What type of Lathe should I get?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodturning forum

Forum topic by Jungo posted 03-19-2013 10:32 AM 2049 views 1 time favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Jungo's profile


2 posts in 1922 days

03-19-2013 10:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe woodworking bowl wood lathe wood turning brand plate style

So I’m looking at getting a wood lathe. I did quite a bit of lathe work in a wood shop class when I was in high school and loved it but I haven’t run a lathe since then which was about 6 years ago. I did mostly bowls and vases but would like the option for a longer length item(spindle, baseball bat, etc.). I’m looking for the best bang for my buck on this and would like some tips as to what I should get. Any recommendations on what I should get?

22 replies so far

View Ziffster's profile


27 posts in 1922 days

#1 posted 03-19-2013 11:08 AM

If you could give a little more info regarding the type of projects and/or price point that would be great.

Do you want a lathe for reproducing things like spindles or just one off items?

If your budget is limited their are some nice bench top lathes around, if it is unlimited their are some incredible computer controlled lathes that you simply program and they do everything.

View Jungo's profile


2 posts in 1922 days

#2 posted 03-19-2013 11:47 AM

I really don’t want to break 400 dollars with this lathe. Everything I would do would be one of a kind as well

View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2162 days

#3 posted 03-19-2013 05:39 PM

In your price range and what you describe wanting to turn looking at a mini lathe, or Harbor Freight 12” x 33” wood lathe. Depending upon where you live and availability a good quality used lathe might be just the ticket. Have yet to see something used worthwhile online near me.

-- Bill

View jeff's profile


1081 posts in 3492 days

#4 posted 03-19-2013 08:06 PM

Check CL…Is there a turning club near you?, if so attend maybe some of the members are looking to upgrade their lathes and want to sale their old ones…Some folks feel the Harbor Freight model doesn’t have enough of a low rpm to turn bowls safely,long enough for spindle work though…you could look for a mini/midi with an extension bed?...and do you have lathe tools/and something to sharpen those tools with?...Keep us informed…

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2174 days

#5 posted 03-19-2013 08:10 PM

The lathe is easily the cheapest part of woodturning in the long run, unless you get a Oneway or Robust lathe, in which case it might be tied for the cheapest. Does 400 include tools, chucks and a sharpening system?

View Dlow's profile


70 posts in 2715 days

#6 posted 03-19-2013 08:36 PM

Amazon has a Penn State industries 10” mini w/ 3/4hp motor, for $350. They’re currently out of stock but in my opinion this is the best bang for your buck. This is what I have with the bed extension and like it so far, mine doesn’t have the digital readout though.

View TerryDowning's profile


1077 posts in 2145 days

#7 posted 03-19-2013 08:38 PM

What Kreegan said.
Oh, and it never stops, you always want one more tool or another chuck, or. or. or.

Things to look for in general.

Matching MT sockets in the head and tail. Nothing more frustrating than a MT2 n the headstock and MT1 in the tail stock. (MT2 accessories are more available so I recommend MT2 sockets)
alignment features (How easy is the lathe to align? Some are a relatively simple tailstock adjustment, some are rather cumbersome and complicated headstock adjustments. You’ll have to look at reviews for this.)
Flatness of the ways, the flatter the better.
Electronic Variable speed is very helpful but not essential there are after market kits for adding this feature.
Many of the mini and midi lathes HF, Jet, Grizzly and a few others are made in the very same plant in China (or so I’ve heard) and the only things differentiating them is cost and color, did I mention COST? I believe are all basically the same lathe. The only other difference may be in the quality control at the factory which will increase the cost, but not more than marketing hype.

Consider used craigslist is your friend.

-- - Terry

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2941 days

#8 posted 03-19-2013 08:46 PM

Check out my purchasing struggle just 3 months ago. Just like you I was thinking I could get by for ~$400.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View ScrubPlane's profile


190 posts in 2223 days

#9 posted 03-24-2013 01:20 AM

I’d consider the Craigslist route, especially if you have time to be patient. Eventually…you’ll be able to find a reasonable lathe. Some time ago I purchased a Teknatool DVR…more than $400 to be sure but an excellent home lathe.

View John Voloudakis's profile

John Voloudakis

12 posts in 1965 days

#10 posted 03-25-2013 03:01 PM

Kreegan asked the most important question… while lathes look expensive, you’ll spend more on the tools and accessories you need.

You’ll need a few basic tools to get started. At least a bowl gouge, and probably some spindle tools too given what you said you want to turn. You can get cheap but functional tools such as the Benjamen’s Best line from PSI, but those will still cost 20-$40/tool.

Sharpening is not optional. Even a cheap setup (grinder and jigs) will set you back a couple of hundred bucks, unless you already have a grinder, Tormek, or something else you can use to sharpen your tools. A common setup is the Woodcraft 8” grinder with the Wolverine jigs.

The last ‘must have’ in my opinion is a chuck. You can get a reconditioned Supernova 2 from Teknatool for $99 sometimes – that’s generally the best deal out there. There are other brands of chucks that people like as well, but they are priced significantly higher.

Also, don’t forget the cost of consumables such as sandpaper, finish, etc.

I’m assuming you have a way to cut up wood – either a bandsaw or chain saw. That will let you prep blanks from free tree wood, saving you cost there.

I definitely agree with the used route. Check Craigslist, but avoid the Craftsman junk that you’ll find there. A better route, as someone mentioned, is to find and talk with your local turning club. A lot of good used lathes never make it onto the market because they are sold within clubs. I know our club always has 3-4 for sale, and that’s where I got my larger lathe.

Good luck,


View REO's profile


928 posts in 2101 days

#11 posted 03-25-2013 04:30 PM

I have to differ with some of the suggestions that have been made.
chucking: does not have to be done with a four jaw self centering chuck. a simple face plate can be made that will fit your headstock thread and you can be turning with the best of them.
sharpening: this can be done on any type of stone in any configuration. hand lapping will take some time but it can be done. any grinder will work with almost any granule size available. some will swear by slow speed grinding while others seem to get by with what ever is available. The point is to pay attention to the tool and take off only what is necessary to get the edge you want and not to over do it. Jigs are nice but certainly not a requirement.
quality of the lathe: In ANY case the operator makes the machine! having a high priced piece of equipment doe not make anyone a better craftsman. for wood lathes the ways do not have to be dead perfect they only hold the adapters for one to turn the part. You are turning by hand. You guide the tool to make precise cuts. There are only two cases where alignment will affect your project. one: drilling a hole to size in a completed piece. If you drill the hole first and then use the hole for the center the finished product will be concentric anyway regardless of how far off the hole was originally. two: if you are doing a piece with a low aspect ratio, length to diameter. If the centers are not in line the piece will start out wobbly, and an out of balance condition can be accentuated.

One can have a lot of fun turning with out falling off the edge into expense. Just as with any tool there is always some gadget or gizmo that looks like it’s the answer to everything. Some times it best to find your own answers rather than buy them.

Doco was a local business that did custom wood turnings for over 60 years. not ONE of his machines were wood lathes. Viking oar and paddle produced its products on a few pieces of angle iron, roller chain and a saw arbor. The more locked in to a machine you get the less opportunity you have to do something different with it.

View TheDane's profile


5448 posts in 3690 days

#12 posted 03-25-2013 05:52 PM

No need to spend a ton of cash on sharpening. You can sharpen on a belt sander … lots of guys just turn a 3×18 belt sander upside down and clamp it in a vise.

And if you want a real sharpening ‘rig’, check out the ones that HorizontalMike, ldl, and I have built … /

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

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2910 days

#13 posted 03-25-2013 06:03 PM

Here’s a really cheap lathe;
it is a bit tricky to set up but has a lot of power and variable RPM’s.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2101 days

#14 posted 03-26-2013 12:05 AM

Horizontal and Dane.It is a capacitor motor and can be reversed in about ten minutes with the wireing at the motor. Is there an advantage to twisting the belt other than a change in rotation?

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2941 days

#15 posted 03-26-2013 12:40 AM

Not really, just an easy way to do it without the need for major disclaimers about product liability and others getting hurt. This is a quick and dirty way to get things running in a heartbeat.

Be my guest and lay out the details for swapping out/changing the wiring of this HF motor on the 4×36in belt sander… seriously.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

showing 1 through 15 of 22 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics