Is an "almost free" Harrison L5 Mk1 worth bothering with?

Thanks to everyone who helped steer me in the right direction for damp proofing my garage prior to converting it into a workshop. I'll be
laying the concrete for an additional garden shed over the holidays so I can relocate my ride-on mower and get that part of the project moving.
Here's my next newbie question (remember, I did warn you all).
A local vintage car restorer is retiring. He has what looks like a very early Harrison L5 with tooling that he might part with for peanuts. I think it's an early one because it has the round headstock cover split along the centre line of the bearing and the clutch rod running the length of the machine. The ways look undamaged but the students at Ashford tech from whence it originally came seem to have had an accident with a hacksaw on the edge of the topslide. Or have they crashed it into the work piece with the thing running??
In the experience of the group is this equipment worth bothering with, or am I likely to be taking on a major restoration project rather than acquiring a useful tool? I don't know enough to tell whether I'd be looking a gift horse in the mouth if I passed on it or whether I'd be buying a load of trouble. Is the fact it's only 400yds away overriding good sense?
I'm looking for gut feeling generalisations rather than specifics, of course.
Thanks,
Alan
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On Wed, 24 Dec 2008 09:31:41 +0000, Alan Ibbetson

Hi Alan, I have no direct experience of Harrisons, but they have a very good reputation for being solid and enduring. It sort of depends on how much effort you feel it is to collect it and how little 'peanuts' turns out to be. But if the bed looks decent and there's not a ridiculous amount of backlash in the cross slide I'd say it'd be difficult to go wrong - especially if there's a rake of tooling.
Over the last couple of years I've followed prices of a few likely machines and L5's seem to be middling around 400, as much as 1k for to odd ball that three blokes are all chasing on fleabay and as little as 200 for a shagged scrapper with no chuck. As ever YMMV - there are a lot of cheap machines about with so many places going under.
Richard
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Hello Richard, and thanks for your insights.
Richard Shute wrote:

Very little. The lathe is in an industrial unit down the local farm. My farmer pal has trailer, fork lift, tractors, etc. It's only a few hundred yards from my home.

I'm hoping for a hundred quid, including the tooling. Well, it *is* Christmas :-)

Yeah, it looks like it's more up the gift horse end of the spectrum than down the pig in a poke end.
Best wishes,
Alan
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Given its very close and you can go and look at it first Id go and look :) I have an L5 from about 1950 something, and I quite like it. Mine was a better deal (free :) but I got it with known history. If its been used to make things recently its probably ok, and they were built to last.
Dave
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dave sanderson wrote:

I've already had an initial look. The current owner wasn't particularly seeking to sell his L5, except insofar as he is retiring and getting rid of everything as the opportunity arises. I'd gone down the farm yard looking for help moving a lathe should I buy one mail order and get it dumped on my drive. While talking about fork lifts and suchlike the chap asked what it was I wanted to move and so, only indirectly, the conversation got onto lathes. He pointed to a grubby pile of rubbish in the back corner of his garage unit and said he'd got a lathe just for the one Triumph TR2 restoration job. When I dug through the rubbish I found the L5 underneath. After Xmas he's agreed to help me drag it out from the rubbish pile so we can assess it properly (I guess he's never got around to bolting it down).
However, having a look at it isn't going to be a huge help to this novice :-) I'll go through the checks everyone has suggested and that will at least help confirm it's not a nail. I can't compete with the price you got yours for, but I hope to come close!
Best wishes,
Alan
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Mines not bolted down, in fact I think its moved 4 times around the garage since I got it...
As for looking at it here: http://www.mermac.com/advicenew.html http://www.mermac.com/klunker2.html might help.
Dave
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For a hundred quid bite his hand off.
With tooling, go for the elbow.
--
Nigel

When the only tools you have are an X3 mill, a
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OK, speaking in generalisations, the L5 seems to be commonly offered for sale by dealers for around 900-1200 depending on condition and tooling, so one assumes they sell.
Don't know that particular model, but I have just bought an M300 and have been doing a little refurbishment. Some thoughts...
(1) Cosmetic appearance should not matter (unless you are obsessive about such things, in which case you may be in the wrong hobby). A machine which is likely 30 years old or so, especially one which is a !commercial" size rather than a hobbyist's machine, will have had its paintwork badly affected by hot swarf and cutting fluid. Up to you whether a repaint is worthwhile.
(2) A few dings in the bed, saddle, cross slide or top slide should not put you off. Provided any such which occur on working surfaces are stoned flat, you will most likely not see any effect. General wear is a different matter - if any of the slideways are slack in some places and tight in others, this means there is wear in those parts which get used most (with the bed, this almost always means the part nearest the chuck). You will need a regrind or a lot of skilful hand scraping to put this right. If it is *all* slack (or tight) this means the gib strips need adjusting, you should be able to adjust them to give a smooth sliding motion with no trace of play along the whole travel.
(3) Probably the most important is the condition of the spindle. As a crude test, you should put a stout bar in a chuck on the headstock and give it a good pull fore-and-aft and up-and-down. There should be no detectable play. Likewise there should be no detectable axial play. (If you have a DTI, this will give you a more sensitive test).
(4) The condition of the headstock and tailstock tapers is quite important - they should be clean, free of rust and dings. Usually the headstock taper is fine - they are normally hardened and not used as much - but the tailstock often shows signs of scoring where a taper tool has lost grip and twisted, say in a heavy drilling session. These are often soft-ish and can be cleaned up with a reamer, but these are not cheap.
(5) The leadscrew should be in reasonable condition - again a few dings won't matter too much (you can file or stone them out) but any kings or severe wear would be a different matter.
(6) Most other things you can either put right or live with. Spares seem to be reasonably easily available. If it has a 3-phase motor you will have to decide whether to replace it with a single phase one or buy a phase converter or an inverter. (For me it was no contest - having fitted an inverter and 3-phase motor to my Myford early this year I would not want anything else, the benefits of smoother power and continuous speed control mid-cut are not lightly given up once tried.)
(7) The ultimate question is, if I buy it and spend however much time it takes to sort out any minor (or major) issues, will I end up with a lathe I like and which does the things I want to do. A bargain is only a bargain if you wanted it in the first place.... On that note, the early L5's do look a bit, well, prehistoric.
You should certainly look up the machine on the lathes.co.uk if you haven't already. Perhaps the best advice is to take a friend who has some experience of older lathes to look over it for you. Also, look around some dealers to get a better feel for what alternatives you have, and what prices are like. You will pay a lot more to buy from a dealer, but OTOH if something turns out to be badly wrong you have some redress.
David
--
David Littlewood

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wrote:

I had one for years until a M300 took its place, there were several models so in addition to the other comments I would add 1 Check the top speed as early ones were pretty slow by modern standards 2 has it got a gap bed as the clearance over the ways is limited on some versions 3 Is the gearbox the one with a gate (better) or the one with 3 levers If the bearings in thre head are shot, they are easy to replace ( a mixture of taper rollers ball races and bronze bushes) In principle as long as it is not a nail I would buy it Peter
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Hello Peter,
snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

It's the very earliest of early ones, so I bet it's slow. There again, for hobby use, rather than production, is speed all that important? TBH, I'm more nervous about it being Imperial-only. There doesn't seem to be one of those magic 127 tooth change wheels in the box of goodies. Should I be nervous, or only buy subscriptions to American magazines?

It has a removable gap bed.

It's the old clunker.

No, this one has the archaic plain bearings. I wonder if they can be adjusted for wear?

Good, that's what everyone seems to be saying. I'll spend the Christmas break practising my patter about worn ways, shot bearings, expensive inverters, lack of a 4-jaw chuck, older than I am, etc. Blimey, he ought to pay me to take it off his hands!
A Merry Christmas everyone,
Alan
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On Wed, 24 Dec 2008 16:54:01 +0000, Alan Ibbetson

There is always the option of fitting an ELS http://www.autoartisans.com/ELS /
No change gears needed at all then!
Richard
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Hello David, thanks for your detailed response.
David Littlewood wrote:

I'm hoping to get this one for around 100. Mind you, it is the very earliest model of L5 and so perhaps is less sexy than the square head, all gear, roller bearing, L00 types the dealers tempt us with.

Am I allowed to draw an analogy between women and machine tools? Something about not caring what they look like so long as they don't mind hard work? No, I thought not. But you get the idea?

Er, and the rest. This one is a really early one according to lathes.co.uk, probably made during WW2. So well over sixty years on the clock.

Nah, aestheics are mostly wasted on me. Did I tell you I was brought up in Yorkshire?
OK on all the details on how I should check the ways for wear and the spindle and the tailstock and the leadscrew and the electrics.
BTW does anyone have a reference for what is inside these phase converters you see on eBay and the back of MEW? As a radio amateur with a reasonable grasp of electronics the commercial units seem very dear (I did say I'm from Yorkshire). Are the digital gizmos anything more than direct mains rectifiers plus a bunch of IGBT half bridge switches, to produce ugly three-phase square waves?

As do I.
I dunno how I'll know if I'll like a Mk1 L5. An analogy with mail order brides springs to mind. As for will it do the things I want it to do, well, I suppose the bottom line is that I would like it to more accurate than I am. Being a beginner, is that very hard to achieve?

Or I suppose I could paint it and sell it on eBay?
Cheers,
Alan
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Well at that price you can't go wrong. Your time, a few bits, and a lot of useful learning, and with luck you end up with a good lathe as well.

Bit more tricky enjoying a lathe in the dark though.

Yes, checked it myself after writing and see I was a bit out there.

Me too.

Adjust saddle gibs to give smooth movement along whole range, with no trace of rock (grab it and wiggle as hard as you can) anywhere. If that's OK, the ways are not worn, or are worn evenly, and should be OK. If it's tight at the tailstock end and slack at the headstock, the ways are worn there.

(i) Put a stout bar in chuck grab hold and push pull, see if you can feel any movement; better, put a DTI against it and see if it moves. (ii) Do same axially to check for end float. As someone (who may be more familiar with these lathes than I am) said, you can probably sort out worn bearings.

Check with DTI that spindle is parallel to bed, and doesn't have too much side to side slack.

Not easy without some precision measuring instruments. If it looks OK it's probably OK for what you want.

Does it go? (preferably without much in the way of smoke and sparks).
Sorry, looking back I'm not sure whether you were asking or saying you knew. I've typed it now so I'll leave it in case it's the former.

Basically an inverter unit (a solid brick-like unit made by Mitsubishi or one of the other giant makers) with some switchgear and a speed change pot. They will also have provided a steel cabinet for safety, and programmed it to suit the job in hand. My perception is that you could buy the bits separately and program the PIC, and save 10-30% but could waste a lot of time and run into difficulties. Most people though would not be able to make the inverter unit, which will have a PIC processor to control speeds, ramp up/down and other parameters.

Ironically, a really experienced machinist can probably turn out excellent work on a poor lathe, whereas a novice may be more in need of a precise machine.

Is that plinth in Trafalgar square still available?
David
--
David Littlewood

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Right, it seems the Ayes have it, so long as I can get the L5 at the pensioner's price. I'll go round there equipped with my Yorkshire guile and cunning after the hols to try to strike a deal. In fairness to the vendor he's a nice bloke and is probably as curious as I am to see the results of the various pulling and pushing and wiggling tests that you luminaries have suggested.
It strikes me that seeing as the lathe is a runner I might get the chap to turn a test bar and see if it's the same diameter all along its length. I guess a straightness test would be good too, but I don't have a surface plate. Or, as Nick says, should I not muck about and just stuff money in his hand and wheel it away before he looks at the prices on eBay and changes his mind?
Of course, by not telling me to buy a brand new Chinese machine you do all realise I am going to pester the lives out of you next year as I ham fistedly try to get this thing to work. Well, I did warn you...
Enjoy the turkey and plum pudding,
Alan
Alan Ibbetson wrote:

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On or around Wed, 24 Dec 2008 21:53:27 +0000, Alan Ibbetson

even an old L5 is worth a bit. newer ones are very fine things and fetch good money in good condition.
As for the 127 gear, no doubt it can be found, or modified from another maker's.
Mind, I speak from the exalted position of a metric/imperial gearbox on the Student.
--
Austin Shackles. www.ddol-las.net my opinions are just that
Travel The Galaxy! Meet Fascinating Life Forms...
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Just for reference there's one on fleabay at teh moment.
Item number: 270320657433
Richard
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Richard Shute wrote:

It's the later and more desirable Mk2. Looks like it has a new single phase motor fitted, judging by the 13A plug dangling round the back in one of the photos. The QCTP and pile of tooling looks handy too. I expect it will fetch good money. If only it wasn't in Doncaster and me in Canterbury.
It's been pointed out on the harrisonlathe Yahoo group that the 750 rpm top speed of the L5 might be insufficient for machining small Aluminium parts. I would like to be able to make 0.5 inch diameter control knobs (for volume control potentiometers and suchlike), which comes out at 100 sfm. Metals Handbook cites this as the lower limit for adequate chip formation. Has anyone run into problems with obtaining a decent finish when turning Aluminium at this low speed? This might be a show stopper for me.
Right. Time pre-Turkey drinks. Hope Father Christmas brought you all your heart's desires.
Alan
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On Thu, 25 Dec 2008 11:03:57 +0000, Alan Ibbetson

    If that's your only worry, getting a good finish of small aluminium parts, it's a 'no-brainer' unless you plan to turn out thousands. You can finish aluminium to a high gloss in seconds with abrasives after turning if necessary.
Go for it!
--
Chris Edwards (in deepest Dorset) "There *must* be an easier way!"

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Aluminium will turn OK at 750 rpm, you just need sharp tools and drip some paraffin or WD40 on it to stop it galling
One point to bear in mind is that a standard ML7 of which 1,000's were made for muddle engineers only had a top speed of 640 rpm but that seems to escape the critics tiny little minds.
Now stop posting and go fetch the damn thing....................
John S.
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Alan Ibbetson wrote:

Alan, If you end up running this off an inverter (strongly recommended for the variable speed feature and the smooth running offered by 3 phase) then you will be able to run it faster than the 750 rpm for your aluminium cutting.
Bob
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