Apples, Oranges and Lathes

By Lloyd Graff.

Nicholas Kohart’s company makes components for the natural gas industry in his manufacturing plant near Philly. Business is brisk, though the shale boom has changed his product mix. He is now in the market for a 2” capacity CNC lathe (might go a little bigger) with live tooling and sub-spindle. He runs mostly aluminum but has some projects coming up using stainless.

Nick is not wedded to a particular builder. He knows he will buy a new lathe and he wants a capable local distributor. He contacted me to find a Web site that had candid user reviews of machine tools, and I did not know of any.

He asked me my opinion on which machine to buy. He has bids from Mazak, Okuma, Doosan and Haas. I told him they were all good builders, but I could only give him a view from my world of used machinery, which is one way to gauge how users feel about equipment. I also recommended that he join the Precision Machined Parts Association (PMPA) and get on its Listserve to pose his question to its participants, particularly to find feedback on the quality of the service nationally and locally.

Nick told me that Mazak and Okuma were priced almost identically, Doosan was $50,000 less, and Haas was $100,000 less than the two Japanese builders.

I offered this opinion. If you kept the Haas lathe for 10 years and then resold it for 50% of acquisition cost, it would be hard to turn down the Haas price advantage. Nick already has a Haas vertical machining center he loves. Also, Haas has shrewdly backed the Penn State machine tool program through the years, which enhances the knowledge base of Haas in the area.

I told him my primary reservation about a Haas is that it might not be robust enough for stainless.

I pose these questions to the 55,000 of you who might see this blog.

Question 1: Where would you look for honest reviews of current CNC lathes?

Question 2: Which brand of lathe would you buy if you were Nick?

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21 thoughts on “Apples, Oranges and Lathes

  1. Mark Mohr

    why would he not have a DMG / Mori Seiki machine in the mix? Also, you are on the right track – resale value is important, but also the rigidity for multiple materials.
    have him call me!

  2. Kenneth R. Rice

    After looking at several brands, some of which you mentioned , we chose to go with a Eurotech machine built in Italy and distributed here by Superior Equipment based in Franklin, Ohio ( We chose there machine for two reasons, first being the ruggedness, the detail in the manufacturing of the machine, and the loaded software the machines come with, and second, they were at the time, and may still be, the only ones that made a live tool lathe that the sub-spindle dropped below center after the pick-off which allowed a lower turret to machine simultaneously with the upper turret without fear of interference which greatly reduces cycle time. Although we weren’t in the market for a dual tuuret machine at the time, we felt our business could eventually lead us there and we wanted to build on the same brand.
    I hope this information will help in your decision and wish you all the best.

    Kenneth R. Rice
    Vice President
    Trec Industries, Inc.

    1. Rhino

      second question— Depends on what he plans to do with the lathe-some have standard features others don’t. What do his new stainlees parts require?

  3. Greg

    All previous suggestions are great, my advice, research the local service for the machine you want. Regardless of the manufacturer, to run materials of the spectrum you mention, you need a rigid machine first and one with GREAT service support. I am sure you would agree machine makes money when it is running! Service is big issue today and if you aren’t comfortable with the service you will never be happy, regardless of manufacturer.
    Good luck!

  4. Mad-Hungarian

    OKUMA is my machine of choice! We can start it every day and it will repeat cutting at the same diameter from the night before. You do not have to add anything to the tool offsets, because it sat all night. This is important to us as we hold .0005 tolerances every day on this machine. We also do a lot of hard turning and this machine is great for this also. We have been running 1 shift non stop for 4 years on this LB3000EX and have had no problems with it.
    I am sure there are also higher end machines that are similar, so the old saying that you get what you pay for holds true to buying machines also.

    1. Julie Murphy

      Thanks for the shout out! We are very glad that your machine is being highly productive and reliable. Drop me and email with your name, company name and address and we’ll get a little something to you to say “Thanks!”

  5. William Rewinski

    You can use a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., and enter the manufacturer’s name and machine model name/number. This may yield results across a range of sites where reviews may be found. You may also try the general series of the model, if you don’t find any results for the exact model.
    Service, Technical Support, and Training would also be very important, especially with more complex machines.

  6. Ray Frattone

    We have 10 lathes as described, including 8 Mori Seikis and 2 Nakamoras. The Moris are 10 to 18 years old and the Nakamoras are 8 years old. They run production every day. They all hold low tenths easily. By being able to complete our parts in one setup including turning, milling, drilling, tapping, broaching key ways, thread rolling and engraving part numbers.
    Be sure to get a full “C” axis and “Y” axis on BOTH spindles.
    This capability has literally eliminated hundreds of fixtures, work orders, setups and programs.
    My advice would be to not make low pricing too high a priority.
    I would highly recommend either brand.

  7. Metal Muncher

    2). Have Mori’s, Okuma’s, Doosan and Haas…cut iron steel and stainless 24/5..Mori #1, by far, Doosan, #2, Okuma #3, Haas if I don’t have enough money for a real machine…I can take cuts on any of the first three that stop the spindles of the Haas..we have to do maintenance on the Haas machines rarely on the first three…

  8. dave

    We have 4 Haas SL10’s that have and are giving good service. Haas is reasonably prompt for repairs too.

    Just added two Mazaks to the floor. The machines run well, but not sure about Mazak the company. One of the machines was delivered & installed, then we discovered it didn’t meet quote, now they are dragging their feet on the upgrade or replacement machine. Smells like bait & switch to our owner.

  9. Tom Hogge

    We have over 80 turning centers. Nakamura TW`s and WT`s We own the most of. Then We have numerous Mori`s and a lot of Doosans. Ranging from a few months old to over twenty years old. They all serve us well. Lot of bang for the Buck with the Doosan. No one size or model fits all. Did not have any Luck when I tried Mazaks. Main advise MAKE SURE IT HAS A FANUC CONTROL.Regardless .
    Tom Hogge

  10. Fred Jones

    Mori Seiki has always been a good value for us with reliable service when rarely needed.
    Having purchased Mazak mills and their Integrex multi-task machines I strongly recommend against this tool builder based on the service we have received or not received. Over the seven years of this relationship they have yet to provide acceptable service.

  11. John Wirtz

    Checkout the machining groups on LinkedIn. You can join a group like “Machine Shop Trade Secrets” for free and post questions to reach thousands of machining companies. Hope it helps.


  12. Bob Lovell

    I have 6 Okumas along with many other CNC lathes. 4 of the Okumas are 18 years old and I use them for hard turning and hold .0005 all day, the other 2 are 2010 machines I use for heavy turning.
    If you want to know how good a machine is look at the used machinery market, not many Okumas there,they just keep running. Mazaks are a dime a dozen.

  13. Dale

    I have a 6 month old HAAS DS30SSY and It works on 1045, 4140, 316, 304, and 416 all the time almost never machine anything ‘easy’ in it and it work like a charm. Yes it’s under powered for its size, just bear in mind that it’s not a big Japanese machine and run it accordingly. I’ve learned that if you just adjust you programming style to the type of machine you have you can get good results from any machine, It’s just down to how quick to you want your cycle times to be? Since we do a ton of sort run one off jobs a lot of the on-time of the machine is spent in setup so spending a bunch of extra cash on a faster machine just to sit idle while you change tools and jaws didn’t make sense to us. Another plus to HAAS is you can get any part for you machine with in a day. Once we had a mill spindle that need replacement, I had a refurbished spindle sitting on the bench before the old one was even out of the machine!

  14. Andrew Glover

    Why not consider your purchase from a dealer of New and Used equipment? They may have more insight on different models, makers and controls. The Closest such dealer I know of it:
    Ed Tremblay, east Coast EDM and Remedy Machinery Sales, South Hampton PA.Tel; 215-540-0404 or He also is an Independent Cetroid Control Technician, and Centroid Controls are made in Howard, PA. so keeping all of your service and control support within a local (State) are might be a nice feature to you. Look up Centroid:

  15. Abram Wagner

    They don’t build any of these machines like they used to. Check out the Samsung built under the technical license agreement of Mori Seiki way cheeper fanuc box way 45 deg slant bed.

  16. Troy Graulich

    Look on all the used equipment websights. Not too many Okuma’s. Nuff said! Okuma guy for 26 years


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