Is Myford ML7 too much lathe for a beginner?

I've become interested in machine work to make parts for audio and astronomy equipment. My immediate needs would be to turn brass and aluminum things in the

1-4 inch diameter/1-4 inch length range. As I have been research lathes, I am finding myself drawn to Stirling engines and skeleton clocks, so perhaps I'll do more complex things in the future.

I had originally settled on a Sherline, a US made min-lathe. However, there is a local Myford ML7 that I may get for just a little less than a new Sherline. A picture from the ad is below. I have zero machining experience, although I have bored holes in various bits of aluminum using a drill press and tapped them by hand. I do woodwork (largely self-taught) so I'm pretty handy.

Is the ML7 suitable for a rank beginner?

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There are many second-hand lathes around, so no need yet to rush out and buy something local to you.

My advice is to seek out and join your local Society of Model Engineers, wherein you will find all the help and guidance that you need.

Whereabouts in the country are you?

To answer the question that you actually asked, the Myford will almost certainly be the sort of thing that you seek, but are you in a position to judge the VAT (Vear And Tear :-) ) on the sale.

Purchasing a lathe having loose or worn main bearings, or with the ways badly eroded will only result in frustration for you as a beginner.

Find your local SME!

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The lathe looks to be in very good condition, but yu will need to check whether there is any wear of bearings etc.


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Oh yes, I'd say any lathe would be suitable (within reason) because they all work in pretty much exactly the same way!

I started off years ago with a lathe of similar size (a Boxford) to the ML7 but usually ended up being frustrated about once a year trying to do a turning job that was really a bit too big for it to handle. I've recently got a Colchester Student and have never looked back - get the biggest lathe that space and/or money will allow. You can do a small job on a big lathe but not t'other way round :-)


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The picture is obviously fairly low resolution, but it looks as if there is a non-standard oiler on the right hand headstock bearing and no oilers on the left hand bearing or either end of the countershaft. This might be connected with the fact that it appears to have been repainted.

If thinking of buying the lathe I would suggest taking a knowledgeable person along to ask the awkward questions to the seller and check for problems. Be prepared to walk away.

The trouble with lathes (an old Myford is no different from a new Shereline in this) is that you will end up paying the same again, or more on tools and things within a year of buying the lathe.

Back to the original question, an ML7 is an ideal lathe for a beginner. There is a lot of information about them, both printed and electronic. They are small enough to be beginner friendly and large enough to do moderate work on. You either live with them for the rest of your life or start a life long tool buying obsession...

Mark Rand RTFM

Reply to
Mark Rand

The question you actually need to be asking is is a Myford ML7 too 'little' lathe for a beginner. You can do small jobs very accurately on it but you can do any work accurately on any size of lathe if it's in good condition. In fact you can work very accurately even if the lathe itself is completely shagged if you know what you're doing. Modern CNC lathes weigh many tons and work to a tenth so lathe size is no comparator with accuracy. If anything big and sturdy = better accuracy. The first time you try to machine something you can't fit on the lathe is when you wish you'd bought a bigger one. My old 1965 round nose Student is as shagged as a shagged thing but still works to a few tenths if I coax it and can take a full car engine sized flywheel, brake disk, crankshaft or anything else I've ever wanted to fit on it. I couldn't do that with a poxy little Myford. About all I could do with one of those is machine clock parts and I don't repair clocks!

Myfords are hellish expensive for what they are just because they take up little space and can sit on a bench top but if you can fit a Student or similar into your garage you won't regret it.

If you have the space then the biggest lathe you can fit into it is the best option. You can do small jobs on a big lathe but not the reverse. The Student was conceived because it could do 99% of the jobs that 99% of average home shop or semi pro turners wanted to fit onto their lathe.

PS - Get a gap bed one if you can. Much more flexible. Then fit a DRO. You'll not regret that either.

Reply to
Dave Baker

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Also there is no screw cutting gearbox on that lathe ..

You'll be thinking about changing those change gears, if it has any (a stack of gears are needed to cover all threads) ..and then thinking ..this is too much bother ..will leave the job for another time.

i bet for the same money you could get a colchester student with all the bells and whistles.......

.must haves for ease of use ..

screw cutting gear box auto cross feed

desirable big hole down the centre of the spindle.

if its cheap enough though ...thats under =A3300........its worth playing around on for a few months ...then selling at a profit on ebay ......myfords like that always guaranteed to sell on ebay ..

All the best.markj

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I might be wrong, but, the ML7 doesn't look as if it is bolted down to the cabinet/bench/thing. Dave

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--Heh. I've decided, after 27 years with a Myford, that I need a bigger lathe. I started with a little Emco Maier 3" lathe. Trust me: the day will come when you'll want something bigger than a Sherline and it won't take 27 years...

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I'm going to disagree with much of what has been said, but also agree with it in some ways.

A myford is a nice little machine, one man can literally pick it up, and it is about yay big, he says, holding his hands apart.

A "proper" small full size lathe on the other hand is the size of a 3 seat sofa, and then you need working space around it, so the first question you have to ask yourself is do you have the space of a 3 seat sofa in your workshop? If you don't then the myford is for you.

The second point is the "no lathe is too big" mentality, which is wrong.

It doesn't matter what size lathe the home buyer gets, it will be too small for some jobs, that does not matter, all that matters is that it is the right size for 95% of your jobs, which means you farm out 5% instead of 100%.

A year or two ago I decided my (jap) bike brake disks needed skimming, they won't fit in the myford, but I could have done them in the mill, but I farmed them out to a commercial turner and the job was done for

40 quid. It is all very well for dave baker to put ideas in your head about putting brake disks and flywheels in the lathe, he is a motor engineer, nobody starting out in turning should be even considering working on potentially lethal safety components like these anyway.

A lathe that you use 90% of the time is what you want, a lathe that doesn't get used because it is too big is the last thing you want.

This applies to any tool, it is why I have a clarke 160 mig instead of a bloody great 3 phase trolley, I can chuck the clarke in the boot and do the gateposts and the missus place, that's also why I have the 2hp portable compressor... quite often the myford sized stuff is more expensive because it is more useful because of its size.

I simply do not have the room here for a full size lathe AND a full size mill and other toys, and while I could fit in a bridgie or a student say, either one would dominate the space and get in the way of everything else, and the fact is what I have does 99% of the work I need or want to do.

Far more economical and sensible to farm out the rare item that is simply physically too big.

Don't knock the Sherline kit too much, in the benchtop space a myford takes you can put a sherline mill and lathe, and you can do all sorts of light stuff on them very well indeed (sherline is good kit)

Dave Baker is however 100% right about the DRO. and i'd further add that rolling your own CNC conversion is as big a step when it comes to transforming how you work and what you can do.


Reply to
Guy Fawkes

I would pretty much agree with Mark's comments there. For your 4inx4in largest initial workpiece, the Sherline is right at its maximum and is really going to struggle, personally I wouldn't bother with it. The ML10 is an adequate little lathe, but they are relatively very expensive for what you get. They have a considerable 'cult' status and following which I don't understand, but it adds disproportionately to their price. For a first lathe investing in the infrastructure for a

1 ton size lathe is probably a bit excessive - moving and installing it, power supply, space etc. Compared to the ML10, you get a much more useful bang for you buck with say a Boxford which is only a tad larger footprint, and does usually have the power feeds and probably gearbox (depending on model), you can get it in the back of an estate car without too much bother and it runs off a 13A plug (some are 3ph, but are easy to swap). There are plenty of other similar sized bits of period iron ware if that is your interest, have a sift through the archive, it is a perennial discussion. As Mark says, if it's cheap enough and since it's local, have the ML10, get a little experience and see if you like the hobby. If so it probably won't be long before you want something else and it's always easy to move a Myford on. If the asking price is 'going rate' then personally I'd look to spend the money on something else, I'm not in the Myford cult..... Rgds Richard
Reply to
Richard Shute

Thanks for all the great replies.

I am in Canada, where Myfords are relatively rare so if this is a good one I don't want to wait too long on it. About the oilers, the owner says he bought new ones but it's not in the picture. Some of the change gears are missing and he says there are eight. I found some good info here about how to check bearings. I did find a local model engineering society, they actually build some pretty nice scale locomotives

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The bigger is not always better thing is what I am really thinking about. Telescopes are an example of this. My most used telescope is my smallest/lightest (90mm diameter). I think I'll have a look at the Myford anyway.


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The concensus seemed to be that big is best regarding lathes. Why buy a toy lathe when you can get a half decent one for the same cash? I've BTDT, but not again.

Ah well, here in the UK we have a saying: ''you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink''

Regards Julian.

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In article , landie65 writes

Coming a bit late to this, but perhaps my experience will be of some interest to you.

I started out back in the late 70s, with absolutely no experience of metalwork, with a Unimat 3 - roughly the same size as the Sherline, but maybe a little less flexible. To be honest, although I learned a few things using it, I found it so small as to be frustrating for antything other than model railway parts and a few small hand tools.

About 25 years ago I bought a second-hand Myford Super 7. In case you are not familiar with it, that's the same size as the ML7, but with some definite advantages. I found this a revelation, the range and size of the work I could do was hugely increased, as was the pleasure of doing it. The Unimat has had virtually no use since then, except for the odd spell as a drilling machine.

The areas where the S7 outclasses the ML7 are (IIRC): much better headstock bearings, a countershaft clutch so you don't have to switch off the motor every time you want to make an adjustment, a longer cross slide (much more useful for milling), a much more satisfactory top slide (which actually rotates 360 degrees, unlike the ML7 one), a better tailstock and a leadscrew handwheel. Oh, and possibly a more powerful motor. Some of these things, like the long cross-slide and the leadscrew handwheel, can easily be retro-fitted to an ML&, but the other things are harder to fix.

I can't comment on the state of the ML7 you are looking at, beyond what others have said, but I can say that the things I missed most on my S7 were a screwcutting gearbox and power cross-feed (its quite an old one, predates pxf). Using changewheels makes screcutting a real chore, unless you only ever use one thread pitch. I retro-fitted a gearbox - cost more than half what I paid for the lathe, but well worth it. Screwcutting is now such a breeze I regularly cut threads instead of using a die, with much improved results. Can also vary the feed rate at the touch of a lever. Haven't been able to do anything about the pxf yet though. The ML7 you showed us has neither of these goodies.

Although the S7 did almost all I wanted of it for 25 years, 6 months ago I splashed out and bought a Harrison M300 - to add, not replace. I got it mainly because I was doing a few things which were pushing the S7 to its limits (and the moderate spindle bore size of the S7 was often frustrating) and partly so I could have a metric machine with pxf. I now use them about equally, obviously favouring the M300 if I'm working in metric, or have a big facing job to do, or it's just that big, but to be honest 95% of what I do could still be done on the S7, albeit in some cases with a lot more mucking about. The M300 is less useful for milling (no table slots) but I have a milling machine anyway and have hardly used the S7 for milling since getting that. The S7 is perhaps a little easier and more pleasant to use, maybe partly because I'm more used to it. BTW, I have fitted both with 3-phase motors and VFDs, which is a huge benefit.

As others said, you can do small work on a big lathe more easily than big work on small. The M300 takes up 1700 x 700 mm, the S7 takes up 1250 x 600 (absolute minimum both cases, with no splashback). So, for the size of work (6.5" vs 3.5" centre height) the M300 wins out on efficiency of acreage, but note the weights - the S7 can, at a pinch, be lifted by one reasonably strong person, the M300 weighs almost 700kg -

2/3 of a ton. (Mind you, Chris of Home & Workshop can lift the heavy end unaided - wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen him do it).

So, at the end it's up to you. If your interests expand (and they almost certainly will) you would find the Sherline too limiting, though it might be nice as an extra. You will find a machine of the ML7/S7 size will do probably 98% of what you want for a good amny years - and provided you buy a good one, you won't want to part with it. Unless the machine you looked at is really cheap, consider whether to buy a rather better one, and do (as several have suggested) look at some of the alternatives like Boxfords - the Myfords *are* on the expensive side for their size, but they are for a reason, and you should easily get back what you paid for it if you wish to move up. Also, it's perfectly true what someone said - expect to pay at least as much again in tooling and accessories - more if you get the lathe at a bargain price. I know I have at least doubled the cost of my M300 in the last 6 months with the extras.


Reply to
David Littlewood

On or around Fri, 19 Jun 2009 13:02:08 +0100, "Julian" enlightened us thusly:

but the ML7 *is* a toy lathe :-)

Reply to
Austin Shackles

"Austin Shackles" wrote in message news:

Well it's all a question of perspective. My ML7 is positively gigantic compared to my other two lathes

Cliff Coggin.

Reply to
Cliff Coggin

My smallest lathe is smaller than your smallest lathe -


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Yes - if it's in good nick and isn't hiding a load of "Gotcha's" a beginner couldn't sort.

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On or around Sat, 20 Jun 2009 18:56:45 +0100, "Cliff Coggin" enlightened us thusly:

hehe... I'd've preferred a Master to a Student, but at the level of the market I work, you have to take what comes.

Reply to
Austin Shackles

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