I want a lathe! Which one?!

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Forum topic by pashley posted 08-09-2010 04:46 AM 1641 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1044 posts in 3916 days

08-09-2010 04:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe

I would like to buy a lathe in the near future. Never have had one, nor turned on someone else’s. In other words, I don’t know what I’m looking for.

But, I can tell you some things; I won’t be turning anything huge, like bowls or vases. Probably not any pens either. My foreseeable use would be for small fluted columns, spindles for chairs, generally that kind of smaller thing. Yes, I will probably be wanting to turn table legs at some point.

I’m thinking a midi lathe would be the right fit, because of my small shop, small budget and smaller-sized projects. I understand for many midi-lathes, you can by an extension bed so that you can do table legs. I think I would like an indexed head to do fluting with, and other precise techniques.

That’s about all I know….I don’t know what chucks to look for, brands, tools, etc. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I’d be most appreciative!

-- Have a blessed day!

14 replies so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3308 days

#1 posted 08-09-2010 02:12 PM

You are off to the right start by thinking ahead of the features you are looking for. I can see where this will be a bit of a coin toss to decide whether to go with a full or midi. Keep in mind that with a midi, you are already looking into a bed extension which also means a stand extension and the initial lathe purchase will probably run around a grand with all of that added in. I do like the looks of the delta, it has the features you are looking for and then some.

If cost is an issue. I have heard good things about the Harbor Freight model with reversible head. I would highly recommend spending some time with a turner though, getting a feel for the lathe. Opinions rarely replace experience. You also might want to check craigslist for any used lathes and post questions on your findings to see if it is a good deal before pulling the plug.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3273 days

#2 posted 08-09-2010 02:55 PM

Let me offer some general advice. Anyone who buys a lathe has to also be thinking about how they will sharpen their cutting tools. This aspect of turning is often overlooked by people who are just getting into turning.

I will advise you to not try to sharpen your tools freehand. In my opinion, you really need a slow speed grinder with 8 inch wheels and a jig like the wolverine or something similar. Of course, you also need a little space to set this up. Nothing is more important to turning than sharp tools.

Also – You don’t need the real expensive cutting tools but you should also avoid the real cheap stuff.

To get started in turning you need a lathe and probably about $400 for the grinder, jig, cutting tools and some miscellaneous stuff.

Finally – turning is a “feel thing”. Eventually you will get to know when it feels right. It takes most people some time to get comfortable with turning. Books and DVDs can help. Nothing helps more than a one-on-one mentor. Be patient. It won’t happen overnight.

Good luck.

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

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 3916 days

#3 posted 08-09-2010 03:18 PM

Would this Jet model ok?

It’s only $350, has 6 speeds, indexing, 10”x14”, and the 20” bed extension is only $90.

-- Have a blessed day!

View TheWoodNerd's profile


291 posts in 3391 days

#4 posted 08-09-2010 03:29 PM

Just a clarification, Oneway recommends not using a slow-speed grinder with the Wolverine, they recommend an 8” 3450 rpm grinder for the proper sfm. The Wolverine system is awesome, by the way.

Rich is absolutely right, though, proper tools and sharpening should be a substantial part of your lathe budget. It’s easy to spend more on that than the lathe itself. A good yet inexpensive set of chisels:

PSI Woodworking LCAN6S 6 Piece HSS Standard Chisel Anniversary Lathe Chisel Set

These are repackaged “Benjamin’s Best” chisels which are consistently praised for being very decent chisels.

And don’t discount wanting to do pens and bowls, they don’t call turning “The Vortex” for nothing, it sucks you in. I know one guy who had no interest in turning bowls and now that’s all he does.

-- The Wood Nerd --

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3065 days

#5 posted 08-09-2010 03:40 PM

Pashley, I’ve seen some nice used lathes online on Ebay and also at some online auctions. A lot of times a woodworking mfg plant will have these sitting in a machine shop where they might be using them to turn some wooden handle or some other part similar to a handle. But a small wood working lathe is not normally used for production in a wood manufacturing plant so when you do see one it has usually had light use. I’ve seen some on some of the IRS online auctions during the past year. They are usually Powermatics and have gone for as little as 300 to 400 as I recall. All I have in my home shop is a mini lathe. We do have a Powermatic at our moulding plant that we bought at an auction and the only thing that the plant has used it for is to turn some short wooden dowels to use in crates for shipping our moulder heads off for repair work. I do use the one at the plant occasionally for my hobby. However, I’m usually ready to leave when I’m able, so most of my hobby work is done at home.

BTW, Rich, I went to your home page after seeing your post on this thread. You have a very nice and orderly shop with lots of good equipment.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Triumph1's profile


921 posts in 3278 days

#6 posted 08-09-2010 03:58 PM

I am a beginning turner also and have been using a Jet 1220 it. It gives you a little more horsepower and turning diameter than the Jet 1014(which is also a great lathe and very popular). It has an indexing head and you can also add a bed extension.

I am using a Nova chuck and it is working great. I have heard good things about PSI chucks also.

I have also seen people get some great deals off Craigs list on lathes. I still check it time to time. Sometimes you get lucky and a school is updating their hardware.

Sharpening was a big factor for me. I tried turning with the tools right out of the box…bad idea. That almost turned me away from turning. I took a beginning turning 101 class at my local Woodcraft, highly recommended. There we went over all the tools and sharpening. After the class I bought the Wolverine Sharpening System ( you get a 10% discount on tools when you are taking the classes…at least the Woodcraft by me did that) and my turning is going in a positive direction now. I also just happened that the “8 grinder at Woodcraft was on sale. I believe many people on Lumberjocks have this grinder. On sale it runs around $80-$90.

-- Jeff , Wisconsin Please...can I stay in the basement a little longer, please!

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3065 days

#7 posted 08-09-2010 04:10 PM

Hey, Woodnerd, after seeing your post here I went to your home page and then your website and blog. That’s a very nice shop that you built. Lot’s of nice equipment and very neat and tidy. BTW, I’m sorry about your dad. I know that it must have been a very bad ordeal. He looks like he was a fine fella and a very nice looking man, especially in his uniform. I love the marines. I know that losing him must have been a severe loss and I’m sorry. Anyways, it looks like he has taught you a thing or two. I know that you will miss him. I lost my dad about 12 years ago.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Florida_Jim's profile


83 posts in 3076 days

#8 posted 08-09-2010 04:44 PM

I have a “Rikon Mini”.
I’ve had it for several years now, and am very pleased with it.
Remember, like everyone says. The lathe is just part of the cost of getting into turning. There’s a chuck, various jaws for it. chisels. and of course sharpening equipment.

View hairy's profile


2782 posts in 3731 days

#9 posted 08-09-2010 05:33 PM

I’d look for a used one. More bang for the buck. Go bigger than you think you really want, you can always turn small things on a larger lathe. You don’t save money buying cheap tools.

I have a different view on tools and sharpening. Take a look at some of the carbide cutters available.
Such as:

I am not affiliated with them, other than as a user of their product.

No sharpening, no long learning curve. Nothing breeds confidence like success.

Then, get a set, and a grinder, and a jig,and a hone and ….....

Good luck, have fun and be safe.

-- My reality check bounced...

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3273 days

#10 posted 08-09-2010 05:51 PM

I will join hairy as an advocate of the easy wood cutting tools. I use 2 of them on a regular basis. They are pricy. I consider them an adjunct to my cutting tools and not a replacement of any of them except maybe the roughing gouge.

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

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 4190 days

#11 posted 08-10-2010 07:55 AM

I started with a small Jet just like the one you asked about; I have also heard very good reviews from the actual owners of the Rikon mini.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View patternmaker's profile


13 posts in 3064 days

#12 posted 08-11-2010 12:02 AM

Sharp tools are a must. I could write a book on lathe work. Keep your tools sharp and your tool rest close to your stock. Remember gouges peel stock, round nose and diamond points scrap stock and each has to be held against the stock differently, the gouge is held at an upward angle above the center of the stock and scraping tools are held at the center or slightly above. You’ll use a parting tool and outside calipers on spindle work, it’s a liilte scary but alot of fun..Goodluck

-- Mark

View Jim's profile


120 posts in 4197 days

#13 posted 08-11-2010 02:38 AM

Buy your second Lathe first. and don’t buy the cheapest one you find.

-- Jim in Cushing Oklahoma

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3217 days

#14 posted 08-11-2010 03:39 AM

I can attest to what Jim said as that is exactly what happened to me, my wife vetoed the price of the lathe I wanted so I settled for a cheaper one, long story short, I ended up with a Powermatic 3520 , which is what I wanted in the first place! My advice is to get the best you can afford and spend a bit more than you can afford, it will pay off in the long run. Good luck whichever way you go.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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