What's new
What's new

Is it reasonable to buy a Colchester Dominion 13 without a "test drive" / powering up test ?

max.levesque

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 31, 2007
Location
Sherbrooke
I am considering the purchase of a Colchester Dominion 13 lathe, that I haven't yet seen in person, I am planning a visit, a 1.5 hour drive from where I live.

I've read about Colchesters on this page: http://www.lathes.co.uk/colchester/page2.html

The lathe is a great size + weight combination match for me, given my space constraints (and the fact that the only path to my basements workshop has a staircase !).

Size and weight wise, it is at the upper limit of what I can have.

It's condition, and remaining accuracy will be the deciding factor.

I have read this thread:

https://www.practicalmachinist.com/forum/threads/first-post-mk1-colchester-student-lathe.258697/

and studied responses, most of which I believe are applicable.

In my case, there is an extra concern: the owner has told me that powering it up for testing would be "not impossible, but complicated".

The guy is a machinist (so he says), he bought the lathe for "restoration project" about a year ago, now realised he will not have time for the restoration in the foreseeable future. He has also recently moved his shop to a smaller one, and decided to leave the restoration project for the next owner.

The lathe is currently in a warehouse, does not have the 600 volts current for testing.

I'm far from being a machinist, but I have a .0001" test indicator, and have learned a few methods (thanks to this site) for evaluating bedway wear, spindle run-out, etc.

I'm wondering which problems can remain unseen without a power up test (like the noisy spindle bearing, worn gears, etc), and if I should demand the lathe be moved to his shop, as a hard condition, before I take the trip.

OTOH, I'd hate to miss out on the opportunity (if it happens to be a good one), as the lathe fit my "basement shop" constraints very well, and I'm experiencing a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), which puts me in a dangerous situation, at risk of being suckered into a bad deal !
 
Absolutely see and hear it running before buying. Do a test cut.
I had a 15” Dominion years ago. Solid machine, but had a lot of wear. Hard to imagine the 13” you’re looking at wouldn’t also have plenty of wear being that old. Most Dominion’s didn’t have a clutched head. This may be an issue if you’re using it in a home garage. I’m assuming ground level garage and not an actual basement at your place?
 
Most Dominion’s didn’t have a clutched head. This may be an issue if you’re using it in a home garage. I’m assuming ground level garage and not an actual basement at your place?

I would be inclined to change the motor to a single phase 220v if I get the lathe, not sure if that changes anything. I have a half basement, no ground level access, but a decently sized window should the staircase pose challenge. Of course, dismounting the lathe from it's base cabinet will be required.
 
Last edited:
If a seller is asking top dollar then it makes sense to test the machine under power. From your description this is a project machine, you did not mention price. If the price is right, it is not rusted to hell or have obvious breaks or missing parts, then take the gamble, worst case scenario part it out to recoup what you paid. Every machine in my shop started as a dead project machine, everyone required at least one repair, the idea of shopping the project market yet expecting fully functioning machines that you can test under power is just wishful thinking. Is it priced to move?
 
If a seller is asking top dollar then it makes sense to test the machine under power. From your description this is a project machine, you did not mention price. If the price is right, it is not rusted to hell or have obvious breaks or missing parts, then take the gamble, worst case scenario part it out to recoup what you paid. Every machine in my shop started as a dead project machine, everyone required at least one repair, the idea of shopping the project market yet expecting fully functioning machines that you can test under power is just wishful thinking. Is it priced to move?

Price asked is $2850 Canadian (approx 2095 $USD at today's rate). From the photo, there might be some spots of rust on the bedways, or it might just be grease spots, hard to distinguish without seeing it live.
 

Attachments

  • 358502069_6815228608541681_7008164426130784462_n.jpg
    358502069_6815228608541681_7008164426130784462_n.jpg
    118.6 KB · Views: 82
Seems a bit high if you can't see it running. I'd offer 1-1.5K as is and take a gamble if I really really wanted it (but I'm cheap)

What, that weighs around 1400 lb?

Any other tooling besides the chuck and toolpost? L0 chucks are getting hard to find and expensive. A bunch of tooling would make the price more attractive.
 
From 10 feet away it looks like a good buy. Priced in the range of a SB Heavy 10 and much more machine. I'd drive a few hours to see it.
 
Yup, that’s an early 1950’s Dominion. Has the original type of apron. Likely soft ways, soft tailstock quill that wears quickly, no tang slot so check for scoring inside quill, might have a clutch in head with that lever arrangement, motor mount will allow easy swap if desired (mine started as 575 volt as well and was swapped) and if long lever out front is starting/brake so a vfd can be easily wired from lever.

You want to hear this lathe run in all speeds.

Depends why you want a lathe. If you want a project, this could be fun but wouldn’t go over $2000 Canadian. If you want a lathe to make parts on size with minimal fuss, this isn’t the lathe for you. I definately would not put this lathe in a basement. Too much chance it will be coming out shortly…

Like usual, the oil in headstock is low/empty. Sigh, British ;-)
 
Yup, that’s an early 1950’s Dominion. Has the original type of apron. Likely soft ways, soft tailstock quill that wears quickly, no tang slot so check for scoring inside quill, might have a clutch in head with that lever arrangement, motor mount will allow easy swap if desired (mine started as 575 volt as well and was swapped) and if long lever out front is starting/brake so a vfd can be easily wired from lever.

You want to hear this lathe run in all speeds.

Depends why you want a lathe. If you want a project, this could be fun but wouldn’t go over $2000 Canadian. If you want a lathe to make parts on size with minimal fuss, this isn’t the lathe for you. I definately would not put this lathe in a basement. Too much chance it will be coming out shortly…

Like usual, the oil in headstock is low/empty. Sigh, British ;-)
Listen to the man (and heed)
 
Being able to run it is best. If there is no way to run it then price needs to reflect that, as mentioned above. Even if you can not run it with the motor you should open the head and look at all the gears, rotate as needed. You can also shift the gears and spin by hand to be sure nothing is broken or bound up.
 
Being able to run it is best. If there is no way to run it then price needs to reflect that, as mentioned above. Even if you can not run it with the motor you should open the head and look at all the gears, rotate as needed. You can also shift the gears and spin by hand to be sure nothing is broken or bound up.

Which kinds of problems can go undetected when hand spinning is the only option ?

How audible are broken spindle bearings with hand turning ?
 
Which kinds of problems can go undetected when hand spinning is the only option ?

How audible are broken spindle bearings with hand turning ?
If it has good oil in the headstock and nothing is broken or damaged in there and spindle spins nice in neutral you are probably fine. If bearings are broken or badly worn then you may feel or hear that. With a stout board you can pry up on the spindle and with your indicator on the top of the spindle you will see any looseness in spindle bearings. Dont freak out if your .0001 indicator moves a few thou.
Just look it over and see what you see. If it all looks well taken care of but a little worn from age you are probably fine, if it looks beat and abused then it should be cheaper but probably still fine if all checks out in headstock etc.

If the drive dogs in the headstock are badly worn I guess it could pop out of gear when under load? Or noise at faster speeds. Those you wont tell by hand spinning.
 
Its just over 60 years old ....plastic knobs,but no 'Safety Saddle'...........the Dominion tag means it has no metric threads in the feed box .........IMHO ,the price is on the high side ......unless it has had no use ............Ive had a great deal of experience with these models (Its actually a early 1960s Master ) and one big fail is the threading .....its quite rare to find one where the half nut /leadscrew combination isnt worn out ,to the extent you cant cut threads...........I might add,I was given one of these a coupla years ago,cause it wouldnt thread..............Also .....I wouldnt pay any money ,unless I could lift the top ........wrecked gears is very common ,very common............and spares are outrageously expensive.
 
Run your hand up and down on the ways next to the headstock by feel. Compare that to the ways at the tailstock end of the bed. If in good shape, there should be no noticeable difference. If there is a obvious difference in feel such as ridges, scoring, lines running the length of the ways at the headstock end and disappearing halfway down the bed. This would be an indication of a badly worn bed.
Not to say it is a perfect bed if no notice of feel from end to end. There can still be wear, but this would be normal wear, and would be minimal. This would be live able for most.

I was promised one of these lathes earlier this year for free. I heehall around and my boss gave it to some else. The bed was badly worn on it, you could see the bad scoring down the ways. Of course, I was going to rebuild it, but kind of glad I didn't get it.
Keep in mind, steady rest or follower rest are unobtainable for this lathe today. You will have to adapt one or make one to fit. The last steady rest I saw for sale was over US $600!
 
Not so,I would have at least a dozen 3 point steadies for these lathes ..........the hard one to find is the one for the Bantam,and I cut the roundtop ones down to fit Bantams.
 
One of the improvements made in the Bantam was to increase the size of the inverted V s ,however they kept the V the tailstock rides on the same as the roundtops ..........which means the base of the 3 point steady is the same ,but the height is different.
 








 
Back
Top