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How Do I Choose the Best Used Metalworking Lathe?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

When attempting to buy the best used metalworking lathe, it is important to examine the critical components of the lathe to ensure the mechanisms operate smoothly and correctly. Of primary concern when buying a used lathe is the motor. The large electrical motor that drives all aspects of the lathe is of the utmost importance when attempting to get the best lathe possible. You should always test the motor with an electrical tester to ensure the motor has no burned components. Also important to check are the lathe's bed rails; any nicks or damage that will not permit smooth movement of the tail stock on the rails indicates a faulty used metalworking lathe.

Once you know that the primary components are up to standards, the next check to determine the best used metalworking lathe is the tool rest assembly. The tool rest assembly on a lathe should work smoothly in all directions: up, down and side to side. Any tool rest that does not operate smoothly indicates a used metalworking lathe that will probably not produce high-quality metal-turnings. If the lathe has passed all tests and checks to this point, it is time for you to check the bearings in the automatic tool rest feed and the drive and tail stocks.


You may choose to pull on the drive chuck and the tail stock to attempt to wiggle the components up and down as well as back and forth. Any movement might indicate a bad bearing or locking mechanism, either of which could mean the used metalworking lathe is less than the best choice for you. If you are satisfied with the lathe up to this point, ask to operate it. With permission, switch the motor on and listen and smell for anything out of the ordinary as the motor begins to turn. Grinding or squeaking noises as well as burning grease, plastic or electrical odors means that you probably have not located the best used metalworking lathe.

If the motor has switched on and appears to be operating as it should, begin to speed the drive up to the fastest speed on the control panel. Watch for vibrations and feel the motor for signs of overheating. Once satisfied that the motor is running smoothly at full speed, slow the motor speed to the slowest speed and listen for sounds that the motor is dragging. These sounds could also indicate that you have not located the best used metalworking lathe. If the machine has passed all of your tests and you are satisfied with the price, you may have found the best used metalworking lathe for your needs.

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