Beginner advice for lathes

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Forum topic by Arkloder posted 08-20-2017 02:39 PM 1082 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 1051 days

08-20-2017 02:39 PM

I am interested in woodturning with a focus in bowls. I’m looking for advice on a beginner lathe. I don’t need anything huge and don’t want t spend too much. I’ve seen lathes for 150 w a 14 inch swing and some for 500 with a 10 inch swing.. I guess the weight and motor is a big factor in that but what could I get away with sacrificing for the option of turning some a little larger. I dont want to outgrow an eight inch swing arm in the first couple months of turning and buy a second lathe. Any tips for a first bowl turning lathe is greatly appreciated!

4 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2864 posts in 2906 days

#1 posted 08-20-2017 03:38 PM

What brand name lathes have you been looking at. Those $150 14ā€ swing lathes usually not very strong especially for bowl turning. For little bit more money can buy a midi lathe. Have to shop around for best price or watch for a sale.

If really want a bargain check this 12ā€ x 33 3/8ā€ lathe out: More suited for spindles but folks do turn bowls on them.

You can see reviews at vendors web sites and here on both lathes mentioned.

You will need bowl gouges and perhaps a scraper to start with, also a means to sharpen those tools, dust mask, & face shield.

-- Bill

View bigJohninvegas's profile


773 posts in 2233 days

#2 posted 08-20-2017 09:05 PM

Where are you located?
Have you turned anything at all yet?
Best advise I have is find a local wood tuning club. members will have great advice, and different types of lathes that you can get your hands on.
Frequently, someone will have a good lathe for sale at a good price.
Here is a link to woodturning online. They have a lot of good info, and a list of turning clubs listed by state.
Wildwood is showing you some good options. I have known several who have the HF lathe. Most will replace it as soon as the can for a better model. It has a reeves drive system for speed control. Kinda like a 10 speed bike. shifts to set speeds as the lathe turns.
The Rikon lathes shown are using electronic speed controls. It has a drive belt with 3 positions that give precise speed control. Speed Ranges (RPM): 250-750, 550-1650, 1300-3850.
The cheapest lathes may have seven of more fixed speeds that you must stop and move the belt with each set speed. a real pain.
I bought a Jet 16X42 lathe a couple years ago, (pricey at over 2k). Then after it was to late I discovered Grizzly tools. I have a couple friends who have purchased the grizzly that compares to my Jet and they are very happy with it. Still a bit of a high price. However Grizzly has other models that get more affordable.
Here are couple links to grizzly. 1st is a 16X46 with a reeves drive. the 2nd is a little 12X18 with the electronic speed control.

-- John

View Woodknack's profile


13384 posts in 3151 days

#3 posted 08-20-2017 09:42 PM

This article is specific to vintage lathes but there is good general info that may help if you are considering a used lathe.

I don t need anything huge and don t want t spend too much.
- Arkloder

You didn’t mention a budget … a bunch of us have the 12” Delta 46-460 ($600-ish) and I’m very happy with mine. Jet is another good quality brand with options under $1,000. If you want a true bowl turning lathe then it’s going to cost you. There are a bunch of clones sold under various labels like Grizzly, Rikon, Baileigh, and many others. They will be the same base machine with cosmetic differences. Set aside roughly 1/2 – 1/3 your budget for tools, chucks, and other accessories.

-- Rick M,

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


8088 posts in 2970 days

#4 posted 08-20-2017 09:51 PM

A 10 or 12 inch lathe can be found for pretty reasonable prices on the used market if you keep an eye out for them. You probably don’t want to go huge or expensive until you have some practice, know that it is something you would like to continue on with, and get a feel for what is involved first. Go measure the bowls you have in your kitchen cabinet – you will find that an 8-9” bowl is still pretty big :) Also, buying used will let you get into turning fairly cheap, and you can sell it for basically what you bought it for if/when you decide to get something bigger/newer. When buying new, you lose about half it’s value as soon as it leaves the store.

Only advice I can give is to look for something with a cast iron bed, not tubes. If you do decide to go with a tube bed design, two tubes are better than one. Weight does play a part, but mostly when you first turning a rough out of balance blank. That can be mitigated somewhat by getting the blank as close to round as possible before mounting it on the lathe, as well as adding additional weight to the stand (ie: sand bags, cinder blocks, etc..). Do you have a band saw?


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

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