2 questions on turning

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Forum topic by D_Allen posted 10-04-2011 03:36 AM 1087 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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495 posts in 2207 days

10-04-2011 03:36 AM

Hello all.
I am considering the purchase of a wood lath and want to know if buying an old vintage model is worth the risk. Parts may be hard to find and that concerns me.
Also, I have been unable to determine if the tail center in most cases is free spinning on a bearing. It seems to me that the lathes my dad and grand dad used had cone shaped end supports that the wood just spun on and there was no bearing to allow the wood and cone to move as a single piece.
As you can see, I know little to nothing about turning so I guess some more study is in order.
Thanks for the help and advise.


-- Website is finally up and

14 replies so far

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 2406 days

#1 posted 10-04-2011 04:54 AM

i don’t know about your first question; but some older models hold up real well,and a brand name might be able to still get parts for. my mini rikon came from woodcraft for $262.00 last year this time. plenty good enough to learn many operations on. the second question is the live center in the tail stock has internal bearings that let spin freely.
it will come with the lathe you buy. or it should…

View willie's profile


533 posts in 1878 days

#2 posted 10-04-2011 05:22 AM

I’m using a lathe that is over 100 years old. It was made by Greenfield Tap & Die in Greenfield, Mass. It used to be driven by leather belts off an overhead shaft that ran many machines. I modified it with an electric motor. This thing weighs a lot!! It is solid cast iron with huge brass or bronze bushings that require frequent oiling. My dad got this for me when I was 12 years old and I’ve been using it for 45 years. It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of the new ones but it works for me. I have a history with it and I will pass that on. So I might be a bit predjudiced about buying an “old vintage model”. Parts may be hard to find but they are so well made that they don’t break. I have had what I needed made or adapted from something else and have ended up with a pretty decent old lathe. I’m not able to post any pics right now but will as soon as I can.

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2394 days

#3 posted 10-04-2011 05:29 AM

It really does not matter what you pay for the lathe. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
I got a nice little 1/2 hp, 5 speed 10×18” lathe from HF and only spent $150.
Then $150 on a chuck.
Then $200 on tools.
Then I had to get a sharpening system. $300
Then $20 on a face sheild.
Then $12 on a drill chuck for the tail stock.
Then $60 on a bed extension.
Then another $150 on a bowl gouge.
Then I had to build a bench to put it on. Another $150.
Then, of course you need some pen kits. $100
Wait, you have to have a pen mill cutter to trim the end of your barrels correctly. $45
I don’t really think there is an end to this.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 2441 days

#4 posted 10-04-2011 05:45 AM

Crank 49 is absolutely right. If the lathe comes with a dead center, it is easily replaced with a live one. Dead center means it doesn’t spin and live center means it has bearings in it and does spin with the wood. Just be sure that the lathe will turn at a slow speed, it is critical for large bowls. My lathe at it’s slowest will turn at 48 RPMs. I would not buy a lathe that will not turn that slow. Others may have different ideas. Look over the old lathe carefully and see if it will run and listen to the sounds it makes. Good luck.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2207 days

#5 posted 10-05-2011 03:09 AM

Thanks all for the comments and info.
I have been watching craigslist and a local listing has a very old and very rough craftsman. It may not be complete. I don’t see a tool rest in the photo and there is no cover on the step pulley. But then maybe it didn’t have one. Judging from reference photos on the web it looks to be from the 30’s.
I may contact him and take a look. I like a good fun challenge at $40.

Edit: I think I found it on OWWM. Looks to be a 1936 9”x30”. There apparently was no pully cover.

-- Website is finally up and

View Grandpa's profile


3256 posts in 2099 days

#6 posted 10-05-2011 04:48 AM

Make sure the parts are all there and not broken. Tail stock, etc. the dead center should be easily removed and replaced with a live center if you desire. Bearings are easy to find for most machines. Those can usually be changed by the owner. The motor is a must and the speed control is a must.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3227 days

#7 posted 10-05-2011 04:57 AM

Nothing beats old iron.

View 8ball's profile


92 posts in 2525 days

#8 posted 10-05-2011 05:09 AM

Buy the old one and IF it breaks buy a new one while your waiting on parts for the old one.

-- Rodney, Arlington Texas

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2498 days

#9 posted 10-05-2011 03:57 PM

First – I second what crank49 says about the extra costs. The amount of money he has spent on these items is very consistent with what I have spent.

Second – Let me point out that a lathe is a very simple machine. The chances of a part needing to be replaced is quite low.

Third – My issue with older lathes is how slow they will turn. On some of them, the slowest speed is above 800 r.p.m.. That is okay for spindle turning and small bowl turning, but if you want to turn a bowl that is more than 6” in diameter, you need to get the speed slower. My current lathe can slow down to 550. I consider a 10” diameter my practical limit but, on one occasion, I turned a 12” bowl.

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

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2207 days

#10 posted 10-08-2011 01:43 AM

No sale…..... the guy was rude and totally ignorant about what he was selling.
No motor or step pulley, no centers on either end, no tool rest….........not worth taking home.
I offered him $30 and he turned me down…so I left.

Now I am considering the HF 34706. I remember swearing off of HF tools and have torn them down in the past. May have to eat crow!

-- Website is finally up and

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2620 posts in 2532 days

#11 posted 10-08-2011 04:25 AM

Keep looking! I found a yet-to-be-assembled Record lathe with the Cosmoline still on it, along with a set of new turning tools for $200. It also had the swing-out feature for turning items up to 33” in diameter. Patience is the watch word.

At the Record website, this all adds up to over $900, and it was never used. They’re out there.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View mski's profile


418 posts in 3404 days

#12 posted 10-08-2011 02:47 PM

if you only have access to store bought wood I’d go with a midi lathe. adding to crank’s cost wood will be the most expensive I have a Jet 12X20 and love it


View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2207 days

#13 posted 10-09-2011 12:16 AM

Well, I’m almost a turner.
Went to HF and got the 34706 today.
After loading it into the car I had to take a rest before driving home.
Then it took some doing to get the headstock, tailstock and tool rest off of the base so I could get the pieces to the basement. There was no way I was going to be able to carry it down assembled.
Hope there is no issues getting it set up again. I would have had to do that anyway to get it on the stand.
It was on sale and I printed a 20% coupon so it was a penny shy of $200. Not the best deal I suppose but still a savings.
I also picked up a set of the tools for $20. Those are about what I expected for $2.50 each. They will do for learning.

-- Website is finally up and

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2207 days

#14 posted 10-09-2011 02:20 AM

This looks like it is close enough to me.

I doubt this machine is meant to be perfect in this regard.

-- Website is finally up and

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