Lathes are complicated machines, and buying one requires weighing a lot of options. We’ve already talked about buying new Asian, or old American machines (with apologies to the Germans, British, Swiss, and all the other fine 20th century machine tool making-countries). We also talked about bed length and swing, and you ain’t got nothin’ if you ain’t got that swing. Let’s talk about the feature set now. If you’re buying new, you’ll shop on these details. If you’re buying used, knowing the differences will help you pick a good project machine.
IMPERIAL OR METRIC?
First and foremost — Imperial or metric? If you’re buying a new machine and you reside outside North America, the answer is, of course, metric. If you’re in North America, however, the choice is less clear. The gut instinct may be to go metric because it’s modern and “obviously better”, right? Well, not so fast. Most stock, hardware, and tools in North America are still more readily and cheaply found in Imperial sizes. You can go all metric, but you will be swimming against the current. That ivory tower has a lot of stairs, so think hard about how badly you want to sit in it.
The next statement will shock and anger many of you, but here goes. For machine tool work, there is minimal practical difference between the two systems of measurement. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Before the Metric Squad spools up their decimal angry commenting machines, allow me to explain.
Read more: A BUYER’S GUIDE TO LATHE OPTIONS