Advice on purchasing a small lathe

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Blog entry by EduWood posted 07-11-2008 08:18 AM 1048 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My 16 year old son is interested in purchasing a small lathe. Though I’ve been woodworking since high school, I don’t have a lathe and have never used one. He’s interested in turning bowls, cups, pens, etc.. It would need to be a bench top size. Can anyone give advice on what to look for? Is horsepower important? What type of speeds should it have? Anyone had great luck with certain brands? He’s looked on the web and right now likes the small Grizzly, but the price seems a little high. Thanks to all who respond.

-- David, O.C., California

9 comments so far

View Callum Kendall's profile

Callum Kendall

1918 posts in 3941 days

#1 posted 07-11-2008 11:16 AM

Hi David, I would not know what to recomend (as I live in england and the range is completly different). However he also needs to consider the price of a good chuck, as the most expensive lathe in the world with a bad chuck on it is useless. Also it could be folse econnomy to buy a cheaper lathe as I discovered the hard way.

Sorry cant be more help


-- For wood working podcasts with a twist check out

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4005 days

#2 posted 07-11-2008 01:35 PM

I would recommend checking out a local wood turners club. You can find one here. They usually have wonderful mentoring programs. They will be able to point you in the right direction. They would also know what used equipment is for sale in your area.

If you are looking for new mini or midi lathes , check out the Jet or Rikon.

You will also need some good tools and just as important, a way to keep them sharp.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4537 days

#3 posted 07-11-2008 01:49 PM

I like the looks of the Rikon.

It looks like its very well constructed, & the price isn’t too bad.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 4190 days

#4 posted 07-11-2008 02:52 PM

My wife and I are planning a similar purchase for our 13yo this christmas. We found a Jet Mini Lathe starter kit that includes everything that you need: lathe, chucks, mandrels, chiesles, starter pack of pen blanks and inserts. If I can find the link I will PM it to ya.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View EduWood's profile


57 posts in 3865 days

#5 posted 07-12-2008 05:35 AM

Thanks everyone for your input….. sorry I couldn’t get back to you until now! We really appreciate your thoughts. We’ll keep you posted as we go! Thanks again.

-- David, O.C., California

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3961 days

#6 posted 07-12-2008 10:07 PM

David, I have a Jet variable speed mini lathe. It works great for pens, candleholders, bun feet, or anything not too big in diameter. However, I have turned a few small bowls (6 in to 7 in in diameter) and I find it too easy to stop the turning with my tools. There’s not quite enough torque/power for this kind of turning. If I recall correctly the Jet mini has a 1/3 horsepower motor. If you’re going to turn anything larger than 4 inches or so, I’d consider something with a more powerful motor. But it is a quality lathe and works great for small items.

-- Martin, Kansas

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 4229 days

#7 posted 07-13-2008 04:24 AM

David, I have the Jet mini… it’s done wonderfully for me; I bought it used and it runs like a champ. I have turned out bowls, vases, etc….

Can’t go wrong with this lathe for a starter….

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View 1978's profile


167 posts in 3846 days

#8 posted 07-13-2008 06:35 AM

David, I’m not much into turning, yet. But I have bought a Jet mini pen lathe and I love it. Some advice to give, try checking out a Woodcraft store (if there is one your area). They offer classes and advice. If your son is serious about getting into lathe work, I would go for a pricier well made model such as Jet, that you know will last and he will get some use out of.

View Miket's profile


308 posts in 4009 days

#9 posted 07-13-2008 06:50 AM

Like many others I have a small Jet lathe.

-- It's better to have people think you're stupid rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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