Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So it begins...

I've wanted a metal lathe for a very long tome. Not so much because I have a ton of metal parts to turn, but more because I've always wanted to learn how to machine. I've had a little stash saved up for the sole purpose of buying one, but a few factors had always kept me from taking the plunge.

Space requirements: Simply put where the heck am I going to put a metal lathe when I am in a 1 bedroom apartment in the city?

Power requirements: Many older lathes that I've been looking at run on 3 phase 220 or 1 phase 220. I simply don't have that in my apartment.

The power requirement was the easy one. Since I first started looking into lathes, the use of VFD's (Variable Frequency Drive) has increased, they have become more accessible and more affordable to the hobbiest.

The space was still an issue. There was no way I could put a heavy lathe in my apartment. It had to go in the shed. The fact that I've been running my planer and jointer for woodworking in the shed made me think I might just be able to do this. I took some measurements. Yeah it would be tight, but you know what, this might just work.

After almost picking up a Rockwell/Delta 11" lathe about 10 years ago I had always kept my eye on the 10" or 11" model. I've read some good things about them. Recently my coworker mentioned the Clausing brand lathe as a solid machine. I started looking into the 4900 (10") and 5900 (12") series and was impressed with both their rigidity (read: weight for their size) and their features.

As luck would have it I came across a 4914 on eBay for a very low price, less than half of what I had saved up. Which made me ask the question, what's wrong with this thing for it to be so cheap. It wasn't far, so last weekend when I was visiting my family in PA, I stopped by the sellers shop to take a look. I told myself if the bed ways, and the headstock are in good shape, its a winner. Everything else can be fixed. Luckily in my amateur machinists opinion, the bed ways are in excellent shape, and the headstock seems to run quite well. There are a few minor issues. The Quick Change Gear Box handle is broken. It's missing the tailstock lock down handle, as well as some oiler cups. I worked all the handles, wheels and levers and everything seemed good.

The biggest what if, comes from evidence that the compound rest had been welded. This could indicate a severe crash, where the compound came in contact with a spinning chuck and it broke the thing in half. Seeing no evidence of a gouge where this would have caused that, I can't explain why it had been welded. Maybe someone had it off the lathe and dropped it. Who knows. It may remain a mystery.

The other draw back is that this machine comes with absolutely no tooling, no chuck, no tool post, not even a dead center. But at the price, I'll have money left over to get exactly the tooling I want.

So I bought it. Finally. I have a metal lathe. Now I need to figure out how to get this thing home.

The 4914 model number indicates that this is a 10" swing, 36" between centers, has a 3 phase 1 HP motor, and weighs 915 lbs. That was the advertised shipping weight in the 60's era brochure. It may actually be less than that since it won't be crated, but its really all I have to go on.

An email to Clausing Industrial (yes the are still in business) got me a reply quite quickly. My lathe was sold new on July 12 1967. It's 13 years older than I am! Plus they sent me a PDF of the applicable manual and parts list. Some parts are still available! Depending on their price I may buy some of the broken pieces, but if they are too much, I might make them. Isn't that what having a lathe is for?

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