As luck would have it, a buddy of mine decided to part with his Harbor Freight 9x20 lathe for a price I was willing to pay. I'm glad I have it and can't wait to make long stringy chips!
I must say though, that I think I should have bought a lathe first. Realizing that Chinese machine tools are essentially elaborate kits (without instructions), it would have been nice to have the tools handy to make new rotating and/or power transmission parts myself. If I had to do it all over again, there is no question in my mind that I would be better served by getting the lathe before the mill. Although, I think the mill will likely be used more often, the lathe is more of a necessity or rather a more "basic" tool.
The mods to the lathe will be pretty tame to begin with. First and foremost will be the 4-bolt compound slide mounting plate. That seems to be a priority for many folks so, drawing on their experience, it will be mine too. I may just buy one rather than make it myself to speed along the time-to-production for my new lathe. A quick change tool post (Enco Phase II piston design) will be next for sure.
My first two projects will be: a custom espresso tamper for my recently acquired espresso pot, and new pulleys for my mill. As I stated in a previous entry, I basically was making lathe parts on my mill by using the CNC's circular interpolation to cut pulleys. This time around I'm going to buy some HTD5 timing pulleys and taper bushings (probably from from econobelt.com) and open up the ID of the pulleys on the lathe. As I infrequently change speeds on my mill, I'm throwing out the step pulley concept in favor of a higher HP capacity drive system. The variable speed DC motor can take care of variance within whatever range the pulleys put me at.