john bunsenburner wrote:ok what power do i need? then i can search more specifically
Many lathes don't specify the power, but just like buying electric drills, the motor is sized for the chuck. A 1/4 in drill is generally lower power than a 3/8th drill. For arm twisting torque, use a 1/2 inch drill.
On a lathe, they are sized by the chuck, the swing and the length.
The swing is the biggest space you have to turn for example a hydraulic pump case that needs a crank journal turned. It doesn't always mean it can turn the surface at the outside of the swing. A compound gear head for slow high torque turning is a feature needed to do that. Not all lathes have a compound head. It quickly adds cost.
Chuck, Diameter of the chuck. Some 3 and 4 jaw chucks have removable and reversible jaws. Nice feature. Instead of clamping on the outside of the work, they can clamp from the inside. Nice for turning castings for valve bodies. To reverse these, simply open the chuck all the way until the jaws fall out, swap them end for and and put them back. Now the steps face out instead of in. A nice feature on better lathes. This is often not included on cheap lathes which sometimes come with just a Jacobs chuck.
**Edit, many of the Harbor Freight ones have a spindle bore size specified. It's the size you can fit in the chuck.**
Length. how long of a piece will fit between the tailstock and chuck.
**edit**:oops: Length is the bed length. The tail stock sits on the bed. Maximum work length is shorter. ***end edit***
A mini lathe is often too small to chuck a short piece of 2 inch pipe and too underpowered to machine the surface at cutting speed.