I saw the Cincinatti Tray-Lathe yesterday. Here are some pictures:The first picture shows most of the lathe from the front; the second is a closeup of the feedscrew (attempting to show the wear in the keyway, but I don't think I was overly successful); the third is a closer shot of the apron and its controls. By the way, in the first and last picture you can see why it is called a Tray-Lathe -- the top of the headstock is a large tray, and the top of the tailstock is a small tray.
Here's what I found upon inspecting the lathe:
Bed and ways: There is some wear on the ways (a ridge on the backside at the top). It was easy to feel with a finger. I don't have enough experience to judge how much wear this is. There was a very slight film of rust here and there that rubbed off with a finger. Otherwise, everything seemed to be in good shape.
Headstock: everything seems to be in good condition with the exception of the sight glass (see below). No play in the spindle. I was able to inspect the gears to some degree, and they looked in very good shape -- no chips, no excessive wear that I could see. The gear shifting mechanism works smoothly and offers a range from 30 to 1200 rpm. The spindle is the type that has the external taper and key (what do you call this??). I couldn't get a very good look at the inside of the spindle, but it didn't seem to have a taper -- could that be right??
Feedscrew and gears: Unlike other lathes I've seen, this one has the change gears entirely enclosed with its own oil bath, so I couldn't inspect them from below. I could not detect any problems when I turned the spindle and selected different gears, but of course this might not tell me much in any case. The forward/neutral/reverse seemed to be a bit crochety -- at first I thought reverse wasn't working, but then tried shifting it again and it slipped into gear. The keyway on the feedscrew shows appreciable wear over the first 12" or so. I wish I had enough experience with other lathes to know how that might compare ...
Carriage: The carriage crank is loose, as I was told, but it all seems to move smoothly. The compound was not mounted, but as far as I could see everything was in good shape. However, the tool holder seemed loose even when tightened down; I would probably try to replace it anyway. The powerfeed clutch engages easily, and the half-nuts engage with little play. You pull out the knob (under the crossfeed crank in the last picture) to select power crossfeed. However, it took a few tries to get it to engage -- it seemed that it was sliding up to the gear, but had to be just so to go into gear. There is one knob that I don't know what it does -- in the last picture, you can see it low down on the apron, through the carriage crank handle. It has a very small shaft. Some kind of oiler??
Tailstock: Seemed to be in good shape. Everything moved smoothly. It has a #3 MT.
Accessories: Dead center; #3 to #2 MT adapter; Jacobs chuck; steady rest (missing one of the fingers); taper jig; 3 jaw chuck; 4 jaw chuck; faceplate. Includes both single phase 2 hp motor and original 3 phase 2 hp motor. (I could not run either motor -- no power available.)** Sightglasses: There are three sightglasses, one for the gear head, one for the change gears, and one for the apron. Every one of these is dark and distorted. The seller said he used it and just let oil leak around them.
I had a good sense about the seller. He bought the lathe from a community college and used it for a while in a basement garage. A few years ago he built a separate garage and turned the basement garage into an office. He never got the lathe set up in the new garage.
Okay, so here's the question: Would you buy this lathe for around $500, based on the description above? How much should I worry about the crochety forward/neutral/reverse and the similarly crochety knob to engage power crossfeed? How much should I worry about the sightglasses -- can I replace them easily? And of course, the $64,000 question -- how much bead wear can I live with? (I'm thinking again about the Klunkers article on the mermac site!)
Many, many thanks for the input already received and any yet to come!