7 Considerations Prior to Purchase of a Manual Engine Lathe


The conventional engine lathe is a staple in machine shops worldwide. Toolrooms, maintenance departments, prototype facilities and even production shops continue to employ these machines daily to produce parts that keep manufacturing moving.

But not all metal lathes are created equal, and many factors need to be considered prior to writing a purchase order on a lathe for sale.

The topics below are the most common items to to consider when buying a metal lathe.

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1. Engine Lathe Capacity - Obviously, having a machine sized to your target work is vital for capability, efficiency and even safety. An engine lathe that is too small for a part can be a hazard to the machinist, while a machine too large will have trouble turning smaller parts due to interferences, RPM limitations, etc. Willis Machinery provides the largest selection of engine lathe sizes available on the market.

2. Headstock Type - Mid-sized engine lathes can be available in a straight geared head or infinitely variable spindle speed with gear ranges, both providing their own benefits.

  1. Straight geared head provides great torque at lower RPM’s and is less expensive than the variable speed.
  2. Variable speed provides greater ease in adjusting spindle speeds even during cutting and allows for getting any specific spindle speed require.
  3. Willis Machinery offers engine lathes with both types of headstocks.

3. Heavy Construction - Machine weight has a sizeable impact on engine lathe performance and longevity. Meehanite Castings provide a more dense iron with increased tensile strength and vibration dampening capability. Density equals more weight which provides stronger wear surfaces allowing top performance for longer machine life. Willis Machinery only builds with Meehanite Castings and hardened ways for rigidity and durability.

4. Lathe Options - Knowing what options you need are important to selecting the right engine lathe. Many brands offer limited options due to their focus on moving high quantities of machines. Often, even when available, these options must be installed by the buyer rather than having distributor or factory support for machine configuration. Willis Machinery provides full option installation at our facility in Toledo, OH, USA before we ship.

5. Spare Parts/ After Sales Support - No matter how great a machine is built, at some point a crash can cause damage or wear items can become necessary to replace. Having a builder that can troubleshoot, identify and sell/ship parts in a quick manner is very advantageous to your shop. Waiting for parts and having unnecessary down time is something you cannot put a cost on. Willis Machinery is a full-service metal lathe stocking manufacturer with most wear components on the shelf.

6. Manufacturer Direct Support - Ordering a machine from a catalog can save you money up front on the purchase order. However, a catalog will not provide you the support you need to get up an running in the event of questions or lack of experience with wiring, leveling and operation of your new machine. Having a distributor or manufacturer at your disposal will quickly provide you with the justification to work with a person on your machine project rather than picking from a book. Willis Machinery has a turning lathe dealer base established throughout most of the USA, and works directly with the customer when a local dealer is not available.

7. Total Lifetime Value - Evaluating a machine purchase can only be done at the end of the lifespan of the piece of equipment. Purchase price is often a small percentage of the overall lifetime cost of a capital purchase. Most times the less you spend up front has a dramatically negative effect on the amount of money spent in spare parts, maintenance/repair costs and down time. “You get what you pay for” is very apparent when you consider the above 6 factors when buying a manual machine. Willis Machinery is not known as the lowest cost builder, but the legacy and reputation of our equipment speaks for itself with our customers praising our lathes’ capability, rigidity, durability, longevity and long term service and support.

Contact Willis Machinery for all your metalworking machinery needs. Our distribution network and our direct customer support is unmatched in the industry. We have nearly 60 years of satisfied customers and successful installations to support the manufacturing community. Give us an opportunity to prove to you our commitment to the success and profitability of your business.

Contact us today