• Advertise with us

« back to Woodturning forum

Forum topic by 3285jeff posted 09-17-2013 10:51 AM 914 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 3285jeff's profile


159 posts in 1892 days

09-17-2013 10:51 AM

I am going to try and get into turning some pens,,,i have a shopsmith and the mandell that you use on it is a special type,,,i was wandering if I should go with the shopsmith or get a new mini lathe,,and I have been looking at them at harbor freight,,,any advice would be helpful,,

3 replies so far

View Bill7255's profile


427 posts in 2459 days

#1 posted 09-17-2013 12:24 PM

I first used the shopsmith to turn pens, but quickly went to a midi lathe. It can be done on the shopsmith, but like using a excavator to dig a fence hole. I will say the three shopsmith chisels are well worth the money. I still use them all the time. I have two midi lathes Delta and Jet. The Jet is variable speed and the Delta you change belt pulleys. I don’t know much about the HF lathes. You would want/need the 5 speed version. I also believe these are a MT1 tapers which are less common. Both the Delta and Jet are MT2 tapers.

My advice:
If you just want to turn a few use the shopsmith and use your drill press to press the pens together.

If you want to make a lot then would get a midi lathe with MT2 tapers. The reason is most of the pen bushings are designed for the MT2 tapers shafts and i am not sure of the shaft size for the MT1. it might be the same. Variable speed is nice, but not necessary. A decent set of HS chisels small size. You will need a way to sharpen the chisels and I would recommend the Wolverine and a slow speed grinder. A full set of Micro Mesh. I use the HF arbor press as the so called pen presses don’t seem to hold up. Bushings for pens style. For finishing most have gone to the CA glue finish, but start with the friction polish as the CA method is a learning curve.


-- Bill R

View coachmancuso's profile


259 posts in 2106 days

#2 posted 09-17-2013 12:40 PM

I have the HF mini lathe and it works perfect for pens , key chains, and bottle stoppers. Watch the coupons , we got ours for under 100.00. We had a 25% off coupon. It is a MT1 taper and if you go to they have all the supplies you need. Good luck! 1 other thing is to get the extended warranty it is 19.99 and covers everything !

-- Coach Mancuso

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 2616 days

#3 posted 09-17-2013 12:45 PM

For pen turning, you’re going to need a pen mandrel. Most pen mandrels I’ve seen are basically a collet that fits into a morse taper in the headstock. As I understand, the ShopSmith lathe only has the #2MT in the tailstock and has a solid 5/8” drive shaft in the head stock (someone correct me if I’m wrong). It so happens, though, that Penn State sells a mandrel exactly for this situation:

You could just get that and you’d be good to go on your ShopSmith. Most of the reviews seem pretty positive too.

On the mandrel I use, there’s a 7mm rod that slides into the collet, effectively making the length of the rod adjustable. On the far end, there’s a knurled brass ring that you use to tighten the pieces on the rod, but the thread only goes so far, so it’s important to make sure you have the length of the shaft set correctly. Since it seems you can stick the rod any deeper into the drive shaft on the ShopSmith, I’m not sure what the solution there is, but from looking at the picture it seems like they may just fill the gap with extra bushings.

FWIW, they also sell something called a mandrel saver that I would recommend as well. Normally with these mandrels, you stick a live center into the tailstock and that applies a compression load to the rod. Tighten the tailstock up too much and you run the risk of bowing the rod (something I’ve done), and your turnings end up ever slightly oval. With the mandrel saver, the compression load is sent through the stack of items you have on the rod instead of the rod itself, ensuring you don’t bow it.

So, in the end, no need for a new lathe if this was the only reason you were looking at a new one. I’ve never used a ShopSmith lathe before, but it doesn’t seem like that big of a stretch to assume that it’s gonna be better quality than what you’d get at Harbor Freight. Sometimes they do have a diamond in the rough there though.

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