|Review by Tim Dorcas||posted 11-14-2008 06:13 AM||9730 views||2 times favorited||5 comments|
About a month ago, I decided I wanted another lathe. I was getting frustrated with my King Mini Lathe in regards to vibration and having to constantly switch the belt to change speeds. I had about $1000-$1200 which put me in the category of mid level lathe. It came down to a Craftex CT128 which is a copy of the Laguna 18/47 and the Nova 1624-44. The Craftex is bigger, has a bit more horse power, includes variable speed and an incredibly sturdy stand. The biggest negatives were that it was 220v and I would have had to wire the garage in order to use it. I also could not find any reviews. My success rate with rebranded equipement such as King has not been the best. The Nova is a bit smaller and does not have variable speed (which was high on my wish list) but it was also cheaper buy a couple hundred and only required 110v which meant I could use it right away. I also could not find a ‘bad’ review of the device. In the end I decided to get the Nova with a new chuck and some chuck accessories and they had sale which included the heavy duty stand free.
What are some of the qualities that make a lathe better than another?
1) Power – you don’t want it stalling and you need enough power for large blanks.
I can’t really speak to this in any major way. I don’t do large turnings (yet) so it’s hard to judge. Relative to some of the other lathes I have used (General Midi-Lathe, a large Oneway, and large Vicmarc), the Nova seems plenty strong enough for the things I want to do.
2) Capacity—You want to have the flexibility to do large turnings when you want to.
While the stock configuration is just shy of 16”, you can turn it outboard for turnings up to 29”. You can get an outrigger for your banjo but in reading several individual reviews, it seems that most people don’t use it. Lengthwise you can turn spindles that are 24” but this can be expanded to 44”. In my shop (a two car garage), the size is large enough to be stable but not so big that it takes up a large amount of space. This size should suit me for quite a while.
3) Stability—This really adds to your ability to do fine and detailed work.
Again I haven’t done any large turnings so out of the box it’s quite stable for what I’m doing. The heavy duty stand should only help with this aspect. My midi lathe vibrates like crazy which is noticeable when doing small precise turnings.
4) Speed Changes—The easier it is to make changes the more you will take advantage of different speeds.
This is the reason it’s loses a star. While changes speeds only takes a minute and is incredibly easy to do, it’s not as easy as turning a dial to increase or decrease the speed. To change speeds you simply unscrew the the head guard, unscrew the tee bar , lift the tee bar to lift the motor, move the belt, push the tee bar down, lock the motor, and screw the head guard back on. For a manual speed change I can’t think of a way to make it easier. It also has a belt position window to see what speed you are turning at. On my midi lathe it on the head stock cap and I find myself constantly looking for this piece to figure out the correct position. This is not a problem with the Nova. Because it is relatively easy to do, if I need to change speeds I do it when it requires it. On my midi-lathe, it’s very much a hassle and I only do it if I absolutely do it.
5) Speed Range—Less of an issue with Variable Speed lathes but definitely something to think about.
The better I get the more I take advantage of different speeds. The individual speeds are 214, 360, 690, 1030, 1450, 2180, 2900, 3630. The lathe is slow enough for large turnings but can get up to high speeds quickly. I don’t normally turn anything faster than 2180. I think if you look at recommended speeds for different projects there is an individual speed that is close enough that the lathe will work for you. My midi lathe starts at 600 which is quite high to begin with.
6) Feature Set – Can the motor reverse? Does it swivel or let you move the headstock to the end for larger capacity? Ease of toolrest? Anything else?
One of the big things I was looking for was a motor that can reverse to make your sanding results better. If the motor only goes in one direction you will be spending a lot more time sanding with the grain while the lathe is stopped. The reverse feature doesn’t necessarily stop you from doing this but it does lessen the amount of time you have to do this.
Swiveling the headstock works great and I have not had many problems aligning the headstock and tailstock when this was done.
Installation was fairly easy and took about an hour and half from the time I started ripping the box open to the time was testing it. This bad boy is heavy! I had one of my sons and his friend help me lift it onto my workbench. There were a few moments with some of the headstock components buts it was fairly easy to figure out.
The toolrest is solid and locks into place with little effort. Since I do lots of small turnings I found the original toolrest to be a bit big. I bought a 6” one from Lee Valley which compliments the large one. The tail stock is a bit tight and could probably use a slight adjustment to loosen it so that it travels a little easier but that’s on me (I’d rather be turning). I had to bore a long hole from both sides of the blank for a peppermill. This operation went off without a hitch. I believe the tail stock has 4” of travel which is plenty.
It is also fairly quiet. Not as quiet as the Oneway or the Vicmarc that I have used but with the air filtration unit and my radio going it’s not a factor at all.
7) Overall Quality
The build quality for this machine is quite good. Everything is solid and looks & feels great. Again it’s not quite the same as a Vicmarc but I’m not complaining.
If you look at the lathe review that Fine Woodworking did May/June 2007 issue this was the least expensive lathe in the group and it still held it’s own. The other machines were hundreds or thousands of dollars more without hundreds of dollars more value. Without accessories, I spent under a $1000 CAN so I can’t honestly complain. I think at this price point the Nova 1624 is a tremendous value relative to what you get and the built in capabilities.
I do my best not to fool myself into thinking something is a great deal if it is not. I have purchased things in the past that seemed like a good deal only to find out in actual use that the item was less than desirable. I can not say this about the Nova. So far it has been exactly as it’s been advertised. A solid lathe with lots of great features at an excellent price point.
Update (November 30, 2008): Chris asked about stability and the ability to do long turnings. First, my cast iron stand finally arrived. I would say they at 2 to 3 times heavier than the stand that comes with the lathe. It took less than an hour to replace the old stand. For the most part I do small turnings so it’s hard to accurately describe how much of a difference the new stand makes except to say the lathe as a whole is much more ridgid. Since the new stand has notches in the stands I cut shelves for them for my tools. This has worked out quite well.
I don’t really do long turnings but I have seen pictures of the Nova 1624 with multiple extensions turning a whole log. I think it’s pretty cost effective to add them if required. I also haven’t turned anything larger than 15 inches so I haven’t needed to swing the headstock out. When I was reading up on the lathe I gave serious consideration to getting the outrigger to turn 29” stock. Most people that stated they purchased it said they never used it and so far they are correct.
I still miss having variable speed BUT the belt changes are very quick and easy to do so if I need to change speeds I just do it. On my midi-lathe it was such a hassle that I only changed the belt if it was absolutely necessary.
Overall I am still very happy with my purchase and again I say that I think this lathe is an incredibly value.
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