By the editor

What’s that old thing in the shed?

Dunno. Rusty, init.

I think its a lathe.

What’s that?

Sort of a machine for cutting metal.

Bit big for an angle grinder.

Not the same.

What’s the name?


Put it on Ebay

Okay. How much?

Four and a  half grand?


And that other thing, what about that?

I think that’s a milling machine

What, for flour?

No iron.

What make is it?


Good brand isn’t it?




How much?

Its a bit small. Two and a half grand?


Are they both open to offers?

Don’t be silly!

And so a knackered, rusty old ML4 lathe and a cheap bench drill that both somehow escaped the skip 40 years ago, re-emerge into the daylight onto the house clearers truck.

And, yes, someone might well buy them rather than about half a dozen brand new Warco mini lathes plus six small Warco mills, or perhaps several dozen Warco bench drills.

Without being Ebayphobic, there is so much to be seen there to be avoided. Not everything, of course. Your editor managed to find a small Warco mill locally that had barely been used which was snapped up gratefully as new ones were out of stock.

However, while looking there were some real shockers. Plenty of basket cases and some which perhaps could be restored, providing a pleasant and rewarding pastime (See Benson restoration article and watchmaker’s lathe restoration article). But you should not have bought any of them to use as found.

To restore a lathe or milling machine to a good standard is a long term project with some serious costs and engineering involved - more than the cost of a brand new import, with its associated backup, from a reputable dealer. Restoration is worthwhile, but only for machines that started life as quality items.

Okay the new lathe from China may not be quite as good as a new Beeston Myford would have been. But at about a tenth of the cost the choice would have been a no-brainer for most. Another choice today might be a high-spec Chinese lathe or a 50 year old ML7 from the house clearance man for the same money. Even more of a no-brainer.

Of no great surprise was to see a rusty wreck being sold one week, re-appearing a couple of weeks later shiny as a new pin with a decent coat of paint for several times the original price and described as ‘seller restored’ or something of the sort. Looked good in the photos, but what damage still lies beneath? Perhaps even more than before.

And then there are those Taiwanese machines from the 70s and 80s which sell for more than an identical 2020 one.

No to mention those poor pre-war efforts from some UK makers which sold new for 50 bob and now available unrestored for a couple of hundred pounds.

Moral of the tale is - make Ebay the last resort, not the first port of call when buying a machine to use.

One careful owner.

the only free and the only weekly magazine for model engineers. 

Editor: David Carpenter