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Machine Tool FAQs
- some frequently asked questions -

This is a work in progress and will be added to.
If you have any suggestions for suitable content, please do email

You are welcome to email enquiries but, due to the volume of correspondence I receive, you may not always receive a reply. In this case, email again or, if it's urgent phone: 01298-871633 or from overseas: +44-1298-871633
If you are a newcomer to lathes it's very helpful if you first do some homework and learn what the various parts are called. It's all pretty simple and listed here with copious diagrams and written comments. Please take the time to read the whole page - and you'll then be better armed to get the best from your machine.

1) How do I choose the best lathe for my particular requirements See this section

I need an Operating and Maintenance Manual and Sales Catalogue for my machine. Where can I find them?
Manuals (and some catalogues) can be bought online; an alphabetical list of Catalogues found here and an alphabetical list of manuals here
If you need an in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to use a lathe, milling machine or undertake mechanical fittings these books are as comprehensive as they get

I have a lathe and am unsure about the controls. What do I do before starting it up and using it?  See this page

Exactly which lathe, milling machine, drill, shaper, wood lathe, tool & cutter grinder, saw or grinder (etc) should I buy?
That's a bit like asking me which car you should choose. It depends upon so many different factors, but here are some suggestions.
- for metal-turning lathes this page
- for wood-turning lathes this page
- for milling machines this page
- for shapers this page
- for tool & cutter and surface grinding machines this page
- for drills see this page
- for tool & cutter grinders this page

I want to sell my machine tool--lathe, miller, grinder, etc. How do I go about advertising it and obtain best price? See this page for some helpful advice

Is there a list of older, smaller British small lathes?
Yes, see this page for an almost complete list

Is there one book that will help me understand how to use a lathe?
There is. It's been in print for many decades and, although written in a rather dated style, contains almost everything you need to know. However, if you need a thorough training course in turning, millings and mechanical fitting then these would be better

How do I find a quick reference to what the parts of a lathe are called - and how it works?
Read my pages here  In addition, this book, "The Amateur's lathe" will answer many questions

I hear that machine tools can be dangerous. What hints and tips on safe use can you give?
While somebody seems to find a novel way of killing or maiming themselves every week using a machine tool, this page will help avoid common mistakes. It also has many useful ideas for getting the best from a machine. It's worth a close read:

I have a machine tool for sale. Do you buy them - or can you help with some advice?
We no longer buy and sell - but we can help with free advice and very effective advertising pages here and also here - the latter page where you can place adverts directly online. We can also write the advert for you - at no extra cost.
For proven advice on selling click here

I'm looking for a machine and other parts. Is there anything positive I can do to find them?
An effective way is to run a "Wanted" advertisement on this "Sale & Wanted" page (it's also repeated on the dedicated "wanted" page)
If you need hard-to-find accessories and parts it's often easier to advertise for a second, complete machine; take off what you need and then sell on the rest. This can save an enormous amount of time and trouble.

How do I check the condition of a lathe?  See this page

My manual has a list of out-of-date oils and greases. Are there modern equivalents?
In nearly every case, yes - and this page should assist in finding the right ones. Some important notes on machine-tool oils can be found here

) I've bought a lathe with no drive system. How can I rig one up, what speeds should it run at - and how powerful should the motor be?
Many answers, hints and tips can be found here

I need some flat, round, V and link belts. Where can I get them, or have them made?
We offer a custom belt service and advice on finding the correct length. No order is too small and we offer free advice.

- For essential advice about measuring for a replacement belt, click here

- If you require a thin, high-performance flat belt
that is endless (and also available as a kit with the ends scarfed and the glue  these are listed here.

- For an easily installed flat belt joined with "alligator" clips, these are here.
Both flat-belt sections have advice about the most suitable material for your application together with the essential instructions for measuring the length correctly.

- High-quality, industrial-class Swiss-made solid round belting for ourselves (or yourself)  to heat joining can be found here.

- Hollow round belting for lighter-duty applications
connected with an insert, is listed here.

- Round leather belting in a variety of diameters (together with the joining clips) is also available and kept in stock for immediate delivery

My machine has a 3-phase motor. I want to use it at home. Can you suggest the best way to proceed?
Yes, this page should provide most answers .
In addition, the following three books give a wealth of interesting, easily-followed information:
"Electric Motors"
"Electric Motors in the Home Workshop"
"Three-Phase Conversion"

I need to lift a machine tool. How can I do so safely and without causingdamage?
For lathes, to see what various maker's suggested, see this page and for milling machines and heavy drills this page

I need to transport a machine tool. How do I do this?
This page provides some basic advice

I'm confused by screwcutting and power feeds. Can you help?
Yes, this section should prove useful

I have a lathe with gears at the back of the headstock - but when I engage them the spindle locks. What are they for?
They're called "backgears" and provide slow spindle speeds. An explanation is here

How can I make the carriage moved both ways along the bed - and what is "tumble reverse" ?
This page explains all

Where can I find a manual, part list or catalogue for my machine?
An alphabetical list of operation and maintenance manuals and parts' lists is here and a complete online ordering system here
Catalogues are listed alphabetically here. Some are online but most have to be ordered by phoning: 01298-872874 (from overseas +44-1298-871633)

How do I fit a new chuck to my metal lathe - or check that the one I have is fitted properly? This is a relatively easy job, but one that needs to be done with patience and care.

I need a chuck for my wood lathe which seems to have an odd thread size on the spindle. Can you help?  Yes, it's a little complicated, but the answer to your problem might be here

I can't get the chuck off my lathe It's a screwed-on type and appears to be jammed solid. What can I do?
All stuck chucks can be removed - but the final solution is an act of desperation. To see how to proceed, click here

Is there a set of inexpensive books that will teach me about practical engineering techniques?
There is indeed. Here is a set of well-presented books, carefully written and well illustrated that covers the vast majority of engineering techniques: turning, milling, grinding and fitting.

The Machine Tool Archive, can you tell me about its background and how it works?
Yes, some answers here

My machine tool vibrates. What can be done about it?
This can be really difficult to solve, but a solution might be found here

What sort of oil and grease should I use to lubricate my machine tool?
Some answers are here

30) I have a set of collets and need more. Where can I find them?
This page might help..

The taper inside the spindle nose of my lathe does not seem to be a Morse. How can I find out what it is? This page will help

I have a small old lathe where the headstock bearings are split on one side with a tightening bolt to adjust the clearance. The bolt has been over-tightened and split the casting. Can it be repaired.
Yes, it possible, but not easy. See this page for what might be done.

I'm having trough getting the quill-return spring out of my drill - or putting it back in. It's a nightmare. Can you help? Possibly - see this page

Would you like to add to the Machine Tool Archive?
Photographs of you machine tool - lathe, milling machine, drill,  grinder, etc., or an article or notes about your experiences with machine tools or your time working in the machine-tool industry or trade are always very welcome.
A few helpful guidelines are on this page

Machine Tool FAQs
- some frequently asked questions -

This is a work in progress and will be added to.
If you have any suggestions for suitable content, please do email

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