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Thread: Value of Porter Lathe

  1. #1

    Value of Porter Lathe

    Hello - In my area someone is offering a Porter 16 lather in good condition. The full description is
    The PORTER Wood Lathe
    Late1800's - Early 1900's Pattern makers lathe.

    SMOOTH Running Babbitt Bearings
    Visible Level Brass and Glass Oilers added in 1968

    Turns 16 in over the bed and 6 foot between centers.

    Includes several faceplates, Outboard Tool Support
    & tooling shown in photos.
    Motor hangs under the bed (removed for moving).

    He's offering it for $2200 but I expect I might be able to knock down to 2K. I searched the internet and could only find a few pictures of similar lathes on vintage machinery. Does anyone have experience and/or opinions about these lathes and what is a fair price - it comes with extensive tooling.

    Thanks all. Eric

  2. #2
    Babbit bearings are no big deal for a machinist, a really big deal if you don't know how to make them. Frankly that sounds like about 6 times what it is worth. Probably has wooden ways to. I have an old unknown lathe about the same age with babbit bearings. I paid $10 for it.

  3. #3
    Thanks, Perry!

  4. #4
    Here a picture with all the tooling

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Kapolei Hawaii
    I'd buy it just because it looks cool..... Restoration project of love. Ways don't look wooden to me. LOL.
    With proper care, babbitt bearings will be very smooth and reliable.
    I like that long tool rest, if you want to make something that long.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Northern MN
    It this your first lathe?

    Have you restored vintage machinery before?

    It's a lot of iron, but it sounds to me like a lot of money for what you may need to put into it to in terms of time and tuning. If I saw that at an auction, I certainly wouldn't be expecting it do go for that kind of money. Your comfort level with the time and tuning is a big factor. The fact that you're asking it's value makes me think at least some of this is new territory to you and I'm not sure a project like this is a good way to start. Also, the bed length and some of the add-ons (like the superlong tool rest) are gold for someone with a use that requires it, but for some else (like me for example), well, I'd never use it because I don't turn things like porch posts.

    Asking whether it's your first lathe pertains to whether you'd know when it was working correctly. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to troubleshoot something if you don't have a clear idea of how it should work. I'm battling that right now with a 3-pt wood chipper I bought -- not sure what I should reasonably expect from it so I don't know if when it gags on something if I'm asking too much of it or if I don't have it working right.

    There could be some safety issues that need attention too. Looks like there are some exposed drive belts. Not that that can't be addressed, but it's one more thing to do before your investment yields fruit.

    It depends on what work you're going to do, but to the extent it really is worth the asking price, I'd think it is not your everyday turner that would make use of what this offers, compared to what you could get for similar money in a smaller scale used machine.

    Just my thoughts, sure doesn't make them right.


  7. #7
    That looks like an old triple purpose metal, spinning, wood lathe. A lot of those round things look like forming chucks for spinning. Spinning was a much bigger deal 120 years ago. The one nice thing about Spinning, is that it is easier to make your own tools than for wood or metal. Spinning is for instance turning a piece of sheet copper/alumimum/ pewter, silver, etc into a funnel, cup, pie pan, etc. It is almost a lost art. There are specialists who make copies of old headlight cowling for antique vehicles and get big bucks for it. An antique Prybil Spinning lathe is worth the asking price. Such lathes have very heavy bearings to take a lot of side ways pressure of spinning. I certainly do not think it is worth the asking price, but it might be worth half.

  8. #8
    On my first job I worked in a mainly turning shop. Boss had 3 lathes and one looked much like yours. He did nothing but address the
    electrical hook up and dust and chip collection before making stuff. That was about 1965. He did a lot of stuff that needed “back-rests”, don’t think I’ve seen
    them mentioned here. The one seen here looks like it has a nice machined bed, some of that age have splintery wood beds . I have no
    idea what it’s worth. This burg had a number of cabinet-makers and most did not do their own turning, so we stayed busy with them and
    three large mill work places.
    I did little turning then and none now. I sanded the stuff he turned, and patched up old furniture.
    Last edited by Mel Fulks; 03-05-2021 at 6:48 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Peoria, IL
    I paid $800 for a Hapfo 16' copy lathe. $2,200 is way out of line in my opinion.Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 10.38.24 PM.jpg

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Northern MN
    Wow! What do you turn on that lathe?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    San Diego, Ca
    I guess that your decision really boils down to what are you going to use it for and do you have other lathes?.

    If this is your first lathe, then continue looking. This would be a horrible choice. The draw backs on this one is lack of variable speed (this only has 3 or 4 speeds), and the minimum speed may be quite high. The spindle size may or may not be standard, so if you want to use a chuck (like 99.9% of wood turners do), you may be out of luck. There may or may not be a standard Morse taper in the spindle or tailstock.

    If you are looking for something to turn spindles - - like really long spindles this might do okay. But it is over priced.

    If you are looking for a conversation piece and don't intend on using it, then maybe it could be a fun project. BTW, as someone else also pointed out, this is probably a lathe for machining metal. I could see an old lantern tool post or two and a carriage - - something that you wouldn't use for wood turning.

    For $2K, you can get a fairly nice new lathe with a bunch of modern features.

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