Originally Posted by Ricardito
at first) jobs such as thread cutting, polishing, resizing metal (mostly aluminum) parts, fabricating uncomplicated pieces such as odd sized wflat wahers, etc. how old can it be, what basic features should it have? Where should I look for one in good condition? My only criteria are that it should be a 110 v motor and cost me somewhere between $500 and $1,000.
Here's my take on this.
Thread Cutting being mentioned I would determine if you need metric or not on those threads - Metric can be... Problematic - Not to the point of impossiblity, but the older American Lathes that are so common/available/awesome are usually best suited for cutting standard threads.
Which brings you to features - The minute you say threads/Lathes in one sentance you are talking about a lathe equipped with a leadscrew, and gear box. As well as a threading dial. Those features are required. If you want to thread often you should look for a quick change gear box
instead of a swap gear varient.
The quick change gear box lets you select threads rapidly.
Other than that I would be looking for the following as must haves.
Chuck - 3 jaw
Powerfeeds - on the cross slide if possible, but atleast on the carriage.
As optionals that will save you lots of money later -
Tool Post quick change - Aloris or similar.
Centers - for headstock and tailstock
Chuck 4 Jaw
Collets for headstock and draw bar for same.
Which brings me to what to buy/age. You'll need to put a number on how large of parts you want to work with, lathes have a number like 6" 10" or 12", which represents how large of an object can be swung. Also look for how long you want to be able to work - some lathes are 3' beds, some 6' - bear in mind that this number is the length of the bed, the part it can turn may be far shorter if you need to use the tailstock to support the end, or a drill in the tail stock, or if it cannot fit through the throughbore on the headstock of the lathe - which is another good thing to identify.
Age - Older to me is better so long as it is good condition.
Personally I would be buying a Southbend - I would want it to be in good shape, with lots of extra goodies. Having a south bend and an atlas, I would go for a worse shape SB over a better shape atlas, it just has far better features.