Help in buying a lathe

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Forum topic by RussellAP posted 11-03-2012 12:03 AM 2329 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3059 posts in 1792 days

11-03-2012 12:03 AM

Hi jocks.
In my never ending quest to make money doing what I love, I’ve decided that I could do some turning. I’ve been watching video’s and it looks fun and interesting. I have two garage doors so I can take it outside and make a mess out there.

Here’s what I’m looking for:
Ability to turn a 12 or 14 inch bowl.
Lowest price I can get, and yes I checked CL and nothing.
I’d like new.

Can ya help a brotha out?

Here’s what I’m looking at:
I have amazon prime for this one, so no shipping costs.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

13 replies so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

18049 posts in 2073 days

#1 posted 11-03-2012 12:21 AM

Neighbors will appreciate that on a windy day

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Loren's profile


8390 posts in 3153 days

#2 posted 11-03-2012 12:25 AM

I’ve had several lathes over the years but never turned
a whole lot. Still, it’s the right tool to have sometimes.

VFD phase conversion has become pretty inexpensive and
adds variable speed and reversing to a 3 phase lathe with
no problem, so you might want to look for a 3 phase

That said, turning bowls and vessels for resale entails either
highly skilled scraping work, a lot of sanding, or both…
making art vessels kind of labor intensive. Richard Raffan
is one guy who seems to have it down, turning vessels
fast and to a good finish with little sanding required. There’s
a lot of knack to tool sharpening and presentation to the
turning work to get really efficient.

You might drop a note on the OWWM forums as lots of
those guys have more lathes than they need.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18049 posts in 2073 days

#3 posted 11-03-2012 12:31 AM

Seems the end of my post got cut off. I guess it didn’t like the smiley face.

I stumbled upon an old craftsman lathe I hope to upgrade someday, so I can’t help much with your question. One thing I will say, put as much thought into the tools to go with it. That are just as important.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View RussellAP's profile


3059 posts in 1792 days

#4 posted 11-03-2012 12:56 AM

Maybe you or one of the other guys has some for sale.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Cole Tallerman's profile

Cole Tallerman

392 posts in 1690 days

#5 posted 11-03-2012 02:13 AM

View Wildwood's profile


1910 posts in 1640 days

#6 posted 11-03-2012 11:56 AM

None of the mini lathes listed will turn a 12” or 14” diameter bowl. Think 9 ½” to 10 1/2” or less diameter bowls.

A 12” x 16” lathe cannot turn a 12” bowl. Twelve inches measured from bed of lathe to center of headstock spindle approximately 6 six inches. We call that swing so wood diameter must be less than 12 inches to avoid bed of lathe. That diameter further reduce by height to tool rest base. Depending upon design swing over tool rest base might lose another inch or so of diameter. A 10” lathe will have a swing of 5 inches or less.

A 12” x 16” lathe does not mean you can mount a piece of wood 16” long between head & tailstock. That number is reduced by size of tailstock and live center mounted in tailstock. If want to turn something 16 inches or longer will need a bed extension.

To turn bowls might want to consider a 4-jaw scroll chuck. You can turn a bowl without one but most popular lathe accessory sold today. Looking for inexpensive 4-jaw chuck should be another discussion. Will need a ¼”, or 3/8” bowl gouge too.

Any of lathes listed can turn more than bowls. Suggest look at few videos on x-mas ornaments, pens, bird houses, boxes, whistles, game calls, mirrors, lamps, bottle stoppers etc…

Only mini lathe familiar with is Jet, bought many years ago on sale for $199. Made pens and other small items on it for several years, sold it couple years ago for $125. I did have a tommy bar scroll chuck which went with lathe when sold. Used money to buy 6” robust tool rest so can turn small stuff on my big lathe.

-- Bill

View Rob's profile


231 posts in 2492 days

#7 posted 11-03-2012 12:15 PM

A couple of things to consider if you’re going to be turning. Get a lathe with variable speed and reverse is a really nice feature when sanding. I have a Delta 46-460 with a bed extension. Great midi lathe! More money than you want to spend but worth it in my opinion. There’s a lot more to turning than spinning wood pieces and making a shape. Time to change speeds, sanding as I mentioned etc.

View TheDane's profile


5009 posts in 3168 days

#8 posted 11-03-2012 02:05 PM

+1 for the Delta 46-460.

I have had mine for about 16 months and love it. I have turned pens, vases, ornaments, and bowls (including a 12”).


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2503 days

#9 posted 11-03-2012 02:59 PM

If budget is a prime constraint the 12×33 lathe from HF for $270 is a contender. If it is not, this is still a nice basic lathe. I have one and would buy it again.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View RussellAP's profile


3059 posts in 1792 days

#10 posted 11-03-2012 03:04 PM

Delta 46-460 isn’t that bad in price. I hope it’s somewhere locally so I can save on shipping. Plus I don’t like heavy things being shipped to me, i have little choice but to take it if it’s damaged.

I’ll be looking around for this machine.

Thanks everyone.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View dhazelton's profile


2366 posts in 1802 days

#11 posted 11-03-2012 03:09 PM

I second having variable speed, but the only reversing unit is the Delta which is very pricy. The advantage of reversing is for sanding and having the dust go away from you. I bought the JET VS midi last year and admittedly have not used as often as I should as turning does make a huge mess everywhere. The Harbor Freight midi has a different morse taper than everyone else’s lathe so plan on not adding bowl chucks to that unit. I think Penn State has a V.S. kit that fits most of those clone lathes. For a basic set of Chisels get the Harbor Freight Windsor HSS set for under $50 – a bargain for HSS.

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 1652 days

#12 posted 11-04-2012 02:08 AM

Which Harbor Freight lathe are you talking about? I have the 10×18 and it has a #2 MT in both the head and tail stock. The head stock has a 1” by 8 thread, which is bog standard. I just looked on the Harbor Freight site and the 12×33 is the same, MT2 and 1” by 8.

I don’t think I would recommend the 10×18 to you, Russell. The lowest speed setting is 750 RPM, which is a bit high for bowls. The 12×33 goes to 600, which is slightly better. It’s also variable speed, which the 10×18 is not. You gotta turn it off and move belts.

It sounds like the Delta might be more in line with what you’re looking for. One thing to bear in mind is that the lathe is the cheapest part of turning, unless you go really high end and then it might be even money. Chucks, tools, centers, etc add up and fast. I’ve more than exceeded the 160 or so I spent on my HF lathe with accessories.


View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2503 days

#13 posted 11-04-2012 03:07 AM

The one down side of the HF 12×33 is that it uses a Reeves drive rather than a real electronic speed controller. Doing big diameter stuff, the lowest on the HF is still pretty fast. Especially if you are starting out fairly irregular on shape. It would also benefit from more mass.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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