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Advice for a lathe for a makerspace

john.obrien

Plastic
Joined
Feb 23, 2021
Location
Waltham, MA
Greetings!

I own and operate a small makerspace in Waltham, MA. We currently have a Harbor Freight 7 x 16 mini-lathe.

I am hoping to apply for a grant to get a new lathe and could use some advice. For the grant, I need to list the specific machine we would purchase if we got the grant.

There are a dizzying array of lathe options available, and I am hoping folks can help me narrow the choices down to a single brand or machine. Any recommendations on what lathe would be best to purchase with the grant would be appreciated.

What is Your Knowledge & Experience with Lathes?

I took a class on basic manual machining many years ago, and have used the mini lathe off and on since. The new lathe would be used to teach new maker space members basic machining and also for folks who are experienced with machining to make parts for their projects, so the intended user would range from no experience to moderate experience.

Machine & Tooling Budget?

Budget is about $17k for the machine and tooling. I think some of the tooling from the mini lathe and the milling machines we already have in the makerspace can be re-used.

Lathe Functions?

Thread cutting without having to physical remove and replace gears would be great, ideally in inch and metric, with a DRO.

Type/Size of Intended Workpieces?

Some members have expressed an interest in gunsmithing, others have expressed in interest in small work pieces. I was aiming for the 14 x 40 size.

Materials of Intended Workpieces?

Intended workpieces would range all the way from plastic to steel.

Physical Size of Lathe?

There is space for a 1440 lathe (6 feet by 3 feet of floor space)

What Electrical Power is Available?

A 220V single phase 15 AMP outlet is already in place along with ample 120v power. 3 Phase power is available to the building but would require additional funding to put in as would higher amperage 220V single phase power. The space has a loading dock and it is a straight shot from the loading dock to the maker space. The lathe would have to fit through two double doors.

Market Conditions in Your Area?

Right now I'm focusing on buying new. If I don't get the grant I'll focus on buying used in the area. Occasionally good opportunities arise (I bought a Bridgeport clone for $900 two months ago that I am happy with) but they are few and far between.

Rebuild Project vs Turn-Key Machine?

Right now I am focusing on buying new. The grant cycle is such that I apply now, would find out if I got the grant or not in the fall, and then would purchase the machine in Q1 2025. So, the used market is tricky, as it is harder to know whether a used machine will be available in Q1 of 2025.
 
Honestly I would be scared of what someone could do to hurt themselves with a larger lather in a maker space environment.

Lathes are **EXTREMELY** dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. You can hurt yourself way more with with a small lathe than a small mill.

Sorry I can' help with a lathe decision but If it were me I would really look at the LIABILITY and RISK involved with this. It takes 2 seconds for someone to turn an lathe on and get sucked in....
 
Whatever lathe you decide on make sure it is easy to clean and preferably has centralised lubrication as this is where most lathes are neglected.
 
Honestly I would be scared of what someone could do to hurt themselves with a larger lather in a maker space environment.

Lathes are **EXTREMELY** dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. You can hurt yourself way more with with a small lathe than a small mill.

Sorry I can' help with a lathe decision but If it were me I would really look at the LIABILITY and RISK involved with this. It takes 2 seconds for someone to turn an lathe on and get sucked in....
Having a lathe in a makerspace is insane IMO. An accident is a matter of when not if in such an environment. Forget the liability, I wouldn't want that kind of thing on my conscience.
 
I could not imagine any insurer covering beginners using a lathe in a walk in centre .........In fact ,the WHS here are actively opposed to any machine that doesnt run behind an enclosure.
 
Ignoring the liability issues, a 13x40 or 14x40 lathe with a thread-cutting gearbox would be be an excellent choice. You can get a new Precision Matthews import with tooling in your budget, but you may have to wait 3-6 months. I know a local highschool that put a PM-1340GT into their robotics/industrial arts lab, and while there have been a couple of close calls (chuck key in the chuck, etc) and minor crashes, the students have managed to use it without injuring themselves or damaging more than the paint job on the lathe. (Besides leaving the key in the chuck, another young person bad habit to break around lathes: answering the cell phone while the lathe is on power feed or threading.)
The tabletop 7x12 and slightly larger lathes from Jet, Harbor Freight, etc., are just trash in comparison to even a decent import in the 13x40 category. I generally don't bad mouth machinery, but the same highschool started with a Jet BDB-919 and it's just garbage. They managed to make a few parts on it, but it's just dire to use.
 
Thanks for all the suggestions.

Regarding the safety issue, I know that the idea of non-experts training people who have no experience on how to use machinery and then allowing them to use dangerous machinery makes a lot of people uncomfortable. While there are certainly some people who I wouldn't allow to use the machines in the makerspace, I have found by and large most people after they have received training are mature enough to use machinery safely. We have been operating for two years, and haven't had any accidents so far (knock on wood).

I should make clear that everyone using the space must be 18 plus, and must be trained and pass a safety test before the use the machines. I don't want on my conscience someone getting hurt due to ignorance or carelessness.

Regarding insurance, yes, I have insurance, and insurers do cover makerspaces, though it is probably the most expensive operating cost I have after rent.

A lot of folks have pointed towards the Precision Mathews PM-1440E-LB. Grizzly G0824 seems like another good option, as it is $500 cheaper and comes with a spider. That said the G0824 is 2.5 HP instead of 3 HP and neither has centralized lubrication.

Has anyone had any direct experience with either of these machines?

Regards,
John
 
Maker spaces are awesome. They are a direct path to entrepeneurship, careers, and community. They also connect "idea people" with other idea people - doers and mentors.

As for risks, and the naysayers, I am surprised. Typically members must be trained and certified on each type of machine they use. Lathe, table saw (a very common and very dangerous machine), welder, cnc embroidery, mill, drill press, cnc mill, plasma cutter, solder reflow station, etc. The capabilities of some Maker spacers are awesome.

There are a lot of very good lathes out there, sitting idle. The owners might be willing to donate or loan them long term. You are located close to a lot of industrial activity and used lathes for sale. I see machines at auction near you and they look very promising. You should have no trouble finding a good machine in Q1 2025. You already found a $900 Bridgeport, so you have some experience there. Maybe add a good used pallet jack to your grant, for moving machines and material (Crown are widely considered the best).

I pale at the thought of blowing $17K on a precision matthews machine. I do not recommend it.

One concern I do have is parts. If someone should crash the machine, getting parts. So I think a somewhat common machine would be best, where parts machines are more common. If you are a non-profit, it is also more likely you can get help from others.

I don't know how large your space is, if it is owned or leased. Do you have space and plans for machines in the future that may require 3 phase power? You may want to request money for 3 phase power, or more single phase 220. A 3 phase lathe should not be an issue. VFDs that run on single phase have become common and cheap. At least with a VFD, you can relocate that investment.
 
A lot of folks have pointed towards the Precision Mathews PM-1440E-LB. Grizzly G0824 seems like another good option, as it is $500 cheaper and comes with a spider. That said the G0824 is 2.5 HP instead of 3 HP and neither has centralized lubrication.
I don't own a PM lathe, but I'm considering one for a future purchase so I've been following them pretty closely for a few years now. I've owned 9 lathes to date and have two in the shop right now...both 14" swing, so roughly similar to the lathes you're looking at.

There are a couple of things that make PM attractive, but the big thing is they seem to do a fantastic job of support after the sale. I don't see that happening to the same level with Grizzly. If I've got a problem, or break something, I like being able to pick up the phone and get a knowledgable person, here in the U.S. on the phone quickly.

Looking at the specs, the PM shows it's 250lbs heavier...not sure if that's just a shipping thing or actual difference in the machines, but heavier is a good thing generally when it comes to lathes.
 
Our 1990s-vintage lathe at work is continually under threat by site safety requirements. It has an estop contactor, which was a critical requirement, but does not have a factory-installed chuck guard. It also has a spring-loaded chuck key, which is the bane of my existence but does solve that issue for a novice user. One nice aspect of buying a new lathe is that modern safety features will be available.

We have had to cull some truly excellent old equipment over the years because it could not easily be made to comply with minor switch or guard requirements.
 
I pale at the thought of blowing $17K on a precision matthews machine. I do not recommend it.
He didn't say he's looking at a $17K PM lathe and the one he just referenced is $7,500.

Why wouldn't you recommend it? Any experience to back that up? The folks who've purchased the more expensive PM machines seem really happy with them. The people who comment negatively don't seem to have ever touched one going off the what you see here.

He already said he's not looking for a rebuild/restoration project, so that narrows it to new machines. For a maker space that makes a lot of sense.
 
Waltham has a long history of making clocks, watches and fine tools and machines. I guess a Stark #4 would be a problem with open flat belts? Of course, no threading or power feed as well. Running a slightly loose flat belt is a nice safety feature.
 
I'm with others on the liability thing, but ignoring it, consider an older LeBlond Regal. Lighter than a Monarch, still capable of good work. Fairly durable, no hydraulics, You might consider power via an VFD so you can set motor current trip points and forget about loose belts and such.
It should be possible to set up guarding so it must be in place before machine will start. Use a keyswitch so it can't be operated unsupervised.
 
Sounds like you have the lathe ideas pretty well set. Where in Waltham is the makerspace? I used to work off totten pond road (40-odd years ago) and my nephew is working for boston dynamics - I'd like to point him in that direction.
 
Regarding the chuck key being left in the chuck which is the most common issue you can wire a relay that prevents the machine being turned on if the key is not in the holder. Spring on the key is the easiest but people remove the spring.
 
Regarding the chuck key being left in the chuck which is the most common issue you can wire a relay that prevents the machine being turned on if the key is not in the holder. Spring on the key is the easiest but people remove the spring.

You're not kidding. I recently bought 2 new chucks, both came with spring-loaded chuck keys.

First thing I did was remove the springs and bin them.

PDW
 
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