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Forum topic by Sawdust2012 posted 12-23-2014 10:17 PM 937 views 1 time favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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123 posts in 1707 days

12-23-2014 10:17 PM

Let’s say, for instance, you had $500 – $600 to spend on a lathe given these factors: -small turnings, bowls, pens, pepper grinders -tired of bogging down my 1/2hp steel city -would really like reverse, and variable speed

Do you;
Buy the new Rikon?
Buy a new Comet II?
Save up for the Jet 1221?
Look for something on CL?
Quit whining, buy a REAL nice bottle of scotch and some new turning tools?

4 replies so far

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John Pierce

1 post in 1245 days

#1 posted 12-23-2014 11:44 PM

I can’t say for sure what you should do, but here is what I did in my recent attempt to find the best value in a good quality lathe. I didn’t accomplish it for $600, but did for about $900.

I bought an average old 12-inch Delta 46-450 lathe from the 1960’s that was said to have come out of a high school shop. These lathes were popular with schools in the days when public schools still taught wood working. I paid $300 for it from a local CL seller, with some faceplates and centers. I replaced both headstock bearings ($20), built a new wood stand with six 4×4 cedar legs (about $50 total for stand), installed a really nice used 2HP 3-phase motor ($150 off CL), Hitachi 2HP VFD ($270 new), two new drive sheaves ($30 off ebay), new drive belt ($10), and fabricated remote control module for the VFD ($30 for three toggle switches, a potentiometer, and enclosure).

I have a total of about $900 into the setup (including a few small parts and some gas money to run for parts), along with a bit of my time. The lathe is heavy, it runs smooth, and the lathe and stand assembly are rock solid. Runout on the headstock is essentially perfect, and the tailstock center is perfectly aligned with the headstock. With the little Hitachi drive (model WJ200-015SF) and with the low-speed-range drive parameters selected (by one of the toggle switches) it will turn as slow as 10 RPM with good torque, and as high as about 2000 RPM. With the high-speed-range drive parameters selected (by toggle switch), it will turn up to 4,000 RPM. It could go faster, if there was ever a need. Reverse capable, of course. And I am left with the good take-off 1 HP single phase motor.

Two HP may be a little overkill for that lathe, but it causes no harm, and I already had the motor from another project that I had abandoned. Also, a 1 HP 3-phase motor seems to be a little harder to find used. You might be able to shave $100 off the total cost by using a 1 HP motor and a correspondingly smaller VFD. You could save about another $100 by using a VFD with fewer features, such as the Hitachi “NES” series.

This approach probably isn’t for everyone, but I’m very satisfied with the result. I really enjoy messing around with quality old American iron, and I enjoy building and rebuilding my own tools. I’ve looked at the lathes you mention, but I haven’t used any of them, so I can’t say for sure. I think I ended up with a lot of lathe for my money.

View jeff's profile


1080 posts in 3460 days

#2 posted 12-24-2014 06:54 AM

If only want to turn small items and $500-600 is your price the lathes you listed would be good choices.The new Rikon has been on sale at Woodcraft recently-1hp,the Jet is 1hp also but more expensive.The Comet II has good reviews.You can still bog down a 1HP lathe. I like my Grizzly 0658 lathe but has been discontinued.Definetly keep an eye on craigs list though.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

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1152 posts in 1265 days

#3 posted 12-24-2014 07:31 AM

Hi Sawdust. Two good answers so far. What I found was it’s the cost after buying the lathe that can get out of hand. Need a chuck? How about different jaws for it. Want to try coring? Drilling holes? There is no end to it, good luck.
John, Gibsons BC.
Jeff, my wife and I loved our visit to your area.

-- John, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

View Woodknack's profile


11608 posts in 2375 days

#4 posted 12-24-2014 08:03 AM

Delta midi, hands down.

-- Rick M,

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