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.