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Forum topic by majuvla posted 05-02-2016 06:38 PM 842 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View majuvla's profile


13204 posts in 3038 days

05-02-2016 06:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe

Dear LJs,

I would like to hear your opinions about mini/midi lathe – STEPLESS (VARIABLE) or MANUAL speed change?

Thanks for all answers.
Best regards

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

9 replies so far

View MrUnix's profile


7001 posts in 2369 days

#1 posted 05-02-2016 07:19 PM

I prefer to stay away from electronic (variable) speed control in favor of manual methods… they might not be as convenient, but they will last much longer and easier to fix should something go wrong. The exception would be a VFD controlled 3-phase motor. I’ve seen many a machine delegated to the scrap heap because some little electronic bit failed and could not be replaced/sourced – or it was really, really expensive to do so. Reeves drives are a good option, although there have been some implementations that have given them a bad name.


PS: Of the four lathes I have, 3 use stepped pulleys and one uses a Reeves drive. Stepping belts is not an issue and easily done with one hand in a couple of seconds (except for my South Bend, which is a bit different kind of pulley arrangment – and rarely needs to change speeds).

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View doubleDD's profile


7760 posts in 2213 days

#2 posted 05-02-2016 08:10 PM

MrUnix brings up a good point. My first lathe was manual, now I have variable speed. Spoiled now, I would not want to go back to a manual.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View OSU55's profile


1920 posts in 2160 days

#3 posted 05-02-2016 09:05 PM

Either a Reeves drive or VFD – changing pulleys is a pita. Properly maintained Reeves drives will last a long time. Typically people don’t lube them and/or force the lever causing issues.

View Woodknack's profile


12397 posts in 2550 days

#4 posted 05-02-2016 10:12 PM

Variable speed is more convenient and safer

-- Rick M,

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21488 posts in 3276 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 12:32 AM

Hi Ivan. I never owned a wood lathe where you change the belts for speed, but they have the Deltas like that at school and it is a pain to have to stop open the case change the belts and lock the motor each time. I have an electronic speed controlled Harbor Freight mini lathe, a Crapsman Reeves drive speed controlled lathe and I can’t count the hours I spent repairing that thing and now I have the Nova DVR with electronic speed control and it is a pleasure to turn on.

The HF mini works real good only it does not have the power. If you get a mini , get one with a 1/2hp motor or better. Maybe a larger HF lathes with electronic speed control would be okay??

I found that Crapsman makes a Electronic controlled head that would fit on my old 15×38 Reeves drive lathe, but from what I read , everyone that has one, has electronic problems with it. The Delta’s with electronic speed control are pretty good. I have used them a few times.

I love my Nova Galaxi DVR. It is so smooth and has no belts , levers or brushes.

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2269 posts in 1233 days

#6 posted 05-03-2016 02:07 AM

My sixty-year-old Shopsmith is variable, by way of sheaves that squeeze. Periodically, the crank quadrant gets bent out of shape. But, it’s easy enough to fix, a couple times a year. It’s not electronic/solid sate. but, I sure wish it was.
Jim, next time Nova sends you a new lathe to get your opinion on it, and you need someplace to put you Galaxy…

-- Mark

View bushmaster's profile


3265 posts in 2453 days

#7 posted 05-03-2016 03:25 AM

When you change a belt to reduce the speed you increase torque or a variable belt setup like Mark has. I need slower speed with lots of power. I have used electronic speed control speed controllathes at the school and they are useless to do any heavy cutting. Slow the motor and you have no power, at least for me.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Roger's profile


20949 posts in 2974 days

#8 posted 05-03-2016 01:00 PM

Variable is easier when you’re doing a lot of speeding up, and slowing down turning. I like the variable better for myself. Of course, manual probable will last much longer, but, it’s a give and take, and what you’d prefer

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View hairy's profile


2780 posts in 3702 days

#9 posted 05-03-2016 01:14 PM

Much of what you need depends on what you will do with it. I don’t do many bowls, but that is when I will change speeds while turning, going faster as the bowl gets rounder and more balanced. Mine is variable speed control.

Most of what I do starts out with a prepared blank, the biggest part being dry wood. 1600 – 1800 rpm is fast for me. Look at what was turned when lathes were human powered. They did really good work at only a few hundred rpm. Drilling with a forstner bit is usually 100- 500 rpm, bigger bits = slower speed.

My first lathe had a combination of both. Belt changes to get a range that could be variably adjusted within that range. I think that works well.

It is nice to be able to turn a knob to adjust speed, but for me it’s convenience, not necessity. I have no idea about what is available where you live. I think reliability is more important than convenience. It all boils down to how much money you want to spend.

-- My reality check bounced...

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