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Forum topic by bcramer posted 03-22-2014 06:48 PM 1271 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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32 posts in 1556 days

03-22-2014 06:48 PM

I am interested in getting into making pens and was interested in lathe recommendation. I may do more turning later but want to start with pens since I haven’t used a lathe since Jr. High. I also have a small shop so there is not alot of space. Is there a good introductory lathe that I can get to get me started with that won’t cost much. I would like to get one that I can use now for pens but also be enough to use to make other things later. Thanks.

15 replies so far

View TheDane's profile (online now)


5423 posts in 3657 days

#1 posted 03-22-2014 07:40 PM

bcramer: WARNING … You are approaching a danger zone! Turning is addictive, and you will generally spend more on tools and accessories than the lathe itself.

That being said, check out CraigsList … there are often decent used lathes that can be had for very reasonable prices. A used Jet or Delta mini or midi lathe might be just the ticket. In my opinion, you should stay away from the Sears ‘tube’ lathes … a lot of turners have them and get good results, but others find them to be very problematic.

If you are thinking you want a new lathe, the Delta 46-460 midi and Jet mini and midi lathes come highly recommended.

You will get mixed reviews and comments about the lathes that Harbor Freight carries. Some users have found them to be real diamonds (maybe in the rough) ... others find them to be stones. HF does have a pretty good return policy and with the frequent 20% and 25% discount coupons you can get started for a small investment.

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

View waho6o9's profile


8187 posts in 2571 days

#2 posted 03-22-2014 07:50 PM

View TechTeacher04's profile


381 posts in 1526 days

#3 posted 03-22-2014 08:31 PM

I have a Rikon 70-100. I also have the bed extension, this makes a good starter lathe that is well suited to pen turning and spindle turning. I recommend getting a set of Easy Wood Tools. Saves time sharpening.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3579 days

#4 posted 03-22-2014 09:07 PM

I have the delta about the same size as the rikon.
I use it purely for pens.Absolutely nothing else, as I have also a very large six foot bed lathe and a dedicated bowl lathe which turns around 22 inches of bowls.The expense for making pens need not be too uncomfortably high as equipment is quite light on the wallet,It is done between centres and therefore unles you decide to use it for bowls small bowls then you wont need to buy a chuck.I mostly reccomend buying a good condition used for the following reasons.
One you might get a lathe which someone has bought and never really either had time to pursue. Or perhaps they have grown quickly tired of.Or it might might be a hobby that turns out not to be right for the individual after all.
TWO you might make this way quite a saving on the cost of the lathe and
Three you should try IMHO to get as big a lathe as you can afford—or accomodate physically and use .
As you if you do like penmaking will almost get the bug and decide to do more than just pens in the long term.
I wish you well and hope you get all there is to turn with in a realistically priced low cost package. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

208 posts in 1726 days

#5 posted 03-22-2014 09:09 PM

+1 to TheDane. I started with a Delta 46-460 and it was a nice tool, but as he also said – you WILL want something ‘bigger better faster stronger’ in no time. If you can find a nice used Delta midi (or a Jet or Rikon) go for it knowing you’ll likely be able to resell it later and not lose too much.

I moved up to the 2 hp Jet 1642EVS after about a year and couldn’t be happier with it. Great tool!

Most importantly – have fun! This is a great hobby and will give you a lot of pleasure as you see your skills develop.

-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

View TheDane's profile (online now)


5423 posts in 3657 days

#6 posted 03-22-2014 09:59 PM

I bought a Delta 46-460 (5 year warranty) back in mid-2011.

My plan now is to keep it until mid-2016, then step up to a Robust Liberty (assuming I can convince SWMBO I deserve it and can save enough pennies).

I’ll either sell the Delta or keep to do smaller projects on.

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

View bcramer's profile


32 posts in 1556 days

#7 posted 03-22-2014 11:42 PM

Thanks everyone for your input. It is very helpful. Sounds like I need to get something I can grow with. I have been looking at the HF models but have been uneasy getting one because the reviews vary greatly. I’ll look at craigslist to see if I can find something there. I’ve already cleared out a place in the shop for whatever I get. Thanks again.

View lightcs1776's profile


4200 posts in 1648 days

#8 posted 03-23-2014 12:10 AM

HF has a model that is exactly like one of the Jet models. I can’t recall the model number off the top of my head, but it was around $250. I picked it up for my wife last Christmas. She has been able to do pens, 7” bowls, and spindles up to 33”. It is a great beginner lathe, with a cast iron bed. Use the 20% coupon and you get a pretty good deal, IMO.

Edit: found the model number. It is 34706. It’s $270 on sale. There is always a 20% coupon available. Here is a link:

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2129 days

#9 posted 03-23-2014 10:59 AM

You can find a lathe that will meet your needs for little or lot of money. Do not forget about turning tools and sharpening supplies. You will also need a pen mandrel & barrel trimmer, sanding and finishing supplies to turn pens. If want to drill pen blanks on the lathe will need a drill chuck, drill press also works. You can use a bench vise or C-clamp to assemble pens many people think you need a pen press.

Depending upon style of pens will find many suppliers with all the gear you want or thing you need.

Berea Hardwoods

Craft Supplies

Penn State Industry (PSI)

Might hang out at this site for more information

-- Bill

View bcramer's profile


32 posts in 1556 days

#10 posted 03-23-2014 03:05 PM

Does it matter what kind of taper I get? Is a #2 better than a #1 or vice versa? I see that the Jets, Delta,Rikon all have #2 but the HF has #1.

View TheDane's profile (online now)


5423 posts in 3657 days

#11 posted 03-23-2014 03:44 PM

Neither is better than the other, but the #2 morse taper seems to be the most common. You want to buy accessories that can be used on other lathes should you upgrade in the future.

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

View Woodknack's profile


11601 posts in 2374 days

#12 posted 03-23-2014 07:05 PM

Another lathe you might consider, I don’t own one but have been looking at them, is a Nova Comet II. Awhile back someone had a deal on them that included a chuck, all for $499, not bad.

-- Rick M,

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2129 days

#13 posted 03-23-2014 08:21 PM

Definitely want to avoid those inexpensive MT-1, 1/3 HP motor lathes. Better to get an inexpensive MT-2, ½ HP motor lathe.

-- Bill

View jeff's profile


1080 posts in 3459 days

#14 posted 03-24-2014 01:31 AM

I agree with TheDane…Purchase a lathe with a #2 morse taper-its bigger and accessories are more common for the #2…You will need a way to sharpen your tools also-makes turning more fun…I have the wolverine jig plus a Woodcraft slow speed grinder :)

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

View bcramer's profile


32 posts in 1556 days

#15 posted 03-25-2014 09:09 PM

I have looked at the Nova 46300 Comet II and really like it. It has a 3/4hp motor so that should let me do bowls amd such. It is also variable speed. Does anyone have any experience with them?

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