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Forum topic by okiedoc1980 posted 01-19-2021 02:00 PM 245 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 96 days

01-19-2021 02:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe turning arts and crafts rustic

I have been woodworking for about 3 years now. Decided to learn turning and making bowls. After doing some research, I have decided to make the plunge and buy a lathe. But how much tool do I need? I see a lot of options out there for less than $1,500 for a new lathe. How much do I need?

I am not one to go cheap now, then drop a lot later when I realize I should have bought the more expensive option. Any specific tools or brands are appreciated. I am personally a fan of Grizzly tools, as thus far they seem to be the less expensive option for a higher end machine, but I am open to other options.

-- When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, they raised the average intelligence level in both states.

3 replies so far

View mike02719's profile


293 posts in 4795 days

#1 posted 01-19-2021 02:32 PM

If bowls are your desire, go to a full size lathe. You need variable speed, large diameter capability, large spindle(1” or larger), and as heavy as possible because of off balance turning blanks. All these features are consistent with full size machines. Remember, you can do small projects on big lathes, but you can’t do big projects on small lathes. Price range is up to the thickness of your wallet, which will loose weight considerably after you buy one of these. I can’t tell you which one to buy, but do your research well before you buy. Oneway, Robust, PowerMatic, Laguna, Nova, to name a few of the top ones will all satisfy all your needs easily. Take a look at the Reviews section on this site, a lot of good info from people that know. Good luck and welcome to LJ’s.

-- Mike, Massachusetts

View Brawler's profile


201 posts in 840 days

#2 posted 01-19-2021 05:35 PM

I would suggest finding and joining a “turning club”. The one I belong to has a free mentoring program. These folks know their stuff. They can guide you to whatever level of tools you will need for the desired work you want to do. Mike is correct, for bowls you need a fairly hefty machine and variable speed perferably one that can go as low as 200-300 RPM.

-- Daniel, Pontiac, MI

View OSU55's profile


2738 posts in 2999 days

#3 posted 01-19-2021 07:58 PM

Find a turning club. Most are having “zoom” online meetings with the virus BS. Here is a link to the AAW chapter search. It says it isn’t working, but it has worked for me.
Look around on the AAW webiste, and also join the forum. I don’t think you have to be a member for the forum. The AAW website and forum are the best turning resource. They have approved videos to answer many questions. While some utubers are good, many are dangerous or do things incorrectly.

Depends on how big of a bowl or other form you want to make. Lathes are sized by the “swing”, the max dia of the wood, and the max length from headstock to tail stock. Usable length may be 1”-2” less due to the “centers” used, what drives the wood and what the other end spins on.

Unless you want to make large outdoor planters or something, just go around the house and measure large bowls and platters you have. Generally 14-15” is the max you find. A 16” swing will do a 15” dia, and some like the Nova Galaxi (what I have) can do “outboard” turning even larger (30” on mine).

You will want to start with green wet wood you get for free, whether you cut down your own tree or one blown down by a storm, or the local tree trimmer, etc. You will need a 20” + chainsaw to cut up logs into blanks. Buying cut blanks gets expensive quickly. A big enough bandsaw, with 8” or more vertical cut, is optional.

Then into the world of lathes – many designs and personal preferences, as well as cost, up to $8k plus for a Robust American Beauty. While lathe weight does matter, it isn’t critical. Lathes can have weight added in various inexpensive ways and be bolted to the floor. You do want a cast bed, iron or steel isn’t critical. Cast legs are better than stamped steel just for mass. You will want electronic variable speed, preferably down to 100 rpm max, slower doesn’t hurt (for sanding out of round work). Lots of research required ere for the newb. There are some different approaches to the outside of a bowl, but most lathes can do them. There a 3 basic approaches to hollowing bowls with lathe design: 1) Fixed headstock – reach over the bed with the tool and try to control the cut, 2) sliding headstock – remove the tailstock, and any tools etc on the lathe bed, slide the headstock and banjo down to near the other end, stand astraddle the lower bed extension you added (knee ht, just right to bang the knee cap) so you can do larger pieces, position yourself with elbows at your side to make controllable interior cuts. Slide the HS and banjo back down, install the tailstock to the bed, load the next blank. That bed extension is 20”-24” long, using up valuable floor space, or 3) pivoting headstock with bolt on tool rest. Pivot the head outboard 15°, slide the banjo/tool rest out, and hollow, or pivot the head ~120° or so, swing out the outboard tool support, insert the tool rest. hollow away, pivot the head back, start next blank.

As you might have guessed I prefer #3, which is why I have a Nova Galaxi. I don’t think you are interested in the top line Robust, Oneway, Powermatic and other expensive lathes. Look at Jet, Grizzly, Laguna… I might have missed one or 2. If I didn’t insist on a pivoting headstock I’d own a Griz G0766, definitely the best bang for your $. Be prepared to spend another couple thou over the next year or so on cutting tools, chucks, other accessories, hollowing tools….the list goes on. It’s a vortex, worse than handplanes, if you really get into it.

BTW on the “I am not one to go cheap now, then drop a lot later when I realize I should have bought the more expensive option.” Be prepared to make expensive mistakes with that attitude. It’s very difficult to make all the right choices in the lathe and then all the other stuff when starting from scratch. There is nothing wrong with starting cheap with all of it to find out if the “bug” really bites. I started with the HF 34706 lathe, had it for 6 years, bought bgt tools and chucks, so that I could figure out 1) did I really want to do this, and 2) what I did and did not want if I decided to step up. I probably invested less than a $1k over the first 2-3 years. I approached it from the perspective that if I didn’t really like it, I’ll give it away and I haven’t lost much. I did sell the lathe and some of the accessories, but I still use those bgt tools and some of the accessories.

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