I need some advice about an older lathe
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  1. #1
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    Default I need some advice about an older lathe

    A neighbor recently died and left a widow and machine shop. Most of the machinery has been sold off, but she still has a lathe that is sitting there...and she needs it gone because she needs to sell the property. Im considering offering say 500 bucks for it which would help her get it out of there...but am i just buying something impractical that i wouldnt use? That's where i need your advice.

    I am retired and do lots of welding and sheet metal fab in my work restoring old cars etc. But have NO experience with a metal lathe. Id love to have one and begin to learn, but cant afford a newer machine. Would this 500 lathe afford me that beginning?

    It is a Foster #3 made by Foster Machine co in Elkhart, Indiana.

    The only thing the widow knows is that is a low-speed high-precision unit and that it was her husband's pride and joy and worth a lot.

    I found a little bit of information about it online and its about 6' long and 600 lbs. There's a motor and some gearing on the tailstock end as well.

    I know you folks get lots of these types of questions...i appreciate you taking the time to give me advice that will help me make a decision about this.I

    Id attach some pictures but i dont see how to do that here?

    Martin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Martinf View Post
    A neighbor recently died and left a widow and machine shop. Most of the machinery has been sold off, but she still has a lathe that is sitting there...and she needs it gone because she needs to sell the property. Im considering offering say 500 bucks for it which would help her get it out of there...but am i just buying something impractical that i wouldnt use? That's where i need your advice.

    I am retired and do lots of welding and sheet metal fab in my work restoring old cars etc. But have NO experience with a metal lathe. Id love to have one and begin to learn, but cant afford a newer machine. Would this 500 lathe afford me that beginning?

    It is a Foster #3 made by Foster Machine co in Elkhart, Indiana.

    The only thing the widow knows is that is a low-speed high-precision unit and that it was her husband's pride and joy and worth a lot.

    I found a little bit of information about it online and its about 6' long and 600 lbs. There's a motor and some gearing on the tailstock end as well.

    I know you folks get lots of these types of questions...i appreciate you taking the time to give me advice that will help me make a decision about this.I

    Id attach some pictures but i dont see how to do that here?

    Martin
    Hello Martin, to post pics you can use the button 3rd from the right, itll read (insert image) when you hover the cursor over it. If you still have problems then you can email them to me and ill put them up for you.

    Cheers
    D

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    It seems to be what is called a "screw machine";

    Foster Machine Co. - Publication Reprints - Foster #3 Screw Machine | VintageMachinery.org

    If that is so, it is designed for fast production of hundreds or thousands of identical small parts such as screws and is of no value as a general-purpose lathe.

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    Handy old generic lathe how-to

    http://vintagemachinery.org/pubs/1617/5795.pdf

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    AFAIK that is a production lathe or "manual screw machine" and would be of little use as a manual lathe. They are designed to be set up for production parts and then crank them out in quantity.

    IMO it would be a waste of $500 and the space it occupies in your shop. Even a POS Chinese lathe would be of more use to you.

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    You should be able to find an older piece of American iron for $500 that would work well for you. I was in a similar place (car restoration but no lathe) a few years ago and acquired an old Hendey lathe. I couldn't be happier with it and really can't imagine life in the shop without it.

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    I disagree with the opinions of uselessness............its what most would term a "capstan lathe",and quite usable by a hobby machinist.....provided it comes with a selection of turret tooling,I would buy it .Quite a handy machine IMHO.....not necessarily worth a lot tho.

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    Concur that these lathes are frequently useful if reasonably well tooled. For work that fits in the collets I sometimes use my Wade 7 for qty > 2, for sure if its a half dozen or more. Setup can be fussy but once in a reasonable state you can crank out parts quickly, save an amazing amount of time and produce very consistent work.

    OTOH the Wade is a "modern" turret lathe- has a handy high/low speed rate and very quick motor reversing and braking, both of which contribute to nuanced tooling setups. The example machine being a flat belt driven unit will likely not have as many options for spindle control.

    Sure would be nice to have pics of the machine for posterity though- can't be very many examples out there.

    Greg

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    Thanks everybody for the input. I also saw, when I did some google searching, that it is listed as a screw machine for production parts. This guy did reproduction work for Boeing bomber restoration and did lots of work using his lathe...so I think he must have repurposed the lathe.

    Now that I am using my computer rather than a tablet, I see where I can post pictures! So here are a few for you all to look at...perhaps that'll give you more insight as to my question of whether or not this lathe could be useful to me as a novice.
    thank you for your time,
    ~martin
    20191102_155814.jpg20191102_155827.jpg20191102_155852.jpg20191102_155939.jpg

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    Id go after the Cisco lathe in Benton thats on CL. That foster is to specialized as many have said. No quick change gear box for threading for starters. Nice looking machine in great shape for sure but no.

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    Martin,

    That was a production machine that was re-purposed by a very knowledgeable person to do custom machinery work. It is in very nice shape but it is very limited as far as basic lathe operations.

    Please help the widow to sell it but I recommend you look for a standard lathe.

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    As has you noted the machine has been re purposed for a special job .
    If it was for a vintage Boeing aircraft there maybe someone in one of the aviation groups that would eventually need the parts that this machine was set up to make.
    It might be worth reaching out to people in that community to see if you or someone in that community could buy the machine and figure out how to make the parts rather than having to re-tool again from scratch .
    Some pictures of the motorized attachment on the cross slide and on the turret might give some more clues about the parts it was set up to make .
    Maybe there are some remaining parts , scraps or drawings still in or around the shop that would give some more clues.
    If you could find out what plane it was for and what group or individual were working on the plane it might be helpful also .
    If you are on Facebook you could perhaps post something on this site and see if anyone there has some suggestions .
    Plane savers Public Group | Facebook
    There are many other groups in that field but this is one that I am familiar with even though I’m not on Facebook myself.
    Regards,
    Jim

    P.S. There are some Boeing bombers here in Seattle Wa.
    Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress | The Museum of Flight
    Aircraft & Artifacts | The Museum of Flight

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    Certainly looks like a well cared for machine, doubt its what most of us were envisioning, hope someone steps up to save it.

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    This thing does not even have a motor or countershaft attached. He was spiral milling some kind of coarse helix- look at the steel cable which wraps the small end of cone pulley, runs down the front of the bed, and turns back to the carriage. That does not explain the motorized turret, however. Would be neat if you could look around and see if a scrap part is in a bin somewhere...

    allan

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    Quote Originally Posted by kitno455 View Post
    This thing does not even have a motor or countershaft attached. He was spiral milling some kind of coarse helix- look at the steel cable which wraps the small end of cone pulley, runs down the front of the bed, and turns back to the carriage. That does not explain the motorized turret, however. Would be neat if you could look around and see if a scrap part is in a bin somewhere...

    allan
    I was wondering about the steel cable as well.

    I reluctantly am coming to the conclusion that this lathe isn't for me. I'm intrigued to find out more about how he had this set up and for what. I'll look into the pile of stuff underneath and take a few more pictures later this week.

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  21. #16
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    My advice is come up with a list of features you have to have and want to avoid, then use this list to filter out the potential lathes you might want to buy. My list is:

    1 - No flat belts
    2 - No turret lathes.
    3 - Quick change gearbox
    4 - Capable of Threading.
    5 - A 3 and 4 jaw chuck.
    6 - No plain bearing lathes.
    7 - Power feeds on carriage and cross slide.

    Obviously your list will be different. I bought an old lathe. It was quite fun to play with but it never was much of a lathe when it came to doing lathey things. I needed another lathe to make the parts to actually fix this old lathe.


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