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Wanted: Metal Lathe

Hey All,
I know this is a bit of a long shot but here goes nothing.

Im a nOOb, just thought I would throw that out there to help set the mood.

I have always been fascinated with machining. I saved up enough coin this year to get myself a small-ish milling machine. (The equivalent of a king PDM30 round column) I have been networking and learning how to use it and generally have a great time with it. One thing that I have learned though is that most of the projects I dream up all start on the lathe and finish on the mill. So it looks like I am in the market for a lathe now. Here is the kicker though, there is no way i would be able to afford a lathe for years. Im not going to go into some sob story or anything like that. I am just hoping to find someone that knows of a rusty old lathe that needs to be rebuilt, or someone where money isnt an issue and wants to help someone get into the art of making chips. (Ie looking for anything that is free/stupid affordable)

I posted something like this on kijiji and had some great suggestions. One of them being to talk to people on this forum and now here I am. (The other was Protospace, which I went to an open house to check out, that place is amazing, would love to get a membership there eventually)

Hit me up if you have any leads.

I look forward to progressing in this hobby and interacting with the community.


(and happy thanksgiving!)


Premium Member
Make one. Look for gingery lathe to get ideas. Vids on you tube of people doing it. It’s surprising

Another thought - people do mount chucks in mills and do some limited turning. For the price of a chuck you could try it. Busy bee has some really small chucks.

And welcome to the forum!
Thanks Janger.
I did consider doing lathe work in the mill and will try it at some point i am sure :)

Making one from scratch is something I didnt consider though. Thanks for the idea! I will be researching that options. (I think the key to that one is a good rigid base right? Like two I-Beams?)


Well-Known Member
One step fruther to Janger's idea of chuck-in-mill: If your mill is R8, you could adapt a boring bar holder to hold a BB 3" chuck. Not too hard - we could make the backing plate in my shop. The tool holder would be the vise, then.
One step fruther to Janger's idea of chuck-in-mill: If your mill is R8, you could adapt a boring bar holder to hold a BB 3" chuck. Not too hard - we could make the backing plate in my shop. The tool holder would be the vise, then.
Yes the mill is R8
What is the connection on the back of the chuck?


Well-Known Member
The idea is this: 3" BB chuck; BB R8 boring head adapter. 1/2" thick round backing plate, threaded to fit the BB adapter. Bolt holes drilled appropriately in the backing plate. Last time I looked those little chucks were areound $120 or $130, and the adapters come in on sale at around $22 or si; full price (i think) was $30..

The problem with this scheme is that the equivalent of the lathe longitudinal feed is the quill down feed.
A more ambitious project would be to make a headstock that would fit on one end of your milling table. then your X and Y feed are the normal milling feeds. The tool would be held by an adapter on the bottom of the headstock. It would take some design and a lot of milling hours, but result in a more capable mini lathe.

The second approach is similar to those little 'combo' machines sold by the likes of BB.

NOTE: neither of these machines will let you take big cuts or swing even moderate pieces: think 1/2 inch stock maximum, and 10 thou would be a maximal cut...


Super User
I do not think this will work well at all on a round column mill. John could simmulate it in his mill but i don't predict the quill will appreciate that extream amount of abuse. Might get away with it if you enguage the fine feed gear on the quill. but with the quill arm you dont have much control over the z axis.

Tom Kitta

Active Member
How about you just get cheap Chinese 7 x 14 or 7 x 16 lathe? They are not that great but very cheap.

Do not buy at any local stores like BB or KMS -> usually way to expensive. Look online for some deals.

I also saw some old abused 7 x 12 lathes on auction few years back from school - I think they went for under $300 or so.

These are "lathe like" objects but far better then trying to convert your small mill into a lathe. When I had to "turn" on a mill I simply used one of the collets to put stock in it and one of the cheap brazed carbide into the vice. You can only do small stuff but its advantage is 0 money invested and good results in mere minutes without any elaborate setup (get the carbide on center as much as possible - you can get this super precise with more setup.

Or just get some old real lathe the is total junk and you get it for next to nothing - with some work it should be far more precise and probably cheaper then any home made lathe.
Yeah I think a really old lathe is the best bet. I was talked out of the really small one just due to lack of power.
But then again, if I come across one for under 300 I would be all over that. Do you have any leads on one?

Tom Kitta

Active Member
Well, look at auctions.... for example: https://www.rbauction.com/0-SOUTH-B...vId=10871978&id=ci&auction=HOUSTON-TX-2018187

I know its in Texas... but that rust bucket should not fetch some high price.

Others may be in your area but no pics: https://www.rbauction.com/?keywords=lathe

This is "expensive" auction house - see whatever there is some smaller auction house in your area.

Yes that rust bucket is in terrible condition but if you have time and price is good it can be fixed up to do some basic work. Certainly you will learn a lot just by fixing it up.

Main problem for both of us is that central Canada and central US are "machine free" zones - eastern Canada/ US are the place to be for great used equipment.


Well-Known Member
In Calgary, we have high reserve bids and ghost bidding rampant, both opf which drive the prices sky high...

You missed agreat south bend 9a from Bert that went for $1700. I was very accurate and ready to go. I almost bought it, even though I didn't need it and had no room!
Wanted to chime in here as I'm in a very similar situation to you but without the mill you already have haha. I was toying with the idea of making, auctioning buying etc and it definitely seems that the best exchange for time/money is to work a second job and save up while hunting hard for a good deal.

Everynow and then a rare find crops up in kijiji/FB marketplace/auction/GCsurplus so keep your eyes peeled and set up alerts.
and if you have access to a Flatbed and a few days off work there are some truly amazing deals that pop up in the states on vintagemachinery.org.

If your time is less important to you the option of making one is there and I was greatly inspired by this youtube-playlist where 'rather b welding' makes a very functional metal lathe with basic shop tools ~500-800$ plus the cost of the welder:
It becomes a time-consuming labour of love but it works very well for him and he makes some very cool products with it.

Not sure how helpful this is but stay motivated! We'll get our machines someday :)
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Tom Kitta

Active Member
I think you mean a link to this:
There are many videos in the series.

Here is another - used for wood but probably as accurate or better than one above:

Here a home made lathe is making a mini-lathe:
Same home made lathe after addition of a milling head (now multi-function device) is making a horizontal mill
2nd part with even more home made tools at work:

Above author is a prolific builder from area of former Soviet Union - I think its like Tajikistan or somewhere close to that area.

The problems I see with all these home made lathes and milling machines are:
1) it takes forever to build one - you better be retired or recently lost your job and plan on to be on unemployment for a while
2) it is hard to even approach accuracy of an old beaten up lathe / mill.
3) it is far less time costly to make old beaten up machine (well within limits - if it was dropped from a sky scraper then not) perform close to when it was new or at least account for its wear and tear then to "fix" brand new home made machine.
4) it is very hard to make things precise. Not a good start for a novice.
5) do you want to make things with your machine(s) or work on your machines - with a beater machine you will work a lot on the machine but still less if you make it from scratch.
6) cost of even materials to make a home made lathe of say 500 lbs+ range may not be as cheap as one think unless you work at a scrap yard. It costs almost $1 per lbs at a cheap place such as Federal Metals to buy steel - and this is the cheapest steel (OK rebar is cheaper but how are you going to use it) you can get. Accounting for cut offs and for welding rod and for grinding wheels, bearings etc. In Canada you can easily go > $1000. Our prolific builder from former Soviet state has access to scrap that is maybe 10c per Kg. No you no longer can go to a scrap yard in Calgary AFAIK and get stuff :(((

On the other hand if you build a functional small lathe everyone will want to see it - at least I would like to see it. Its definitely more interesting the some small lathe from a store.
Yeah I dont think a home job would work on the things I would want to build/work on.
Would rather work on fixing an old up up then build from scratch. Dont have the tools to build from scratch
Like I said above. Need to work more and save :)
Actually working with an established blacksmith tomorrow. So thats going to be fun......fun and tiring... :)