New Guy, New Lathe, No idea what I'm doing

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Forum topic by Jeremiah posted 01-23-2015 05:44 PM 1548 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 1426 days

01-23-2015 05:44 PM

Hey all! I’ll give a little back story and hope you fellas feel bad enough for me to give me some information!

I’m 27. I’ve been a self employed metal fabricator and handyman for the last 6 years or so. I’ve always said I hate working with wood because I make ugly things. Truth is, I’ve done very little with wood, and what I have done really wasn’t all that awful.

I have a few reasons for getting into wood. For myself, I enjoy learning new skills. Also, about 3 months ago I had surgery on my eyes and have decided they are too precious to burn away behind a mask for the rest of my life. I’m aware that wood has its fair share of ocular dangers, but none of which are permanent UV damage.

My other reason for attempting to acquire wood working tools is for my father. He is a mechanical designer/pipe fitter that has been busting his rear for 30 years with a fused lower spine and bad knees. His time for retirement/disability is coming very soon. Ever since I was little I can always remember his fascination with woodworking. He was always carving something strange or saving odd looking pieces of wood from the forest around our house. He never did much with anything because time didn’t permit, and he never had the means to build a shop or buy the tools. So, my interest is getting something put together that maybe he can toy around with when the time comes.

I have no high school shop experience or anyone to teach me anything, so I’m a learn as you go case. Usually am anyway because I’m awful at listening to directions anyhow.

I had been searching for a lathe on Craigslist for a few months. I finally found one that seemed solid, although admittedly I know nothing about them, so I probably overpaid. I bought a Rockwell 46-450 I believe (Name plate is missing) for $500. It is big and heavy. Has a 3 phase motor in it that I can’t use because I don’t have the power in my garage. Needs a chuck or faceplate or something to attach the wood with, and the tapered tail piece that goes in the tail stock. (Please do forgive me if I’m calling anything by the wrong name, and please, correct me as well)

So I need to figure out what to do about the motor. I don’t even have 220 run in my garage. I have the wire and ability to do it, but it isn’t there currently. Is there a 110v motor suitable that I could buy and use? I read a lot of stuff about treadmill motors and I like the idea of a more finite speed control, but I have a hard time believing those things would have the torque needed to actually turn things, especially at lower speeds.

As for the chuck and tail piece, I found a local turning store that has some, but they are quite pricey. I’m usually all about supporting local business, but ultimately, not if it is going to make me starve. They had two tail pieces. One was just the #2 tapered bit with a point on it for $20. The other was the #2 tapered bit with a drill chuck on it for $35. Which of those is best? I always see the basic point type in videos, but didn’t know if the drill chuck was for something specific. They only had one chuck and I believe it was a Nova G3 for $170. That’s just a lot of coin to drop, so I don’t want to buy the wrong thing.

I’m also going to need tools. The same store had a bunch of neat tools with little carbide heads that you can swap out, but they are all $120+ each, so that could get very expensive very fast.

My ultimate goal is to make some small bowls 6-8” in diameter, maybe some table legs, and some small stuff, the size of pens, but I actually don’t have any interest in pens specifically. I would love to create things that I can incorporate into my work, so that this may eventually pay for itself, but I realize that is difficult, especially for someone who knows nothing and has to learn it all on his own. But my whole life has been difficult, so I don’t expect it to change now anyway.

I appreciate anyone’s input on the motor, chuck, tailpiece and tools topics, or any other wise words you may have for me!

8 replies so far

View LeeMills's profile


618 posts in 1502 days

#1 posted 01-23-2015 06:48 PM

The lathe should work fine for what you say you intend to do.
I would run the 220 line. You may get a motor but it will probably cost quite a bit. Probably the current low speed on the lathe may be a bit fast for larger bowls.
There are all types of drive centers (headstock) and tailstock centers. For the tailstock I would get the plain ($20?), you should not need the one with the drill chuck now. Also for many, you may have a drill press with a 2MT, you can pop it out of the drill press and use it on the lathe as needed then return.

Here is a link to an excellent video by Mike Peace. He covers almost all holding methods and is is about 1 1/2 hours long. He like a steb center for the headstock (and they are good) but for all purpose I would go with a standard 4 prong drive center.

I would suggest a new thread on just the tools just to keep things simpler.

Here is a link to AAW where you can search for local clubs. If possible I would join, many have mentor programs and if not I am sure there are members willing to spend some one on one with you. Even 3-4 hours may jump your knowledge by six months or so. I learned basically on my own and it can get really frustrating with even things that are fixed simply.
Most clubs meet once a month.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2806 days

#2 posted 01-23-2015 08:02 PM

You can buy a variable frequency drive (vfd) and get speed control with that 3phase motor. Probably the cheapest way of getting that lathe up and running. It will require some wiring but there are tutorials online to show you how to do it. As for tools, I went with a 3/8 spindle gouge and that worked great for all forms of spindle work. If you want to do bowls you will also need a bowl gouge. All other tools are unneeded at the beginning. You will need a way to sharpen. A bench grinder with an appropriate grit stone is best for that.

View Wildwood's profile (online now)


2475 posts in 2336 days

#3 posted 01-23-2015 09:13 PM

If need a drive center for headstock recommend a two prong drive center for over 4-prong. Only because do not need a perfectly flat surface for them to hold well. I been using the same one like shown below for over 20 years. prong drive center

lot of turners prefer this type center prong drive center

You can buy an inexpensive live center for your tailstock like this but suggest look for something better.
This might be better op.

Face plates

3 ¾” lathe chuck

You might find less expensive alternative to my recommendation including tools here. Just look around have more than pens and pen making supplies.

If have a Harbor Freight store near you the more expensive red handle tools a better op.

-- Bill

View Wildwood's profile (online now)


2475 posts in 2336 days

#4 posted 01-23-2015 09:25 PM

If you start out spindle turning will have better idea on how tools work on scrap wood, and get a handle on sharpening your tools. Penn State Industry sells inexpensive tools but great starter tools. I always recommend buying individual tools but shipping cost soon add up so recommend looking inexpensive spindle set from HF.

You do not really need faceplates or lathe chuck for spindle turning. I learned to turn bowls using faceplates & waste blocks, screws and paper joints. I bought ½” bowl gouge and learned to turn a bowls form start to finish with that one tool. Today have four or five bowl gouges and three chucks. Only use faceplates ocassionally.

Today most turners prefer a chuck for turning bowls and I do too!
I have sold more spindle work projects than bowls.

-- Bill

View Woodknack's profile


12431 posts in 2581 days

#5 posted 01-24-2015 01:34 AM

Get a Steb center instead of a regular drive center.

Learning to turn:

Variable speed with DC motor.

I think VFDs start around $200 for a basic model and go up but I don’t know much about them or how to pick the model you need/want. I just know the more HP, the more expensive the VFD. If not careful you will quickly have enough invested that you could have bought a new lathe.

-- Rick M,

View REO's profile


929 posts in 2275 days

#6 posted 01-24-2015 01:44 AM

A 2 hp VFD can be had for less than 150 bucks new! a little wiring and your up and running. lathe chucks can be had for about 100 to get your started. the drive and tail stock live center can be had for less than 50 dollars. chisels are up to you but you can buy carbide inserts and set them on a chunk of steel for less than 30 dollars and not worry about the sharpening side of things to start.

View Jeremiah's profile


9 posts in 1426 days

#7 posted 01-24-2015 03:43 AM

Thank you all for all the information! I have a ton of reading to do. I’ll try and check out all the links and suggestions you guys gave me this weekend and see if I can pick a direction to go!

View ColonelTravis's profile


1932 posts in 2095 days

#8 posted 01-24-2015 05:40 AM

I used to sharpen lathe tools by hand on waterstones and a curved India stone for the inside of gouges. My results were terrible. Tools were never as sharp as when I first got them.

Bought the slow speed Woodcraft grinder and a Wolverine jig. The Wolverine setup is a little pricey but it has made a MASSVIE difference in sharpness and curse word reduction.

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