Thinking about buying a lathe. Suggestions solicited. - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 03-30-2020, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Thinking about buying a lathe. Suggestions solicited.

This is my first venture over here to this board, but I'm sure you're the go-to folks for this inquiry.

I'm considering trying my hand at turning. I have no lathe, have had no lathe, and have no lathe experience. I don't think I want to spend more than around $1500.00 for lathe & starter set of tools & accessories. Less would be nice. I have 120 & 240 service in my Grouch Cave.

I think I would be learning to do such things as bowls, salt/pepper shakers, kitchen utensil handles & other such things. SWMBO may want to turn pens. She also wants a new dining table, so maybe turning legs is a possibility.

What I ask of you is: What do you think I should look for? What should I avoid? I want New, not Used. I have no desire to refurbish something about which I know nothing. I want to use it, not repair it.

I would like your input not only on lathes, but also on tools needed to get started, & any accessories you might think are necessary.

I've been fooling with woodworking for a few years now, but I don't sell anything. What I do is for fun. Now I think I want to try turning.

I thank you for taking time to provide your input.

Ron

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post #2 of 20 Old 03-30-2020, 05:27 PM
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Ron, if I had it to do over again, and I had the budget,
my next lathe would be electronic control and a very slow
speed at the end for applying finishes.
the HF lowest speed is about 800 RPMs which is pretty inconvenient
for even the most experienced turners.

(Grouch Cave = I like that).

.

I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things.

Last edited by John Smith_inFL; 03-31-2020 at 08:17 AM.
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post #3 of 20 Old 03-30-2020, 06:28 PM
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I wrote a detailed response about the minimum tools needed to get started turning pens. Much of it applies to getting started with a lathe. See post #3 and the follow-up posts in this thread:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/t...urning-215309/

There is a bowl turning website that I admire. The content is broad and deep, suitable for woodturners at any level. I think the website design deserves an award, too:
https://turnawoodbowl.com

Make sure you have the proper safety equipment. Safety glasses are not sufficient for anything larger than pens. A faceshield is essential. Lathes are more dangerous than some people realize. Start small.

I won't write another long post, at least not yet. Let's see what others want to add.
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post #4 of 20 Old 03-30-2020, 08:48 PM
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I got an old Powermatic school lathe for cheap. It weighs a ton, which is great - at least until I need to move it again.

I'm not expert, but since I've gotten the lathe, I've accumulated some tools and accessories. I only do spindle turning, no bowls.

Essential Tools (IMHO)

Roughing Gouge
Spindle Gouge
Parting Tool
Variable Speed 8" grinder (keeping tools sharp makes turning a LOT more rewarding)


Nice to Have

CBN Wheel for the Grinder (Really Nice to Have)
Skew Chisel (once you get good at using it)
4 Jaw Scroll Chuck (depends on what you're turning)
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post #5 of 20 Old 03-30-2020, 09:05 PM
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By the way, I bought most of my stuff from this place:

https://www.woodturnerscatalog.com/

Great customer service from knowledgeable turners.
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post #6 of 20 Old 03-31-2020, 09:55 AM
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Used .... maybe?

Saw this awesome lathe near you....maybe?
https://albuquerque.craigslist.org/t...073316922.html




Sometimes they just throw you into the pool and see if you can swim or not. If you jump into turning, there are plenty of folks willing to help.
That lathe is a monster, but probably worth it in the long run. An experienced friend should accompany you when you go to look at it.
They may buy it out from under you though ......

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #7 of 20 Old 03-31-2020, 10:07 AM
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Yep, that's a pretty stout pen turning lathe!

David

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post #8 of 20 Old 03-31-2020, 10:37 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. Some good info here.

Woodnthings, I canít really say that lathe is close, even by West Texas standards. Itís a little over 500 miles & an estimated 7 1/2 hr drive one way. But thanks for looking.

I really am only interested in new with warranty. With the current situation, I would also want it shipped to me. That Social Distancing thing.

Tool A, thanks for the link. It has some of the answers Iím looking for.

John & QS, thanks also to you for the helpful info.


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post #9 of 20 Old 03-31-2020, 10:51 AM
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A few years ago I started in the same place. No experience, no lathe. I did a bunch of reading and kinda came up with an idea of what I wanted. I didnít have 220 in my shop so I needed a machine that ran on 110. I wanted a free standing, full length machine.

I purchased a free standing lathe that ran on 110, had a 16Ē swing and 46Ē between centers from Grizzly. This was a fair platform for me to venture into and learn turning.

What I learned. For what I like to turn (bowls) I donít really need a lathe with 46Ē between centers nor do I need a free standing lathe, a 20Ē to 24Ē bench top lathe would work. The lathe I purchased has a reeves drive. Nice for changing speeds but does not allow slower than 600 rpm. It would be nice to have the ability to go slower. I have spent more money on chucks, chisels, sharpening equipment and other accessories than I spent on the lathe. Turning is fun and addictive.
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post #10 of 20 Old 03-31-2020, 01:10 PM
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See my post above. I wonder whether the "like" was for the final comment, "I won't write another long post, at least not yet. ..." :-)

You are getting great advice above from the others. I'll jump in to add a little more ...

Book Recommendation:
"Woodturning: A Foundation Course" by Keith Rowley.
Keith Rowley passed away 15 years ago, and the book is still a best seller. It is written in UK English. The basics are very well covered, including safety. Many woodturners owe their start to this book. It teaches the use of traditional high speed steel gouges, chisels, and scrapers. (Carbide turning tools would fall under "scrapers", but carbide tools are not mentioned in this book, which predates them. Trust me, it doesn't matter.) The DVD is good but dry. Don't watch it if you're sleepy. You can find many similar videos online.

Carbide Turning Tools:
This thread discusses carbide turning tools. See my post #2 for a detailed discussion about carbide:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f6/c...-tools-217417/

Some woodturners feel that carbide turning tools make it easier for beginners to get acceptable results, but at some point the carbide tools limit them from achieving their full potential. If you watch live or video woodturning demonstrations, notice that very few professional woodturning instructors and demonstrators use carbide tools.

Traditional High Speed Steel (HSS) Turning Tools:
High speed steel turning tools require sharpening tools and sharpening skills. The more I use the traditional HSS turning tools, the more I enjoy using them, and the results show it. When I have issues with the HSS turning tools, 99% of the time the root cause is that they are not sharp. What they need is a quick sharpening touch-up. It is so tempting to keep cutting, but you must stop and do that quick touch up. Notice that professional woodturning instructors and demonstrators use HSS turning tools, and they touch them up frequently during their demonstrations.

(Most of the time, the tool holder on my lathe has a mix of HSS and carbide turning tools, and I have no qualms about switching between them. I see no reason to be a purist.)

There are many fine HSS turning tools and turning tool sets, and a few bad ones. You get what you pay for. I encourage you to do your own research and shopping. Here is what I use:

I have the Robert Sorby Six Piece Turning Tool Set and I am very pleased with it. I found it on close-out at my local woodworking store. Even at full price, it is a good buy for quality tools. I would probably buy the eight piece set for just a little bit more. The tools are sized just right for someone starting out in woodturning, and they give you the tools you need to turn almost anything. It includes tools for spindle turning (between centers, like pens and handles), and tools for face turning (like bowls and platters). Future tools that I might buy for myself to supplement the six piece set would be a larger bowl gouge, a thin parting tool, and a wide scraper.

HSS Turning Tool Sharpening:
Do as I say, not as I do... I have a Grizzly wet grinder. It is okay, and I won't replace it, but I would not recommend it. I bought it under the assumption that a water cooled grinder would prevent me from overheating and damaging my nice HSS turning tools. I wanted a less expensive Tormek. The issues with the water cooled grinders is that they are a pain to set up and use. Touch-ups take more time and effort than they should.

What would I recommend? A low speed grinder with the Wolverine jigs. Most woodturners seem to use them, except me. Even better: The same setup with the CBN wheels that @Quickstep recommended.
Note: That old Craftsman bench grinder in your garage is not a low speed grinder. It will burn up your tools.

Four Jaw Chuck:
A chuck for your lathe is one of the most useful accessories you can get, especially for face turning (like bowls). I have a Nova G3 set in a plastic case, and recommend it, but shop around. There are many good brands of chucks available.
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post #11 of 20 Old 03-31-2020, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Smith_inFL View Post
Ron, if I had it to do over again, and I had the budget,
my next lathe would be electronic control and a very slow
speed at the end for applying finishes.
the HF lowest speed is about 800 RPMs which is pretty inconvenient
for even the most experienced turners.

(Grouch Cave = I like that).

.
When I had my shop in Little Rock, Ar., we had a woodturners club that met in my shop once a month. One of the guys, Walter Finch, set up a pulley where the outboard hand wheel was. Then on the side of his lathe he mounted an old BBQ/Rotisserie motor which turned very slow. He would finish his bowl by putting a belt on the hand wheel pulley to the BBQ motor. This would turn his lathe very slowly and he sprayed some aerosol clear finish on it and it came out looking like glass. This was back in the 1980's.

Tony B



Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx

Last edited by Tony B; 03-31-2020 at 07:36 PM.
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post #12 of 20 Old 04-01-2020, 12:42 AM
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I was in the exact same position as you about a year ago. I started turning because I wanted to turn posts for a bedroom set, starting with the dresser. I also found out that turning bowls is pretty fun too.

I went to my library and checked out most of the turning books they had, but I guess that's out of question right now. I read Richard Raffan, Ernie Conover, and others.

I knew I wanted variable speed, which at the sub $1000 price range still means 3 belt positions, but the dial gives you a wide range.

I bought the Rikon 70-220 VSR, with the extension, and the factory stands, a slow speed grinder, the Wolverine sharpening jigs, the Nova G3 chuck, and a few accessories, the basic set of HSS turning tools from Rockler, and a Sorby bowl gouge.

That was a good start for what I needed.

I would look for the Nova G3 chuck set that comes with a few more jaw sets.

The Rikon is comparable to the Jet 1221. I looked at both, and simply decided on the Rikon because it was slightly longer and the toolrest post was bigger.

I shopped at Woodcraft and Rockler, but both are within 15 miles of my house. They have free shipping on most of their big stuff.

It looks like right now, the Rikon, the Jet, and the Laguna are all around $700.

Good luck! I've had fun since I started turning.
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post #13 of 20 Old 04-01-2020, 06:40 AM
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My bible in the 1980's became a book by Richard Raffin. I think it might have been his first book. He explains how to hold the tool at what angle to do whatever. He made bowl turning a piece of cake. From his book, I became a professional wood turner in probably about 6 months and opened my own gallery. I was addicted. I would cut down trees on my property and did a lot of green turning. That was really fun. I cut burls off of trees and it didnt seem to bother the trees.
Anyway, the Richard Raffin book was the best to learn from. Again, I dont remember if it was his first one or not.
After that, the American Association of Woodturners was formed. I went to the first 4 AAW Symposiums. Shortly after that videos were coming out. Back then, the videos were very instructional. Mid to late 1980's.
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post #14 of 20 Old 04-01-2020, 10:42 AM
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Yesterday, I added a comment to the carbide turning tools thread, regarding how helpful it was to have both carbide and high speed steel (HSS) turning tools when I first started woodturning. The "easier" carbide tools took much of the stress away from learning the HSS tools. See:

https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f6/c...7/#post2102893
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post #15 of 20 Old 04-02-2020, 04:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies. It gives me something to chew on before making any decisions.


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post #16 of 20 Old 04-02-2020, 06:58 PM
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Turning is great, I love it but it's also super scary when you first start. I always go and tell people that my second bowl ripped part of my left hand off. Main thing to remember is don't get too close and relax, a death grip on your tools will cause trouble. I've got a old delta from I think the eighties, a model "forty six" I'm pretty sure. It's fun but be safe about it and wear a face shield, I can't tell you how many times I've had things hit me in the face.



-T
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post #17 of 20 Old 04-02-2020, 11:05 PM
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This is probably heresy among hardcore wood turners. But if you want to dip your toe into turning without spending a fortune, you could do a lot worse than going onto Craigslist and looking for a used Shopsmith. Although I'm not much of a lathe guy, I have two of them - one from the fifties, and a much later one I picked up when my old one was temporarily down with a bad starting capacitor. I've turned all sorts of odds and ends on them over the years, when the spirit moved me - everything from orange wood spice jars to round maple shop mallets. I made my first lathe chisels from an old car spring, and I'm still using them. I was seriously disappointed when I finally got enough discretionary income to buy a 'good' set, and found out my homemade chisels out-performed them.

I think warranties may be overrated. Many moons ago when Ryobi came out with their first 10" power miter, I picked one up new in the box from a roadside vendor. His price was a hundred dollars less than the going retail price at the time. The son of the contractor I was foreman for sneered, "I can't believe you actually bought a saw off a blanket by the side of the road. It means you don't have any sort of warranty!' My response was, 'so you're telling me I should have paid another hundred bucks to get a warranty?'

That was over forty years ago, and the saw is ugly but still going strong. My nephew borrowed it a couple of years ago, and has never gotten around to bringing it back...

add: if you decide to buy new, don't be dazzled by big-name brands. Check the specs. I was in a gun shop a few years ago, looking at shooting vests. I looked at a Benelli vest, and the generic one beside it. The generic one was less than half the price, and I liked the pocket arrangement better. As I put the Benelli vest back on its hanger a guy beside me said, "you're actually buying the no-name vest? You know, you get what you pay for.' I replied, 'yep. And sometimes, what you pay for is a brand name.'

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post #18 of 20 Old 04-03-2020, 08:02 AM
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figure half for tools and accessories and half for the lathe. If you are just a starter, the 12 x 34 Harbor freight lathe has a reeves variable speed, you can add a chuck and good high speed tools and grinder for sharpening and jig, for less than your budget. Maybe $900.
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post #19 of 20 Old 04-15-2020, 02:30 PM
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I joined the site for this exact kind of info. Thanks for all of the input!
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post #20 of 20 Old 04-16-2020, 01:23 PM
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Woodturners are generally a friendly and helpful lot. A great way to get an introduction and maybe a mentor in woodturning would be to go to an AWW https://www.woodturner.org/ affiliate like SWAT https://www.swaturners.org/ Alhough they are probably not meeting now an introduction might provide a local contact who would be willing to work with you on the features, capabilities, etc of wood lathes.
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