First Lathe

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Review by DustyNewt posted 02-07-2008 12:04 AM 6857 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
First Lathe No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Let me start by getting the disclaimer out of the way. I am a novice when it comes to turning. I have turned a few chess sets and utility shop items in the past on borrowed lathes. I really love the meditative aspects of curling wood. So, when my wife was curious if we could possibly turn out some candle sticks (she was a professional candlemaker for 12 years) I rose to the occasion and did nothing to quell the creative brain storming. I lauded the benefits of the lathe and bombarded her with projects posted on Lumberjocks and other sites. Everywhere we went, I pointed out the turned aspects of pieces we saw. In her enthusiastic revelry, she related her creative desires to a cousin of hers and he in turn sent us, for Christmas, a check for “lathe endeavors”.

I had read reviews on mini/midi lathes in Fine Woodworking and other magazines and had already decided that the Rikon would be the best deal for the money for what we wanted to do.

It arrived in fine shape from Woodcraft (which I paid for online through the link below to help the LJ cause) about two weeks ago. Shipping was only $14. It killed me because I was on twelve hour shifts at the mill and couldn’t get right to it. The turning tools I ordered from Lee Valley didn’t get here until last week so that made me feel better.

Out of the box, 89lbs. Straightforward assembly and set up. The bed straight and as flat as I am able to test it. Tail stock and rest banjo glide smoothly along the bed and lock down very securely. The belt drive/speed change is fairly simple although the pulley cover is kinda cheesy, plastic and doesn’t lock closed very well. The centers lined up perfectly. The headstock has a feature that I really like. It has a positive 12 position lock, which will be handy for doing any carving or routing of flutes. It is also great for changing faceplates or other drive accessories. Other features are a 12” swing, 16” between centers, and an extension table that was back ordered last time I checked.

Overall, except for the pulley guard, a very sturdy tool.

I temporarily bolted it to an old sturdy sawhorse of the right height. Plugged it in, made sure that the spindle lock was off, and turned it on. A barely audible purr. Eureka! I work around very noisy machinery at the paper mill, so I really appreciate a quiet workshop.

I need to do some rebuilding of my shop and the lathe will have a more permanent location then.

-- Peace in Wood ~

View DustyNewt's profile


690 posts in 4749 days

10 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4875 days

#1 posted 02-07-2008 12:23 AM

Nice review.

I have a Jet that looks like it probably came from the same Chinese factory.

I can’t see any differences except the colors.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4068 posts in 4951 days

#2 posted 02-07-2008 06:00 AM

I can’t wait to see what you and your spouse come up with, and now you will be even more firmly in position to utilize found wood for bowls and such. I can’t wait to see what species show up as part of the urban logging experience in Florida.

I think that Rikon with the indexing and the extra two inches of swing over the ways is the way to go (vs the Jet Mini and the Delta Midi). Scoooore!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4953 days

#3 posted 02-10-2008 05:37 AM

Nice looking lathe. I don’t know how I would react if my wife ever suggested me buying a tool, I guess that would be a good thing – but I don’t know if I could stand the “free reign” to buy tools, something has to restrain me :-))

You should enjoy many hours of relaxation, once you get the knack of turning.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4761 days

#4 posted 02-10-2008 11:57 AM

Thanks for writing up this review.

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4654 days

#5 posted 02-11-2008 03:10 AM

Thanks for sharing. I am in the process of narrowing down which lathe to buy. I like the Rikon and Jet for mini lathes. However, I am concerned they will not be large enough. I have not turned since high school shop class. There I made dinning table and bed legs from 4” maple. Does anyone have experience with Grizzly? It seems like alot of machine for the money. I just don’t want to regret I did not wait until I had the cash for a full size Laguna or Jet.

I look forward to seeing completed projects from your new toy!

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5186 days

#6 posted 02-12-2008 06:36 AM

It looks like a pretty nice lathe.

You’ll have a lot of fun with it, I’m sure.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View DaveMiller's profile


8 posts in 4629 days

#7 posted 02-26-2008 10:14 PM

My kids gave me this lathe for Christmas last year and I have tinkered with a few turnings but am very much a beginner. It was very easy to set-up and is very easy to use.

I plan to make some bar stools to match a kitchen table and chairs but need the extension bed. I ordered the extension at my local Woodcraft store in mid-November. It has been on back-order since then – something about being tied up in customs – like I need any help procrastinating. ;-)

And for any of you who think it would be wonderful to live a few miles from a Woodcraft store – it is!

View SplinterDave's profile


15 posts in 4579 days

#8 posted 04-21-2008 11:54 PM

I just got an Excelsior Midi lathe from Rocklers. It came with a free bed extension. It looks much like the one in your picture.

I have only used mine for sanding some spindles on a refinishing project but it seems to be solid. No vibration, belt driven, with 5 speeds from 570 to 3100 rpm. I’m sure it is made in the US of China but for the money $200.00 it is a good starter lathe. Next I have to buy some gouges and get to turning. Always wanted to and now I have the tool.

View Grumpy's profile


26674 posts in 4738 days

#9 posted 04-22-2008 12:34 AM

The world is your oyster now Dusty. Be careful with the vibration on lightweight lathes. there are all sorts of ideas about turnig speed compared to the size of the wood stock.
A simple and safe rule is to turn at the highest speed you can without vibration, if it vibrates go to a lower speed until you have smooth running.
Always stand to the side when you turn the lathe on, a throw out can be very a nasty health hazard.
Happy turning & I look forward to your new projects.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View StraightEdge's profile


26 posts in 4579 days

#10 posted 04-27-2008 02:28 PM

Nice add-on Grumpy.

FYI on the turning tools, Woodcraft is carrying the Sorby “Midi” Turning Tools. “Perfect sized tools for midi and mini lathes.”

-- Cheers!

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