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Curious about Atlas lathes

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Aaron_W

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#1
I have a Sherline lathe which meets has been meeting my needs so far. As my interests grow so does the size of my projects and I'm starting to bump up against the size limitations of the little lathe. I'm not in a hurry to get something larger but am starting to watch for a good deal on something in the 8-12" size, space limits me to a bed length of 30" or so. I have the long bed Sherline (17"), so not looking for something shorter than 20" which takes out the common 8x16 lathes.


There are a lot of Atlas / Craftsman lathes on the used market that fit into this size class.

I see a lot of derogatory comments about these as not being "real" lathes since they were marketed towards light commercial and hobbyist use. I don't pay these comments a lot of attention as this is common with smaller lathes. I would be curious to know how those who own them rate them against other common brands in the 8-10" class Southbend, Logan, Grizzly etc.

What is parts availability like for these? For me one of the major attractions of the Sherline was the large supply of parts and accessories. Some of the older lathes have limited availability.


If I were to find a good deal on one of these these are there any specific issues to watch for? Better or worse years / models, weak spots to watch out for, really hard to find parts that might make one want to walk away etc if broken etc?



Basically I'm looking for an honest assessment of these lathes from those who own them, what do you consider to be the strengths and what are the aspects where they could possibly leave one wanting more?
 

markba633csi

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#2
Atlas/Craftsman lathes are excellent cost-effective solutions for hobby/light industrial use. They made lots of them so parts are readily available.
They don't have hardened beds so most will have measurable wear- try to find the best equipped (tooled), least worn example; don't buy the first one you see unless it's an absolute beauty and owned by a little old lady who only made chips on Sunday afternoons...:p
Mark
 

Rooster

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Greetings Aaron, i have an Atlas 618 which i think of as a little big lathe. It has a 30" bed with 18" between centers, it amazes me what i'm able too accomplish on this size lathe. If i was to get a bigger lathe it would be a South Bend Heavy 10, but only if it was in great shape.
 

wa5cab

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Aaron,

While it's true that Atlas built their lathes to a price point, they were aimed primarily at small shops and in larger shops as second operation machines. For almost the first 15 years of their production they weren't aimed at the hobbyist market because before WW-II there was no hobbyist market to speak of. During the Depression, only a few rich individuals could afford a hobby. And during WW-II, very little of anything was built that didn't directly aid the War effort. Anyone who claims differently doesn't know what they are talking about. Only after the end of WW-II did the Middle Class return home and begin to have the time and money for a hobby.

Before I go any further, I can't tell for certain whether you are talking about the actual bed length or the lathe's rated length (i.e., maximum distance or length between centers). Prior to about 1948, the shortest 10" and 12" lathes that Atlas built were the 10x18 and 12x18. However, both of these lathes have a bed length of 36". Which is longer than your stated maximum bed length of about 30". The headstock takes up about 12" of the bed and when all the way to the right, the tailstock about 6". The only lathes that Atlas made with a nominal 30" bed were the four 6x18 models. So which did you mean?
 

Aaron_W

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Aaron,

Before I go any further, I can't tell for certain whether you are talking about the actual bed length or the lathe's rated length (i.e., maximum distance or length between centers). Prior to about 1948, the shortest 10" and 12" lathes that Atlas built were the 10x18 and 12x18. However, both of these lathes have a bed length of 36". Which is longer than your stated maximum bed length of about 30". The headstock takes up about 12" of the bed and when all the way to the right, the tailstock about 6". The only lathes that Atlas made with a nominal 30" bed were the four 6x18 models. So which did you mean?
I was talking about distance centers based on the PM and Grizzly 10x30 lathes with an overall length of 52". I think that is about the largest I could fit into my space. 36-40" OAL would not be an issue, I didn't know they offered 18" beds, that could potentially even be a plus.
 

wa5cab

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OK. The Atlas 10x30's have 48" beds.

The first Atlas lathe from 1932 was a 9x18, followed quickly by 9x24, 30 and 36. Model numbers were 936, 942, 948 & 954. Instead of back gears, they were what Atlas called Compound Drive, which was a triple V-belt drive.They were only made for about 5 years and parts availability isn't good except for parts that were also used on later models.

In 1934, Atlas came out with the first 10", which was a conventional design with back gears. Model numbers were 1036 thru 1054. They also offered the basic lathe in stripped down form called 10A, 10B and 10C. They could be brought up to the full spec by buying and bolting on the additional parts.

In 1936 the machine was revised and called the 10D, still with four different bed lengths. Up to this point, all of the machines had split babbit spindle bearings. The 10D could be had for an extra cost with Timken tapered roller bearings. And there was a 10E stripped down model. Up through the 10D, all of the models had a 5/8" dia. lead screw.

Finally, in 1938 they introduced the 10F, with a 3/4" diameter lead screw and power cross feed. It had a new model numbering scheme, could be had with Timken or babbit bearings, and could be had with either the same vertical countershaft used on the earlier 10's or with a horizontal countershaft. The latter came with a full top cover that hid the spindle and back gears. Up until 1945, they could be had with either babbit or Timken bearings. And with Vertical or Horizontal Countershaft. And in 1947 they introduced a 10F with a Quick Change Gear Box. In 1948, they dropped the 36" and 48" beds.

The 10F had a different type model number, consisting of one or two letters, a hyphen, and two digits. The first letter was either blank for babbit or T for Timken bearings. The second number was either V for vertical countershaft or H for horizontal. The two digits were the bed length, 36, 42, 48 or 54. From 1948, QC-nn meant the machine had the QCGB. All of which had Timken bearings and a horizontal countershaft.

The 10F went out of production in 1957, giving it an almost 20 year run. The preferred model would be a 10F with Timken bearings and probably with the earlier QCGB.

The Craftsman 12" models pretty much followed the 10" changes, usually lagging one or two years behind the 10".

From late 1957 on, Atlas built a heavier 12" model which came with either Atlas or Craftsman nameplates. They may be heavier than what you are looking for.
 

markba633csi

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#7
Robert you're a storehouse of knowledge - why would the earlier qcgb be preferred on the 10F?

ps and I'm an idiot who doesn't know how to spell "knowledge"
 

wa5cab

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I have seen no explanation as to why they changed it. The basic gearbox is mostly the same. The only significant difference is that the original 1500/1570 had a spring loaded pin and a bolt-on quadrant with three holes that the pin dropped into to select FWD-OFF-REV. With the later 6800, you have to open the left gear guard and loosen a nut on the pinch bolt, move the selector lever, and tighten the nut to hold the tumbler at its new position. All 12" came with the selector tumbler whether they had a QCGB or not. And the quadrant was cast into the headstock.

So if its selector quadrant was in the proper location, the early box was more convenient to use. Perhaps in production, they had trouble with the bolt-on being or staying in the proper location. If there are any members here who have a 10" with the 1500/1570 on their 10", perhaps they will comment.

The only difference between the 1500 and the 1570 is that the latter came with a 16T/32T compound stud gear and stud, and a metal template which was for locating the hole that you had to drill in the early headstocks to install the stud gear (and tumbler). Both should have come with a 16T/32T compound stud gear with a thin disk sandwiched between the two gears that kept what became the sliding gear engaged with the 32T gear if you had the box set to cut 4 to 7.5 TPI threads. The original 10F had the compound gear but it lacked the disk. Studying various vintage 10" and 12" parts lists indicates that the disk may not have been present on early production and was added later.

On both 10" and 12", the QCGB's could be retrofitted to any earlier model.
 

mickri

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I looked for over a year before I found my craftsman 12x36. Because I was concerned about wear and not having the knowledge to really assess how worn out a lathe was I primarily looked for lathes that were owned by a hobbyist figuring that they would have been lightly used. I also looked for lathes that came with lots of tooling and accessories. I shied away from anything that sounded like the seller was just trying to flip something or coming out of a production shop. I used search tempest which allows you to search craigslist based on the mileage from your location. You will probably have to drive down to the Bay area. Be patient and you will find what your are looking for.
 

56type

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I have an Atlas 10100 Mk.2 6"x18" and am very happy with it. As long as you work within it's performance envelope it does fine work, or has for me anyway. Recently upgraded the plastic gibs that it came with to steel gibs & it seems a bit more accurate. Only a few things that it doesn't have that I'd like to see, like QCGB & power cross feed for facing off material. Don't try taking very deep cuts and take your time working with it and it will produce the pieces you want/need. I was looking at lower cost import machines when I came across mine, metal gears VS. plastic, larger length between centers, lower cost for a better bargain as I saw it. LMS supports them with pre-ground tool bits & parts can be found on ebay fairly frequently. If you can find one in great condition I say go for it.
 

Bi11Hudson

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Just butting in, per my usual. I have a Craftsman 12X36, it is essentially an Atlas 10" with a cast in riser to get the 12". It is removed from commercial use and is now a hobby machine. However, I am a very sloppy hobbyest, not requiring serious dimensional control. It will do a half a thou when I need it. After tightening up all the gibs and C..... The reason I butted in, was prowling on eBay and found a nice machine. I'm not sure you are within reach, but it has been up for sale for a while. Each time, the price has come down, it is now very reasonable. Not sure if it fits your needs, but:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/SOUTH-BEND...=3&_sacat=0&_nkw=machine+tool&_from=R40&rt=nc
Threading change gears are there, not much other tooling. If you are in reach, it may well be worth looking at.
 
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