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Forum topic by Eric_S posted 01-28-2010 03:13 PM 2220 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1565 posts in 3161 days

01-28-2010 03:13 PM

The more I look at lathe work here at LJ, the more fascinated I am and interested in trying it myself. I would like to make pens, bowls, and hopefully fancier things like table legs. But for now, mainly pens and bowls. I have ZERO knowledge of lathes though so I was hoping all the amazing LJ’s here with tons of experience with them can point me in the right direction. I am planning on buying a smaller lathe to begin with since thats all I’ll need to learn to do bowls and pens and then if I really enjoy it move up to a larger size. So, with that said, what things should I look for in a lathe, what should I avoid? How much power do I need? yada yada yada. Any advice would be great. I have seen this one on ebay that looks decent, maybe you guys can tell:

Here is another on ebay:

also Rockler and woodcraft both have one for around $250 and Grizzly has one for $275 that looks to be the exact same as the one they have for $325 but without the Heavy Duty in the title(specs appear to be the same). So any advice would be great. Also, what tools would I need in addition to the lathe to start. How much money should I estimate for starting out with lathe work. Any good books?

Thanks in advance,

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

16 replies so far

View Llarian's profile


128 posts in 3573 days

#1 posted 01-28-2010 03:39 PM

In my relatively short time turning, I’ve found that my little 10” “midi” lathe doesn’t handle bowls well at all. Its not so much the size, I rarely mount something larger than 7” or so, but its way underpowered for the amount of wood removal being done.

If you can get a midi that’s 3/4 – 1hp, you’ll probably be a lot happier. In addition, you really want something that has a minimum speed of 500rpm or less. Mine bottoms out at 650, and its definitely too fast for a lot of bowl work.

You can turn a pen on damn near anything, so that’s really not your limiting factor.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

View Joe Weaver's profile

Joe Weaver

514 posts in 3652 days

#2 posted 01-28-2010 03:42 PM

Find a good woodturning club were you live. they always welcome new people. they can answer your questions and they all so have classes to teach. the club i joined has classes one sat a month. the fee is 10.00.

-- Joe, Ga

View Berg's profile


116 posts in 3156 days

#3 posted 01-28-2010 03:51 PM

Hi Eric,

I just got into turning this summer. Got the bug bad so be careful! I got the Rikon mini. It has a 12” swing and I’ve mounted pretty big hunks of maple on it. You can get them on sale. I got mine at Woodcraft for about $270. You change speeds manually which is “OK” but electronic variable speed is great. Check out my review here on LJ. I just recently picked up a used Jet 1642 with electronic variable speed. Fantastic. Love the lathe. I’m not recommending you start with something like that. I just peeked at the links you posted. I’d stay away from both. Most name brand minis have 1/2 hp motors (like the Rikon and Jet) I can stall the Rikon if I try to hog too much. Also both those lathes use #1MTs which means any accessories will be usable when you upgrade (did I say “when”?). Anything else you end up with will have a #2MT head and tail stock. And keep in mind you will spend a lot on the “extras”.

What I strongly recommend is take a turning class or two before you buy. Do you have a place (not Rockler) that has turning classes (a school, club, etc)? Those places usually have more than one type of lathe you can try. My first two classes I took were at Rockler and were OK but they used only Jet minis (good option, by the way). I took an 8 session class at a local woodworking school in New Hampshire, Homestead Woodworking School. I learned a lot and got to use several lathes.

My last recommendation is watch Craig’s List. If you are not in a rush you can get some good deals. You have to know what you want and how much a “good deal” is.

HTH (hope this helps)

-- Pete - "To every thing there is a season Turn! Turn! turn!" [Ecclesiastes and Pete Seeger]

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3161 days

#4 posted 01-28-2010 04:10 PM

Thanks for the info. I think there might be a turning club around Indy so I’ll check for classes either there or at the local wood clubs at marion college and IUPUI.

What exactly is a #1MT/#2MT and which one do I want? I think you had a typo Berg saying I do want a #1, but then you say everything else is #2???

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View lew's profile


12019 posts in 3721 days

#5 posted 01-28-2010 05:16 PM

This refers to the size (diameter) of the “centers” interface that the lathe can accept. #2 is slightly larger than #1.

I agree with Dylan, the smaller “mini” lathes will not do well when turning bowls. When starting with a bowl blank, there is so much mass that the lathe just doesn’t have enough power to keep it turning when you are trying to make the cuts. I have a Delta 14” and it even has to struggle at first.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Berg's profile


116 posts in 3156 days

#6 posted 01-28-2010 05:30 PM

#1 Morse taper, #2 Morse taper. Those lathes you linked to use #1. Most other lathes you will upgrade to will be #2 More taper so you won’t be able to use any accessories that have a MT mount. For example, the spur drive has a tapered shaft that slides into teh head stock. That tapered shaft is a #1, #2 or #3 “Morse taper”. The drill chuck you will probably buy (Jacobs Chuck) will have the same tapered shaft on it to slide into the tail stock (or the head stock). That’s a Morse taper.

I didn’t say you should, I said the ones you referenced had them. I recommend getting something with a #2MT so “when” you upgrade you can use any Jacob chuck or centers you might buy with the new lathe.

P.S. #3 is used in metal turning lathes. I’ve never seen on for wood turning. Just a little trivia.

-- Pete - "To every thing there is a season Turn! Turn! turn!" [Ecclesiastes and Pete Seeger]

View Llarian's profile


128 posts in 3573 days

#7 posted 01-28-2010 06:22 PM

Penn State’s lathes aren’t great, but I have their Turncrafter Pro right now, and it does work for <10>t recommend spending that much money. (The lathe is the cheap part of turning)

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

View Mike67's profile


97 posts in 3302 days

#8 posted 01-28-2010 08:39 PM

I got into turning a few years ago with a harbor freight lathe (model 34706). Its the floor model that sells for about $250 most of the time but is always on sale. I think I paid around $150. Its been good for bowls, chair legs, lamps, etc. It may be harder to sell than a midi Jet or other brand name machine when you decide to upgrade but the initial cost is lower if you can get one on sale. For tools, Penn State has some great values. I also have and like the barracuda chuck from Penn State. And you’ll need a grinder for sharpening and either some lessons on freehand sharpening or some jigs.
Good luck!

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3455 days

#9 posted 01-28-2010 11:58 PM

I love my Powermatic 3520b, but I am also impressed with my new Delta Midi 46-460 that I just got. It is a 1hp lathe from Woodcraft (and others), has a 12.5” swing, variable speed, reversing, etc. I highly recommend either of those.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3161 days

#10 posted 01-29-2010 12:06 AM

Thanks everyone. I also saw a bunch of lathe reviews and what to look for when buying in some articles on FWW’s tool section.

Unfortunately, since I’m still working on the nightstands, I wont be buying a lathe for a few months, but I might as well slowly start to buy stuff for it when I have some money available. So, what gouges and skew chisels should I start with. I plan on doing pens (spindle) before I try bowls. Also, how much should I expect to spend on lathe tools alone? I hear its an expensive hobby. I dont need top of the line tools, but would prefer chisels that hold an edge so I hear high speed steel is the way to go.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View hairy's profile


2655 posts in 3498 days

#11 posted 01-29-2010 12:15 AM

I bought this about 15 months ago. It’s a good starter lathe.

I have a set of Horrible Freight spindle tools, Benjamin’s Best bowl tools, and a Oneway Talon chuck.I’ve heard that a Nova chuck is very good,too. I saw 4 sets of Nova jaws for less $ than 2 sets of Oneway, but I have no experience using them.

-- My reality check bounced...

View Jim's profile


150 posts in 3288 days

#12 posted 01-29-2010 12:54 AM

Hey Eric, if you hear anything about any turning classes going on in the Indy (or north of Indy) let me know, I’m trying to get into turning myself but not sure what to get. I had been leaning towards a Rikon, since I’m short on space and can’t go for a bigger model. But now I’m wondering if more hp would be better. Anyways, if I find any classes I’ll let you know about them too.

-- -- Jim - Kokomo, Indiana

View billythek's profile


18 posts in 3037 days

#13 posted 01-30-2010 06:35 AM

Check out Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin (just south of Indy on I-65) Great school and the best instructors in the country.

-- Bill

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3161 days

#14 posted 01-30-2010 07:18 AM

Billy, I’ve heard of the Marc Adams school and would LOVE to take classes there, only problem is they are costly. For the same price I can buy a decent lathe and set of tools. They do have a turning class though March 29-April 2nd. Hopefully I’ll be able to attend classes there next year.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

556 posts in 3022 days

#15 posted 01-30-2010 08:40 PM

I’m sure you can find a local turner to give you some basic lessons. You won’t need much to get going. I’ve bought 2 lathes from people on CL durning the past 2 years, a big one and a Jet mini. I actually use the Jet much more frequently. But folks are right, it won’t do for bowls or any big projects. I use the Jet for tool handles, my daughter (13) makes pens. Just yesterday I turned a lever for a vice.
You mentioned taper sizes. Drill presses also use Morse Tapers. The Jacobs Chuck on my drill press is attached to a #2MT. The big Oneway lathe (don’t know the model) uses a #3 MT in the tailstock, but a #2MT in the headstock. Don’t know why. Also there are lots of good books about beginning turning, but I’d recommend getting some lessons before starting out, mainly for safety reasons.

-- Glen

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