Need a wood lathe, have a question??????

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Forum topic by msinc posted 03-17-2017 02:23 AM 3979 views 0 times favorited 51 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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567 posts in 1313 days

03-17-2017 02:23 AM

I am soon going to be purchasing a wood lathe. I have a new Powermatic bandsaw and also drill press. I really like Powermatic tools. My question is {as if you folks couldn’t guess at this point} is the Powermatic lathe really worth the extra money? if so, why do you feel this way? It seems like I can buy a pretty decent lathe for $1000-$1200… the Powermatic really worth 4 times that??? I mean, where does the other $3000 go???
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to spending the money, and i am very happy with the other two Powermatic tools I just got…but they weren’t quite as wide a margin from the rest of the worlds machines given the size….this lathe thing seems like a little bit different story. Surely there must be some fantastic feature that I am not seeing to warrant the difference in money. Thanks in advance for any info.

51 replies so far

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6069 posts in 3219 days

#1 posted 03-17-2017 03:25 AM

They make a good lathe, but I have friends that have the ones from Harbor Freight that have worked well for years and done what they wanted, just cost less. If I was running a business then HF would maybe not be my first choice. As a hobby the one from Grizzly has good reviews from various sources and cost a lot less.

My .02 cents worth anyway. LOL

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Woodknack's profile


13442 posts in 3190 days

#2 posted 03-17-2017 03:32 AM

I know several people that own them and they seem to like them very much.

-- Rick M,

View MrUnix's profile


8164 posts in 3009 days

#3 posted 03-17-2017 03:35 AM

I’ll let others give you the scoop on the newer machines… but from my experience with the older machines, Powermatic has always been built a little more robust than the rest. For example, here is a comparison of spindles for the, at the time, most popular larger lathes in the market:

(From this thread at the OWWM site)

The Delta HD and PM90 were the big boys, but look at the difference in spindle size between them!

I do love my Powermatic lathe… but it’s an older American built one. The upside is that it didn’t cost as much beans (by a LOT) as a new one, and IMO, is better built. To me the new stuff would be nice to have, but not for the money they are asking. I have no idea why lathes cost so much when they are just about the simplest machines on the planet.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2296 days

#4 posted 03-17-2017 03:46 AM

We hadn’t one in our HS wood shop. preTty sure it’s still there.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View HokieKen's profile


14577 posts in 1948 days

#5 posted 03-17-2017 12:36 PM

Powermatic makes great tools but they aren’t really made for, or priced for, the weekend warrior. If I was going to be turning for a couple of hours every day and wanted 1 lathe to last me forever, I’d spring for the PM. But, if you’re like me, you’ll use it a couple of times a month. For me, the cost just isn’t justified. You do get what you pay for but, it’s a question of what you need. Most hobbyists just don’t need what the PM provides.

Just my $.02!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View waho6o9's profile


8920 posts in 3387 days

#6 posted 03-17-2017 02:29 PM

7500.00 from Amazon for one of their three models.

3500.00 for another model.


Robust Lathes are worth a look but spendy as well:

You’re wise to purchase value , good luck on your decision.

View LeeMills's profile


702 posts in 2111 days

#7 posted 03-17-2017 02:35 PM

I have used a PM but don’t own one. They are very nice.
I don’t think you can find something comparable in the 1000-1200 range.
My Nova 1624 is in that range but you may want a heavier lathe, more HP, and electronic speed.
The upscale Nova DRV runs about 2200, there is a similar Jet that runs about the same, and a new Grizzly that runs about 1700 that gets lots of good reviews. I think all of theses are 2HP or better with electronic speed control.
I only turn 12-16 hours a month unless I go a binge. My 1624 belt modle works fine for me and I have 1000 left for chucks and other stuff. (Compared to the upscale Nova).

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

View OSU55's profile


2651 posts in 2799 days

#8 posted 03-17-2017 02:46 PM

For a hobbiest, no. But then I would have said the same about the bandsaw and drill press you have already purchased. Decide where you want to jump in for the turning world, it can be done pretty cheap (100’s of $) or as you have seen for many 1000’s. Spindle only, bowls etc how big? Determine your budget for lathe, sharpening, tools, workholding, etc., then start whittling down the possibilities. Only you know what you want to do and what your $ tolerance is. Getting into turning is just a project in and of itself.

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3324 days

#9 posted 03-17-2017 04:51 PM

My wife bought me the lathe of my dreams back in 2002, a Powermatic 3520.
It is now 2017, and I am still using the same belt, the lathe is just as accurate as it was in 2002, and I have never outgrown it. It has been moved three times over the years, following us. It now sits in what will probably be my last wood shop, where I am semi-retired.

I have added a small pen style lathe to my arsenal, since the Powermatic is too big to handle tiny things like pens easily, but for sheer power and control, I believe the only thing that can approach it is Oneways and maybe Robust.
I own a Oneway Stronghold chuck with multiple jaws for it. I also have large Cole jaws, and a large faceplate, spur center and screw center. Over the years I have added bowl tool rests, and some bowl saver tools as well as other large tools. I just finished a 14” diameter by 12” high vessel out of a single piece of cedar trunk that came out beautiful.

If you are serious about woodturning, and think you might want to pursue it for years, in my humble opinion it is hard to beat the PM 3520.

And yes, it is horribly expensive, but for me, buying it back when I was about 52 years old, now that I am going on 68 I still don’t look at other big lathes. It is that good.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1313 days

#10 posted 03-17-2017 05:44 PM

Thanks to all that have posted replies so far, all of your knowledge and suggestions is very greatly appreciated. Again, I don’t have a problem with the money as long as I know it’s not just for a name or a paint scheme. As long as long as I know and understand where it’s going and that it is doing something for me then okay…I just don’t want to spend it on something that really makes no or very little difference when it could go to other more useful items for my shop. Thanks again fellas!!!

View Roy Turbett's profile

Roy Turbett

172 posts in 4390 days

#11 posted 03-17-2017 09:13 PM

If money isn’t an object, Robust, Oneway and Powermatic are the big three “forever” “do anything” lathes. If you’re on a budget and not sure you’re going to like woodturning, Jet, Nova, Grizzly, Delta and the newer model Harbor Freight lathe are good values as are the Harbor Freight lathe tools. If you will be turning smaller items such as pens and boxes, any of the smaller lathes with electronic speed controls are good.

The best thing you can do when it comes to buying a lathe is visit a local woodturning club and see if you can try one out. You will frequently find good deals on used lathes where owners are upgrading or moving. Another option is to look for an older lathe that you can upgrade. I have a personal preference for the Powermatic 90 because it is practically bullet proof and was the most popular wood lathe found in school shops from 1955 to 1995. Its also easy to upgrade and, in my opinion, higher quality than many of the newer lathes. Check out and you’ll find a number of threads on the Powermatic 90.

View moke's profile


1574 posts in 3586 days

#12 posted 03-18-2017 03:18 PM

Have you turned before? Turning is not like other wood working… rquires you to acquire a different skill set than any other tool you have in your shop. If you are sure this is something you are going to get into and can afford the PM…go for it…if you hate turning you now own a 5,000 dollar piece of iron you can sell used for half that….after trying to sell if for 2 years.

Like has been said there are other lathes for less, maybe not as good, but some that would see if you like to turn. Nova, Jet, Laguana, and oneway, make nice lathes for less…..I might stay away from HF…that may be frustrating in the long run.

Just my .02

-- Mike

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1313 days

#13 posted 03-18-2017 06:39 PM

Thank you Mike, what you are saying makes perfect sense and is very good advice., I am not new to turning or many other types of woodworking…just updating my shop and I haven’t owned a lathe for a while. Sorry, I should have clarified my position a little better. I have never owned or turned on one of the so-called “high end” lathes. My question again is are the high dollar machines worth 4 times the money over the next closest one to them????
I understand and agree that wood turning is an art all to itself and a specialized set of skills. Not to down play it, but it is rather simplistic machine wise. I am a machinist by trade and with metal lathes there are many options and add on type features that can do this same thing to the price easily….but with a wood lathe they all seem to be pretty much the same, basically. They all have a head stock, tail stock, bed way and tool rest…some will turn on the back of the head stock, but beyond that not any more options I can see on the ones I am looking at to all of a sudden blast the price up.

View Woodknack's profile


13442 posts in 3190 days

#14 posted 03-18-2017 08:59 PM

They are all basically the same when you break it down into elementary components like headstock and tailstock. All milling machines have a head, base, spindle, does that make them all the same? All combination squares have a head and blade so are a $2 Sears and $100 Starrett the same? You are paying extra for robustness, quality of engineering and components, and quality control. Judging by your hesitation, I would suggest starting with something more modest to get an idea of what you value in a wood lathe.

-- Rick M,

View alittleoff's profile


548 posts in 2086 days

#15 posted 03-19-2017 02:51 AM

I know nothing about lathes or wood turning, but I looked at the Robust web site and couldn’t help watching all the videos after I watched the first. Those machines are engineered, no butts about it. Like I said I don’t know anything about them but robust lathes really look good to me. Of course they are expensive, like any other quality tool.

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