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what size lathe should I get?

22717 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  reggiek
I am thinking about getting a lathe - my main interest would be turning table legs - I know that midi-lathes with a bed extension may handle longer legs but is getting a midi-lathe with bed extension be like getting a 14 inch bandsaw with a riser block to resaw wood? Yeah, you can resaw wider boards but you were probably better off with a 17 inch with more muscle. Bad analogy?

Since I never used such a machine and have no immediate plans that require table legs - I am open to suggestions. Making salad bowls and pen barrels never really interested me so I am not sure what else I would do with a lathe.

What size are table legs generally? What do you need a full size lathe for?

I am interested now that I have seen the Delta 46-460.

Actually, if I got one I think my wife would want to actually do the work - that is one part of woodworking that appeals to her.
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I got a lathe years ago to make a pool cue and I haven't made one yet. I have made tons of other things, it's a whole new world. I have a 48" Grizzly lathe and a 36" jet lathe, they both work great for what I do. When turning bigger things they wobble a bit, so I weight them down. Someday when I can afford it I will get a big lathe. You can spend more money on turning tool, chucks and other accessarys than the cost of the lathe. You will have a lot of fun.
I'm in a similar position - it's on my list. Recently I heard about the General 25-114M1 that is supposed to be released in a couple months. It's 14" diameter and 17" between centers.

Another is the Rikon 70-200EVS that is 12" diameter and 16" between centers.

Both are supposed to sell for $700.

They seem to be the right size; and I'm trying to gather more info.
Go JET all the way they are great lathes and have many models to choose from and prices also see your local turners or clubs and try some lathes and see which will be good for you
Lathes are one of the tools where it's really hard to buy too big but very easy to buy too small, especially a year or so down the line when your list of things you want to turn grows a bunch as it usually does.
I solved the problem by getting a Jet 1014 mini and a Powermatic 3520B. I have both ends of the spectrum covered and there is peace in my life.
I have reviews (with photos and video) of these and a bunch of lathes at the link below if more information would help.

Lathe Reviews
I have bought three lathes. I now have a VB-36. I think that is big enough. But before you spend a lot of money check-out the American Association of Woodturners. There website is . That is where I started woordturning. They have local chapters all over the country. I live in a small town and we have a chapter. It is a great place to learn and each chapter is always looking for new members of all skill levels. A local mimber may have a good used lathe for sale. You may also find that you may want to turn more table legs . Rember you can always turn small stuff on a big lathe but you can not turn big stuff on a small lathe
Get big--No, get bigger, no,no, get HUGE
You'll be glad you did. Buy it now or work your way up, most people do.
Thanks for the replies - a followup question I have is that if the biggest thing I will make will be table legs - will I get by with a midi size and an extension or should I go bigger than midi?
Thomas, The midi should actually handle the job, unless you're turning a large diameter leg. What I like about bigger is more the weight and stability, rather than the size capacity. I have the Jet 1442 and love it. It has cast iron legs which is a big plus. I doesn't go any where and runs very smooth. I always suggest you get the best you can afford. That is a really broad comment, because we all have different income levels--and different priorities. Is a great lathe important now, or do you need other tools worse? There is always a market for good used tools if you want to move up later.

(I guess this was more serious information than my previous post)
Good Luck
Thanks everyone for the food for thought.
Once you start turning…its like the crack of woodworking….you get hooked..

If you have never tried it…you might want to get a demo at your local woodworking store…or through adult education - usually done at a local high school or junior college. Once you get the feel, you can decide on how you like it….

Just getting a lathe…without some help on how to chuck up the projects and how to use the skewes, gouges and other tools will not be as pleasurable…(of course you can watch several videos on You Tube or what have you). Luckily, the mini's and midi lathes are inexpensive (for folks that just want to turn small projects….spindles are in that category) ....the big lathes are not cheap…expect to pay close to 3k for a decent big lathe…

If you get the turning bug…look out! You will not be happy with the smaller lathes….

My .02 cents….
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