|Review by Tim Dorcas||posted 07-04-2009 06:56 AM||10444 views||0 times favorited||1 comment|
I have had my Nova 1624 Lathe for a almost 6 months. It is a quality machine. However as easy as it is to do, I hate changing the belt to change speeds. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about a new, more powerful lathe. Something with variable speed, larger capacity, more horsepower, and something that will quench my lust for bigger and better.
I initially thought I had a great deal on a Powermatic 3560b. It turned out to be not true. At the same time I started reexamining Busy Bee’s Craftex CT128. Essentially this is a rebranded Laguna Platinum Series 18/47 Lathe. In the past I have used a Laguna 18? Bandsaw. It’s awesome. Quality really shines through and the accuracy of the cuts was great. When I was thinking about getting a new lathe back in November this was on the short list but the price was bit more and I needed to put in a 220v circuit so the Nova won. Considering it had many of the same features of the Powermatic, the price has since been reduced by $300, and I didn’t mind putting in a new circuit, the Craftex CT128 was back on the board.
I have to say from a customer service point of view, my experience could not have been better. Since I did not have my truck, I needed to take apart the box at the store. The manufacturer really had everything locked down to make sure nothing shifted in transport. WIth the help of one of the customer service people, I loaded it up in the Jeep and headed home with my new purchase. It would have been nice if I could have just brought it home, put it together and started turning. That was not to be the case as I already didn’t have any space in my shop.
In order to make this work, I ended up taking out my first workbench which was a feat by itself. I had lots of stuff stored on, in and under it. I then struggled to move my new workbench where the old one lived. With that done and a little (or maybe a lot) of cleaning, I was finally able to start moving all of the components into the shop. While everything was heavy, I was able to manage things reasonably well on my own. it took about an hour and half to put everything together including cleaning the lathe off.
It’s at this time that you really start to take notice of the build quality of the lathe and honestly I was a little disappointed. Despite tightening the handwheel there is still a lot of play in the tailstock and the handwheel feels cheap. The outside casting of the banjo was rough and I had to play with it for a little bit to make sure that it would adequately tighten. The tool rest was also not to my liking. In it’s current configuration it would be really hard to do to pull cuts as it pushes the gouge away.The tool rest on my Nova is actually one of the better tool rests that I have seen. Well, no problem, I’ll just use the tool rest from my Nova. But wait. The hole is too small. In fact none of my extra tool rests fit. I wasn’t too happy about that. In the end I retrofitted my whole tool rest from my Nova onto the Craftex. It’s fairly finicky but so far it is working. If the hole were just a bit bigger that would have been great.
The headstock is another area of concern. On the Nova, there is a simple spindle lock – pull out knob, turn upwards, and then it automatically lock the spindle. On the Craftex there are four holes on the headstock. Three holes are for indexing and the third is the spindle lock. My main problem is if you use the spindle lock it’s either in or you have to take it out. There is a really good chance to loose it while working. Plus it’s a bit of a pain to get out if you actually use it for indexing. I actually had to grab pliers once to unscrew it. In addition there is no handwheel and it looks like a bit of work to add one. After using a 4 prong Spur Center for a large bowl blank, I could not get it out with just the knock out tool. I actually needed a hammer to get it out. Lastly, despite my best efforts, I still have yet to be able to get everything perfectly level so it doesn’t take much speed to get it walking about the shop (On my Nova, it only did this once when I set the belt too high on a large unbalanced bowl blank).
So how does this compare with my Nova? With the exception of the variable speed and a bit more capacity both in swing and distance between centers, the Nova is a better lathe. The fit and finish is top notch through out. Since they are side by side in the shop it becomes obvious the choices each manufacturer took in building their lathes and now that I have something to compare it to, I really think Teknatool made all of the right decisions.
Let me say this….For a $1000 I recognize that there will be some compromises. I think had I not been turning for awhile most of this would have gone over my head. The Craftex does have the things that I wanted – Larger capacity and Variable Speed (The verdict is still out about power. I was able to easily stall it in the high speed range. I have since move the belt to low speed for more torque.). Despite the issues I have expressed, you do get a lot of lathe for the money. However as someone who is really focused on turning, the smaller details have me worried. I really don’t want to buy another lathe and then have to get another one in a year. While the Powermatic is thousands of dollars more, I am seriously considering spending the money to get one.
I know there are lots of people who have this so I would be interested in knowing their thoughts.
Update: Since writing this I was able to get the Powermatic 3520b. I have a couple of minor gripes but overall it’s everything I wanted. I will post a full review once I have used it for awhile.
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