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first lathe purchase -Excelsior?

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Forum topic by BB1 posted 02-07-2016 12:50 PM 740 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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BB1

486 posts in 311 days


02-07-2016 12:50 PM

Have been slowly adding items to our shop and am considering adding a lathe. Saw this on sale http://www.rockler.com/excelsior-5-speed-mini-lathe-with-free-bed-extension and with the extension appears to be a good price. Unit has a half horsepower motor and five speeds (lowest is 760…up to 3200). If anyone has experience with this lathe or any other suggestions I would greatly appreciate it. I realize bigger is typically better but we do not want to spend thousands at this point. New to LJ and really like this open forum. I expect our main projects will be bowls although hard to say for sure at this point.


13 replies so far

View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

2410 posts in 1977 days


#1 posted 02-07-2016 01:08 PM

No offense, but that looks identical to this: http://www.harborfreight.com/5-speed-bench-top-wood-lathe-65345.html
Even the speeds are identical, 760 up to 3200. I own one, and the problems are thus:
I snapped off the tool post on a catch due to poor casting. Had to buy a Woodcraft replacement.
The belt is hard to change, and with the allen screw tightening sequence, you wonder how long before the screw threads wear out, rendering belt changes useless. (I try to keep my bolt at the same place to not wear out the threads. But I only make pens and little guitar knobs on this.)
The motor runs a bit hot for me. but it does run Ok. It seems like the fan might be undersized.
I believe there is a spare belt replacement, but I have not seen any other replacement parts. Does Rockler offer replacement parts if needed? HF does not. You might want to check.

The Harbor Freight unit can be had every day for $160 with a 20% coupon, which appears in almost every Sunday paper.
So you have to ask yourself, is that bed extension worth $140?

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

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BB1

486 posts in 311 days


#2 posted 02-07-2016 01:19 PM

Thanks for the insights. Not sure about the replacement part issue.

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

1056 posts in 1452 days


#3 posted 02-07-2016 01:31 PM

If you’re planning to turn bowls, you might want to try this one from HF. Here is my review. You need face plates and/or chucks, etc for bowls, and the small one will be difficult to find accessories, not to mention the very limiting bowl size it will turn. The 34706 is one of the HF “gems”.

View Minorhero's profile

Minorhero

372 posts in 2068 days


#4 posted 02-07-2016 01:36 PM

These types of small lathes run best when they are physically bolted to a bench. Keep that in mind when deciding on how much space this thing will occupy.

A couple of things, if you are buying a lathe because you think you need another tool to make your shop “complete” then do not buy a lathe. If you are buying a lathe because you have specific projects in mind that require a lathe then you should definitely buy a lathe and it probably should be a different lathe as this one is pretty limited in capacity.

Regarding the cost of a lathe, the lathe itself is the cheapest thing you will buy that are absolutely 100% necessary to using a lathe. You will NEED to have a grinder and grinding stone to sharpen lathe tools. There is no getting around this one. You will also need some centers to turn anything and if you want to get into bowls you will need a chuck as well. Turning tools are also obviously required. Most starting projects can be done with a 3/8” spindle gauge so that is the only one I would recommend buying right away.

What else you might need will depend entirely on the projects you plan to do. To give you better advice on what to buy we would need to know what projects you have planned. If you don’t have any projects planned then skip this tool till you do.

View KYSean's profile

KYSean

106 posts in 3059 days


#5 posted 02-07-2016 01:41 PM

+1 on what Minorhero said.

-- http://editedwrite.com

View WhoMe's profile

WhoMe

1464 posts in 2706 days


#6 posted 02-07-2016 02:24 PM

I have owned the excelsior for more than a year. And for a first time lathe, it works fine but I already want a larger and more capable lathe. I only turn pens and other small things like handles and bottle stoppers.
I’m “attempting” my first bowl with some very hard wood and I can get it to stall while not being very aggressive. Which is a bummer but, ill try turning another bowl out of something softer like maple or walnut and see how it does.

Some of the above are true. The motor runs quite warm. The tool rest is a weak point.
ANY lathe purchase requires accessories and I have a Chuck, a Jacobs drill Chuck, a better too rest, carbide turning tools and the bed extension. all of that cost more than twice what I paid for the lathe. So yes, the useful/needed accessories can get expensive.

The suggestion of bolting the lathe down, TOTALLY unnecessary. It’s limited capacity prevents you needing to bolt it down due to an unbalanced piece of wood.

Speed changes via the belt are not that hard as above leads you to believe. A couple twists of a couple knobs, move 2 plastic guards, loosen the motor, move the belt and you’re done. You’ll find you don’t have to put the plastic guards back in place if you done want to. Speed changes for ANY non variable speed lathe are just not as convenient as twisting a speed control knob.

Regarding turning tools, if you have a way to sharpen steel ones, you can but steel ones. If you have no way to sharpen steel tools, buy carbide tipped ones. They work just fine for most projects (inside of bowls, vases, hollow vessels, maybe not so much). For carbide, you really only need two, a round tipped and a square tip with a slight radius. Carbide just needs a different turning technique.

On purchasing the lathe like minorhero notes, I totally agree. If you need it for projects, buy it. If you want it just to add a tool, you’re money can be better spent elsewhere. Especially for the bed extension.

Like I said earlier, this is a fun beginners lathe with a couple limitations for small projects. Although I’m itching for a larger and more capable lathe, it has met almost all my needs so far.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View BB1's profile

BB1

486 posts in 311 days


#7 posted 02-07-2016 02:38 PM

Thanks everyone. The main activity we would like to pursue is bowl turning. Sounds like a mini will present limitations for that application. Have been watching CL for a used lathe that might be in the target price range with accessories (well aware of the extra investment beyond the lathe itself). Watching videos and reading is helpful but inexperience leads to being at a disadvantage when trying to determine what is a good option when looking at preowned equipment

View Jimbo4's profile

Jimbo4

1432 posts in 2225 days


#8 posted 02-07-2016 06:56 PM

You might want to check your local area for woodturning clubs. Is there a Woodcraft store in your area, check them for advice. Woodcraft also provides turning instructions – NOT free.

-- BOVILEXIA: The urge to moo at cows from a moving vehicle.

View bigJohninvegas's profile

bigJohninvegas

211 posts in 925 days


#9 posted 02-11-2016 08:03 PM

I too owned this lathe and I found it to be ok. It is the same lathe that harbor freight sells with a different paint job.
It is to small for bowl turning, but not bad at all for a beginner who wants to turn smaller items like pens.
I would try to find a lathe with at least a 12” swing, and variable speed control. While changing belts is not hard. It is a total pain. And the fixed speeds are often to slow or to fast. No sweet spot.
I used that little 10” lathe for about a year, and upgraded to the jet 16/42. Huge jump, and lots of money. While the excelsior was way to small, I got a great deal on it and I learned what I.wanted without getting in to deep. No regrets.
Sold it to a friend when I bought the big jet. She loves it. All she needs it for is spindles for tables and chairs. Worked out perfect for her.

-- John

View HapHazzard's profile

HapHazzard

92 posts in 331 days


#10 posted 02-13-2016 04:34 AM

I have one, with a bed extension, and I love it, but I only use it for spindles—and it will turn looooong spindles with that extension, but unless you think you’ll be satisfied with ten-inch bowls or goblets, this one’s not for you. The headstock is fixed, so you can’t swing it out for outboard turning, and you can’t fit a chuck in place of the flywheel because it has a totally different thread pitch. You need to look for something with as much swing as you can imagine ever needing, and maybe a little bit more, and/or the ability to rotate the headstock away from the bed. These are going to cost you more, and you’re a lot less likely to find them used. People normally start out with the minis and then sell them when they realize they won’t do bowls.

-- Unix programmers never die; they just > /dev/null

View bigJohninvegas's profile

bigJohninvegas

211 posts in 925 days


#11 posted 02-13-2016 05:32 PM

HapHazzard, if you have the excelsior 10” lathe, it has a 1”X8tpi spindle on it.
Plenty of chucks out there that will fit it.
I was using a nova chuck with mine. Made the mistake of getting the one with tommy bars.
I have discovered that the grizzly chucks work well, and are more affordable
than some of the bigger names.

-- John

View HapHazzard's profile

HapHazzard

92 posts in 331 days


#12 posted 02-15-2016 10:48 AM

John,
Yes, there are plenty of chucks for the headstock spindle, but one trick I’ve seen people use for bowl turning is to mount a chuck or faceplate on the end of the spindle opposite the bed so they can turn larger pieces, and that won’t work on this lathe. It’s non-reversible, and the flywheel threads are left-handed and fairly fine. There’s no way to overcome the limitation of the 10” swing, so unless you’re content with being able to turn spindles, you’re out of luck.

-- Unix programmers never die; they just > /dev/null

View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

2410 posts in 1977 days


#13 posted 02-15-2016 12:39 PM

Agree with OSU55.
I’ve seen a few videos on this lathe, it seems to be a horse, one of those hidden gems you find occasionally at HF.

It was too big for what I needed, (knobs and pens), and I already have a larger lathe, but for a first lathe, with that speed changer on the front, (only use it when the motor is running), and the reversible head, longer bed, nice lathe for $240 with a 20% coupon.

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

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