It will be at least a few months before I actually get one, but I’m in the market for a lathe. It’s time for me to step up and start facing and turning my own head tubes, and learning to do the vast number of things a builder or machinist can do with a lathe. But where do I start? Craigslist? eBay? Auction houses? I’m lost. There’s so much info on the web, but not much of it is specifically bike-related. So, after much searching, I started a thread on the mtbr framebuilders forum and the responses have been excellent! It is such an amazing resource for beginner and seasoned builders! The most important thing is accomplished only one way though – to take a hands-on course. But I did learn a little at a short framebuilding class, and watched the many YouTubes from Tubalcain/mrpete222 and others, as well as watched the MIT Tech videos — all of which are indispensable. Either way I will get a bunch more out of any machining class after having read as much as possible on lathes. Ideally, i would like to ’employ’ a couple of friends once I move (they’re not local) to help me learn the ways of the lathe. But a personal class may have to happen after I get a lathe setup in my new shop.
What I have gathered so far is that most builders recommend getting a used US-made, big & heavy 12″ x 36″ lathe. Most NEW lathes that a framebuilder could afford are imports from such places as Grizzly, Enco, or Harbor Freight. I’m sure those are good lathes for the money, but people mostly question their longevity, rigidity, durability and accuracy. Some though have great history with these imports (I have a Grizzly Mill/Drill, BTW) so you shouldn’t exclude them from your search right off the bat. Anyways, if you are also interested in lathes, check out the mtbr forum, it’s well worth reading.