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Why are lathes so expensive

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Forum topic by CharlesA posted 369 days ago 1490 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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CharlesA

1259 posts in 434 days


369 days ago

This is my dumb question of the day, so school me.

Looking at new tool prices, lathes appear to me to be quite expensive compared to other tools. A Lathe appears to me to be quite a simple tool in concept. One guess is that there are probably a lot fewer new full size lathes sold then table saws, miter saws, bandsaws, etc., so the economy of scale doesn’t feature as strongly. Looking at CL, lathes appear to be selling used for more than what I’d be willing to pay for a comparable tool.

So, am I just wrong, or are lathes particularly expensive?

-- "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


32 replies so far

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shipwright

4942 posts in 1434 days


#1 posted 369 days ago

Quick answer :
Lathes can’t be built lightly like cheap table saws, drill presses, chop saws etc. they have to stand up to considerable stresses and remain absolutely rigid. That means they have to be built of solid stuff, not plastic and sheet metal.

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

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JustJoe

1554 posts in 674 days


#2 posted 369 days ago

Are you comparing good lathes to cheap saws, or cheap lathes to good saws?
A decent Nova lathe is around 13-1400 new. Compare that to a HF table-top saw and it’s highway robbery. Compare it to the 3 grand for a delta unisaw and it’s looking like more of a bargain.

As far as prices on CL, those are asking prices. You don’t know when the ad disappears if it is because the lathe sold, or because the dimwitted poster finally realized that a POS tube lathe with the missing tailstock from 1973 isn’t going to get the $450 he thinks it’s worth. (same goes for feebay prices – look at the sold, not the for sale, if you want to get a rough estimate of a tool’s price range.)

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

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Scott

101 posts in 860 days


#3 posted 369 days ago

As somebody who has been shopping for a larger lathe, I can sympathize. I’m just not ready to drop as much as they want for a good lathe. I’ll come around eventually though.

On the other side, you can pick up the Harbor Freight model dirt cheap. I got a chance to look at one a few weeks ago. After 30 seconds I could tell why they were selling it for so cheap. :)

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CharlesA

1259 posts in 434 days


#4 posted 369 days ago

@JustJoe: My sense is that I can get a lot more table saw than lathe for $900

@Shipwright: that makes a lot of sense. I hadn’t thought through the fact that with a bandsaw or table saw there are a lot of places to cut corners.

@scott, hope you can find a good one. I found a great deal on a bandsaw and table saw on CL, still looking for the great deal on a lathe.

-- "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 DaddyZ's profile

DaddyZ

2382 posts in 1677 days


#5 posted 369 days ago

Charles

Look around for a vintage Lathe. I have a craftsman. I love it !!! Usually find them around $100-$200

Click for details

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

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dbhost

5378 posts in 1868 days


#6 posted 369 days ago

Good, inexpensive lathes can be had, particularly the Harbor Freight JWL1236 clone. I got mine new for under $200.00. It’s the other stuff that gets ya… Actually there are a LOT of good mini lathes in the 2-300 $ range. You can barely touch a halfway decent used table saw for that money these days…

Now big 2+ HP 16+” swing lathes start running into bigger money. Just like bigger / more featured table saws. A 3 – 5 HP SawStop cabinet saw, or similar Unisaw will run you $3,000+ easily. Same is true for lathes, Heck the giant Powermatic with a swing you could turn a tree trunk on run around just under $4K…

The bigger problem with turning is the other stuff. With saws you need blades, typically a combo blade, a ripping blade, a cross cut blade, and a dado stack.

Turning tools can be thought of like blades, but instead of 4 or 5, try 30 variations, along with tool rests, calipers and other stuff that goes into turning…

Yes it gets expensive, but then again, it is a fun, honest pursuit that typically, our wives / significant others like the output from…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

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WayneC

12268 posts in 2733 days


#7 posted 369 days ago

LOL. What I found about wood turning is that the lathe is the inexpensive part. Tools, chucks, drill press, sharpening tools, sanding, finishing supplies and other accessories really add up quick. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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CharlesA

1259 posts in 434 days


#8 posted 369 days ago

OK, you’ve convinced me to stay out of the lathe business for a while.

-- "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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WayneC

12268 posts in 2733 days


#9 posted 369 days ago

They are very fun. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View DaddyZ's profile

DaddyZ

2382 posts in 1677 days


#10 posted 369 days ago

Charles
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Sears-Roebuck-Co-30-inch-3-speed-Wood-Lathe-with-3-Hand-tools-/121166010265?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c360e9799

Only $100 buy it now even gets (3) Knives(chisels)

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Richforever's profile

Richforever

739 posts in 2356 days


#11 posted 369 days ago

You might want to investigate “spring pole lathes”. Roy Underhill and others make their own. I think I might start that way too. The turning tools will be the biggest expense; and the lathe will be another project to build.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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CharlesA

1259 posts in 434 days


#12 posted 369 days ago

Pat, that is a good deal on eBay . . . did you notice this line in the description: “There is not a motor on this lathe.”

-- "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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TheDane

3747 posts in 2299 days


#13 posted 369 days ago

CharlesA—Your post mentioned ‘full size lathes’ ... what sort of turning would you be looking to do?

I have a Delta midi-lathe (46-460) that does pretty much everything I want to do, and there are some of those popping up on CL around the country at pretty reasonable prices.

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

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CharlesA

1259 posts in 434 days


#14 posted 369 days ago

I would not want a lathe that I couldn’t turn a full size table leg on. I don’t have specific plans to now, but I would want that capability. Can a midi do 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 SteveKnnn's profile

SteveKnnn

66 posts in 524 days


#15 posted 369 days ago

“Yes it gets expensive, but then again, it is a fun, honest pursuit that typically, our wives / significant others like the output from…”

I love that observation, fb host!

-- Steve in Richmond, VA

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