Craftsman Lathes. What to look for and What to stay away from?

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Forum topic by fivecodys posted 03-06-2018 10:00 PM 1158 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View fivecodys's profile


1647 posts in 2485 days

03-06-2018 10:00 PM

Hi Fella’s. I need to, once again, pick your brains.

I guy I know has an old Craftsman lathe for sale. He knows that I work with wood so he asked me if I was interested in looking at it. From our conversation it’s probably 15-20 years old. It’s rusty and about 5 feet long. He bought it from one of his customers and never used it. It’s been in his garage for at least 10 years.
Sounds like he wants about $100 or so for it.
That’s all the information I have.

I don’t know squat about lathes but I know know you guys do.
So, before I go and look at it, What do I look for? What’s good and what’s bad?
Obviously the motor needs to run but other than that?

Any advice you have is appreciated.

Many thanks!


-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

9 replies so far

View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 3612 days

#1 posted 03-06-2018 11:53 PM

If it’s the tube lathe for get it !

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected ! RIP 09/08/2018

View Dakkar's profile


357 posts in 2776 days

#2 posted 03-07-2018 05:28 AM

Your description would loose me. First off, Craftsman lathes are seldom (that is, about never) mentioned as favorites by lathe enthusiasts. Craftsman wood working power tools have long been deliberately manufactured for garage owners who never really use them. The second red flag is RUST. This thing may have been exposed to the elements. That along would make me walk away.

Craftsman has usually sold a range of lathes, from a “pro” model down to those infamous tube frame things. It needs a solid cast iron table. Motors in these department store lathes are often underpowered for lathe work on larger items.

Anyway, the rust alone should take the price down to the $50 level. A running motor is a must, of course. Avoid anything with weird plastic parts. Come to think of it, for something in your price range, you’d probably be better of gambling on a Harbor Freight lathe. Just check it out well during the return period, since their products tend to be produced with little or no quality control. You’ll find lots of reviews on this site.

Also, know that the price of the lathe alone is just the beginning. Have a few hundred ready for some decent tools and accessory pieces.

View MrUnix's profile


8212 posts in 3048 days

#3 posted 03-07-2018 05:33 AM

I love rust – and motors that don’t run – both are easy to remedy, and are great negotiation points to drop the price significantly. However, if it’s a tube type lathe, don’t expect much. Good for spindle work but anything larger and they start to flex and get wonky real quick. As to the one you are considering – we need more info.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Woodknack's profile


13472 posts in 3229 days

#4 posted 03-07-2018 06:08 AM

Your description is too vague. Some suggestions and advice on buying old lathes, I’ve bought a few.

-- Rick M,

View Wildwood's profile


2890 posts in 2983 days

#5 posted 03-07-2018 11:16 AM

There were two versions of this lathe and neither 1st model nor 2nd model worth the money then or now! Sears never had any spare parts for these unreliable lathes. You could be buying a not so good boast anchor!

This version often seen on Craig’s and other boards for sale not a great buy for more than $50.

Older vintage Sears lathes might worth a few bucks if into lathe restoration. Normally talking about replacing bearing, belts, or motors: and complete lathe no missing or damaged components.

Might want to consider what type of turning want to do before looking at wood lathes. Most turners do a combination of bowls and various types of spindle turning.

-- Bill

View LeeMills's profile


702 posts in 2150 days

#6 posted 03-07-2018 04:02 PM

If it is a tube lathe you can do quite a bit of spindle turning with no problems.
For bowls, most have a low speed of 900 and some are even 1100 which is way to fast for most larger diameter work.
On the tube type there is a small runner which the tailstock aligns on and a serious out of balance can break the runner. I know.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View TheDane's profile


5847 posts in 4512 days

#7 posted 03-07-2018 04:59 PM

What to stay away from? Craftsman lathes.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View fivecodys's profile


1647 posts in 2485 days

#8 posted 03-07-2018 05:07 PM

Thanks guys!
You are very valuable resource and I will take your advice and pass on this one.
I wasn’t really looking for a lathe anyway. Maybe someday though.

Thank you again for your comments and advice!


-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View rodneywt1180b's profile


185 posts in 1235 days

#9 posted 03-11-2018 08:35 PM

What kind of turning do you plan to do? If you’re doing spindles and SMALL bowls, then an older Craftsman can be a good choice. If you’re looking to turn bowls then save your money and buy a decent larger modern lathe to start with. If you get hooked on turning anything but pens you’ll quickly out grow a smaller lathe.
Other than some high end ones by Robust and Oneway (sp?) they’ll all be Asian made these days.

Some older Craftsman lathes were well made but maxed out at 12×36 inches (most hobby lathes in general did). That’s not enough swing for large bowls.
If you want an older lathe, look for a cast iron bed, threaded tail stock and Morse tapers on the head and tail stocks. I think it was sometime in the late 50s or early 60s that Craftsman started selling the tube bed lathes. If all you’re doing is smaller, light duty stuff, they can be ok, but I wouldn’t spend much.
I don’t own one, but I have heard that some of the newer Craftsman lathes in the age group you were looking at had problems with the electronic speed controls.
I would approach one of those with caution, if at all.

-- Rodney, Centralia, WA, USA

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