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Thread: Slant bed lathes
05-09-2004, 08:43 AM #1
I run a small workshop involved in motorcycle engine & chassis tuning here in England. I have a couple of Boxford lathes (ME10 & VSL500) & a Bridgeport mill plus several boring bars etc. Any job too big for my machines was usually entrusted to local general engineering shops. Unfortunately these type of shops are rapidly dissapearing as ridiculous UK overheads / taxes / property values continue to kill off small businesses.
The largest diameter turning job I need to cater for is a 17" wheel, usually to modify the hub faces. Whilst I would dearly love to own a suitable Dean Smith & Grace lathe my workshop is just too small for such a huge machine at present. I recently heppened across a Wilson 6.5 slant bed lathe (exported to the USA as Ensign or Elliott) which has the capacity to mount a 17-1/2" face plate, the machine is very compact at 67" x 36" and although not of DSG quality looks perfect for the relatively light work I need to do. I would be gratefull for any opinion upon the merits or otherwise of slant beds (I notice that most modern CNC lathes are slant beds) & any personal experience of this particular machine.
As production of these machines ceased (along with every other British machine tool) during the 70's I may have to consider reconditioning one & wonder if slant beds can be reground readily ?
The Boxford ME10 is likely to soon be replaced by a Smart & Brown 1024 11 x 20 toolroom lathe or possibly a CVA Mk1A series 3, but thats another story.
05-09-2004, 05:37 PM #2
I`ve got a Willson slant bed.They were mainly training lathes for schools and colleges.I bought mine to stick in one of the shops for odd maintenance jobs.I think it is a piece of crap and the £300 I paid was probably the most it was worth.A better machine for you to give you a big swing would be an Elliott 460 or 550.They were also badged as Butler I think.The number stands for swing over the bed in mm`s.If I remember correctly the 460 swings about 32" in the gap.
Available 48" centres.
For a small 6" centre height machine the CVA is very hard to beat,extremely accurate and pleasant to use.
05-10-2004, 02:58 AM #3
Having been in the Machine Tool Industry all my life (40 years) I can confirm comments on the Wilson lathe.....it could be reground but you you be throwing good money after bad.
I would also avoid the Butler/Elliot lathe. I live in Halifax where they were built and they were not a good design..and spares are expensive. Why not opt for something like a Colchester or Harrison with a gap bed...it should have a small footprint?
05-10-2004, 03:31 AM #4
You guys over there in the UK sound like it is in California...taxes, etc.
05-10-2004, 05:25 AM #5
My two cents,
I agree with the post to buy a good larger "gap bed lathe" this would give you the ability to modify wheels and it would also replace the existing lathe that you have indicated is on the agenda already to be replaced. I hate to say it but I would look at the higher quality "asian imports" some of the newer "tighter tolerence" machines will hold good tolerances and they don't cost an arm and a leg here in the USA for a brand new lathe in that size your looking at $8,000 to $10,000 delivered (no need to start all the rants about "import products" I'm very aware of the relative merits)
05-10-2004, 11:04 AM #6
'You guys over there in the UK sound like it is in California...taxes, etc.'
Very much so. There are a lot of my generation (I am 42) emigrating as they feel this country has less and less to offer, particularly for their kids.
Regarding the lathe, I am not sure if a smaller gap bed would give you the room to turn a 17inch diam hub because of its width. I have a Harrison 11inch which will turn 18.75 in the gap. The width of the gap is not that great, however. (not sure how great as I am not near it at the moment!)
05-10-2004, 04:48 PM #7
Hey Baldrick,you`r surely not advocating a Colchester or Harrison as better than an Elliot?
Spares are expensive but they are not cheap for a Colchester either and you`ll not need as many of them.Colchester have only ever built two machines approaching decent,the Chipmaster and the Magnum and the Chippie`s got the variator as its` achilles and the Magnum needs another four ton added to it to release its` potential.
How many lathes can you think of that were not made in Halifax or Keighley?
05-10-2004, 05:51 PM #8
I just LOVE to hear Englishmen complain about their lathes!.
Simply book passage on the next Cunarder leaving Southampton.
New Jersey is in sight of the Docks in New York.
You are sure to be overjoyed by the fine specimens of Iron that are awaiting you here in The Colonies.
It's the least we can offer. Since England lost Henry Maudslay, I realize that making lathes has been a bit difficult.
We Yanks have suffered the likes of Colchester and Harrison, ourselves.
05-10-2004, 07:03 PM #9
Thanks to all for your valued comments, I suppose most of you recognised that I am trying to get a quart from a pint pot as it were, however the limitations on available space are likely to remain for a couple of years at least, so my search for a small footprint solution is a stopgap one & not intended as long term nor the ideal.
At present I use my 10" rotary table on the Bridgeport to machine wheel hubs, & using the DRO it works fine especially when bolt circles have to be drilled, but the set up time in centering the table etc is a nuisance especially when the mill is more often set up for piston machining with a tilting dividing head. Another consideration being that rarely do I get two machining jobs the same, almost everything is different & one off.
I am particularly gratefull for Mark's practical experience of the Wilson lathe (and confirmation of the desireability of the CVA....I just wish I had not missed the ex university one for 2 grand recently) Also for Baldrik's experienced opinion.
I appreciate Captainkirk's suggestion but an Asian lathe able to turn 17-1/2" would be physically as large as a Colchester and $10,000 (prices for quality used manual machinery in England seems to be half or two thirds of equivalents in USA) would buy me a very tidy used Colchester Mastiff which I would much prefer, but at that size of machine my money would be going towards a nice used DSG 17 x 40.
Steve is quite correct regarding gap beds, most of the wheel hubs I need to turn are 7" to 8" deep and this seems to exceed the length of gap on most of the smaller machines I have looked at, also I have to mount the wheel to the lathe spindle somehow, taking up additional length.
The majority of my turning is relatively small diameter light duty which the Boxfords handle better than many would believe, a CVA or Smart & Brown will just make these jobs quicker & easier. The main requirement for the larger lathe is to accomodate the wheel modifications, taking very light cuts & probably less than one job per month, beyond which I might want to use it to part off & rough turn some 3" 303 stainless or H30 alluminium bar occasionally for finish machining on the smaller lathes.
I was perhaps hoping that someone would suggest another lathe of dimensions similar to the Wilson but of superior quality, but as this ideal machine seems not to exist I wonder if a "good" example of the Wilson (which if I can find one in good condition should cost under a grand) would satisfy my requirements until such time as I can accomodate a 17 x 40 DSG (at which time the Wilson could be scrapped).
Again, many thanks to all
05-10-2004, 08:14 PM #10
On the other issues raised in this topic, I feel I should reply.
Mike W, I can assure you that California is cheap compared with England, my wife is American (moved here from Hawaii 4 years ago) & we have relatives in California, I see house prices there to be very similar, wages somewhat higher there & literally every basic necessity (clothes, fuel, food etc) about half UK prices.
I agree entirely with Steve Riley, I am 49 & with my youngest about to leave school & start work shortly America looks a more & more inviting place in which to invest the remains of my working life.
Jim K, during the nineties I imported lots of American goods from Cleveland & Chicago, visted there many times, I still have good working relationships with a few American tuning firms. I have several times, while visiting on business, admired various Monarch lathes but they just sell for too much money in your domestic market. I live about a mile from the Pilgrim steps here in Plymouth, maybe I should check out the shipping charges for a DSG next time the Mayflower sails to the colonies. Perhaps the Colchesters & Harrisons were revenge for sending Macdonalds here.
Mark, I believe the CVA was made in Surrey, as I originate from the South side of Manchester I'm sure you know of the many machine tools manufactured in Broadheath & Trafford Park in the past, when I eventually aquire a DSG I will just have to paint the white rose red.
Enjoying the lighter points in the discussion
05-11-2004, 04:50 AM #11
Good lighthearted discussion,makes this group the best on the net.
To JmK I would say yes,you do make some good stuff out there.I have my CVA made by Kearney Trecker in Hove,Sussex;New Britan multis came over in the lend lease,still going strong;BSA Acme Gridleys built under licence;W&S cnc`s built in Halifax and Japan;Cinci guillotine;
Caterpillar forklift;the list goes on and on,all built or designed by American companies.
Prices at auction,multis $1500,CVA $3-500,even the Cinci guillotines can be bought for $3000
nowadays,three years ago they would have cost $18000.DSG 17 x 40,chucks steadies and t/turning can be picked up for $1000-$4000.
Of course in return for giving you guys Colchesters and Harrisons you gave us the Bridgeport mill,although mebbe I should get one,having to wind the knee up and down manually instead of power traverse(or even power feed)would be benificial for the old gut muscles.
So,a lot of good stuff from both countries but some crap as well.
05-11-2004, 07:04 AM #12
If you can get a well made used lathe in the UK as cheap as you say then I agree with that route.
As for the McDonalds we exported, that was actually in retalliation for everything that was ever done wrong to us over the last 200+ years, but let me be the first to appologise as we definitely went overboard here. We only use them here as a source for staying alive till real food can be found, then we seek medical attention for a stomach pump.
On another note, you wouldn't happen to have a rear fender for a 1951 BSA Golden Flash laying about that you would be willing to part with?
05-11-2004, 09:09 AM #13
Previous post was in fun, this one is serious.
I don't know if the South Bend 16-24 lathe is available in The British Isles as a used machine.
A short bed version of that lathe would be good enough for light cuts on motorcycle wheels and of course, it otherwise handles like a normal 16" South Bend. The lathe is niether too large nor too heavy for it's capacity
During the almost 100 years that South Bend has made lathes, their design hasn't changed significantly. I assume that the need for a truly basic and simple lathe is still there.
The South Bend is down and dirty and cheap. Despite that, it is a surprisingly good overall workshop lathe.
Maybe the 16-24" machine will be an economical solution to your problem.
05-11-2004, 10:57 AM #14
Captainkirk, may well be able to help with the Flash mudguard, will send e-mail direct.
JimK, thanks for the suggestion, will look into the Southbend, I believe they were marketed here under various different names. It seems that the original Boxford was a copy of an early Southbend.
05-11-2004, 06:23 PM #15
I too would like a CVA but frankly there's not enough space....
However I do know of one for sale with an asking price of £850 - details at
Usual disclaimers etc
[This message has been edited by Charles Ping (edited 05-11-2004).]
05-12-2004, 02:22 AM #16
I can maybe keep my eye out for a Gold Flash mudguard..........fender ugh.....I,m a Vincent man myself.......posh end of the market...
05-13-2004, 10:13 AM #17
I am trying to find a CVA with the taper turning attachment & as late a machine as possible, but all leads are much appreciated.
05-13-2004, 01:58 PM #18
We used to have a Vincent over here in the colonies, but I believe Hunter Thompson crashed it. But feel free to send over another one or two any time.