terminals to allow separate control of speed, direction etc. (thinking of a future CNC conversion) and the salesman paused as I don't think he'd been asked that before. The lathes were tight against the wall so we couldn't see round the back to check.

I asked to price up the WM250 invertor lathe including the offer and discount and I got the follow list:
Lathe (with all the usual bits - 3 jaw, 4-jaw, faceplate, travelling and fixed steadies etc.) (1475)
Live centre, set of 9off 12mm indexable tools, tailstock chuck (113) (these were the 'free offer' bits)
DRO 2 axis read out with 500mm and 100mm scale (280)
Nice parting off tool with insert (33)
QCTP including small modification to make it fit (140)

This would have been 2041, but the offer total was 1648 ! Well that was an easy one. So now I have the WM250 invertor model on order with all the above bits. This comes with the power cross feed as well, although it still only has the single main feed screw on the saddle. As I plan to CNC convert it with ballscrews at some point neither of these things matter but I suspect that will be some time away.

So I've cleared one of the benches, just need to wait for the order to arrive now (some items on back order). Meanwhile, here is the stock photo:


25-09-2016, 09:25 PM
The lathe arrived this week - hurray!

It arrived in a big wrapped wooden box:

The drip tray was on top in bubble wrap:

Levering off the lid revealed the well packed machine with all the accessories:


The invertor is behind this cover. A branded model, with a branded contactor, so bodes well:

A look behind the end cover panel:

Sensor for the rpm readout (there is a once-per rev small metal rod sticking out of the shaft):
Should be quiet easy to add a multi-pulse index wheel for cnc threading (at some far distant time!)

Declared run-out not too bad (will check if this is accurate later):

Started stripping off some of the parts to make it lighter and give better access to fit the DROs:

Started on the cross-slide DRO. A bit worried that the one supplied for this machine is 100mm travel but the cross-slide travel is about 115mm. Admittedly it probably won't go right to the back of the machine but if in the future I forget it could damage the sensor. I'll ask Warco about it this week if I get a chance. May have to limit slide travel.

I can't see any way to make the standard brackets which come with the DRO fit. The slide has to be stepped back to give access to the saddle lock cap head (and clear the gib lock bolts), be low enough to miss the top slide, and the read head has to be positioned so that it can travel the whole range. This puts it in the middle of no-where. So, made some measurements and did some CAD. Printed it out as a trial fit:

Setting up some 6mm aluminium plate:


Light coat of Zinc spray, drilled and tapped the carriage (M4) and offered it up:

Starting to dial in the read head bracket. So far looks like it needs about 0.4mm shim on the left. Note that the main body is NOT attached to the slide yet, it's just loose on the reader. Once dialled in vertically I'll do the fore/aft dial in using the slots in my bracket.

This is in the same position as the Warco display model but I do need to be careful that the tailstock does not get slammed into the back of it during use. It will hit the 6mm bracket not the sensor itself but it is only secured with 2off M4 into soft cast iron so could do some damage. Maybe add a rubber bump stop on the tailstock front edge?

Thinking ahead I had a look at the longer DRO for the Z axis. Since this mounts on a non-machined surface it needs to be levelled. I was disappointed that the kit did not come with levelling blocks so I'll have to make my own.

Here is the Warco display example which uses grub screws top and bottom to dial it in:

Looking further ahead - I will obviously need to lift it onto the bench I also tried to feel the weight at the tailstock end and the chuck end and it is still very heavy. I had got a few friends lined up to help lift it but now I'm not so sure. Will probably hire an engine crane to be on the safe side.

25-09-2016, 09:33 PM
I note from photo 3 that they are still printing "This Way Up" arrows on the wrong face of the box...


25-09-2016, 10:27 PM
A friend of mine recently got a lathe (Colchester student, model up from mine) and bought some carbide-tipped tools for it from aliexpress. I was a little hesitant, but they seem pretty good and very cheap, so you may want to consider that. It's all to easy to spend as much as the lathe cost on tooling for it, given time...

26-09-2016, 06:56 AM
Looking further ahead - I will obviously need to lift it onto the bench I also tried to feel the weight at the tailstock end and the chuck end and it is still very heavy. I had got a few friends lined up to help lift it but now I'm not so sure. Will probably hire an engine crane to be on the safe side.

When faced with the similar problem (Myford ML7) I bought a couple of block-and-tackle pulleys from Amazon for ~5 each and hung them from some 4x2 across the eaves of the shed. Not claiming it was the best* way, but it got me out of a pinch.

* Nor the worst - that'd be my lifting of an air conditioning unit 10ft off the deck using a ladder-against-the-wall, some rope, a load of buckets and a hose-pipe.

26-09-2016, 07:15 AM
Hi Jonathon,
Thanks for the info. I've actually got a set of carbide tools on back order. It was a set of 9? for ~52 but they came 'free' as part of the Warco lathe bundle, along with bits I was going to buy anyway. I also bought a nice cut off tool for about 30.
Should get me started but I'll look into Aliexpress as well once I know what I really need for tooling.

Hi Doddy,
Sounds like an interesting way to do it! My garage is part of the house so wouldn't want to put load on the first floor joists. I had a look at crane hire and there is a hire place about 2 miles from me at 35 for one day for a 1 tonne engine crane. If this includes delivery (not clear on the website) I'll go for that.

09-10-2016, 05:46 PM
Well I had lots of problems trying to dial in the bracket using shims. Eventually realised that I'd counterbored the bolt holes quite deep leaving only a bit of material at the bottom of the hole and every time I tightened the bolts it was extruding aluminium out of the bottom surface - this varied the height each time!

Anyway, I started again and made up a new bracket. This time it had 4 grub screws to do the levelling and shallow counterbores with smaller holes. I wanted to get each side of bolts and grub screws in a line, but there was not enough space. So I had to offset them a bit. Before levelling I ran an end mill down the grub screw holes to clear the paint off the cross slide to make sure they were biting onto the metal, not the soft paint.

Didn't take too long to dial in left to right:


Instructions say within 0.1 mm - I managed to get 0.01mm so OK there. Then dialled it in front to back.

At this point I realised there was another problem. The slide I'd been supplied had a travel of 100 mm but the cross slide travel was 115 mm. Although I might not use all the travel, it bothered me that at some point in the future I might damage the read head. I phoned Warco and they did say this was the model they fitted to this lathe. I mentioned that I'd be happier with the 150 mm travel model, even if the scale stuck out the back ~30mm and they were OK to swap it (just 5 more). I should get that next week so I stopped that job.

The longer slide was next. I made some brackets with grub screw levellers in:


Clearing the paint with an end mill:



After ALOT of messing about, clamping, adjusting, shimming I managed to get the other end pretty close to level then drilled the tapped hole. Once this was bolted I set about dialling the scale in vertically (slots in scale ends) and fore/aft (grub screws):



I'm thinking about using a cable guide for the 2 cables. I don't like the idea of them being loose and getting caught in a bird's nest and pulled into the chuck, or sliding around on the drip tray.


Now for the drop link bracket:

Last part to make will be a space block between this drop bracket and the read head. I measured 6.86 mm gap so I'll machine something to suit. I think there is a tolerance fore/aft on the read head so as long as it sits somewhere in the middle of the channel on the scale it should be OK.

Then I'll tackle the cable guide shelf and start routing the cables off to the tail stock end and behind the splash guard up to the read out. This will mount somewhere up on the left side near the motor controls.