Is 1/2 HP enough to turn bowls? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-29-2010, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Is 1/2 HP enough to turn bowls?

Hi guys! I'm trying to decide on which lathe to get for my first. I'm looking at the Excelsior from Rockler(1/2 HP) and two different lathes from Harbor Freight(one is 1/2 HP and the other is 3/4HP). I plan on turning bowls, vases, etc. and was wondering if turning larger(say 8") bowls and the kind would bog down a 1/2 HP motor. Thanx guys.

-Tony
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-29-2010, 11:37 PM
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I'm no expert, but my lathe is only a 3/4 hp and it turns just fine. I think it has more to do with your application of the tools and their sharpness. The swing might be quite limiting for you though.
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-30-2010, 07:50 AM
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If you plan to turn bowls over 6" 1/2 isn't enough. Heck 3/4 isn't enough if you plan to turn bowls over 10". I have 2hp and that is enough. I did bowl turning demos for 3 days on a mini lathe with 1/2hp. It drove me nuts. I was turning bowls around 6" and although you can do it you have to make very small cuts.
I turned bowls on one of the 12" mini's with 3/4hp and that was a lot better but I could still stall the lathe with anything much over a small cut.
If that's all you can afford then get it. It's still fun and you will turn some bowls. However your cuts will have to be light.
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-30-2010, 08:25 AM
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I got the 3/4 HP HF lathe and it was seriously underpowered. So much so that the motor burned out within a couple of months of my purchase. I replaced it with a 1HP, and that's still slightly underpowered. I turn dry-wood bowls up to 12", but even at 7" / 8" it's sometimes weak.

ACP is correct that you can DO it, but you have to take very light cuts.

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post #5 of 10 Old 11-30-2010, 10:54 AM
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I'd go with nothing less than 3/4" hp. Even that will be a little underpowered for larger bowls in the 10" range, but can get the job done.

Equally important is proper tool presentation and very, very sharp tools. Hopefully you've given major consideration to how you're going to sharpen your tools once you start turning. It must be done frequently and correctly or you'll frustrate yourself in no time.
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-01-2010, 02:09 AM
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I just noticed the Excelsior at Rockler is on sale, and for a little less than I just paid for the 1/2hp mini at HF. I don't have mine set up yet, but based on posts I have read for months on this site and 3 others I would say you need to go to at least 3/4 HP or more for 10" bowls. Some people say the HF 12" X 34" with the 3/4 HP motor is a clone of the Jet 12" X 36". I must admit they do look just alike. I'm not talking about the HF 14" x 40". That's junk for turning anything tougher than potatoes.

If you can afford it the Delta 12 1/2" x 20" with VS 1HP is on sale and was recently reviewed in a major publication (sorry I forgot which one). This machine was voted best machine in the review. As tested in the review it was equiped with the bed extension and was around $750 I think, but I believe that machine is on sale right now.
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-01-2010, 06:48 AM
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I've turned on all of the mini's except the penn state versions. The Delta is hands down the best and in my opinion beats out a lot of the smaller full size lathes. The motor is strong and the lathe is solid.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-02-2010, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john lucas View Post
Heck 3/4 isn't enough if you plan to turn bowls over 10".
I a little sorry to hear this. I've been trying to stash away fire wood logs big enough to get blanks that will max out my swing (14" I think). I thought my 3/4 HP lathe would handle it, after all, why would a manufacturer make a lathe bigger than the supplied motor can handle? It's probably a moot point because my logs have been setting awhile and the cracks will force me to take smaller blanks from them anyway.
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-03-2010, 03:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dainironfoot View Post
Hi guys! I'm trying to decide on which lathe to get for my first. I'm looking at the Excelsior from Rockler(1/2 HP) and two different lathes from Harbor Freight(one is 1/2 HP and the other is 3/4HP). I plan on turning bowls, vases, etc. and was wondering if turning larger(say 8") bowls and the kind would bog down a 1/2 HP motor. Thanx guys.

-Tony

Too many factors involved to give a good answer.

Here's a little fact though...one guy can turn 36" bowls using 1/2 HP.

The other guy can't turn a 2" bowl using 1HP.

See what I mean?

Harrison, at your service!
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-03-2010, 06:08 PM
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Don't let me scare you away. You can turn a 14" bowl with a 1/2hp motor. However you will have to take lots of little cuts. I turned a lot of bowls in the 10" range on a 3/4 horse motor. I wasn't as fast a turner back then and didn't even know how to take the big cuts.
Then I bought a 16" lathe with 1 horse. I turned a fair amount of 15 and 16" platters. I could not take a large cut. Still I did a bunch of platters and was quite satisfied with the lathe.
Now I have a 20" lathe and 2hp. I would not go back. I can rough out a 10" bowl in 15 minutes. On a 20" bowl I can still slow it down but I'm taking almost 3/4" deep cuts. It's just a lot more pleasant even if you take the smaller cuts.
It's all in how you use the tools. Robin Wood uses a spring pole lathe to turn bowls. He can turn a 6" bowl almost as fast or faster than I can turn one on a mini lathe. How much horsepower do humans generate, about 1/10th or less. He uses very sharp hook tools and huge amounts of skill.
If 1/2hp is all you can afford or justify go for it. you will enjoy the lathe and have fun. Later on you might step up to a bigger lathe and have more fun. We often get carried away with bigger and better but if you took away all of my equipment and left me with my 1/2hp mini lathe I'd still turn and still have fun doing it. I'd just turn smaller things.
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