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For folks who are not primarily turners, what do you use your lathe for and how often?

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Forum topic by CharlesA posted 04-18-2017 02:47 PM 3406 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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CharlesA

3294 posts in 1635 days


04-18-2017 02:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe

I’m considering a used lathe, but I’m not sure if it is worth it. I don’t want to get caught up in turning. Not planning on bowls, vases, or pens. I would want to use it for pieces integral to furniture, legs, etc.

If you’re someone who uses a lathe, but for this kind of use, what do you use it for and how often?

I have a friend who is a turner, and I wonder if it wouldn’t be more efficient for me to ask him to turn things for me from time to time than investing in a lathe.

I’m open to all thoughts.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson


35 replies so far

View Nubsnstubs's profile

Nubsnstubs

1207 posts in 1568 days


#1 posted 04-18-2017 02:50 PM

Charles, if you don’t want to get caught up in turning, better have your friend do the turnings you need for your woodworking. ........ Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson) www.woodturnerstools.com

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

4515 posts in 976 days


#2 posted 04-18-2017 02:59 PM

I have a lathe but I’m definitely not primarily a turner. I use it mostly for tool making and repairs. Handling/rehandling screwdrivers and chisels, making awls and marking knives, thumbscrews for jigs, and small brass hammers. That sort of thing.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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CharlesA

3294 posts in 1635 days


#3 posted 04-18-2017 03:03 PM

Thanks, Ken. That’s helpful.

And, yes, Jerry, I have considered that.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

5466 posts in 2651 days


#4 posted 04-18-2017 03:03 PM

I don’t turn at all. If I had a lathe laying around the shop, I might use it to turn shop knobs or handled pegs for a Morris chair once in a while. It is amazing what people can create with them, but I haven’t found the need for one yet.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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hairy

2586 posts in 3370 days


#5 posted 04-18-2017 03:40 PM

My lathe is my carving vise for pieces I can hold in a chuck, horizontal drill press, holder for pieces that get branded, glue up vise – great for things that get glued up on center and buffer. It could be a disk sander if I didn’t have one. And probably some I have forgot.

-- My reality check bounced...

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

2186 posts in 1972 days


#6 posted 04-18-2017 03:50 PM

Actually cheaper to buy ready made spindles than learning to turn or buy a lathe, & all the tools needed. Of course need dry wood too! Many woodturners including my self find if daunting to get 4 legs exactly the same. Turned lot of spindles for porches & stairs on a copying lathe and hated it. Enjoyed split turnings for period furniture lot better and easier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeXpwch067I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iC247dsplas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tck-JaL34Qo

Don’t be surprised if your turner friend says no!

My last big furniture project was turning stools for my brothers & sisters.

-- Bill

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Bluepine38

3372 posts in 2923 days


#7 posted 04-18-2017 03:53 PM

Charles, looking some of your projects, the turnings would have to be real good. Not knowing how good you
would be with lathe tools and how long it would take you to learn to operate a lathe, you are the only one that
can really answer this question. Ask your friend if he would give you a couple of lessons on the lathe. If you
have a knack for turning and like it, those lessons will give you your answer. If you do like it, you have enough
time in woodworking to realize what a steep slippery slope the buying of tools and accessories is and can plan
your budget accordingly. You also know that a piece you visualize can be made by you exactly as you want, but
if you want someone else to make it, you will need exact plans, and it still may not look like you want it. Just
my opinion and it is worth what you paid for it.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View eflanders's profile

eflanders

219 posts in 1688 days


#8 posted 04-18-2017 03:59 PM

I’m with Ken. The lathe is the lowest cost item when you get a mini or midi lathe. Tooling and sharpening needs cost more. For me, I made a few things to sell which has reimbursed my costs, but there’s not enough there to make a living at either. That’s OK as I never intended to.

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OSU55

1425 posts in 1827 days


#9 posted 04-18-2017 04:02 PM

Depending on volume, it would be a lot more efficient, both time and $’s, to have your friendly turner make the occasional parts. If I don’t use my lathe for a few months, it takes a while to polish the skills back up to the point of actually making something good enough to use. I use my lathe for other things than bowls, vases, etc, but if I had known someone locally with a lathe to make a few tool handles and such I doubt I would have gotten one. The “turning bug” bit me though, and I spend a lot of time on the lathe and enjoy it enough to upgrade to a better machine. Even though I can now turn legs etc for flat work I still prefer square/rectangle shapes vs round in those designs.

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3294 posts in 1635 days


#10 posted 04-18-2017 04:05 PM

I just emailed my friend to see if he can make me four of these. I looked into buying some turned feet like these. Prices were $15-50 a piece.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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jbay

1857 posts in 737 days


#11 posted 04-18-2017 04:21 PM

I don’t have a lathe, but my friend lets me use his. I just made these not to long ago,
I don’t have much experience, these were easy to do.

If I ever come across the right one for cheap I will buy it.
The most I would probably use it for is legs or spindles or just playing,
but it would be nice to have one just for times like above.
I think you could find cheap enough just to have, even if it only see’s seldom use.
My friends is just a portable bench top. I think it could turn maybe 24” or thereabout.

-- If anyone would like to see my Portfolio, PM me and I would be glad to send you the link.

View LDO2802's profile

LDO2802

130 posts in 268 days


#12 posted 04-18-2017 04:25 PM

All the small parts you can turn on a drill press. If you have nothing longer than 5-8 inches, I recommend just getting a drill press chuck for it. There are a bunch of jigs for them. I have turned on my shopfox benchtop drill press prior to buying my lathe, and it worked great.

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

7779 posts in 2636 days


#13 posted 04-18-2017 07:13 PM

I use my lathe(s) a fair amount for someone who is not a turner. I guess it depends if you want to be more creative in what you make than you could be with stock spindles and generally your feelings about freedom to design what you want.
Maybe this one is a good example of something I couldn’t have done without the lathe.

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/37787

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3294 posts in 1635 days


#14 posted 04-18-2017 07:16 PM

Very interesting replies.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View MrUnix's profile

MrUnix

6006 posts in 2037 days


#15 posted 04-18-2017 08:24 PM

I just emailed my friend to see if he can make me four of these. I looked into buying some turned feet like these. Prices were $15-50 a piece.
- CharlesA

Right there you are looking at spending what a lathe could cost you… and all you are left with will be four feet that leave with the project :(

Even at the low end of that quote, $60 isn’t an unrealistic price for a lathe if you are patient and keep an eye out. For doing stuff like you want, you don’t need much – even one of those C-man tube lathes would work. I purchased an older Delta (Homecraft) 10x36 lathe, stand, original motor, line shafting and a bunch of other stuff for $50, which would be perfect for what you are looking at doing. It needed nothing but some oil in the headstock and to be plugged into the wall – and I was up and running the day after I bought it. Over the years, I have picked up three lathes (including a South Bend SB9 engine lathe) in total (even after restoration!) for about what the high end quote is for those feet :) They are out there.

As for other stuff you can do – like most have mentioned, making parts is a great advantage. You can improvise for some stuff using a drill press or other means, but it’s just so much easier on a lathe. Tool handles, knobs, wheels, gear blanks, bushings, spacers, dowels of all shapes and sizes… just about anything cylindrical that will fit. I’ve made parts (out of wood, plastic and even metal) to replace broken bits in stuff like the wifes vacuum cleaner (where the replacement part cost more than the lathe did!), for stuff where original parts were no longer available, and other hard or difficult to find things that could easily be whipped up on the lathe. And don’t forget you can do stuff like cleaning and polishing as well. If it is round and will fit between centers, you can spin it.

As for the lathe being the least expensive part of the equation – read this thread for some ideas:
Woodturning On The Cheap - Tips and Tricks , and do a little googling for homemade lathe tools and accessories. For an occasional user, you don’t need super expensive tools and other gizmos (unless you just want to burn some cash). I used that Delta lathe for a long time (over a year), making a lot of stuff without spending an extra dime on it.

Cheers,
Brad

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

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