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General Discussions of Atlas Lathes

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great white

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#1
Generally, I find the Atlas lathes are put down by professionals and sort "damned with faint praise" by hobbyists (IE:it's good enough).

Now, I still haven't picked mine up (10X36 or maybe a 42, remains to be seen) but I would like to address any "flexibility" items while I'm cleaning, restoring and setting it up.

I say flexibility since that seems to be the major thing that is usually pointed out. Is it the ways that are "flexible"? or is it in the cross slide? the head?

Is it the width of the ways perhaps?

Or perhaps it's only "flexible" when compared to a 3000 lb dedicated shop type lathe?

I need to build a stand for the atlas and I was thinking I like a lot of the things this gent mentions with a "beam" mounting:

[video=youtube;ztA-0KSi1FM]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztA-0KSi1FM[/video]

I like the ease of access to the chip tray, I like the added space under the hand wheels, I like the way it manages dripping oil (or coolant if I ever build that) and if it actually does add a degree of stiffness to the lathe for greater accuracy, I'm sold.

I will have to build a stand for my atlas either way. The guy I'm buying it from has it mounted on a rather nasty looking 2x4 and plywood arrangement and I don't think it even comes with the lathe. I'd probably be tossing it even if it did.

I was also thinking of eventually changing out the "lantern" tool holder for a QCTP, but am unsure if that wold do anything for accuracy or not. I'm not doing production stuff so ease and speed of changing tools is not a high priority, but would probably be a welcome addition in the convenience dept. Would be a while before it happens anyways, the budget can only take so much stretching and I'm buying a new welder this month also (Millermatic 211).

I'm not looking to turn out high precision work with the old atlas, but I would like to get the most out of it that I can. If I can do that while building a stand, more the better!

I know that's kind of a broad topic post, but any input or explanation on why the Atlas seems to have such a bad wrap (and ways of fixing it) would be welcome.

Cheers
 
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David S

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#2
GW I think everything is relative. I started many years ago as a hobbyist with a Unimat db200. I did a lot of work with it and learned about machining...and patience :). Then I moved up to an Atlas 618 in 1973 which I still have to day and is my go to lathe for everything that I do. I make and repair clock parts and fixtures and jigs. I have used my friend's much larger and stiffer lathe and I can take deeper cuts etc. But for what I do, this lathe suits me just fine and I am very used to its limits and work within them. I have lot's of accessories for the Atlas, plus special stuff that I have made for it, so it ain't going to leave any time soon.

I bet that your 12x36 will suit your needs assuming that it is in reasonable shape.

David
 

stupoty

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#3
I prefer the styling of older smaller lathes, all the space around the head stock compaired to more modern cubist styled lathes makes life a bit easier (from my limited experience) :)

Stuart
 

Holescreek

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#4
I've had a variety of South Bends, an Atlas, Hardinge, Logan and a Cincinnati Tratop. Currently I have the Traytop and the Atlas (was my grandfathers). The upside of the Atlas is low cost and lots of spare parts. The Downside of the Atlas are the Zamak (zinc alloy) gears, soft flat bed ways, and lack of mass/rigidity. My favorite of the low cost machines was the Logan 820.

That said, zillions of good quality turned products have been produced on Atlas lathes. The machine isn't the key component in good parts, it's the machinist. A good machinist can make good parts on any machine.
 

Round in circles

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#5
In like the idea of that heavy stand but would say that from the picture it looks to be mounted too far back from the operator .

I feel that ideally you need to be able to see the tool tip when it is cutting whilst standing reasonably straight up , not having to bend over to see what your doing as this leads to fatigue and the tendency to use the lathe to push yourself up right after an hour or so of turning .

I have my lathe set on a fairly strong cast iron leg set which is bolted to a 2 inch thick beech block for the table top .
This last week I've set it in a welded 2 inch angle iron steel frame where the lathe stands on two 670 mm long 4 inch wide , 3 inches high " U " shaped channels of 1/2 " thick steel .
The frame has two fully rotating lockable & two fixed heavy duty 4 inch high nylon castors under it so I can move it out to clean under it or recover lost items under it if needed .

In a few weeks time I hope I'll be using home made machine feet set in the angle iron/ cross channel sections of the frame to take it off the castors and for levelling /truing it up properly & rigidly
 

mattthemuppet

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#6
it's all relative. My current lathe is so flexy that I can push the headstock 40thou in one direction with my hand, yet I can still make good things on it and hold acceptable tolerances for what I do. My next lathe is a "618" which will be a HUGE step up in rigidity and performance :)

If you're working for money, sure it wouldn't be ideal, but to be honest you'd most likely be looking in a totally different class of machine or even CNC anyway. If you have the time and patience you can do what ever you want that will fit. It will really teach you important things about depth of cut, cutting bit geometries (and sharpness!) and all sorts of other useful skills.
 

great white

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#7
In like the idea of that heavy stand but would say that from the picture it looks to be mounted too far back from the operator .

I feel that ideally you need to be able to see the tool tip when it is cutting whilst standing reasonably straight up , not having to bend over to see what your doing as this leads to fatigue and the tendency to use the lathe to push yourself up right after an hour or so of turning .
Excellent considerations, especially when it sounds like I'll be making lighter cuts and taking longer on most jobs with the atlas.
 

Ulma Doctor

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#8
atlas lathes are not bad lathes, they have shortcomings- as any piece of shop equipment will invariably have.
the onus then becomes the operators when a machine is lightly constructed.
it can do the same work as a slightly larger lathe, only at a generally slower rate of production.
it takes way more skill and/or patience to run a worn or light lathe.
you'll need to take lighter cuts and slower feed rates , but it will eventually do the same work as a larger lathe.
many fine things are produced with modest machines and skilled operators.
 

pdentrem

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#9
I had an Atlas for 20 years. Did all sorts of work on it. Free, trade, or pay, it worked for me. I traded up to a heavier lathe, mostly to get into a QCGB, as even here in Ontario the version you are looking at is usually a bit pricy and heavily used. I bought my currently lathe for just a bit more than what I would have had to pay for the Atlas version.

While as noted that a heavier lathe will take bigger cuts, most times the finishing cut will be the same on either lathe. No matter the size of the lathe, there will always be flex some where.

Just enjoy that you will be able to make stuff and don't be surprised that your neighbors start bugging you for help repairing or replacing their stuff! I know mine did and do!
Pierre
 

Smudgemo

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#10
When I got my Atlas, it was mounted to a desk which worked fine, but as noted earlier standing closer makes for easier use. I wouldn't want to go back to this setup.
8129368487_bbf7ab7a10_h.jpg

If you're building a stand, you might consider something like the one I did. You get the perfect height, it's easy to be up close and you end up with tons of tool storage that ought to make for a more solid foundation. Maybe not, but it can't hurt, right?

14929225276_b756552045_k.jpg

I seriously doubt this will be my last lathe, but it's my first and it's done everything I've asked of it. Parts of all sorts are available and not terribly expensive. The gears are poo-pooed, but I don't have a single chipped tooth or broken anything. I'd like to switch the motor for a 3 phase + VFD and make the ATLAS/CRAFTSMAN TYPE CROSS SLIDE (A-11) project from Metal Lathe, but that's just daydreaming for fun...

-Ryan

14929225276_b756552045_k.jpg 8129368487_bbf7ab7a10_h.jpg
 

wa5cab

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#11
Great White,

Second to a good stand, bench or cabinet, the QCTP will probably do more for improving rigidity than anything else that you can do. And more for convenience.

Robert D.
 

iron man

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#12
I have had an Atlas a long time and yes I have made modifications to cure some of the down falls but I would challenge anyone to machine something more accurate with the same size lathe. I grew up on a south bend and believe me they have plenty of down falls as well some atlas parts would appear beefy in comparison. A poor operator blames an atlas lathe.. Ray
 

caveBob

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#15
I ran across a couple of pics of my grandfather's lathe right after I rebuilt it. I've only used the lathe once in the 8 years since.

Image46.jpg

Image45.jpg
Beautiful restoration Holescreek, I'm sure your Grand Dad would be proud of the job you did! Can't quite make out for sure but it looks like you scraped the ways too?

I did mine in black as well, used hammered alkaline and it's held up pretty well, what did you use? Again, kudos...
 

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great white

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#16
So it sounds like the plan is solid stand/bench first, then a QCTP second.

Would perhaps a linked belt be a worthwhile improvement after those two things are sorted?

My lathe will have to be "moveable", I've already got a design in my mind for a beam type table with a hydraulic lifting mechanism for casters. Basically, a relatively affordable 10/20 ton bottle jack and a retractable caster frame. The stand will rest on the concrete on it's solid legs once the casters are retracted.

It won't be moved much, but in a 1 car garage that shares space with my woodworking tools and a 1962 thunderbird when I need to move it for space it has to move....:(
 

pdentrem

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#17
The table/stand needs to be stiff, and the beam was a thought I had as well but never got there.

Definitely get an AXA tool post. It was the best $100 (at that time) upgrade that I made. Instant gratification! Be sure to get a few more holders. I bought another 5 of the Type A and should of gotten ten more. I find that I need to swap tools in the holder too many times. Also look at a tangential tool holder.

A link belt will help reduce vibrations from the drivetrain reaching the spindle. It is not a total cure, but does wonders. I get much smoother cuts on the table saw. As the belts on my equipment require replacement, I swap them to link belts. At work I am swapping the belts in our machines there as well. Reduces down time not having to disassemble a multi thousand dollar machine for a $10 belt.
Pierre
 

Holescreek

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#18
Beautiful restoration Holescreek, I'm sure your Grand Dad would be proud of the job you did! Can't quite make out for sure but it looks like you scraped the ways too?

I did mine in black as well, used hammered alkaline and it's held up pretty well, what did you use? Again, kudos...
The lathe was used by my grandfather for about 30 years then by my uncle for another 30 after that. The bed ways were worn .025" for the first 18" from the head. The cross-slide was worn about .012" and even the compound had a few thousandths wear. I hand scraped the bed, surface ground and scraped the rest and painted with Rustoleum Hammered metal finish.

I intended to pass it along to a family member but sadly, I'm the last of the machinists and no one in the family is interested.
 

caveBob

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The lathe was used by my grandfather for about 30 years then by my uncle for another 30 after that. The bed ways were worn .025" for the first 18" from the head. The cross-slide was worn about .012" and even the compound had a few thousandths wear. I hand scraped the bed, surface ground and scraped the rest and painted with Rustoleum Hammered metal finish.

I intended to pass it along to a family member but sadly, I'm the last of the machinists and no one in the family is interested.
I've never scraped anything myself so only have admiration for those that do/can...

Gosh, hope someone in the family will develop at least a curiosity about machining or gets interested... funny thing life is sometimes huh?
 

caveBob

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#20
So it sounds like the plan is solid stand/bench first, then a QCTP second.

Would perhaps a linked belt be a worthwhile improvement after those two things are sorted?

My lathe will have to be "moveable", I've already got a design in my mind for a beam type table with a hydraulic lifting mechanism for casters. Basically, a relatively affordable 10/20 ton bottle jack and a retractable caster frame. The stand will rest on the concrete on it's solid legs once the casters are retracted.

It won't be moved much, but in a 1 car garage that shares space with my woodworking tools and a 1962 thunderbird when I need to move it for space it has to move....:(
How are you setup for tools? Hand tools mostly or power? Reason I ask, torsion boxes work terrifically for making a very strong, stable base. It's what I did, and would do it again even if it was a fair amount of work...

I'll see if I can find or take some pics if you want of the bench and the motor belt tensioning thingamabob I made. When I first got the lathe, that was my #1 first goal: removing/deadening vibrations.
 

great white

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#21
How are you setup for tools? Hand tools mostly or power? Reason I ask, torsion boxes work terrifically for making a very strong, stable base. It's what I did, and would do it again even if it was a fair amount of work...

I'll see if I can find or take some pics if you want of the bench and the motor belt tensioning thingamabob I made. When I first got the lathe, that was my #1 first goal: removing/deadening vibrations.
Power my friend, all power. With hand tools as a backup.

I'm picking up a millermatic 211 shortly after we move into the new house and I bring home the lathe. The lathe will sit on the floor for a month or two (not in use) and two of the first projects the miller and the chop saw will get is a welding table and the lathe stand.

Would like to see pics if you have them.

I'm actually considering tearing apart our old treadmill (well, no that old but no one uses it anymore) and using the motor/controller to power the Atlas. BUt that's another project for a year or so down the road. Too much else is a priority right now.

Only reason I'm getting the lathe in the first place is I was recently paid out by DVA for a service injury. I want to get a few things for myself that I've been lusting after for a long time (wife agrees). It's never long before life intrudes and siphones all the money away. A lathe will give me something to to occupy me and take my mind off my "demons".....:soldier2:
 

caveBob

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#22
Power my friend, all power. With hand tools as a backup.

I'm picking up a millermatic 211 shortly after we move into the new house and I bring home the lathe. The lathe will sit on the floor for a month or two (not in use) and two of the first projects the miller and the chop saw will get is a welding table and the lathe stand.

Would like to see pics if you have them.

I'm actually considering tearing apart our old treadmill (well, no that old but no one uses it anymore) and using the motor/controller to power the Atlas. BUt that's another project for a year or so down the road. Too much else is a priority right now.

Only reason I'm getting the lathe in the first place is I was recently paid out by DVA for a service injury. I want to get a few things for myself that I've been lusting after for a long time (wife agrees). It's never long before life intrudes and siphones all the money away. A lathe will give me something to to occupy me and take my mind off my "demons".....:soldier2:
Pardon the mess... in the middle of a "few" simultaneous projects atm... :) Anyway the torsion box bench is mounted on roller feet so I can move it when I want/need:







the motor mounting thingamabob that keeps the motor from bouncing up and down under load:



back side where you can see the 3/4" alum plate that mounts on top of the 2" steel bar stock:

 

great white

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#24
Looks like a power lead screw?

Any info on that?

That one looks nicely done.

What is that on the back of the ways? Is it a carriage stop? A gauge holder? etc?

And is that a foot kill switch? I've thought about rigging something up like that but as a type of deadman switch since I work alone in the garage most times.

I see lots of neat details on your Atlas that I like!

:thumbzup:
 

caveBob

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#25
Thanks, mods please forgive me for just linking somewhere else here - it's just easier for me to post a link than reconstruct it here. Anyway, the motor, speed and other info is here.

Nah, the pedal should have been put away... it's for the "Foredom-like" flex grinder I was using for something... hanging out... :)
 

great white

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Thanks, mods please forgive me for just linking somewhere else here - it's just easier for me to post a link than reconstruct it here. Anyway, the motor, speed and other info is here.

Nah, the pedal should have been put away... it's for the "Foredom-like" flex grinder I was using for something... hanging out... :)
For my own learning, what is powering the leadscrew good for?

Is it just to get very slow feed rates?

I assume you can't do threading with it since its not linked to the spindle speed any longer?
 

kd4gij

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#27
So, what makes an Atlas lathe so "bad"?

Just people that like knocking on outher peoply.
I have had my Crastfman Atlas 12x36 lathe for about 15 years. I make just as good and acurite parts as the much larger lathes I run at work.
 

caveBob

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#28
For my own learning, what is powering the leadscrew good for?

Is it just to get very slow feed rates?

I assume you can't do threading with it since its not linked to the spindle speed any longer?
Yeup, pretty much. Like you said, for turning not threading, I can't tell you how nice it is to tune the speed of the cutter feed rate, up or down, to avoid chatter/harmonics. It works great for that and like for grinding bores or bearing races.

From a wacky experiment:

42857.jpg

42859.jpg

When I got the lathe it was missing a few parts in the geartrain so haven't been able to thread to date. A fix for that is in the works though (QCGB retrofit).
 

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Round in circles

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#29
The lathe was used by my grandfather for about 30 years then by my uncle for another 30 after that. The bed ways were worn .025" for the first 18" from the head. The cross-slide was worn about .012" and even the compound had a few thousandths wear. I hand scraped the bed, surface ground and scraped the rest and painted with Rustoleum Hammered metal finish.

I intended to pass it along to a family member but sadly, I'm the last of the machinists and no one in the family is interested.

It sounds like a divorce is on the cards then, moving on to a new younger model perhaps like I did ? :D Just make sure all your gear is at a pals house first .;)
 
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