Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why Craftsman 109 Lathe

I happened to have bought the Craftsman 109 lathe more than a year ago. I believe I paid about $140 for it. It comes with gears but not a complete set.

The 109 lathe has a lot of weakness. The most obvious ones are:
  • A weak spindle. The spindle is 0.55" diameter. From what I read, it is very easily bent. I suspect that in my playing with the limit of it, I have probably bent mine also.
  • No graduated dial.
While contemplating on different options, there are a few choices when it comes to hobbies lathes. Among the most obvious ones are:
Each have its advantage and shortcomings. I have been scanning the local Craigslist hoping to find something interesting. Soon, a HF 7x10 came up at an amazing price of $150. That is a very good price. And I am the first one to respond to the buyer and setup the time to take it.

I thought through that again and again. Yes, at that price the value would be hard to beat. But I don't need two lathes. Yes, I can sell the old one and get my money back probably. But what is the purpose of having a lathe? I am not having a project that needed a lathe to complete. The lathe itself IS the project. Indeed, I have more (easier projects, for beginner at least) to work on on the old 109 lathe than those of the HF lathe. Plus, it is a simple lathe that everything is out in the open. The fact that it is weaker could actually be its strength for me to really learn how to do things properly.

We all know the most important use of a tool is to build other tools. So to build these I have in mind with the challenging weak inaccurate lathe would make things really interesting. These weaknesses are not insurmountable. They just require you to be more creative and do things properly. Take for example the weak spindle. If I am doing something that bents a half inch steel bar unintentionally in my garage, I am probably doing something wrong.

So I have cancelled my appointment with the seller. My project is now playing with the 109 lathe and see where I can bring it up to. I think it will be a fun journey.


Anonymous said...

The Craftsman lathe may have some known design weaknesses, which you have read about on Dean's page. However, I would imagine that many users of the Craftsman lathe did not take the time to experiment with different tooling designs and methods in order to overcome the weaknesses. Most more than likely, simply applied the traditional tooling and methods of larger conventional lathes, and were then disappointed when they found that the lathe did not respond similarly.

However, there are some advantages to your Craftsman.

First, if you are eventually able to learn to use that lathe, it will greatly benefit you should you choose to purchase one of the others that you list. It will force you to be more sensitive to things that you would otherwise not be aware of.

Second, in my mind the Craftsman lathe has much more aesthetic character than the Chinese 7X lathes. Other than the skinny spindle, they are beautifully proportioned and hearken to that pre-plastic era.

Third, the Craftsman will never have any issues related to the electronics as are found with the Chinese lathes. No controller boards, tachometers, dc motors to burn up, or fail. As long as you are careful with the spindle, the little Craftsman will give you many years of use....and even if the spindle needs already know how to do that.

The worst case is that you find that you do not like the Craftsman and you will more than likely be able to sell it for what you paid for it or more.


Adam Li said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Hans. The advantage I have is that this is only a little hobby I run in my garage besides my day job. So I am not in a rush to produce anything. On the other hand, I do like old classic things a lot. I am sure that I will have some great fun with it.