I've just begun learning metal turning with the help of a friend, and now I'm in the market for a small to medium sized lathe. Though my preference is to find something locally, I've been watching the auctions on ebay to get a sense of the types and prices of lathes that are being traded. I've seen quite a few of the Sears/Atlas 6 x 18 lathes, in a couple of variations. It looks like the low-end model is the 109.XXXX, such as is shown in the following auction:
What's the collective wisdom on these lathes? Are they worth having, or ??? As best as I can tell they do have the ability to autofeed in both directions--is that correct?
Any information the group can provide will be most welcome! But be warned: if you answer this question, I'll likely have some more as I continue to assess what is available. :)
Your message encountered a parsing error: you used the term "locally" without defining it first.
In other words, like about 99% of posters looking for things, you didn't post where you are!
Little Atlas lathes can do real work, but they are very unrigid. Also, they have gears between the spindle and lead screw like most lathes, but unlike most lathes, these were made of something called "Zamac" i.e. pot metal and sadly a lot of these gears just seem to fall apart after about 40 years.
Really good first lathes are 9" or 10" South Bends, Logans, or Sheldons.
If you haven't discovered craigslist yet, you are missing out your main local source. Go to
and pick the city closest to you and from there on it should be completely intuitive. Their search engine is primitive but workable.
Grant Erw> I've just begun learning metal turning with the help of a friend, and now
Andrew The AA 109 lathes are antique hobby lathes. They make great restoration and display items for the shelf, which is where my 2 early AA lathes reside. For what it takes to get a decent 109 lathe, you can buy a brand new asian minilathe, which is a great starting point. These start at ~$300. The advantage of buying new is you don't have to learn the hard way about identifying wear and abuse. The 618 Sears is next up, starting at about the same money ($300-$600), but able to handle longer workpieces. When you buy a used lathe, you generally get some tooling with it, more than with a new lathe. The late models with the square headstock are interesting. In most areas, $500 will buy you a nice lathe in the 9"-10"-11" range if you are patient. A logan with a quickchange box would be a nice find. You will also run across Atlas 10" lathes in this price range. They are plenty capable, very plentiful, and a clean one well-tooled is worth considering, but they are light, and they have pot-metal in places were most others use steel or iron. Check the local online classifieds daily - the newspaper, Craigslist, American Classifieds, and anything else that might serve your area. Something will turn up.
I don't think the 109 can reverse the feed direction - some don't have any threading capability, but that may be due to broken parts, somebody just took it all off. The Atlas 101.xxxxx models from Craftsman are a step up. But, if you have the room, a 10" Atlas or Craftsman is a much better lathe. Many of the 109 and a fair number of the Atlas 101 series of 6" lathes come on the market due to a bent spindle. It is possible to bend the spindle on a 10" Atlas, but you have to work at it. Any bind-up on the 6" lathes will potentially bend the small spindle. A 10" Atlas may not set you back any more than a 101 or 109 6" machine. They are more desirable because they are so small, but that is not really an advantage. For general turning jobs, I just wouldn't want anything smaller than a 10" lathe. (I now have a 15" Sheldon, about 3500 Lbs. so you see where I sit on the issue of lathe size.)
Sorry about that! I wasn't actually trying to get leads on finding a "local" lathe, but of course I'd be happy if someone here can point me to one. I'm located near Raleigh, NC.
Thanks for all the input so far, and any yet to come! Many of you mentioned CraigsList, classified ads, etc. -- I am indeed perusing all of these, but so far have not seen anything locally. A few months ago I passed up a chance to buy an old 9" Southbend at an auction. It had clearly been, shall we say, well used, but beyond that I didn't yet know enough about what I was looking at to know if it was a good deal. I would feel more confident about evaluating it now that I've actually done a little turning, and figured out what all the levers are for! :)
Someone mentioned the possibility of the asian lathes -- how would you evaluate the relative value of some of these older, small lathes that float around on ebay vs. say a Harbor Freight 9x20? I've read some conflicting views about the HF 9x20, and when I looked at one the compound seemed undersized (though I'm not entirely convinced that they had the right compound mounted on the display unit :). My sense is that I would be happier with old American iron rather than the HF, but I certainly am not ready to eliminate HF from consideration.
As always, you all are a fount of wisdom! Thanks for sharing ...
The 9x20s have some design issues, but they are far from junk. That weak compound design always comes up, but the fix is a 4-bolt replacement. It makes a nice first project on your lathe, or buy one already made for $30 or so. Absence of a leadscrew tumble reverse is another issue, but several online sites address making one. And the bed is lightweight, but still heavier than an Atlas. I would wager that a 9x20 has more torsional rigidity than a 10" Atlas. Having said that, I'd not pay over $500 for a used one, and I'd expect some tooling with it at that, and maybe the factory bench.
And HF isn't the best place to buy an asian lathe, but a new HF is a better deal than a used asian lathe, all else being equal. Get on their email specials list and they will send you a 20% off coupon, then watch the sale flyers for a sale price on the lathe you want. Currently you can buy the 7x10 mini for $359.95 - 20% = $287.96 They run the 9x20 for $599 pretty often, which comes out to $480 (no bench, no tooling) The best minilathe may be the Micro Mark 7x14, with inch-leadscrews and other niceties, but it's $600
As for the American Iron vs Asian, that's an argument that goes on here and other machining forums constantly. My opinion (clearing throat) is that there are great machines from all over the globe. In many cases a newer low-end import is equivalent to an older US machine, due to the wear and care that each has seen. I have a 10" Enco and a 9" Logan, and I'd be hard-pressed to choose between them. But I'll probably add a minilathe to the fold next month. Don't write off import lathes just because they are imports.
Actually the 109 machines (AA Products, or Dunlap) do indeed have tiny reversing tumblers for the geartrain, if they are stock.
Of course many of those machines have been modified over their lifetime and those bits go missing. I also of course agree with the overall consensus that the 109 machines are nice for learning on, and for restoration as curiosities, but I wouldn't want to have to do all my work on one!
Mine isn't as clean as that, but it sure looks like the same model. And (this is really eerie) his cross slide crank seems to be broken exactly the same place mine is! But I still have my broken-off piece and a TIG to do something with it. :
Thanks -- I had seen that, but didn't bite since I'm still hoping to find something locally -- I still don't know enough about what I'm looking at when I look at a lathe on ebay, so I'd really like to be able to look at it in person. You all are helping me to learn a bit more :)
Budget? Depends on whether you ask me or my wife :) Time frame is wide open. If I found a good deal now, I'd go for it, but I'm mostly in the information gathering mode at this point. I want to be sure that I know what I'm looking at when I buy it. Hence the questions and looking to see what's on the market via ebay. :)
Hi Andy. Old American iron is fine, but the small Atlas lathes didn't have much of it. I think some of the small early lathes had 0.5" spindles, #1 mt tail tapers and manual feed both cross and longitudinal. For speed/torque, instead of back gears and a jack shaft they used some sort of epicyclic system that someone else can better explain. Nice toys or items to collect or restore, but don't buy one for use. I have a little AA on the shelf myself.
The newer 6" lathes did have power long. feed, backgears, a clutched countershaft, threading dial and a better carriage and compound rest assembly, but only manual cross feed and as far as I know never had a quick change gear box. nor prismatic ways. Mine does have timken roller bearings. If you are buying a later 6" atlas, be sure it is fully found, the bed wasn't used as an anvil and it doesn't turn taper. Parts and repairs for even a little lathe long out of production can get expensive in time & money.
I agree that a used small Logan, Southbend, Clausing or Sheldon is well worth looking for, making sure a good machinist looks it over, but barring that I'd opt for a _new HF or Grizzly. There are lots of helpful owners doing good work on these machines. Just my shadetreejackleg opinion worth almost what you are paying for it. Enjoy your new obsession.
"Pax Americana is a philosophy. Hardly an empire. Making sure other people play nice and dont kill each other (and us) off in job lots is hardly empire building, particularly when you give them self determination under "play nice" rules.
Think of it as having your older brother knock the shit out of you for torturing the cat." Gunner