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Atlas 10" lathe for sale, need some advice

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ARC-170

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#1
This lathe is for sale:
https://orangecounty.craigslist.org/tls/d/lathe-10-inch-atlas/6725068527.html

Model is a TH42. I looked this up and it appears to be really old. My concern is wear and parts availability. Anything I should ask/look out for?

I'm looking for a small lathe for home use. I don't have room for anything bigger. I will also be mounting this to some sort of rolling tool chest or table with wheels so it's mobile. So it needs to be able to be mounted safely.

Thanks!
 

mickri

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#2
The first thing to determine is what do you want to do with a lathe. Answering that question will help you look for a lathe that will meet your needs. For example the lathe in the ad does not have a qcgb. If you are going to be cutting lots of different threads with every project then changing the gears for each thread is going to get old fast.

The lathe has definitely been used. I would ask about prior owners and how it has been used in the past. How long has the seller owned it? Who did they buy it from? What did he or she use the lathe for? It is missing parts. No handle on the cross slide and the locking handle on the tail stock is missing. Other parts could be missing as well. Look very carefully at all of the gears for broken teeth, cracks, slop and anything else that just doesn't quite look or feel right. You can generally find parts for these old lathes but they will be expensive in the long run. And tooling up the lathe will cost you more than the lathe. I would not buy it unless the seller includes everything that he has for his asking price of $600.

It is all most impossible for us newbies to assess the condition of a well used lathe. Do you know anybody who has experience that could go with you to look at it? Being in the LA area maybe there is an experienced forum member who would be willing to look at it with you for the price of a lunch or dinner. It would be money well spent.

How often will you need to move the lathe? I have seen some clever ideas on the web to be able to move lighter machinery. You will need some way to securely keep it from moving when in use.

When I was looking for my lathe I looked for estate sales where the family was selling off Grandpa's stuff that he had in the garage and only used as a hobby. It took me over a year of looking before I found what I was looking for. Don't be in a rush.
 

ARC-170

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#3
The first thing to determine is what do you want to do with a lathe. Answering that question will help you look for a lathe that will meet your needs. For example the lathe in the ad does not have a qcgb. If you are going to be cutting lots of different threads with every project then changing the gears for each thread is going to get old fast.
The lathe has definitely been used. I would ask about prior owners and how it has been used in the past. How long has the seller owned it? Who did they buy it from? What did he or she use the lathe for? It is missing parts. No handle on the cross slide and the locking handle on the tail stock is missing. Other parts could be missing as well. Look very carefully at all of the gears for broken teeth, cracks, slop and anything else that just doesn't quite look or feel right. You can generally find parts for these old lathes but they will be expensive in the long run. And tooling up the lathe will cost you more than the lathe. I would not buy it unless the seller includes everything that he has for his asking price of $600.
It is all most impossible for us newbies to assess the condition of a well used lathe. Do you know anybody who has experience that could go with you to look at it? Being in the LA area maybe there is an experienced forum member who would be willing to look at it with you for the price of a lunch or dinner. It would be money well spent.

How often will you need to move the lathe? I have seen some clever ideas on the web to be able to move lighter machinery. You will need some way to securely keep it from moving when in use.

When I was looking for my lathe I looked for estate sales where the family was selling off Grandpa's stuff that he had in the garage and only used as a hobby. It took me over a year of looking before I found what I was looking for. Don't be in a rush.


I'm teaching Engineering at a high school and want a small lathe I can use at home to create projects for the students. I have bigger ones at work, but I can't take them home. I figure smaller projects are cheaper and safer anyway. I want something I can use over summer and after work. It has to be small enough to safely mount on a rolling tool chest so I can move it occasionally. 9x20 is about as big as I'd want to go. This one might be too large, but it turned up in a search and I thought I'd ask about it to learn about the brand. I'm learning alot from asking questions and reading posts on this site.

A QCGB would be nice, but is not a requirement at this time. Thanks for pointing that out, though.

I don't have any buddies who are lathe experts, unfortunately. Where would I find a forum member who lived near the lathe? Which forum would I post a request on?

I've been looking for only a few weeks. Seems like everyone is asking for way too much. Some seller wants $1400 for a Jet that's in good shape and comes with tooling, but I can get a brand new one for just a little more. I want to know what a fair price is for a lathe, so if some one is overpriced I can offer them less, confident that I'm offering them a fair price.
 
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wa5cab

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#4
As far as age goes, the serial number is the best guide there. The Atlas 10F (of which the TH42 is one) was made from late 1938 through mid 1957. So depending upon your definition, it may or may not qualify to be called "old". However, how or for what it was used during most of its life is more important for almost any piece of equipment than is the manufacture date.

If you put it or any other machine on a roll-around cabinet or stand and try to operate it sitting on the wheels, even a brand new machine will not perform well. The minimum requirement would be retractable castors and adjustable feet so that when you roll it from its storage location to its operating location, it will be straight and level. Although it will work best if solidly anchored than if not, it will work better if you mark the operating location and always return to the same spot before retracting the wheels. And it will also be safer to operate.
 

ARC-170

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#5
I'm in contact with the seller and got some info: He bought it from a "dead guy's nephew". I think the guy was a mechanic who used it at home. The seller has 2 of these; one is a Craftsman the other is an Atlas. He restored the Craftsman (looks awesome, he texted me pictures!) and is converting it to CNC but doesn't want to do it with the Atlas. The seller used the lathe to make reamers of some sort. He turned mostly brass, graphite and stainless.
Serial number is 022526. Is there a data base of serial numbers on this site?
The newest this machine would be is 61 years old. Unless it was used occasionally for home hobby use, it seems to me it would be pretty beat up. However, the seller seems to know what he's doing, so maybe he took care of it.
He does have most of the tooling, but I'm still concerned about finding replacement parts and tooling if I need it.
I was told that Atlas is a brand of lathe I'd want to consider, but it seems they might be too old for what I'm capable of dealing with.
 

mickri

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#6
Have you tried using "search tempest"? https://www.searchtempest.com/ It will search all of craigslist within whatever distance you are willing to travel. Use "lathe" as your keyword and search "all sale/wanted".

For example I live 50 miles east of Fresno in the foothills not far from Kings Canyon National park. I put in 400 miles for my search distance This basically covered everything from the Mexican border to north of the Bay Area. I sent out a lot of emails. The lathes that were in good shape and at a fair price all sold within days of being posted. You will quickly get an idea about pricing. And you will see listings that hang around forever. I ultimately found my craftsman 12x36 lathe only a couple of miles from my house. It was more than I wanted to spend, $1200, but it came with every attachment that craftsman offered except for a taper attachment and lots of misc tooling, 3 & 4 jaw chucks of various sizes, etc. I think that I have a lifetime supply of tool steel. I knew it was a fair price after talking to the seller and I got there as quick as I could with cash in hand. There were several other buyers in route that the seller called while I was listening to tell them the lathe had been sold.

So be patient and be prepared to act quickly when you find what you are looking for.
 

ARC-170

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#7
Have you tried using "search tempest"? https://www.searchtempest.com/ It will search all of craigslist within whatever distance you are willing to travel. Use "lathe" as your keyword and search "all sale/wanted".

For example I live 50 miles east of Fresno in the foothills not far from Kings Canyon National park. I put in 400 miles for my search distance This basically covered everything from the Mexican border to north of the Bay Area. I sent out a lot of emails. The lathes that were in good shape and at a fair price all sold within days of being posted. You will quickly get an idea about pricing. And you will see listings that hang around forever. I ultimately found my craftsman 12x36 lathe only a couple of miles from my house. It was more than I wanted to spend, $1200, but it came with every attachment that craftsman offered except for a taper attachment and lots of misc tooling, 3 & 4 jaw chucks of various sizes, etc. I think that I have a lifetime supply of tool steel. I knew it was a fair price after talking to the seller and I got there as quick as I could with cash in hand. There were several other buyers in route that the seller called while I was listening to tell them the lathe had been sold.

So be patient and be prepared to act quickly when you find what you are looking for.
Searchtempest is awesome! I've been using it. Problem is everything is just a bit too far away. I live in LA, nothing is ever really close, given traffic. It's hard to just pop over and give the machine a look. I like to post here and use the collective wisdom to get a better idea of what I'm looking at.

At this point I'm trying to get a feel for prices and what a fair price is for a given machine. That way, I can jump on it. People here seem to be overpricing, but I could be wrong. I need more knowledge. I'm in no hurry, so I'll just have fun looking and learning.

The listings that hang around too long are usually people who don't want to sell. I'm hoping that I'll learn enough here to convince them they are asking too much and then I can get the machine for less and use the savings to get tools and accessories.
 

wa5cab

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#9
Yes, we have a database in the Atlas/Craftsman/AA section of Downloads that lists 400+ Atlas or Craftsman lathes (from 1932 through early 1981, Atlas [now called Clausing] built all of the better lathes that Sears sold) plus mills, shapers and a few drill presses and band saws. But access to Downloads requires being a donor (any level from $10 per year up) because the necessary storage space is not free. However, S/N 022526 would have been made around January of 1941. Unfortunately, after buying Clausing and later renaming the company to Clausing, Atlas moved several times and all of their production history records were either lost or destroyed. So to approximately date one of them, we have to get by with the few that have had the bearing dates reported. At least, that gives the earliest date one could have been made.

In evaluating the wear (this applies to any machine, not just Atlas), there are two places to check, bed wear and lead screw wear. Many other places will also wear, but if these two are little worn or badly worn, so will be all of the other places. The two are bed wear and lead screw wear.

To measure bed wear, you will need a 0-1" and a 1-2" micrometer. First inspect the under surface of the front way near the right end of the bed for evidence of varnish buildup. Significant varnish buildup will be about the color of dark caramel. If present, first remove with a scrub pad and acetone (wear surgical gloves while doing this). Then measure the thickness of the front of the front way within a few inches of the right end of the bed. This should have originally been 0.375" +/- about 0.0005".Repeat the measurement at several points along the bed up to near the front of the chuck. The limit is probably about 0.010". Repeat with the rear of the front way, and the front and rear of the rear way. Then measure the width of the front and rear ways near the tailstock end of the bed and at several points between there and up near the chuck..

In Downloads in the Lathe Maintenance & Repair folder is a screed on the effect of tailstock height error on part diameter versus the nominal part diameter. The figures given are directly applicable to bed wear figures. Note that the effect of 0.010" vertical error on diameter error is negligible for diameters over about 1/2". Unfortunately, the effect of wear on the rear of the rear way is an error of double the wear.

To evaluate leadscrew wear, you need a dial indicator set up to measure movement of the carriage toward and away from the headstock. Move the tailstock and the carriage to near the right end of the bed and engage the half nuts (AKA split nuts). rock the carriage traverse handwheel back and fourth and note the difference between the two indicator readings. Disengage the half nuts and crack the carriage toward the headstock until the cutter is about an inch from being hit by the chuck jaws. Engage the half nuts, set up the indicator, and again note the difference in indicator readings as you rock the carriage back and forth. The difference between the two differences is the lead screw wear.

I'll add to this tomorrow.
 

wa5cab

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#10
Quick comment - the best two Atlas lathes made are the 12x36 Atlas 3996 and Craftsman 101.28990 made between late 1967 and March of 1981. Followed by the 12x24 Atlas 3995 and Craftsman 101.28980 made only up until about 1972. They are also the most expensive. In 1981, the 3996 cost almost $2000 with no accessories. They aren't much cheaper today. However, they don't lend themselves to rolling around. There were bench models of each, both with and without the QCGB, that would be better for that. And note that I wouldn't personally own or recommend any lathe that rolled around. But I also realize that for some people, it's that way or nothing.
 

ARC-170

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#11
Yes, we have a database in the Atlas/Craftsman/AA section of Downloads that lists 400+ Atlas or Craftsman lathes (from 1932 through early 1981, Atlas [now called Clausing] built all of the better lathes that Sears sold) plus mills, shapers and a few drill presses and band saws. But access to Downloads requires being a donor (any level from $10 per year up) because the necessary storage space is not free. However, S/N 022526 would have been made around January of 1941. Unfortunately, after buying Clausing and later renaming the company to Clausing, Atlas moved several times and all of their production history records were either lost or destroyed. So to approximately date one of them, we have to get by with the few that have had the bearing dates reported. At least, that gives the earliest date one could have been made.

In evaluating the wear (this applies to any machine, not just Atlas), there are two places to check, bed wear and lead screw wear. Many other places will also wear, but if these two are little worn or badly worn, so will be all of the other places. The two are bed wear and lead screw wear.

To measure bed wear, you will need a 0-1" and a 1-2" micrometer. First inspect the under surface of the front way near the right end of the bed for evidence of varnish buildup. Significant varnish buildup will be about the color of dark caramel. If present, first remove with a scrub pad and acetone (wear surgical gloves while doing this). Then measure the thickness of the front of the front way within a few inches of the right end of the bed. This should have originally been 0.375" +/- about 0.0005".Repeat the measurement at several points along the bed up to near the front of the chuck. The limit is probably about 0.010". Repeat with the rear of the front way, and the front and rear of the rear way. Then measure the width of the front and rear ways near the tailstock end of the bed and at several points between there and up near the chuck..

In Downloads in the Lathe Maintenance & Repair folder is a screed on the effect of tailstock height error on part diameter versus the nominal part diameter. The figures given are directly applicable to bed wear figures. Note that the effect of 0.010" vertical error on diameter error is negligible for diameters over about 1/2". Unfortunately, the effect of wear on the rear of the rear way is an error of double the wear.

To evaluate leadscrew wear, you need a dial indicator set up to measure movement of the carriage toward and away from the headstock. Move the tailstock and the carriage to near the right end of the bed and engage the half nuts (AKA split nuts). rock the carriage traverse handwheel back and fourth and note the difference between the two indicator readings. Disengage the half nuts and crack the carriage toward the headstock until the cutter is about an inch from being hit by the chuck jaws. Engage the half nuts, set up the indicator, and again note the difference in indicator readings as you rock the carriage back and forth. The difference between the two differences is the lead screw wear.

I'll add to this tomorrow.
Thanks so much for the info, I really appreciate it. I will use this when I look at the machines.
What is the tolerance for lead screw wear? What is an acceptable difference between the two differences?
 

ARC-170

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#12
Quick comment - the best two Atlas lathes made are the 12x36 Atlas 3996 and Craftsman 101.28990 made between late 1967 and March of 1981. Followed by the 12x24 Atlas 3995 and Craftsman 101.28980 made only up until about 1972. They are also the most expensive. In 1981, the 3996 cost almost $2000 with no accessories. They aren't much cheaper today. However, they don't lend themselves to rolling around. There were bench models of each, both with and without the QCGB, that would be better for that. And note that I wouldn't personally own or recommend any lathe that rolled around. But I also realize that for some people, it's that way or nothing.
Good to know, thanks! I'm beginning to think that I really need to find a place to set this machine and NOT have it roll around. I also see that the Atlas/Craftsman has exposed belts behind the headstock. I have kids and not a lot of space; seems like it would be good to have covered belts and pulley wheels.
 

ARC-170

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#13
Did you see this lathe? https://inlandempire.craigslist.org/tls/d/craftsman-metal-lathe/6716642226.html
Warner Springs is out in the middle of nowhere in eastern San Diego County. Not many people will make that drive. This is most likely a lathe used as a hobby in someone's garage.
I did. It's about 3 hours away from me. I'm going to call and see what model it is and what it comes with.

Do you think that's a fair price? It's been up for almost a month, so the seller could be willing to deal. Or not! I guess I'll find out! :)
 

mickri

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#14
The seller has it in his garage and it is clean. Also the garage is clean too. Based on the cleanliness of everything in the pictures there is a good chance the lathe is in good condition. I paid $1200 for my craftsman 12x36. My lathe came with 8" 4 jaw, 6" 4 jaw, 6" 3 jaw, 5" 3 jaw, and a 3" 3 jaw chucks. A steady rest and follower rest. A milling attachment and a tool post grinder. A QCGB. A couple of face plates. Some jacobs drill chucks and a special jacobs chuck for holding armatures. Some dial indicators with magnetic bases, calipers, dead centers and just a bunch of other tooling. And a sturdy but somewhat ugly stand. My lathe was very dirty from being stored for a number of years and needed a thorough cleaning but had been lightly used and was otherwise in excellent condition. Based on what I paid for my lathe I don't think that $800 for the lathe in the ad is unrealistic as long as it is in good condition and has at least some tooling included. And being a 12" is a good thing. 12" is not too big to make smaller stuff yet big enough to make just about anything that might come up in a home shop.
 

bill70j

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Do you think that's a fair price? It's been up for almost a month, so the seller could be willing to deal. Or not! I guess I'll find out! :)
Agree that $800 seems like a fair price.

I got my Atlas QC42 off Craig's List for $675. It is a 10" but does have the QCGB and came with 2 chucks, a steady, drive plate, a lantern style tool post and holders, plus some smaller stuff.

But it was filthy, hadn't been used in years, both chucks were frozen, it needed a cross slide screw and nut, and naturally the traverse case was broken.
 
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mickri

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#16
A little off topic. Well a lot off topic. Bill, I have seen an ad on Craigslist selling all kinds of tooling in Los Osos. You wouldn't happen to know the seller. I get over to Morro Bay about once a month to check on my sailboat and to see my grandkids in Cambria. Have thought about seeing what he has for sale. I am always looking for something.
 

bill70j

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A little off topic. Well a lot off topic. Bill, I have seen an ad on Craigslist selling all kinds of tooling in Los Osos. You wouldn't happen to know the seller. I get over to Morro Bay about once a month to check on my sailboat and to see my grandkids in Cambria. Have thought about seeing what he has for sale. I am always looking for something.
Mickri:

I have seen the ads, but have never gone over to see the guy, so don't know him.

But another Forum member "C-Bag" would probably know. He lives in Los Osos also.

Bill
 

wa5cab

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#18
ARC-170,

First, any belt driven multi-speed bench model lathe is going to have the motor and countershaft assembly mounted on the bench behind the bed. By about 1941, pretty much all of the Atlas-built 10" and 12" lathes, mills and shapers came from the factory with gear guards and belt covers. Unfortunately, all too many owners removed and tossed the covers and sometimes the guards. This is also true of the Logans/Wards and Clausings which were the primary competitors to Atlas.

The cabinet models, which Atlas only produced as a 12", could be said to have fixed this problem, especially with the very rare Atlas 12700 which had a wider cabinet with the two 4-step pulleys inside of it.

Back to the lead screw thread wear question, I made some measurements on my 3996. It is too bad that I didn't do this back 37 years ago right after I bought the machine. One of these days, I will replace the half nuts and will try to remember to repeat the tests at least at one end of the bed or the other.

I set up a dial indicator on a mag base with the indicator shaft parallel to the bed and lead screw. And temporarily mounted a wood block on the right front saddle wing for the indicator to register on. Near the right end of the bed in an area that I know hasn't been used on but two or maybe three jobs over the years, I got a carriage movement of about 0.032". Some of that is thread allowance, some of it is running clearance between the half nuts and guide, and some of it is wear on the half nuts and guide. Near the headstock, I got 0.041". So the amount that would be attributable to wear on the lead screw threads is 0.009". A little bit of it would be due to wear on the side of the threads that would wear while moving the carriage towards the tailstock. However, this wear I would guess is no more than 0.001", as I don't often drive the carriage toward the tailstock.

Unfortunately, I've never seen the subject discussed in print where any hard numbers were quoted. The two spots that I measured were about two feet apart. I have never cut threads near that length. And it's unlikely that you ever will either. Although I do have a spare lead screw that came from a machine that I happen to know would very seldom have had any need for the power feed (it came from a transformer manufacturer), I have no plans to swap lead screws any time soon. I have seen photos of lead screws where the Acme thread crests were noticably rounded on top. So if the wear is visible to the naked eye, replace the lead screw. If it isn't, don't worry about it.
 
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