I believe that most of the firearms I own are “used”. The R92 had no problems throwing a lead pellet at good speed into a trash panda and dispatching it. One boom, one dead raccoon.

I have a coffee grinder that was made in the early 1900s. It does a better job of grinding coffee than any but the most expensive modern grinders. I have taken it a part to clean and refurbish it. I’ve had to make a custom feed hopper, but the grinder itself, is just fine.

If you want to do machining, you need a lathe and will want a mill.

“Mini” lathes and “mini” mills run about $700, each. Looking at the mini lathe offering, they include an 0.8″ through hole, chuck, tools, and just about everything you need to cut metal except metal and oil.

What they lack is rigidity. They don’t have enough mass.

When dad got his mini-mill for Christmas, he had no cutter, not collets, nothing. The next time I saw him, about a two years later, his mill ways were badly worn. He didn’t know he had to oil the ways. Metal on metal is not good for a mill or lathe.

Looking at Craig’s list, I find metal lathes from $500 to $1,500. There is a Southbend 9″ in great condition for $1,500 in Rockland, Co. NY. With what is included, I’d be happy with it as a second lathe. It is in nicer condition than mine.

The other day, Hagar gave me a link to a free lathe. If I had room, I would have gotten it.

But, let’s take a modern “new” lathe as a starting point. You are going to pay $650, and it comes with a “4 tool post”.

These are neat, you can mount 4 tools in them, then rotate them to present the tool you want. The issue is that your tool will not be on center. Being on center is a requirement. You will have to have the right shims to get it right.

If you get an Aloris BXA tool post with 5 toolholders, you are investing $850. If you buy a good Chinese version, $300.

If the used lathe you purchase comes with an Aloris tool post, you have just gotten an $300+ boost, just for the tool post.

What I’m saying, is that the used machine is more likely to have good “extras”. My mill came with a 6″ Kurt vise. That was $725 I didn’t have to spend.

Next, you have robustness. I am scared to open up the Bridgeport or Southbend. There is no need to be fearful. My fear is that I will have to replace something expensive. And yes, that does happen.

A Bridgeport J head rebuild kit. The top half rebuild kit is $270, the spindle bearings are another $400.

Old machines have wear. You have to know how to deal with it. The backlash on my lathe was nearly 0.125 inches. This was a complete rotation of the dial. This made certain types of work more difficult.

I made the replacement cross feed screw and purchased a replacement nut. Now my backlash is around 0.15.

If I had to do it again, I would buy used. I would invest in a better lathe. A gear head that was more rigid, that had a faster spindle, and which did not have a threaded spindle nose.

Buying a used Bridgeport is risky. Unless you know what you are looking at, you will not know how bad the ways are.

Still, I will continue to buy used equipment.

I have one story that confirms this.

The automatic down feed on the Bridgeport was stuck with only one speed. After overcoming my fears, I took the handle off, and went to take the screws out.

I was ready for the screws to fight me, just like every car screw has. I knew it was going to be a pain in the rump. Those screws were tight, but not stuck. Enough torque and the cracked and came out.

I took the control apart, cleaned it. Put it back together the way it looked like it should go together. Put the control back in place. All three down feed speeds are now available.

Not a single issue.

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By awa

8 thoughts on “New or Used?”
  1. I’ve found that, in general, buying used high quality gear is a better bet than new. For instance, you can buy a low mileage, 5+ year old Lexus that looks and feels new far under the price of a new Kia. This is especially true in the guy world of guns, motorcycles, guitars, amps, etc. There’s always a poor slob that needs cash, or the missus told him to make it go away.

  2. That large free lathe didn’t happen to be in Manchester with a non working feed did it? 🙂
    I didn’t acquire it, but my friends and I were certainly discussing who if any of us should get it.

    1. If you or your friends pick it up and need some parts made for it, let me know. I would love to help you restore an old lathe like that.
      From the description, I am assuming they lost a gear or three. Spur gears I can do now.

  3. I have a big lathe which certainly is nicely rigid, as well it should be at about a ton total weight. And I’ve taken it apart pretty far. It’s a simple enough machine: change gears and sleeve (babbitt) bearings. The bed seems to be a bit worn but not enough to give me trouble, though I haven’t done the sensitive tests to learn how far off it is. Similarly, the lead screws have visible backlash, so I religiously follow my father’s teaching by always approaching the setting from the same direction. I don’t think I have done any work good to one mil yet, but what I have done so far has been adequate for my goals.
    A friend gave me a Sears (Craftsman, which I believe is a rebadged small Atlas). It needs a halfway decent bench to sit on and checkout, but as far as I know it works. Should be a nicer option for small work; doing half inch workpieces in an 18 inch lathe works but it’s a bit unwieldy and the RPMs aren’t a good fit (see “speeds and feeds”). Yes, you can machine at way below the recommended rate, and that generally works, but it just takes a lot longer than it needs to.

    1. A friend of mine bought a modern bench top lathe. He made it rigid by mounting it to an I-Beam. It was a big I-Beam but only about 5 ft long. He made the legs for the I-Beam table. That might be a good choice for you.
      I assume you have a machinist level and have leveled your lathe?

      1. I leveled it with a carpenter level. I do have the bubble from an antique instrument, perhaps a theodolite, which may be more sensitive and could serve as a machinist level replacement, I haven’t tried that.

        The I-beam trick is a nice one. It reminds me of a large interferometer my father built, which used a large I-beam for the bed.

  4. I think you mean 0.015…not much of an improvement going from 0.125 to 0.15…
    Unless you’re trying to Build Back Better(?)

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