Lathe - Long-term Loan

Hey folks, Andrew here. If you’ve used a lathe at VHS, odds are we’ve been through training together. Lathes are cool!

I was hoping to bring this to the membership earlier, but discussion amongst the Machine Shop Committee has been ongoing. Concerns were raised, they’ve mostly been addressed, but as of this post the committee has not yet reached consensus.

Couple weeks ago, I came across an auction listing for a rather nice-looking Okuma lathe. This was a high-end machine when it’s new, and it’s still comparable to high-end manual machines available for today. To keep traffic down, I won’t be posting the auction listing, but I’ve included photos I took at the preview yesterday. Its footprint is incrementally larger than the Frejoth.

I went to check out the machine yesterday, brought a friend of my uncle’s with me, who used to own and run a machine shop in town. He spoke highly of Okumas in general, checked out this machine, and said it was in very good condition. I’ve run it under power, we’ve confirmed that everything works.

It also has several accessories included that we’ve identified as being useful at VHS. This includes a 4-jaw chuck, a DRO (Digital ReadOut), outside jaws for a 3-jaw chuck, and a smattering of other accessories. Lots of things that are particularly useful to have in a machine shop. It’s also a more powerful machine, and has an 1800 RPM spindle, which is better for small parts.

I originally suggested we consider transitioning from the Frejoth to this Okuma, but understood folks were uncomfortable wtih that idea, which converted the plan to dueling lathes. I’ve prototyped some reconfiguration of the machine shop, and confirmed that both machines would fit well, without having to move and re-bolt the Frejoth. My proposed configuration puts the machines kitty corner to each other, so both machines could be operated simultaneously, by separate operators, without interfering with the other.

Logistically, I understand the previous lathe took several months to bring online, and that raises concerns. This isn’t the case with the Okuma. It’s confirmed to operate under power, and no major maintenance is required. All that’s needed is to roll it onto the machine shop, drop it onto the floor, plug it in, and flip the switch. Because of the rigidity of the casting, it doesn’t even need to be levelled before making chips. I understand folks’ hesitancy given last time, but it wouldn’t be unrealistic for the Okuma to make chips the day it arrived.

For training, a half-hour orientation should suffice, similar to the training Old Lathe users receive before using the Frejoth. As of this post, I’ve run the vast majority of lathe training, there is currently no backlog. I have a good track record, and intend to keep that maintained.

Financially, I’d be purchasing this machine and placing it on loan, so there is no cost to VHS.

It’s also worth noting, the Frejoth is in need of maintenance. The cross slide nut needs to be replaced, the power feed rod needs to be straigtened, both of these require a fair bit of disassembly that’ll put the lathe out of commission for a bit. Having a second machine in the shop covers this downtime.

And now, if you’ll join me in "ooh"s and "aaah"s:

And hey, ALL the hand wheels are metric! And the tick marks are there!


  • Yes, bring in the Okuma on loan.
  • No, don’t bring the Okuma in.
  • Undecided/Turnip.

0 voters


Crap, and I should mention, the auction closes tomorrow morning.

I was hoping to reach consensus in the Machine Shop Committee before taking this to the membership, but unfortunately we didn’t get there.

I will re post the response I made in the MSC committee channel here for visibility. I do not feel that my concerns were addressed.

I do not support having a second lathe at VHS.

  1. This type of project needs discussion and consensus from the full membership and not just the committee. For me this means a talk post with your proposal to the membership where everyone gets input.

  2. Space is at a premium at VHS. Having that much space taken up by two machines that do the same thing for a limited number of members who use it does not make sense to me. I’m guessing 5 or 10 out of 170 members use the lathe? So lets say 6% of the membership?

Other projects that initially generated lots of enthusiasm at VHS have displaced the more mundane but extremely important functionality of just having space to work in.

The example that comes to mind is the pick and place machine, reflow oven and solder stencil machine project that has taken over the second electronics bench and rendered it pretty much useless for anyone to use.

I think moving the metal mill out to the main room is a bad idea. The mill will spread machining chips and coolant around in a space where other non machine shop equipment and parts are stored.

  1. I am not saying no to upgrading the lathe. I am saying that this needs to be brought to the full membership as a proposal. This proposal has to have a detailed plan. i.e. all the info that you’ve just put forward in the last day such as costs, transportation, where it will go, the reorg of the machine shop, what will happen if members decide they don’t want it, time frames etc. If this is accepted then only at that point should a search begin for a lathe that fits all the requirements.

  2. A few comments regarding the “time sensitive nature” of this request. This is an exact repeat of the process that we went through to get the last lathe. I.e. “Hey… I found a lathe up for auction. The auction ends tomorrow. We have to decide right away if we want to get this lathe.” The answer is no we don’t. Lathes come up for auctions frequently. Case in point being this second one coming up less than a year after the last one we just bought. Waiting until the day before an auction ends to pitch a proposal to the committee is not a great way to get support

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Ah man, I don’t like the time pressure


I’m also not super stoked on the time pressure, I would have loved to be in a place where we could’ve taken as much time as we wanted to talk this out.

I first brought a rough proposal to the Committee on Monday. I figured the first question asked in a Talk post would be “what does the Machine Shop Committee” think. And, when it became apparent that the Machine Shop Committee wasn’t all on the same page, I was concerned about the appearance of an end run.

As a further point of consideration, it’s not like this is a binding decision from now, till the end of time. If six months down the road, it’s determined that two lathes is too much for VHS, we can always change course. Doesn’t hurt to try something out to see how it goes.

do you have a scaled map of what the shop would look like with the 2 lathes?

“Scaled” might be a bit of a stretch, but I can offer a CatCAD drawing.

Frejoth in its current position, this contemplates the Okuma oriented with its headstock towards the door. The chucks end up across from each other, there’s space to operate one machine without getting in the way of the other.

This assumes maintaining the relocation of the manual mill next to Gage, which we’re prototyping right now. I understand @Emerson is one of the manual mill’s more frequent users, he was supportive of its positioning there, across from Loratron. Puts all the mills in the same place, too, which is nice.

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editing my post.

not keen on moving the mill out of the shop and blowing chips all over the place. at least with the cnc machines there is plans to enclose them

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Hanging out next to Gage, opposite Loratron. Assorted fasteners were moved somewhere more central, spare Arlink is going to electronics bench, rubbermaid is full of scrap metal that I’m taking next week.

Hi - non machinist hackspace member here with some opinions in bullet point format.

  • The fact that the machine shop committee can’t reach consensus on this is an indicator to me that this is something that requires additional discussion.
  • While it’s nice to have an upgraded machine - we currently have one that was brought in that several members invested significant amount of time to get operational. Getting a second feels like a slap in the face to those who put in the work and effort to get the one we have operational. Particularly since this work has been done in the past 6 months.
  • I do not think it impacts our membership numbers if we have 2 lathes or 5 lathes any more than it does having one lathe.
  • Having cool tools is a draw to the space. The table saw and the jointer/planer are good examples of this. Keeping them operational is key and from that standpoint maybe having two lathes does make some sense to some degree.
  • Without knowing how much cooler this Okuma lathe is vs the Frejoth probably needs to be made clear in the very least to the committee. If the committee can’t fully (or at least in the majority) agree that it’s significantly cooler then it’s a really tough sell for the rest of the non-machinist community.
  • i do trust the machine shop committee to make the decision here or find a way to reach consensus. Maybe that means some members who want to be involved should join the comittee and break the tie and let the rest of the community know what is happening.

TL;DR - if the committee seems deadlocked this probably needs more discussion. I can see pros/cons to each prospective. If you feel strongly about this decision i suggest you seek membership in the committee to break a tie or voice your concern there or on the talk post.

P.S. - voted more discussion.


Andrew and I talked about this earlier in the day, so I might as well go on record.

  • I am ok with a lathe upgrade. especially since this machine has been judged by an expert as ready to go.

  • I am not ok with 2 lathe. There is simply not enough people using the machine to justify taking up that much space.

  • As a result, I am willing to get this lathe on the condition that we sell the one we have. we repay Andrew the best we can, and the new lathe has the same ownership structure as the old lathe, what ever that might be.

  • the new lathe does not enter the shop until the old lathe is gone. only one lathe in VHS at a time.

How does that sound to people?



  • As a result, I am willing to get this lathe on the condition that we sell the one we have. we repay Andrew the best we can, and the new lathe has the same ownership structure as the old lathe, what ever that might be.

if i recall the “older” one was crowd funded. if we sell it where do the funds of the sale go to? are they reimbursed? does it go into VHS funds? Do they not get a say?

asking because inevitably if we do get a second lathe i feel like this would be an important question to those who contributed to the purchase of the old one.

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I put in about a hundred bucks in materials/hardware and 8 hours of my time on the current lathe, so a contribution of about 500 all in. My contribution was among the smaller ones, especially in terms of time.

VHS runs on its volunteer efforts. Period. If we’re talking about selling off something that’s had this much volunteer time put into it so recently, it’s important to make sure that the value of that time is taken into account and not just thrown out like it’s nothing.


You make a good point, and I’m concerned we’ve gotten into scope creep.

What I put on the table initially, was a long-term loan of an Okuma lathe, which is a really top-notch machine. It’s totally understandable to want to talk about the Frejoth, but there’s nothing about that machine that needs to be resolved tonight.

I’ve also put a fair bit of time into setting up the Frejoth, and I’d reckon I have the most operating hours on the machine of anyone at VHS. Shane might have me beat, he’s a lot more productive, I like to tinker. While it isn’t nearly the machine the Okuma is, I’d be sad to see it go in haste. And, I’d hope @rsim would be able to weigh in, he put an order of magnitude more time into that machine than I did.

None of that diminishes that the Okuma is an exceptionally good machine, which would be very good for VHS, and which needs to leave the site of the auction by Wednesday.

Obviously this is a complex decision and the discussion here is excellent. With the committee having varying opinions it’s good to get more member input. It’s clear everyone discussing this cares a lot about VHS! :heart:

For transparency, here’s what I posted in the committee earlier:

I voted no to this because VHS already has a lathe that it owns that works well for hobby machinists and fits well within the very limited real estate VHS has. This proposed lathe is 8 feet long and is overkill imo in terms of size/features as an outright replacement for the Frejoth. As a loaner and an extra lathe in the shop, VHS doesn’t need 2 lathes, and I feel the amount of extra vhs real estate that would be dedicated to multiple lathes does not best serve the interests of the membership at this time.

Additional Disclosure:

The proposed lathe turns on and changes gears but it has not been fully run making chips (naturally as it’s in an auction house). Andrew and his uncle who is an experienced machinist have provided as detailed an assessment as possible which is hugely appreciated. Granted these old lathes are virtually indestructable and repairs can be made if needed (because hey - we’re a hackspace). This kind of assessment process is certainly how the current lathe (the Frejoth) was bought with member donations at auction and the proposed lathe is listed as being functional and precise. The thing spinning up and changing gears is the big important part. This is just some info I felt I needed to share.

Whatever direction is taken w.r.t vhs lathe(s) I personally feel it’s important for VHS to invest in owning it’s own equipment where possible. That way investments in the machinery and accessories stay with the space. Just my 2 cents as a member.

In my opinion it does feel like more discussion and membership input is needed to come to a final decision (if that is an option within the time frame).

I like the idea of the okuma. I haven’t spent much time at the space or in the machine shop and really dont know the flow of it all so I cant weigh in on the space side of it. I do plan on spending many hours in there though! What I like is the machine’s capability especially the 18" swing and the fact that carbide tooling makes a lot more sense on an 1800rpm 10hp lathe. vhs has nothing but carbide tooling as far as i know. Because of that I don’t think it would require any further investment on the vhs side beyond an electical hookup. If it were to follow androidlx to a new phase in life the tooling would still work on the frejoth.

To be transparent: my main attraction to this machine is that it would make some my own projects possible <3

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Ultimately the key problem is that if we sell our existing but keep the Okuma on loan. VHS is in a significantly worse position.

Right now the space owns the lathe outright, its ours, nothings going to change that. But loans? They can go away after one disagreement. Protospace had to scramble after the long term loans in its machine shop (a lathe, mill, and tooling) all disappeared in the middle of the night after a member took his toys and went home.

That feels like too much of a risk for me for the minor increase to capacity.


I think the only way I could see two lathes working in the space would be if we were to move the south wall of the machine shop outwards to line up with the edge of the wood shop, and moving the door to the centre of that wall, and making it a sliding door. That’s a big build, though, and it would need landlord approval.

Funny that you’d mention that, I had a similar conversation with a couple folks last Wednesday. It’d be nice to push that wall out a bit regardless, and having it flush to the woodshop wall is a nice marker. I’d be in for that build, 100%.

Well folks, the lot came up around 3PM today, and I ended up with the high bid. So I own an Okuma LS, that’s pretty cool. Absolute steal, too.

It sounds like there’s further discussion to be had. We obviously don’t have consensus in this thread, so the lathe won’t be coming to VHS in the immediate future, but it’s a good machine, and I’d like to keep the discussion going.

In the interim, I’m going to find a place for it to live, and try to everything a good clean. Watch #machine-shop on slack for pics.