As chinese lathes go, the 12x36 you're looking at is considered to be not too bad and has lots of happy users. Likewise, there's been people that have received them with lots of problems to fix. One of the more common problems is chucks that don't fit quite right. This same lathe is sold by lots of different importers, on the high end Jet and Grizzly, on the low end companies like Harbor Freight. Jet and Grizzly will make the machine right if it shows up messed up but of course they also have the highest prices. Jet will go as far as sending out a tech to fix the machine.
If you buy it from one of real low buck companies, service may be an issue if you have problems. I don't know anything about House of Tools in that regard, maybe someone else has some direct experience with them.
There's a pretty active Yahoo group for this lathe (and chinese 13's and
, if you have more questions I'd try out that forum.
A really good toolmaker could build something to match or exceed a chinese12x36 from scratch but would need a really well equipted shop to do it and if you added up the time and materials you would be way ahead of the game buying a brand new Hardinge or Colchester.
"Gingery" type lathes are great projects to learn about machining, but lets not mislead anybody, making a really robust and accurate lathe is a large undertaking that would never pay off compared to just buying one.
I'm no big fan of chinese lathes and you're right, its a crapshoot whats going to be in the box, but I'd never heard of anyone that got one that wasn't able to work out the problems, particularly with this widely sold
Uh oh, since you've worked a lot on "real" lathes, stepping all the way down to the marginal fit and finish of a chinese one could be hard for you to stand. They work, but I'd have to grit my teeth every time I touched one. Sounds like looking around for used but not abused American iron might be the best way to go. I don't know what the market for used machines is like where you are, but even here in pricey Northern California, $2500. or less will get you a nicely tooled domestic machine if you have patience to look around until you find the right deal. I offered $2200. for a well tooled Clausing in good condition, lost it to guy who offered $2300. then ran across a disassembled but great condition Clausing "lathe kit" for $500. So the deals are out there if you have the time to chase them. Private parties and machines shops dumping their manual machines are the places to get the best deals, machinery dealers can be as much as 2x on price.
If your time is useless (which it often is, pissing away hours happily turning metal for typically little ultimate purpose in the shop), it's just another project to undertake. You don't count it as time=money, because you wouldn't be earning any money in this tinker time anyway!
That's yet to be seen... (Hmm, I need some gib keystock, and lumber so I can complete the wood lathe, so I can turn the pulleys to.......)
Let's see... I don't know what foundries charge for say a 5 x 5 x 40" casting weighing 100 or 200 pounds, but I doubt it'd be too much more than $1/pound **crossing fingers**. Knock off the bed, headstock, tailstock, carriage, and everything else that needs to be cast, for under $500. Find someone with a mill (or do the hand work yourself if you're a glutton for punishment) and get the stuff cleaned up, fit it together and you have a lathe. Gee, you've spent $1000 for a lathe on par with (or better than) one that sells more than twice it. Plus you know how to build a lathe!
-- "I've got more trophies than Wayne Gretsky and the Pope combined!" - Homer Simpson Website @
I once made a wood lathe out of old scrap and washing machine parts. And even though it wasn't very pretty, it worked quite well and I could turn some very large chunks of wood.
Someone found out about this and thought that I was going to wind up in a hospital for doing such a thing, and so they gave me a Christmas gift - one of those Chinese cheapo wood lathes. What I found was lots of pot metal where it did'nt belong, and even some of the cast iron parts were so crappy that they simply broke. Threads stripped out with very little force, etc.
I snapped the friggin toolrest off one time, and replaced the whole thing with scrap chrome vanadium steel parts.
I now have a hybrid. Half Chinese, and half homemade. I dont know what will break off next, but it wont be something that I had fixed. I am more comfortable using it now that I have made several modifications, but I genuinely believe that they are hazardous out of the box. ! inch diameter cast iron should not crack under the force of a typical toolrest. Someone is taking shortcuts.
There are many things which must be done to make a quality lathe, and I dont believe that Chinese toolmakers care about any of that. I would rather make my own and understand the level of quality I created, then to throw my money at something which looks good, only to find that it has many many unfixable flaws. Maybe someday if they dont learn how to produce quality goods they be buying lathes from me instead of the other way around. I'll build before I buy that crap.
There are huge differences between wood and metal lathes, first one being the amount of iron used. The next one being the degree of accuracy that goes into their contstruction. A wood lathe made out of bed iron will probably be good enough for small work and light cuts, but the first cut on steel with a lathe made that way would destroy the machine. The number of surfaces that must be held to a high level of precision increases manyfold for a metal lathe. I have made wood lathes too, and can generally knock one out in less than a couple of days. One small metal lathe 2" X 7" capacity took me more than eight weeks, and is far from any good toolroom lathe, or even far from any imported lathe. IT is satisfactory for the purpose I built it, but is a long way from even the Harbor Freight 7" X 10". Don't compare wood and metal lathes, what would be massive overkill for a wood lathe would be useless as a metal lathe. I can carry even the old Craftsman
9" X 30" wood lathe with no strain, it will take more people to carry even a 9" X 20" from Harbor freight, and that's a light machine. The general layout of the machines may be the same, but all similarity ends there. Errors in construction that would not be noticeable in a wood lathe would render a metal lathe useless.
They are two different machines but they come from the same place. And the smart money says that if the wood lathe is junk then so is the metalturner.
I believe that I could probably put together a very high precision lathe for around $5000 which would be measurably superior to anything which has ever been built in all of Asia and would perform all the functions of WW2 era US made equipment.
Go ahead and laugh. Just dont blame me for not warning you in advance, and please wear lots of extra safety equipment.
While I generally agree - Wood lathes are lighter and designed for hand tools while Metal lathes are heavier and setup for tool holders and such. Some wood lathes cost more than a metal lathe - there are very high tech and precision wood lathes. My uncle has one - I could only dream.
I have both wood and metal. I have seen wood lathes that are heavier and larger than my 11x44 Sheldon and many more. Some wood lathes carry tons of wood without a tail stock to help.
On the other hand, the big lathes for Ship cannon (the old way of making them) were large and long. The biggest one I saw was for carving stone. The tool post held a cutter the size of a man. It was a very large lathe.
They had a very large one at the old Allis Chalmers plant (now a Walmart). I dont know what it was built for originally, but I know that it had been used for making very lage turbines with shaft attatched.
The headstock was as large as a small house, and the tailstock was positioned about 50 feet from the headstock. They had some type of bed laid out on the floor, just a coulpe rails.
They had many things at that plant, and once employed thousands of people. The entire city. Now we got Walmart.
If I need a lathe I'll just shit one. I dont need China quality and wont reward the man who stole my job with U$Dollars.
Depends more on how much you pay attention to what you're doing with the materials.
The "smart money" says that finding out for yourself and not taking anyone elses word as gospel is the only way. Using your logic, and having owned an AMT lathe, I guess I can trash Hardinge as being junk too. Owning three lathes of oriental origin, out of my ten lathes, I can state with some confidence that the difference in the work done on these machines depends more on who's standing in front of it than where it came from. I've spent the last two weeks playing with the dreaded Harbor Freight 9 X 20 lathe, and come to the conclusion that if it turns out a piece of scrap, I can blame ME. Which is the same conclusion shared by the other three owners of 9 X 20 lathes, (Grizzly, Jet, KBC) that I know. The other conclusion I come to is that there are a lot of people on this group that don't want to accept the limitations of the machine as being what they have to work within, and try to force the machine beyond. That won't work with a Monarch, either.
In ten years, the only failures of my Grizzly 12 X 36 have resulted from my failure to use the oil can often enough. These machines are similar to the much older American machines in that when they quit dripping oil, it's time to add more. A couple of minutes each day with the oilcan will prevent most problems, but the same can be said for any other maker, US or import.
In my 44 years in the shops, I have run exactly one machine that was unsafe, a Monarch with the indents in the clutch worn out. It liked to drop into gear while you were using the chuck wrench. I haven't seen anything on any asian lathe that would match that.
This is why I always have to laugh at the folks who claim that using detergent oil in machine (non-sealed reservoirs) is instant death because it will 'circulate the dirt.' Sure it will. Right out into the chip pan, along with the rest of the oil that drips out.
The first step to trouble with any machine like that is when the covers get knocked off the oilers. Then they get plugged up with sh%t and the oil can't get where it's supposed to. That's when things really go to hell.
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OK, I'll snicker a bit. $5000 might do it if you're exceptionally talented, have access to a very well equipped machine shop (including heat treat, cylindrical grinding, and gear machinery), a foundry, and don't count your time in the $5000.
Remember that the machines produced in Asia include Okuma, Mori Seiki, and quite a few lesser knowm but very high quality mfrs in Taiwan and Korea. I own a Feeler (Taiwanese) HLV-H copy and there isn't much short of a real HLV-H that I'd trade for.
Yup, and with the china imports, the arguments about which is the "right" oil for which application are even more laughable. THese machines are like the old Atlas and South Bends, almost any oil will do the job, as long as it isn't too thin or heavy. The worst is no oil, and I've seen a lot of machines ruined from the lack of oil.
Both times the Griz had problems, repairing them was almost like repairing one of the older US machines, push out he scored bushings and put new ones in. Very minor for the amount of use the machine has had. Small modification made to make sure that the gears in the QC tumblers get their share of oil now. No further problems.
Some folks dont like the fact that I drive a Toyota. The reason I bought it is because it will do 400,000 miles if you treat it right, and this is an advance in manufacturing. It is simply better than others which were about the same price. I do not have a problem rewarding Japan with a sale - because they are doing the whole world a favor by creating high quality goods at a competitive price.
However. I cannot say the same for China at this time. The day may come when they are making stuff which will kick everybody's ass in terms of quality, and when that day comes their products will be more attractive to me.
But that day has not arrived, yet, and the guy who uses Chinese tools and equip, to me, is like the guy who has a gambling problem, keeps lying to himself that it will be OK and of course it wont. Think you can get somethin' for nothin', and thinking that you'll get it from a country with no real history of quality like in the west.
Wont happen unless they sell below cost. Sooner or later they get wise, quality goes up, price goes back up, and probably higher because of shipping costs, but unfortunately by the time this all happens we will find that a great many US facilities have collapsed. We will be stuck buying their high priced shit, and wont even be able to buy because there are no jobs. It's been happening for several years now. It simply cannot go on forever.
What Clinton did to the economy with his favored nation bullshit had a worse effect on US jobs than 9/11.