Manual Lathes: Their Utility And Advantages

Manual lathes are similar to calculators and ancient abacus: as the same functions are performed by both but the present situation is such that the former is given more preference over the latter. This is mainly due to the existing fashion in outsourcing and mechanization. Manual lathes call for personal knowledge of the machine and the person to be aware about the various parts and particular functions of these parts. The manual lathes are more often than not operated by the same people who were involved with its construction. The manual lathes present sufficient alteration prospects for the ingenious personality.

This means that it is possible to modify a manual lathe into a CNC lathe through the assistance of alteration kits or parts acquired from suppliers. The lathes are obtainable in a broad range of sizes. The mini lathes are more useful for small works that need to be done at home or personal sphere. The big lathes are more suitable for use in commercial purposes or any other such purposes. The manual lathes are more cost effective than CNC lathes. The CNC lathes use advanced technology and therefore, the cost of these lathes are higher. However, the manual lathes provide good quality service at minimal rates.

The people who are willing to buy lathes but are not being able to buy them due to financial restrictions can go for used machines.
The used machines offer the same services as the new lathes but at a reduced cost. There are also some people who are just willing to buy lathes as a means to fulfill their personal hobbies. In such cases the people might not be willing to invest as much in a lathe. For them buying used machinery or lathes is the easy way out. One can get quality used lathes from used machines sale. These sales are mostly organized by people who are downsizing their businesses or who have decided to close down their business.

Used machine sale is organized also by people who no longer have any use of the machines that they possess. The used machines sale are a great way to get good quality used machinery at minimal costs. The used machines sale provide the consumers an opportunity to compare the prices of a number of machinery of the same type and then select the one that suits their needs as well as their budget the most. Therefore, it is a very good alternative to buying new and expensive machinery.

The Tailstock

The tailstock is a two part iron casting. A smaller base section that is fitted to the bed and the larger top section that carries the barrel and handwheel. The two parts are keyed together to allow the top section to slide transversely so that taper turning may carried out. The adjustment is made by two allen headed bolts that push the top section one way or the other. One bolt must be loosened before the other is tightened to push the top section over (1).
Tailstock 1
Tailstock Barrel Graduations
The tailstock barrel has a 2MT bore and is graduated both metric and imperial (2). The handwheel also is fitted with a friction dial (3). The morse taper is self ejecting but if you have taper shanks with tangs the movement is shortened by the length of the tang. Providing the taper shank tool is only to be used in the lathe tangs are easily removable. I inadvertently used a drill chuck that had a draw-bar thread in the small end. Not a good idea as the tailstock screw fits tightly into the hole and I ended up taking the tailstock to pieces in order to extract the barrel screw from the chuck! Fortunately no damage was done.
Tailstock Handwheel and Dial 3
Barrel Clamp & Screw
The tailstock barrel clamp is a nicely made split cotter but I noticed that the top of the clamp screw was tightening onto the the tailstock casting rather than onto the top half of the cotter. You can just make out that I have machined the clamp screw (4) so that there is a small step such that the screw now tightens onto the cotter. I also took the opportunity to adjust the position of the lever when locked, by machining the clamping face down slightly. The lever now clamps pointing to the rear rather than it′s original position pointing forwards.
Tailstock Clamp 5
The tailstock is clamped to the bed by tightening a nut with a spanner. This is probably one of the most unsatisfactory parts of the WM250′s design. The clamp bracket under the bed is a very loose fit (5) and consequently can swing and dig in when sliding the tailstock. This means that the clamp nut must be left at least a full turn loose which in turn makes clamping up a bit of a chore. Locking the tailstock is also hampered when close to the saddle as the spanner hits the top-slide. I have improved things slightly by fitting a spring between the clamp and the underside of the saddle (5) and filing the sharp edges off the clamp casting. A better solution will be to manufacture a new clamp and suitable cam lever mechanism. Two centres are supplied with the lathe both solid (6), the MT4 centre weighs about ½kg.


The lathe is supplied with both four jaw independent and three jaw self-centring chucks. Both chucks are approximately 125mm (5") diameter and are fitted with backplates ready for mounting straight onto the spindle. The logos on the chuck faces indicate that they are made by different companies but both appear to be well manufactured, they are certainly very heavy.
Chuck Key 7
The chuck keys are not made to the same standard but are quite useable. The key for the three jaw was fitted with a spring to prevent it being left in the chuck. I found this very annoying as every time I let go of the key to get a new purchase it threw itself out of the chuck. The spring came off! The shaft on the three jaw key is short so that it can only be used in the vertical position otherwise the handle hits the headstock (7). The four jaw key is slightly longer and can be used vertically or horizontally. The other key shown (8) is for the four-way toolpost screws, it looks like the square hole was made with a pickaxe!
The three jaw chuck is supplied with a set of reverse jaws, both sets of jaws are numbered but the chuck doesn't seem to have any markings save for a 0 stamped on the backplate and by the adjacent key hole. I tested the chuck runout with a piece of silver steel in the jaws. The TIR was about 0.08mm (0.004"). The chuck backplate was out by a similar amount. Out of interest I tried the chuck 120° away from the backplate mark and found the backplate to have less runout. The jaws were about the same though. I noticed that the jaws were ground flat and had a very small clamping width (about 2mm). I removed the high jaw and ran it over a diamond hone a few times. On reassembly the TIR was only .02mm (.001"). I tried a couple of different diameter bars and the runout remained pretty similar.
4 Jaw Chuck 9
10 Faceplate
The jaws of the four jaw chuck (9) have a wider clamping area than the three jaw and this is ground with a slight curve both on the inside and the outside steps. The lathe is also supplied with a 230mm (9") faceplate (10). I havn′t tried this yet but it is one huge chunk of cast iron. The holes in the plate are so large that you would need to use a 15mm bolt to clamp anything to it, time will tell how useful this might be.
Chuck Studs 11
12 Finger Space
Both chucks and faceplate are bolted to the spindle utilizing three studs that are screwed tightly to the backplates or directly to the faceplate. These studs are somewhat variable both in length and finish (11). Most of the studs are too long and I have faced them off so that they are only about one thread longer than the thickness of the flanged nuts that I have used. The flanged nuts make it a bit easier to fit the chuck as it saves juggling with a separate washer in the limited space between the spindle flange and the headstock (12).


Steadies 13
14 Fixed Steady Relief
Two steadies come with the lathe, fixed and traveling (13). The traveling steady bolts to the top of the carriage in front of the cross-slide. The fixed steady is clamped to the bed and when I first used it I found that carriage collided with the base of the steady. I shaved about 1mm off the offending side you can just make out the machined step under the paint (14). This slight modification allows the saddle legs to go either side of the steady.
Fixed Steady Clamp 15
16 Way Protector
The soot blackened and rusty lump of cast iron (15) is I think meant to be the clamp for the fixed steady. I tried to clean it up with a wire brush to no avail, I will have to take the angle grinder to it. The holes for mounting the traveling steady are prone to filling up with swarf. I had already put a couple of bolts in the holes to prevent this. I thought it might be useful to go a stage further and prevent some of the finer swarf getting into the various allen bolts and oilers on the front of the carriage and whilst about it try and keep some of the worst mess off the bed and out of the leadscrew. A piece of damp proof course material stuck to the underside of an aluminium plate with double sided tape and held in place with the two bolts I had been using to fill the steady mounting holes (16). The DPC material is quite stiff so stays flat to the bed but bends nicely when it hits the headstock. The bolts are just finger tight so it′s easy to remove for maintenance or to use the steady.
That′s just about it for the lathe review. I have probably missed a few bits out and if anything important occurs to me I will add it at some stage. The WM250 is all in all, a pretty good lathe for the money I have no doubt that later models will be improved upon. My wish list for the lathe is:
  • A Lever Operated Tailstock Clamp
  • Power Crossfeed
  • A Mechanical Clutch
  • A Bit More Finesse
Then again if it had all that it would cost twice as much!

Update - 2011/2012

Well the lathe has been in use for a few years now, it hasn't seen a huge amount of use but has done everything asked of it without any problems. In fact the only minor problem has been an oil leak from the gearbox. I tracked this down eventually to what can only be described as porous Chinese putty. The sight glass (plastic) is held in place by some sort of putty / filler that after a couple of years began to let the oil seep through, at first I couldn′t make out where the oil was coming from as it was seeping behind the aluminium face plate and dripping out at the bottom leading me to believe it was the gasket around the cover that had failed. The fix was easy, scrape out the failed putty with a screwdriver, clean up with some white spirit to get rid of the oil and refill with some clear silicone sealant.
The lathe is made by Weiss Machinery in Nanjing, China. The manufacturers designate it as the WM250V. Since I bought my lathe there seems to be a few more suppliers about. Chester UK Ltd call it the DB10VS, Amadeal advertise it's bigger brother as the AMA280VF. Toolco supply it as the 1022GV and also supply a belt drive version the 1022GB. Weiss Machinery Europe B.V. in the Netherlands stick to it's WM250V designation. Available in Australia from Engineering Tooling Supplies Pty Ltd as the WM 250V. Busy Bee in Canada also supply Weiss lathes as the CX700/701 and CX600/601. In Germany Optimum Machinery GmbH sell the Opti D240 x 500 DC Vario or a belt drive D 240 x 500G I am not sure though if this is a made by Weiss. The WM 250 is one of a series of lathes that start with the WM180V, which for want of a better description is a heavy duty mini lathe, up to the WM280FV which has powered cross-feed.


Warco WM 250 Lathe

Now that the lathe has been in place for a couple of weeks I am beginning to get a feel for it. It is quite different to the old Myford, for one thing it looks much bigger although the overall capacity is about the same. It is probably unfair to compare the new with the old as the two machines are in different classes, you do indeed get what you pay for.


Just so that you can appreciate the size and capacity of the lathe I have included some of the basic details from the catalogue:-
  • Swing Over Bed - 250mm (10")
  • Distance Between Centres - 550mm (22")
  • Spindle Taper - MT4
  • Spindle Bore - 26mm (1")
  • Speeds - 50 to 2500rpm in two ranges
  • Motor - 750w (1hp)
  • Overall Dimensions - 1194x610x432mm (47x24x17")
  • Weight - 120kg (264lbs)
The lathe comes as standard with a three jaw chuck, a four jaw chuck, faceplate, traveling and fixed steadies, two dead centres, four-way toolpost, swarf tray and rear splash guard. Also provided is a toolbox with assorted spanners, allen keys, chuck keys, toolpost key and the change gears that are not fitted.


The headstock (1) is basically a box shaped casting that is bolted onto the bed and carries the spindle set in tapered roller bearings. The spindle has an integral backplate which has a 52mm register for mounting the work-holding device. A minor criticism is that the backplate is only about 15mm from the headstock, which can make chuck mounting a little awkward. If you have large fingers trying to hold the chuck in place whilst putting nuts and washers on the three studs can be a bit of a challenge. The studs supplied with the chucks tend to be a little long, not to mention different lengths. I discarded the original nuts and washers and used flanged nuts instead, this makes attaching a chuck slightly easier. I couldn't find smooth faced flange nuts so I made a small threaded mandrel and turned the serrations off to make nice smooth backs. The spindle rotates smoothly with no appreciable runout. Removing the front plate from the headstock reveals very little, apart from the wiring to the display and speed control and the disc with it′s sensor for rpm reading.
Headstock 1
Immediately below the headstock is the gearbox (2) which bears the curiously worded reminder to "Don" not to take the knobs off whilst running at high speed! As can be seen the gearbox is oil filled with a filler plug high on the right hand side and a drain plug low on the left behind the belt and gear cover. The gearbox provides tumble reverse and neutral for the leadscrew rotation via the left hand knob. The right hand knob provides three ratios between the change gears and the leadscrew namely A 1:1, B 1:2 and C 2:1. Not really a quick change gearbox but useful for quickly changing feed speeds or you could think of it as providing three leadscrew pitches viz: 3mm (actual pitch), 6mm and 1.5mm.
Headstock 3
Drive Train & Gearbox
To the rear of the headstock a sheet metal cabinet contains the electrics, motor and starter panel (3). The starter panel has a NVR stop-start button and a forward-off-reverse switch. There is normally a spring loaded cover with a red stop-lock button over the NVR but I have removed this as I find it annoying having to keep moving it out of the way to use the start button. You need to use the start-stop buttons all the time as there is no clutch on this lathe and the variable speed does not drop to zero rpm. The main electronic speed control board is situated just below the buttons fixed to the rear of cabinet. The DC motor is at the base of this cabinet and does not get much ventilation, after prolonged use the motor and the speed control board above it have made the lathe quite warm.
The belts and change gears can be seen (4) this is slightly different from earlier models where there was no intermediate pulley. The primary drive is via a toothed belt and the tension on this can be adjusted by loosening the four motor fixing bolts and sliding the motor up or down. The secondary belt is an ordinary V-belt and is tensioned by sliding the pulley assembly left or right. The manual forgets to mention how to release it, (5) two spanner flats on the spindle which unscrew it from a captive t-nut in a slot. Very difficult to see as everything is painted matt black and in the shadows. There is an allen headed bolt which pulls the spindle to the left to apply tension to the belt. The black disc at the centre of the spindle pulley takes a c-spanner to adjust the bearing preload.
Belt Tensioner 5
Change Wheel Arm
Photo (5) above shows the intermediate pulley arrangement, the rough looking stud holds the cover in place. You can also see on the right a substantial steel plate which serves to hold the various sub assemblies in place. The plate is bolted to the headstock and in turn the electrics cabinet and the motor mounting plate are attached to it. This plate extends about 50mm beyond the rear of the lathe making it wider than necessary if you have limited space for installation. I gave serious consideration to taking a hacksaw or angle grinder to it!
The change gears are mounted on an adjustable arm which pivots about the leadscrew axis (6). I took the arm off to clean it up, you can see from the inset there are some substantial burrs left on it. The gears appear quite well made although if you push them tight together without a working clearance you can detect stiff patches as you turn them probably indicating that some of the holes are not quite concentric with the outer edges. If you follow the manual and put a piece of paper between the wheels when setting up they work quite freely. The wheels do however rattle a bit and if you are not using the automatic feed or screw-cutting, moving the arm away from the main spindle gear makes it much quieter.
Changewheel Clip 7
Chuck Guard
The change wheels are held in place by small circular clips which slide over and behind the square heads on the shafts (7). The shafts are threaded on the ends and screw into t-nuts that slide in the support arm. Whilst this works it does not appear very secure as the circlips are free to slide up and off. So far though they have stayed in place. The circlips are not a standard thickness and fit better on one shaft than the other. I may at some stage investigate an alternative method of securing the change wheels. You may have noticed in photo (6) that the end of the support arm is cut away at an angle so that it can be moved closer to the spindle. Whilst I can see the reasoning, I am not convinced that it needed quite so drastic chamfering so that only a couple of millimetres remain holding the two halves of the arm together.
The final photo in this section shows a view of the chuck guard (8). This is switched so that the motor will not start unless the guard is down. It is apparent from the circuit diagram in the manual, that this switch does not work in the same way as the NVR stop button and probably should not be used as a matter of routine to stop the lathe.
Lathe Part 3  continues with a more detailed look at the bed, saddle, and top-slide.

Lathe Saddle Clamp

This is a little project I did some time ago and I have found the modification to be quite useful. It is based on a series of articles in Engineering in Miniature from July 2007 written by Anthony Mount. I have made a couple of changes to the original and later changed the design of the clamp. Both the original and altered clamping methods are shown below.
As supplied the WM250 along with many of it′s "Chiwanese" stable mates has a rudimentary saddle clamp operated by an allen key. The original clamp is part of the saddle guide block and it′s design is not well thought out, or to put it another way - it doesn′t work!
Removing the clamp and guide 1
Clamp & Guide Block
Photo (1) is a view of the top of the saddle as the clamp and guide block is being removed. The two screws at the front hold the apron in place and the line of three holes nearer the bed are for the cap screws that hold the clamp and guide in place. The leftmost screw is M8 and the other two screws are M5. The M8 screw for the saddle clamp is very close to the cross-slide and at certain settings the cross-slide gib adjustment screws cover the saddle clamp so that it is impossible to insert an allen key. Removing the clamp and guide block is straightforward, just undo the three screws but put something under the block to support it because it can fall behind the apron and get wedged in amongst the half nuts and lead screw!
The clamp and guide block removed from a similar lathe (2) this is much better machined than the block from my lathe and the saw cut is centred between the M8 and M5 threaded holes. The saw cut is intended to let the clamp block flex upwards but the remaining web is much too solid to allow any bending. To overcome this shortfall you may find that the two smaller screws are left loose so that the M8 screw can pull the block up under the lathe bed to provide the clamping force, not an altogether satisfactory arrangement.
Clamp Block Cut In Two 3
Clamp Showing Stud Filling
The modification is to split this block into 2 pieces by continuing the saw cut so that each part can perform it′s own function. Fortunately the three holes are at equal centres so the re-machining needed is minimal. The sizes of the two parts are dependant on the position of the original saw cut which appears to have been put in, somewhat arbitrarily, by hand. The cut in the block from my lathe (3) was much closer to the 5mm threaded hole meaning that the smaller clamping block required more machining to fit neatly under the saddle. The M8 hole will also need to be filled with a length of studding or a bolt loctited in as the original M8 cap screw will no longer be used. In photo (4) you can see the poor quality of the machining on the block. The right hand part is the original shape which is now the guide block the remains of the saw cut can still be seen and the left hand part I have squared up to form the clamp block. Because the original saw cut was close to the M5 hole this has had the effect of pushing the guide block to the right (as you stand in front of the lathe) and the clamp block consequently sticks out to the right of the saddle by about 5mm. I have machined this 5mm off so that the clamp block is level with the side of the saddle which is why so much of the stud filling the M8 hole can be seen.
The saddle guide section can be fitted back to the lathe now using the two leftmost holes in the saddle 8mm on the left and a 5mm in the centre. The choice in refitting the guide block is either to drill out the block and tap 8mm for the leftmost screw or to make a small collar to take a 5mm cap screw. I followed the original article and made a small collar for a 5mm cap screw.
The re-machined clamp is inserted and held in place under the saddle tight against the guide block and the front of the bed. The centre for the M5 clamp screw can now be marked. The new hole can then be drilled and tapped to take the clamp screw. Depending on the position of the saw cut this may be nearer the centre than mine was. The original article had the new M5 clamp thread going almost down the centre of the glued in stud.
Clamp Screw Drawing 5
Clamp Parts
The next job is to make the clamping screw and lever, this is fairly straightforward turning and the drawing (5) I hope is self explanatory (Click on the image for a readable version). The original article shows the clamping screw with a head similar to mine but with a large washer under it bearing on the top of the saddle. I didn′t like this as it overhung the edge of the saddle somewhat. I made mine similar in shape to a cap screw with the head added on top, this means that screw tightens in the original counterbore rather than on the top of the saddle which saves the paint. There is a space between the head of the clamping screw and the top of the saddle and it may be worthwhile checking the depth of the counterbore to ensure that this happens. Photo (6) shows the clamp screw, handle and the spacing collar to reduce the M8 counterbore to M5 (Note there is no drawing for the spacer, just measure and make to fit). If you do not want to make the handle a ready made bristol lever could probably be found to suit.
Close Up Of Clamp 7
Finished Clamp
Photo (7) shows the finished article fitted to the lathe. You can see the spacing collar on the left hand side. I could have made the handle a little longer but it would have hit the cross slide, as it is, it can spin all the way around. Once fitted I adjusted the angle of the handle when tight by shaving a little off the shoulder of the cap screw part of the clamping bolt. Photo (8) Is a wider view of the finished clamping bolt and the ′L′ shaped clamping block can be seen now painted yellow to match the saddle. It certainly works but doesn′t really lock the saddle as tight as it could be this is because the clamping block tends to tilt (front to back) as it tightens. Also it is possible for the tailstock to collide with the handle when the clamp is unlocked.
Old & New Clamping Blocks 9
10 New Clamp Fitted
After using this for some time I decided to try and make the clamping a bit more solid. I noticed that there was a small ledge inline with the bed where the saddle and apron meet. I measured up and made the new clamp shown in photo (9) alongside the old clamp. The only difficult bit is to get the clamping face to fit level and without gaps to the underside of the bed. I used a feeler gauge and took shavings off of the step that hooks under the saddle until it was a good fit. The clamping is now much better and fairly light pressure on the clamping handle will stop the saddle moving. Photo (10) shows the block in place, I have removed the screwcutting dial to enable a clear view.
Whilst rumaging about under the saddle with feeler gauges it is a good idea to check the clearance between the guide block and the underside of the bed. I found that there was too much clearance for my liking and reduced this to give a better fit and stop the saddle lifting. Mine was a small enough amount to remove by rubbing on wet & dry paper on a flat surface. There is another guide block at the left side of the saddle and this can be treated in a similar fashion. Don′t take too much off though or the saddle will become difficult to move along the bed! The guide at the rear of the saddle has an adjustable gib so this is easily tightened if necessary.

Parts & Function of a Lathe Machine

  1. Identification

    • A lathe is a machine tool that works by spinning an object around on a horizontal axis so that various tools can be applied to it. The work is done through the rotational force of the spinning object. Examples of tasks formed by lathes are precision cutting, drilling, deformation and sanding. They are used in woodworking, metalworking and even pottery; the humble potter's wheel is a form of lathe.

    Parts: Bed

    • Wood lathe parts
      Almost all lathe designs have a bed, which is the main platform of the lathe. Most lathes have horizontal beds, but some are vertical. Vertical beds have the advantage of letting chips fall away from the bed and the working parts of the lathe.

    Parts: Headstock and Spindle

    • Attached to one end of the bed is the headstock. This is the major moving part of the lathe, containing precision spinning bearings. Attached to the headstock is a hollow or tapered spindle, which is where the tools used to hold the piece to be worked on are attached. Note that the piece being worked on is never attached directly to the spindle. Even in the case of a potter's wheel, in a strict sense the platform upon which the pottery is made is not the spindle.

    Parts: Tailstock and Tool Rest

    • The tailstock and tool rest are clamps that are mounted on the bed and can be moved by unlocking them. The tailstock is not used for rotating the work piece but is instead a cylindrical clamp that is used for holding drill bits and similar accessories. The tool rest is also used for mounting tools.

    Power Source

    • There are actually quite a few lathes still in use today that are powered by a foot treadle. Others are run by an electric motor and belt drive.

Parts of the Lathe Machine

The Bed

  • The lathe bed is a mounting and aligning surface for the other machine components. Viewed from the operating position in front of the machine, the headstock is mounted on the left end of the bed and the tailstock on the right. The bed must be bolted to a base to provide a rigid and stable platform. The bed ways are a precision surface (or surfaces) on which the carriage slides left and right during machining operations. The ways are machined straight and flat and are either bolted to the top of the bed or are an integrally machined part of the bed.


  • The headstock holds the spindle and drive mechanism for turning the work piece. The spindle is a precision shaft and bearing arrangement rotated directly by a motor or through a motor-driven belt. Gears or sliding pulleys mounted at the rear of the headstock allow spindle speed adjustment.
    A work piece is held in the spindle for turning or drilling by a jawed chuck or a spring collet system. Large, unusual shaped, or otherwise difficult to hold pieces, can be attached to the spindle with a face plate, drive dogs and special clamps.


    • The tailstock supports long work that would otherwise sag or flex too much to allow for accurate machining. Without a tailstock, long pieces cannot be turned straight and will invariably have a taper. Some tailstocks can be intentionally misaligned to accurately cut a taper if needed. The tailstock has a centering device pressed into a shallow, specially drilled hole in the end of the work piece. The center can be either "live" or "dead." Live centers have a bearing, allowing the center to rotate along with the work piece. Dead centers do not rotate and must be lubricated to prevent overheating due to friction with the work piece. Instead of a center, a drill chuck can be mounted in the tailstock.


    • The carriage provides mounting and motion control components for tooling. The carriage moves left and right, either through manual operation of a hand wheel, or it can be driven by a lead screw. At the base of a carriage is a saddle that mates and aligns with the bed ways. The cross-slide, compound rest and tool holder are mounted to the top of the carriage. Some carriages are equipped with a rotating turret to allow a variety of tools to be used in succession for multi-step operations.

    Cross Slide

    • The cross-slide is mounted to the top of the carriage to provide movement perpendicular to the length of the bed for facing cuts. An additional motion assembly, the compound rest, with an adjustable angle, is often added to the top of the cross slide for angular cuts. The cutting tools that do the actual metal removal during turning are mounted in an adjustable tool holder clamped to the compound rest.

    Lead Screw

    • The lead screw provides automatic feed and makes thread cutting possible. It is a precision-threaded shaft, driven by gears as the headstock turns. It passes through the front of the carriage apron and is supported at the tailstock end by a bearing bracket. Controls in the apron engage a lead nut to drive the carriage as the lead screw turns.


THE LATHE Initial Setup

The best lathe in the world is going to function poorly unless it's correctly setup in the first instance. Even a new lathe will not cut parallel unless it's levelled properly, and the surface finish that can be achieved will be much improved by reducing vibrations transmitted to the work and tool from the motor and lathe gearing. When I got my first lathe (a Myford ML10) for a long time I put up with it not turning quite parallel, not realising it was an easy situation to correct. Even if your own lathe has been installed for some considerable time it's worth going through the test procedures to check it's alignment. None of the procedures involved are particularly complex, and you don't require expensive tools to get a good end result.
The first thing to look to is the base itself. Ideally, a steel cabinate stand firmly bolted to a concrete floor should be used. On this stand are normally placed cast iron mounting jacks (raising blocks) which make adjustments fairly straight forward. This combination provides the most stable platform and one which, once adjustments have been made, will ensure that the lathe retains the accuracy of it's setting. All is not lost however if, like me, restricted space means your machine has to be mounted on a wooden bench. Provided the foundation is firm - this means that the wooden bench is mounted on a solid floor - very acceptable results can still be achieved. The only caveat is that regular checks will need to be made to ensure that the initial settings don't change. You should use seasoned wood for the bench, sturdy legs at least 3" x 3" and no more than 24" apart, well braced, and with a 1-1/2" to 2" thick planed top. All exposed wood surfaces should receive several coats of an oil-resistant protective varnish (I used 5 coats of polyurethane). New wood is likely to gradually dry out in the workshop atmosphere, warping as a result and changing the delicate lathe settings as it does so. Also, if it's a new bench and you put something heavy on it it's going to take quite some time to 'settle' into place (the structure being quite flexible), so you might have to make checks at weekly intervals initially until you are sure changes have stopped happening. Similarly, if the bench is subjected to wide variations in temperature and/or humidity then parts will expand or contract, and the (mis-)alignment of the lathe will follow these changes. For this reason wooden flooring is to be avoided if at all possible, and if it's not use a steel cabinate stand. Therefore, to some extent climate will influence whether or not a wooden bench is a viable option.
If your lathe did not come with mounting jacks it's quite possible to make your own provided there are mounting holes in the feet to accept them. First trick is to measure the exact distance between the hole centers of the pair at the tailstock end, and also the pair at the headstock end. I would then use a substantial metal block to mount each pair of studs (I should be looking at something like 12" x 4" x 1/2" mild steel section for each block). Mark off the center line and drill and tap 3/8 BSF for the two studs at their correct center locations. Keep these tapped holes square to the base! Examine your bench mounting area and select the position for 4 holes on each base to accept coach bolts which will be used to secure the base to the bench top. Drill these holes now, and also the holes in the bench - you can make these holes a little over-size to allow for some adjustment. (The lathe will have to be moved out of the way to do this). Make the studs from 5/8" or 3/4" AF hex steel, pieces about 3" long will be convenient to work with. First, make the nuts up. You will need (for each stud) the following items: an adusting nut with sufficient meat to get a good spanner on it (say, 1/2" long), a steel support washer 3/32" thick and 3/4" diameter, a bedding washer made from aluminium or soft brass 1/16" thick and 3/4" diameter, and finally a locking nut and washer. For the studs, turn the major part of the diameter (about 2" length) down to the nominal size for the mounting holes (probably 5/16" or 3/8" diameter) then screwcut at that diameter 32 TPI to accept the adjusting nut you have already made. This nut needs to be a good fit without slop. Turn around in the chuck and thread the other end 3/8" BSF for a length of 1/2" leaving about 1/4" of hex to form a shoulder and allow you to screw them into the bases. Screw the 4 studs into the two bases with a drop of Loctite on the threads and tighten them up with a spanner. Mount the bases on the bench and bolt them well down, use wide, thick washers on the underside if the bench top is made of wood. Screw on the 4 adjusting screws topped by a steel washer and bedding washer on each. Then you need to lower the lathe onto the studs - be careful, use a block and tackle, a pair of trolley jacks, or several pairs of helping hands. That's it - now you can use the fine thread of the adjusting nuts to ajust height and do away with bits of shimstock. Just remember to initially tighten the locking nut to seat the rough cast base of the lathe into the bedding washer, then loosen it again before making final adjustments. An alternative to having the coach bolts pass through the base between the mounting holes (and therefore beneath the lathe) is to arrange for these holes to be outside of the studs. It's going to look less tidy but at least you can then slip the lathe over the studs and then slide it into position before bolting it to the bench top. The choice is yours.
Lathe Jacking Studs
The process of setting the lathe up is a logical one, and the first step is to check that the foundation is as level as you can possibly get it. For a steel cabinate this means adjusting the screws at the bottom until the base is level when measured by a 3ft spirit level across the mounting blocks. In the case of a wooden bench you might either be using similar cast mounting blocks, or (as in my case) 2" thick slabs of hardwood screwed and glued to the bench surface. The hardwood blocks I carefully planed and sanded until they were as level as I could measure with the tools at hand. If you are not using jacking blocks you need to take more care as it's more difficult to correct for slight inaccuracies later.
The lathe is now to be mounted on the prepared base. Chuck a length of 3/4" or 1" silver steel (or precision ground mild steel - something with a nice smooth finish to it) about 10" long. Apply a DTI to the top of the bar at the headstock end and rotate the chuck until the maximum and minimum deflection can be identified. Turn the chuck so the median is set at the top and then move the DTI down to the free end of the bar. Hopefully the reading will be the same - if not this will be dealt with later. Tighten the mounting bolts sequentially, like you were tightening up cylinder-head bolts, to an even torque and watch that the DTI does not move - if it does it indicates you are distorting the bed by bolting down to a slightly uneven surface. If the movement is gross (10 thou or greater) you will need to correct for that now before continuing. First, try adjusting the tension applied to different bolts to see if just one corner is responsible. If the reading suggests the test bar is moving *up* then you are pulling the tail of the lathe down, so either use the jack screws to raise the tail a bit or put a temporary shim in place under the tailstock end. If the reading suggests the opposite, then compensate accordingly (you can't drop the tail unless using jacking screws so you will need to shim the headstock end). When the readings show less than a couple of thou movement (and it would be better to get much closer than this - ideally zero) you can move on to the next stage which will fine-tune the setup.
Using a metal rod to check for distortion whilst bolting down.
The next job is to correct any small amount of twist, and in the process ensure that the lathe can turn truly parallel. In the professional machine shop this job is performed using extremely sensitive levels (accurate to 0.003" in 10 inches) which the amateur is highly unlikely to possess. We will therefore rely on measurements taken on actual turned work, the parallelism of which is itself sensitive to the bed alignment, and which we can accurately measure with a simple micrometer. There is a fundamental difference between the two methods - using either a level or the parallelism of turned work. The first assumes the lathe is basically accurate and if levelled on a true surface will be setup correctly. The second assumes no such thing and positive steps are taken to ensure that the lathe turns parallel regardless of whether it's set exactly level or not. This will become clear later. A MT shank parallel test bar is a very handy item for testing the alignment of head and tailstocks, but for the moment we can do without one, though it may be required later if other problems show themselves. What follows assumes the lathe is in generally good condition without serious wear in headstock bearings and that the slideway gib strips have been adjusted correctly. If you are in any doubt about this you should adjust or replace worn parts before going any further (see here for making routine adjustments).
Step one: take an 8" length of some free-turning material about 1" dia., (F/C mild steel or aluminium alloy) and grip it in the chuck leaving about 6" or so outstanding. Turn the centre portion down leaving a ring about 1/2" wide at the headstock end and a second ring at the tailstock end. Now, using a *very* sharp knife tool (plenty of top rake with a small flat on the end to produce a good finish) take a thin cut, no more than a couple of thou, across the ring near the headstock, then wind the carriage down the bed and take a cut across the second ring without changing the setting. Take both cuts using the same direction of carriage travel. Repeat if the first two cuts fail to produce a clean turned surface on both rings. You must not use tailstock support for this job so the cut needs to be very fine to avoid the job 'springing'. Now, carefully measure the diameters of the two rings. If the two match then your mandrel is in good alignment with the bed and you can move onto the next step. More likely, there will be a difference between them of a few thou, and this difference is a measure of the misalignment lathe bed and spindle axis. All things being equal, the most likely source (in a good quality lathe anyway) is going to be the result of twist in the bed caused by the uneven seating.
2 ring method for correcting bed twist (winding)
[NOTE: I should add at this point that the errors one sees in cheap imported lathes are potentially going to be different than those seen in good quality lathes. In the Myford (for example) you can garauntee that from new the mandrel and bed are in perfect alignment, that's what you pay for, and any divergence from this alignment is going to be due to lathe bed twist. In cheaper lathes anything *might* be misaligned - including the spindle to lathe bed alignment - but you will just have to assume that any errors can be corrected by adjusting the bed seating. However, it must be said that a poorly constructed lathe will be *impossible* to set up accurately so you may have to live with a compromise setting.]
To correct twist in the bed is a simple matter of adjusting the jacking screws on the raising blocks, or by placing shims beneath the feet of the lathe - such adjustments being carried out at the tailstock end. If the diameter of the ring nearest the tailstock is greater than that nearest the headstock then you will need to ADD shims to the FRONT foot at the tailstock end. If the diameter was smaller you will need to ADD shims to the REAR foot at the tailstock end. Slacken off *all* the bolts and use a lever to raise the tailstock end slightly in order to slip the shim in place. Use a 10 thou shim to start with and work up or down from there. Re-tighten all the bolts to the same torque and take another fine cut across the two rings. If the difference has halved you will know you need to add another piece of shim the same size, and proportionally more or less depending on the changes you measure. I stopped when I got within 0.0003" parallel over a 6" length (about 6 pieces of shim later...)
Next job, while you are set up for it, is to align the tailstock with the headstock. First job - carefully centre the end of the test bar while still held in the chuck. Wind the tailstock barrel back into it's casting as far as it will go and knock in a dead centre. Support the end of the bar with the centre and take a fine cut across both rings once more. If both measure the same diameter then the tailstock is set correctly at zero set-over. If not, you will need to use the adjusting screws to move the tailstock back into alignment. If the diameter of the ring furthest from the chuck is now larger you will need to move the tailstock towards the front of the lathe, and vice-versa if it's smaller. The previous procedure does not tell the whole story though, and you will need to check whether the tailstock barrel is actually parallel with the headstock spindle. To do this wind the tailstock barrel out as far as it will go and test again. Only if both rings *still* measure the same can you be sure your tailstock barrel is correctly aligned. Again, if this is not the case then adjustments will have to be made. Depending on make this may or may not be easy. It may be a simple matter of adjusting gib strips to twist the body around back into alignment.
2 ring method for aligning tailstock.
As I said earlier, in the professional machine shop the lathe bed would have been set truly level first by means of a sensitive level. A parallel test bar would then be inserted in the headstock bore and this would immediately show whether the headstock was misaligned or not. The test bar is of less value to us because we have already set the lathe bed according to whether or not a workpiece is turned parallel. In our case, if the headstock *were* slightly misaligned (say it was pointing to one side by a small amount), and the lathe bed was adjusted to turn truly parallel using the fine cuts on the test workpiece, then what you have done is to inadvertently impart a twist *into* the lathe bed to correct for this. This is not a good situation but is perhaps a reasonable compromise. Consider: In a good quality lathe we have to assume the manufacturers know what they doing and that the headstock alignment is accurate in the first instance. This can be taken for granted in a Myford Super 7 short of the thing being run over by a steamroller (not my quote...) In a poor quality lathe we cannot take this for granted but there is likely little the amateur can do to accurately reset the headstock anyway (which may be impossible in some lathes with the headstock and bed forming parts of a single casting). If I found a headstock alignment fault in a new imported lathe it would go straight back to dealers. In good quality but worn lathes any inaccuracy of the headstock is more likely the result of worn spindle bearings and these should be checked, correction will consist either of replacement, adjustment and scraping, or re-boring on a jig boring machine. So, for the amateur with limited facilities, the above procedure will leave the lathe setup in the best compromise alignment.
Having gone through the basic method of installing the lathe, we can now turn our attention to those things that will help it to perform at it's best. Vibration and noise are not only annoying to the operator but have a detrimental effect on the workpiece. If vibration gets really bad regular chatter marks will appear on the finish of the turned or faced work. Easiest way to check is to simply rest your hand on the bed with the lathe running - you can *feel* both sharp vibrations (metal-metal contact somewhere) and lower frequency out-of-balance vibrations (pulleys out of balance or, more likely, worn or over-tight drive belts). The source of the vibration is either the motor mounting (single phase motors are worse than 3-phase for being vibration prone) or somewhere within the drive train. Modern new lathes have motors mounted in cradles with rubber shock-absorbing mounts, and these should be particularly checked in older lathes. Look for worn rubber mounts resulting in metal-metal contact and replace if worn. Check the belt guards are not knocking against something. Check the alignment of the pulleys with a straight edge such that you are satisfied they are not eccentric or wobbling side to side, and check also that the drive belts line up correctly with each pair of pulleys. Examine the condition of the drive belts - over-tight or worn belts can both cause and transmit vibration - particularly at high speed, and make sure the tensioning is correct - a problem with short radius V-belts which require high tension if they are not to slip under load. Belts left for years under tension in one position can take a 'set' resulting in vibration, so if you buy an old machine that has sat around for a considerable period consider fitting new belts. If your belts do need changing consider a poly-V belt conversion ('flat' belts with multiple small 'V's). Whilst my new Super 7 starts with a bit of a clunk it runs whisper quiet and vibration-free. When setting up a fine-feed drive train with change wheels make sure there is sufficient backlash between each pair of gears, bottoming the teeth of a pair of gears is going to cause vibration and may even damage the gears. You don't need to coat the gears in grease, a thin coat of machine oil is all that is required.

How to Install a Chuck on a Lathe

Lathe chucks are attachments that hold an accessory tool onto a lathe machine. The chucks, when mounted to a lathe, hold additional lathe accessories and tools in place. The lathe chuck builds functionality and diversity into the lathe machine by adding new accessories. There are many different sizes available in lathe chucks, all of which have a specific purpose or design to support a specific tool or accessory. Regardless of the size of the chuck, the installation process to the lathe remains the same.


    • 1
      Clean the spindle threads and chuck with the cleaning brush to remove and dirt or debris. Lightly oil the spindle and chuck threads.
    • 2
      Turn the chuck onto the spindle slowly. Make sure the threads are properly aligned to prevent cross-threading. If the chuck does not turn easily, remove the chuck and try again as the threads are misaligned.
    • 3
      Tighten the chuck by hand, turning it until the chuck touches the spindle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never over-tighten the chuck. The chuck will tighten as it is turned on the lathe and over-tightening can strip the threads of the chuck and spindle.
  • Carefully read the manufacturer's guidelines and instructions for the chuck. Most installations are the same, but always refer to the included instructions if they differ.