My first lathe is/was an 1934 Southbend 9x18 flat belt machine, I found out it was way to small even for my hobby Hot Rod stuff. I was able to buy a Clausing 12x36 variable speed with an 8 inch 3 jaw and a 12 in 4 jaw, it also had an Aloris AXA tool post holder setup for $1500. I know it's a lot of money, but if I had to pay someone to make all the parts and pieces I've made, I would have shelled out a lot more money. My lathe is a good quality lathe with flame hardened ways and tapered bearings in the headstock. Flame hardened ways a just that, hardened. Not all machines are. This give the machine a better chance of staying accurate (less wear) as it is less prone to wear if kept lubed. I would not recommend anything smaller. Once you start to use it, it's never large enough. I am finding I could use a larger lathe, but that's not happening. I am not sorry for spending that money. Just watch Craigslist. When you are inspecting a lathe, look at the ways, especially near the headstock (as this is where most work is done) to see if the machine has been abused/worn out. You can see if the ways are really worn as they will get a pretty good ridge on the V side of the machine. This will make parts that are longer, have a slight taper in that area as compared to the other end near the tailstock. I will say this, if tool room accuracy is not required an older American made or even Taiwanese machine that has been used a lot will serve you well.