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Atlas vs the others

Discussion in 'ATLAS, CRAFTSMAN & AA' started by macher, Dec 19, 2012.

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  1. macher

    macher Active Member Active Member

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    i have started looking for a small bench lathe for my garage shop. I am looking for a 10 or 12 inch machine. The comments I see on some web sites don't hold the Atlas in very high esteem. Based on what I see an Atlas is not much good for anything. Is this a "MAC vs. PC" type of argument or is there some basis to what I have read. We had South Bend, Logan and Sheldon in our college shop. The South Bend and Logan worked good, but we always seemed to have problems with the Sheldon.

    I will primarily be making parts for my antique woodworking tools, wood and metal screws, and some other small parts for basket handles.
     
  2. GaryK

    GaryK In Memory Rest In Peace

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    I had an Atlas for 25 years and it's fine for making small part like you are talking about. I have used it for metal as well as wood. I have threaded a lot of rifle barrels as well as
    made some steam engines.

    It is true that the Atlas is at the bottom end of the 10"-12" market, but it was meant as a economical lathe sold by Sears and not for a production environment.

    That's my 2 cents anyway.
     
  3. Bill Gruby

    Bill Gruby United States Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I have seen and heard all the arguments on Atlas. Most are biased to say the least. Yes they have their limitations, the biggest of which is the operator himself and what he believes the lathe can do. Don't sell it short, go for it, the Atlas will serve you well for what you wirh to do.

    "Billy G" :))
     
  4. eweissman

    eweissman Active Member Active Member

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    the most serious criticisms i have heard about some atlas lathes seem to regard the back gears / some other gears in the gear train being made of zamak (sp?) and breaking easily. there are also later atlas branded lathes which i believe were made by clausing and seem to be of a higher caliber. i think they also possibly didnt have the highest quality spindle bearings, and the ways are often plain ways vs the prismatic ways you see on some higher end lathes. still probably better than most any of the chinese stuff you'll find new, and probably cheaper for a 10 or 12 in swing model. i second the line about the operator being the most important component. one big point in the favor of the atlas lathes is that there seem to be a lot of cheap parts out there for them. i have a southbend 9 and it seems like parts are very expensive for them. hope that helps.
     
  5. Dranreb

    Dranreb United Kingdom Active User Active Member

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    Have to agree with what has been said so far, if you go for a 10" the QCGB is essential, as the lead screw reversing box on the change geared models can be problematic.

    The 10" ones are cheap enough to buy in good condition, light enough to move easily, but I have found they need to be very rigidly mounted for best results (I am waiting for my new concrete base to cure as I write) and they look so nice!

    As to the Zamak, look up the properties compared to cast iron, it isn't as puny as some would have us believe, chip damage can bad sometimes though.

    Bernard
     
  6. pdentrem

    pdentrem Active User Active Member

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    I remember seeing these lathes in many a service shop back in the 60s and 70s. As most do not need a 1440 lathe, these smaller but very useful lathes were everywhere, that is why complete lathes and parts are so common today on the used market. Same with Southbend, they are both more common then most, though SBs are more expensive!

    I used my Atlas for everything that I needed to do. I only broke the two gears inside the traversing case, but I think that they were damaged earlier as the replacements lasted the next 15 plus years. Most issues with broken parts etc are related to the operator.
    Pierre
     
  7. jgedde

    jgedde United States Active User Active Member

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    I figure I'd chime in as an opposing view - as a former Atlas owner. It's long since sold and I've never missed it - not even once.

    If you're used to South Bends and Logans you'll likely be unhappy with the Atlas. It's a very light duty machine with a lot of weaknesses. Mainly rigidity. Parting off can be problematic with the Atlas. Also, the change gears and half nut lever trunions are Zamak. They break easily. Yes Zamak has many properties similar to cast iron, including its poor performance with regard to operating in tension.

    Also, the lack of zero set dials and the VERY small dial markings are a an issue too. There are retrofit kits to get around this however.

    Stick with somehting that has more beef and V-ways and you'll be better off in the long run. Mind you, the Atlas does have capability, especially if you're a seasoned machinist, but you'd do better spending a few extra bucks (if possible) to get a SB (especially the "heavy" models), Logan, Clausing, etc.

    BTW, don't even consider an Atlas w/o a quick change gearbox. I never single point threaded for many years knowing I'd have to fight with the gears...

    John
     
  8. AR1911

    AR1911 United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    +1 on jgedde's comments.
    I've had several 10" Atlas lathes, don't have any of them now. I do have a Southbend 9" and a Enco 10", both are keepers.
    Logan, South Bend would be my first choice in older US-made.
    The Encos and Jet's made in the 1980s are plentiful and were taiwan-sourced, not China. Apparently capitalism makes a difference.

    The smaller Atlas 618 is a different matter. In that scale, the drawbacks - zamak and flat ways - are less of an issue.
     
  9. tripletap3

    tripletap3 United States Active User Active Member

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    \

    I agree. I have had several Atlas lathes and the only problem with Zamak was caused by people. Lack of lube, crashing, and even I damaged one by dropping it.
     
  10. AR1911

    AR1911 United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Sure, but try to find an Atlas without a cracked rack gear casting.
    Or one of the early ones with the reversing box on the leadscrew, made entirely of zamak. Whole assemblies are precious, parts are scarce.
    And I've thrown away Zamak gears that were worn to sharp points. Doesn't happen with iron gears.
    Zamak has a purpose, and that is fast, low-cost production.
     
  11. tripletap3

    tripletap3 United States Active User Active Member

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    I agree with that too. The Atlas lathes were designed in a way that made it affordable to the average Joe who otherwise would have never been able to own a "personal" machine tool. I imagine that even the price of one in 1950 was a far stretch for the average guy and you would have to think long and hard before spending that amount of money for a hobby tool. Still if the machine has been cared for it will last it's new owner a very long time. Everything wears out eventually. I’m not real happy about having to buy a new Asian lathe but one of the reasons I decided to buy a new lathe was I have been down the road of old machinery twice. I was given my first Atlas 6" and spent a ton "fixing it up" more than I would have if I had just paid a premium for a decent one. It was nice when it was done but I wanted more so I bought a better 10" and made that mistake again when I had to buy the missing accessories. Opinion ALERT:::: There are Atlas / South Bend machines out there that are in very good ready to use condition with all the tooling and accessories but they are VERY few and far between and generally require money or luck, patience and a drive. I know some guys here have very nice older machines but I don't think that is easy to find anymore.
     
  12. pdentrem

    pdentrem Active User Active Member

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    Yeap, Microsoft vs Mac, Ford vs Gm:))
     
  13. Alan Douglas

    Alan Douglas United States Silent Key Rest In Peace

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    I owned a small Atlas for a day; I thought it would be a step up from my Unimat but I was wrong. The main thing I remember was the planetary gearbox made of pot metal; it had a lot of play in the gears and rattled like a Tin Lizzie.

    My 11" Logan needed some work but I've been much happier with that.
     
  14. wa5cab

    wa5cab Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I think that you're right, Pierre. I have an Atlas 3996 with all of the accessories except three or four. I bought it new and wouldn't trade it for anything that you could find today, new or used. I've never broken anything on it and don't ever expect to.

    On the Atlas versus Clausing comment, Clausing didn't make Atlas lathes. Atlas bought Clausing circa 1950 and continued both product lines. The company name was later changed to Clausing (rights to which Atlas still owned) because of some other areas that Clausing had a name in, not small lathes. My 1980 3996 nameplate still says Atlas, with Clausing in small print.

    Zamak is not pot metal. Although I do agree that Atlas made a few parts of Zamak that they shouldn't have. Not the gears though.

    I never before heard the one about poor quality bearings. The early Atlas machines used line bored split babit bearings, which was common practice at the time on most low speed machinery or all sizes from small lathes to huge generators. When they began to offer tapered roller bearing spindles circa 1938, the only brand ever used was Timken.

    Robert D
     
  15. AR1911

    AR1911 United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    That 3996 was the best of the breed, with 1/2" ways instead of 3/8". Those go for premium prices, and I would not turn one down.

    On bearings, Atlas did use Timken, but they used standard bearings, equivalent to automotive grade, where Logan and others used precision grades - class 3 IIRC - at a much higher cost.
     
  16. atwatterkent

    atwatterkent United States Active User Active Member

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    My dad who has been a machinist for over 60 years has an Atlas MK6 lathe, which still looks like brand new, for the last 30 comes over to use my 10" SB for threading and tapering and fine finish work.
     
  17. Newmetalmark

    Newmetalmark United States Active User Active Member

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    I have an old Atlas TH42 without the QC and it can be tedious to change the gears for threading. But as a hobbyist machine, it does everything I ask of it, and I think it's a great machine to learn on. Yeah yeah, flat ways, not real stiff, small dials, can't cut A2 fast, can't hold .0005 etc, etc, quitcher cryin' they are good machines. Affordable and user friendly.
    And dont mistake zamak for pot metal. It's Zinc Aluminum MAgneseum and Kupfer (German for copper) They cast the parts by injecting it into dies at high pressure producing finished parts , that's how they made so many lathes at low prices.
    "Pot metal" usually has just about anything with a realtively low melting point-including lead- in it and its just cast and trimmed, like lamps, old toys etc.

    But really, I've learned a lot on my Atlas and now I'm ready to move to a bigger and heavier lathe with confidence. And that's why I'm using my Atlas to restore a Clausing 12" I bought. ;-)
     
  18. Alan Douglas

    Alan Douglas United States Silent Key Rest In Peace

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    "Pot metal," as I've always seen the term used, could be many alloys, but was not "anything they threw into the pot." Some of the 1920s alloys were found to have poor long-term stability, from corrosion in the grain boundaries. I've seen my share of piano action parts and radio parts that have swelled and cracked, many within a few years of being made. I have no doubt that Zamak was one of the improved alloys, but I don't think it should be used as a generic term for all casting alloys, unless it really was universally used. That I don't know.
     
  19. jgedde

    jgedde United States Active User Active Member

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    Zamak is an alloy of zinc and aluminum with a teensy weensy bit of magnesium and sometimes copper. It is basically a high grade "pot metal" using ultra-pure zinc to prevent "pest", casting inclusions and voids. Problem is, while it has good wear characteristics, it isn't very strong in tension and becomes brittle with time due to a reaction with hydrogen (the exact chemistry eludes me at the moment).

    Zamak is still an active product and is available in several "flavors."

    John
     
  20. Tony Wells

    Tony Wells United States Vice President Staff Member Administrator

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    We're sort of derailing this thread into the metallurgy of Zamak, but it's part of the basis for the argument against Atlas, so it is in a way pertinent. This is an enlightening read on Zamak:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zamak
     
  21. wa5cab

    wa5cab Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Back to the subject of Timken bearings, I disagree that South Bend used good ones and Atlas used cheap ones. In the first place, Chinese production aside, bearing grades tended to be produced like resistor tolerances were. First you made 10,000 of one type or value. Then you tested (graded) until you got as many as you needed of the highest tolerance or grade. Next you lowered the criteria and continued testing or grading for the second level. Etc.

    In the second place, Atlas (and Sears) advertising in the late 30's and 40's claimed that the Timken bearings used were "specially selected" or similar terms. Differing only in the specific adectives used from ads from South Bend and others. You can't claim (or at least you can't prove) that Atlas lied and South Bend didn't. The bearings in the Atlas machines have a date engraved on them. Those that you buy at the auto parts store (besides more than likely not being Timken to begin with) usually don't, although may years ago, I had a fair number of ex-auto parts store Timken bearings that did. The date is undoubtedly the inspection date and not the date the lathe was assembled as it isn't unusual to find (there have been enough examples reported here and on other lists) dates on the two bearings in a single machine differing by up to a year. In the derogatory way in which the term is typically used today, Atlas lathes weren't "cheap". They were "relatively inexpensive".

    Robert D.
     
  22. macher

    macher Active Member Active Member

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    First, thanks for all the feedback. Yesterday I bought a Craftsman 07042. I has the Timken bearings, one three jaw chuck by Union Mfg, a steady rest (probably for a 10" South Bend, bolted to a riser so it could be used with this lathe), a forward-reverse switch and some other tooling. The gears look like they are hardly used and some of the change gears look new. it will probably take me of couple of weeks to get it going. The Blue paint is in very good condition. Hard to believe something made the year I was born looks so good. Its been stored in a garage under a tarp for I don't know how many years so it is quite dirty. The ways and lead screw are covered with heavy grease. There are some minor parts missing and the small crank on the apron has one end broken off. I want to take each element apart and make certain everything is in order and then lube it before I start it up.

    Some questions:
    Where can I get a parts list and user manual for this Lathe?
    How can one determine if an electric motor is reversible?
    Where is the serial number located.
    I am looking for a copy of "How To Run a Lathe" and I understand Atlas has published a similar book that is very good, is the Atlas book worth buying?

    The person I bought the lathe from also had another lathe with several parts missing from the cross slide. There is no name on the machine that I could find. It has double flat Vs on the bed. He was going to give it to me free for purchasing the Craftsman, but not knowing the maker I wasn't certain I could get parts for it. The only distinguishing feature was the change gear information on a small, embossed, brass plate on the headstock. It looks like it was made to be driven by flat belts about 2 inches wide. The lathe is located in Auburn, CA.

    The last time I used an engine lathe was in college in 1963 so its going to take some getting used to. Once I get the lathe running my first project will be making wooden screws and nuts to restore three antique wooden plow planes.

    Dave Nelson
     
  23. macher

    macher Active Member Active Member

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    Interesting comment. In the early 1960's I worked for Dr. Nathan Tiner at Astropower Labs, a subsidiary of Douglas Aircraft. As I recall, Tiner discovered that the hydrogen atoms would migrate to sharp intersections in manufactured parts, such as the roots of gear teeth. We were always concerned about hydrogen embrittlement in the parts of airplanes, specifically Cadium plated items.

    Dave Nelson
     
  24. wa5cab

    wa5cab Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Dave,

    You can still get some parts from Clausing. 800-323-0972. Ask for Old Atlas Parts. Beyond that, eBay is probably the next best source, followed by lists like this one.

    For a users manual and parts list, for the time being look for one on the 101.07403. The only one around that I know of also covers the 101.027430 and 101.027440 which are 24" and 36" between centers versions of 101.07403 with Quick Change Gear Box added. I think I uploaded a PDF of it into the Downloads section a week or so ago. If I didn't, I'll put it there tonight. I am currently working on correcting a parts list specifically for the 101.07402 (and several other models) and will make it available when done.

    Another manual that you should also get is "Manual of Lathe Operations and Machinist's Tables". Current or final version still available from Clausing for $35.00. Earlier versions (the book first came out in I think it was 1937) can often be found on eBay. You might want to look at an early to mid 40's edition on eBay or elsewhere. Both versions would prove useful as some of the photos of the actual lathe were updated over the years so for example there are photos of my 3996 in the final version but not so many of yours. The operating and actual machining instructions and tables as well as the various machining tables are you might say timeless.

    Pretty much any electric motor that you might find on an Atlas or Craftsman lathe is reversible. Whether it is reversible without any modifications to the wiring inside or not is another matter. Instead of giving a treatise on how to determine whether any motor is currently configured to be reversible, which would take several paragraphs, why don't you post a good photo of the motor, its nameplate and of the opened up junction box on it to the site here. I would suggest starting a new thread with a pertinent Subject.

    The serial number should be on the same nameplate as the model number, found on the back of the bed if someone hasn't removed it. Some people have also reported finding serial numbers stamped on the bed at either the extreme right front or left front. However, it's also been obvious in some such cases that the serial numbers weren't Atlas serial numbers. And a lot of lathes don't have anything stamped there (like mine).

    For information on the flat belt machine, I would suggest browsing around the Lathes.UK site looking at photos. URL is http://www.lathes.co.uk/atlas/index.html which will take you to the Atlas section. Navigate up a level or two to look for other brands. I can say that I never heard of Atlas building either a flat belt or a V-bed lathe.

    Robert D.
     
  25. stevecmo

    stevecmo United States Active User Active Member

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    Dave,

    The Southbend "How to Run a Lathe" is probably the best manual. You should join the SB Yahoo group and you will find a copy in the "files" section. It's also one of the most active lathe lists and even though I don't own a SB, I find the info the valuable.

    I'm sure there is a Yahoo group for the Craftsman lathes as well and I'm sure you will find valuable info in the files, photos and messages there.

    Good luck and I hope this helps.

    Steve
     
  26. wa5cab

    wa5cab Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Steve,

    What's the actual exact Yahoo Group name? Yahoo's group search capability is basically terrible (a search for "south bend lathe" turns up at least 11 pages of hits, with "South_Indian_Beauties" on page 1!!!) and so far about 8 South Bend lathe related groups including both southbendlathe and southbendlathes. Some are clearly subsidiary groups of others, like some of the Atlas/Craftsman groups.

    Dave,

    The main Yahoo Atlas/Craftsman group is Atlas_Craftsman.

    Robert
     
  27. stevecmo

    stevecmo United States Active User Active Member

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  28. wa5cab

    wa5cab Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Steve,

    I'm no stranger to Yahoo as I'm on about 25 different Groups there, some dating back more than a decade (my membership, not the Group age). But the link you posted did confirm I had guessed right as to which one you were actually referring to. Thanks.

    Robert D.
     
  29. Smudgemo

    Smudgemo Active User Active Member

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    Dave,
    I might have soft copies of the manuals noted. I also know a guy in Auburn that might want that second lathe. PM me so we can exchange info.
    -Ryan
     
  30. iron man

    iron man United States Active User Active Member

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    I just started on this forum and I do not want to rub anyone wrong but I worked in a Machine shop for 25Yrs all of are machines are manual no CNC. I built my first metal turning lathe but came across an 10 inch Atlas for a song and could not turn it down. There are some design flaws but nothing that any of us could not repair or design better. I just recently rebuilt the cross feed and updated it with bearings, a direct read dial and a cross feed nut that is twice as long as the stock one with wear adjustments. I also installed a 2 1/2 horse variable speed treadmill motor to it and other small modifications. I have used the counterparts of this lathe and found no huge differance, I dont tend to blame a machine because I could not make do what I wanted instead I try and figure out how to make it work better and that is part of the fun of it.

    As for the the Zamack (pot metal) parts if and when they fail you can buy almost exact replacement change gears from Browning and yes you can weld the atlas pot metal with Aladin 3 in 1 rod with a Tig welder I have welded mountains of this stuff and it welds quit well.. I for one see no problem with the Atlas Lathe it may in its day been inexpensive but is far from being a cheap lathe.. Ray
     
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