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Lathe #1: What Kind?

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Blog entry by Derec posted 01-17-2013 04:23 AM 684 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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A lot of projects that I would like to make look like they would require a lathe, I would like to know what kind of lathe I should look for and if there any other ideas that I could consider?

-- Derec



6 comments so far

View whit's profile

whit

246 posts in 2673 days


#1 posted 01-17-2013 05:44 AM

Are you talking about pens and bottle stoppers or architectural columns? I know that sounds like a snide question but it’s possible to turn a pen on a large lathe. ‘course it’s also possible to turn a 12’ column on a mini lathe; you just have to do it 14” at a shot.

Are you thinking of turning faceplate work – bowls or platters – or just between centers (pens, lamps, candlesticks, etc)?

Also, bear in mind that the lathe is only the beginning. It’s not too useful without a decent arsenal of tools. You’ll notice I didn’t say set of tools. I’m not a big fan of the tools sold in sets. I’ve found that the individual tools I’ve bought are generally much better quality than those sold as sets – particularly as “starter” sets.

Depending on how much money you’re looking to spend, you’ll also want to consider whether you want an AC motor or a DC motor. If you’re limited in your budget, that decision may be made for you. The AC-based lathes are usually cheaper and the speed control is usually mechanical (i.e. belt and pullies) some of which can be changed on the fly and some need to be stopped, changed, and restarted. The DC-based lathes are generally more expensive but have a much more variable motor control – both in speeds available and in range of speeds. In some cases, they are also reversible. Also, larger lathes with larger motors may require 220V wiring. This may sound like I’m stating the obvious, here, but it’s easy to fall in love with the specs on a tool only to have your hopes dashed upon the rocks when you realize that your 6-fuse panel in your 1950s vintage house won’t support it. :)

If you’re just looking to get a lathe do do a particular project or seven, find one that will satisfy the requirements of the projects you have planned If you’re looking for a really fun tool that will tax your creativity – and your wallet – the sky truly can be the limit.

By the way, my next one will be a 42”, DC-based behemoth . . . if my wife says “yes”. :)

Whit

-- Even if to be nothing more than a bad example, everything serves a purpose. cippotus

View Derec's profile

Derec

77 posts in 665 days


#2 posted 01-17-2013 10:31 AM

I should have been more descriptive in my initial post. I like a lot of the goblets and steins that guys are posting and would like to learn how make them myself. Harbor Freight has several bench top lathes for just over a hundred bucks, I just don’t know what to look for.

-- Derec

View Kreegan's profile

Kreegan

1452 posts in 843 days


#3 posted 01-17-2013 03:01 PM

The lathe is generally the least expensive part of turning, unless you spring for a Powermatic, Oneway, Robust lathe. Chucks, jaws, lathe chisels, faceplates, etc all add up really fast. A single high quality lathe chisel can run close to $100. So just be aware of that going in. The lathe is very important and all, but all the accessories are most likely to be where your cost comes in.

I started with the Harbor Freight 10×18 lathe (http://www.harborfreight.com/5-speed-bench-top-wood-lathe-65345.html). It’s a great lathe to start with, since it will do a lot of the things that you’ll want to do as a beginner. I’ve turned bowls, cups, bottle stoppers, tool handles, chess pieces and ornaments on mine. With coupons and sales, I got it for under $150.

I just ordered a Delta 46-460 that should be arriving today. One of the main reasons I upgraded to this lathe from the HF is the variable speed control that doesn’t involve stopping the lathe and changing pulleys. With the HF lathe that got old real fast. It’s rare that you turn something at one speed for the whole thing. You’ll want to change speeds, especially for bowls and other hollow objects, and it’s annoying to do that on the HF. This lathe cost me $699.

One thing I’d really recommend you do is go to a turning demo or a local turning club meeting and see if you can try out a lathe there. That will help you figure out what you want a lot better than just reading about lathes. Once you do that, make sure to check out your local Craigslist and see if there’s a lathe that will work for you there.

Good luck!

View whit's profile

whit

246 posts in 2673 days


#4 posted 01-17-2013 07:32 PM

If you’re thinking of getting an inexpensive lathe to start with but expect you might be upgrading at some point, you’ll want to make sure any accessories you buy (chucks, faceplates, etc) will work on your future lathe or you’re up for buying replacements or adapters.

You’ll probably want to check out the machine and make sure the ways are flat, parallel, and smooth. A lathe will work if they’re not but the frustration factor goes up a bit. The tool rest should be flat and smooth. I wouldn’t judge that by the quality of the one in the store, by the way; HF’s consistency in quality control on machinery is just this side of non-existent. That’s not to say that an HF machine can’t be made workable. You’ll just need to put some work into it to get it there.

Also, consider doing a search on the LJ site for HF lathe. There are some threads available with comments – both good and bad – on the HF line of lathes.

Good luck with your search.

Whit

-- Even if to be nothing more than a bad example, everything serves a purpose. cippotus

View cosmicturner's profile

cosmicturner

403 posts in 2092 days


#5 posted 02-02-2013 10:30 PM

I would start with a mini lathe and you never want to get rid of it….you will want a bigger one some day but a small lathe has many advantages for learning….my opinion
If you could find a cabatech I love my little buddy….check out penn state industries
Variable speed and reverse are nice features DC motors are the way to go what about Jett at woodcraft…harbor freight…careful…

-- Cosmicturner

View Derec's profile

Derec

77 posts in 665 days


#6 posted 02-03-2013 02:33 AM

I have been keeping my eye on ebay and craigsllist for a lathe. Most of the ones I see are either very old or cost more than I can afford to pay right now.

-- Derec

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