looking to buy a lathe

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Forum topic by bluerobbin posted 06-30-2010 01:59 AM 1189 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View bluerobbin's profile


4 posts in 2882 days

06-30-2010 01:59 AM

I am a visual artist looking to purchase my first wood lathe. I have recently purchased about 20,000 pieces of birch doweling from a business that closed. The pieces are between 10 and 36 inches long and widths from 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. I intend to turn this wood into decorative spindles (and possibly paint) for a sculpture project. I am looking at mini jet or delta midi lathes. Could someone give me some guidance, I have a limited budget under 1000.00 with hand tools and would like something that would accept many hours of daily use.

8 replies so far

View Edziu's profile


151 posts in 3045 days

#1 posted 06-30-2010 03:29 AM

When this piece of artwork is done (or pieces) or when the dowel supply runs out, will you not need the lathe any more?

Should this be the case, I would stick with an Excelsior Lathe from Rockler. The lathe itself is $249.99 and the extension, which I believe you would need, is $79.99. This lathe often goes on sale for $249.99 with the bed extension free. Keep your eye out for that. I recommend this lathe because it leaves a lot of room in your budget for lathe tooling. Depending on what you need to do, you can spend more on the tools than the lathe.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3280 days

#2 posted 06-30-2010 03:38 AM

I’m partial to Jet, but there are certainly others in that price range that would serve you well.
You can easily come in under budget including good turning tools


View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 3036 days

#3 posted 06-30-2010 03:57 AM

Check out this review: I aslo bought this lathe and think it’s possibly the best value for the money at $299. Especially whaen you catch it on sale or use a 20% coupon. Leaves a lot of that $1000 for turning tools and chucks, etc.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3761 days

#4 posted 06-30-2010 04:02 AM

I would go with the Jet and get variable speed.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3012 days

#5 posted 06-30-2010 05:58 AM

Whatever you get just be sure to get one with variable speed, you may not need it right away but when you do, it is really really worth having! I would not be without one! Trifern above knows this too. I happen to have a Powermatic 3520 and absolutely love it.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View bluerobbin's profile


4 posts in 2882 days

#6 posted 06-30-2010 03:16 PM

Thanks for all the feedback!
And in response to Edziu – yes it may be a one off project, but I may use the machine for a couple of thousand hours. (My last wood based project (although it was MDF not wood) I used a scroll saw everyday for 6 months working an average of 10 hours a day, replaceable parts on the delta saw wore out but the machine kept on chugging along. )

I want a reliable workhorse, while noise and comfort are things I am considering. You all have convinced me that variable speed is a must.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#7 posted 06-30-2010 06:25 PM

Let me remind you that in addition to the lathe, you will need some good cutting tools and you will need a good system for sharpening them. People often overlook the need for sharpening their tools. Sharp tools are essential for turning.

With respect to cutting tools, you do not need the real expensive stuff but you should avoid the real cheap stuff. Plan on $150 – $200.

With respect to sharpening systems, you really need a slow speed grinder (preferably with 8” wheels) and a sharpening jig. Plan on $225 – $275.

You may also want some additional accessories for the lathe such as a chuck, faceplates, etc..

If you are doing a high volume of work (and with 20,000 pieces of dowel you may) you might want to consider a duplicator accessory. Think ahead on this one. Duplicators are not available for all lathes. Make certain that the lathe you buy can accept a duplicator and that a duplicator is available. I don’t know how much a duplicator costs because I have never had one.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2882 days

#8 posted 06-30-2010 08:20 PM

I too would advise getting a variable speed machine. Have you thought of looking for a gently used one? I recently lucked into a 6 foot bed 9 inch throw lathe with several accessories and a basic set of chisels for $60 Cdn.
As for where to put your money, buy the best cutting tools you can afford. It’s lousy to spend half your time resharpening cheap tools.
If you’re doing a lot of repetetive stuff, a duplicator is GREAT and will both increase your output and your accuracy.
Happy turning!

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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