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What lathe would you get?

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Forum topic by JCamp posted 12-07-2021 02:21 AM 486 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JCamp

1528 posts in 1881 days


12-07-2021 02:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe

I’ve been looking for a used lathe off and on for years. Unfortunately everything local seems fairly high. As in a used one with bad motor or cracked pulleys still seem to be around $250. I’m considering going against my norm and buying a new one. Specially a Wen 3421 which is about $160 and seems to be a decent entry level option. If you folks were gonna get into turning what you buy? I’m mainly interested in turning smaller things like tool handles or hobo fishing reels. It would be handy to have something where I could turn table legs but those would be few and far between

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might


11 replies so far

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Underdog

1802 posts in 3366 days


#1 posted 12-07-2021 02:45 AM

The first good lathe I bought was a new Jet Mini 1014. I still have it. (But I now have a lathe w/ an 18” swing).

My advice would probably be to get one of the smaller ones… The Rikon or the Jet non-variable speed options would be my first picks. Manual belt changes on these aren’t that hard to do, and it keeps the price down. The Grizzly looks like it could be decent also.

I’d want at least a 10 inch swing. You’ll be surprised at what you can actually turn on one of these lathes, but you’ll also quickly want something with a bit more swing, depending on what you turn.
I turn a lot of spindle oriented stuff, but I’ve also turned some fairly large bowls and platters.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

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Lazyman

8755 posts in 2718 days


#2 posted 12-07-2021 03:14 AM

The Harbor Freight 10×18 mini-lathe is actually not too bad as a starter lathe for $279. It is basically the same as the Rockler Excelsior. Rockler had the Excelsior on sale for about $230 (I think) a few weeks ago. Several other companies sell the exact same lathe painted different colors. Rockler sells a bed extension that fits the Excelsior that might allow you to turn table legs.

Harbor Freight also sells a 12×33” lathe that gets good reviews for $430.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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Jerroni

30 posts in 1325 days


#3 posted 12-07-2021 05:31 AM

Might be worth searching a wider radius – or paying for shipping, but you should be able to find something reasonable (jet, delta, or rockler, etc). Fairly easy to find smaller lathes – and some of the older ones can be much better deals (tool rest, live center, and chucks are better quality). The tool rest is often overlooked, but it’s a key disappointment for the less expensive lathes. For kicks, I searched for a used mini lathe on ebay and a delta was available in NJ for $190. Good luck!

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RyanGi

122 posts in 367 days


#4 posted 12-07-2021 06:21 AM

Just some things to consider:
-a smaller lathe with a smaller motor creates limitations. Understanding those limitations before making any purchase is important.
-space limitations and $$ limitations are two separate things. If it’s a money thing, I’d really recommend saving up a bit and buying a bigger lathe with a bigger motor and more swing,
-buy once, cry once

It’s all dependent on what you need the tool to do, right? Also, keep in mind that the lathe is only about half the cost of the entire ‘tool’…the other halting being the lathe tools, accessories’ etc. Lathe tools are another area not to skimp on. I hate being in a position where I don’t know if the problem is with the tool or my skill. I’d like to eliminate one of those two, and it probably ain’t gonna be the below average skills!

Again, you may already have thought about all this, so these are just my thoughts.,,,your mileage may vary.

-- Ryan/// I like chips...and sawdust...but mostly chips...with vinegar

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Underdog

1802 posts in 3366 days


#5 posted 12-07-2021 12:40 PM

Good advice and insight from commenters above.

I would only add that you may want to stay away from Reeves drives. I’ve not had good luck with those type of variable speed drives on these lower priced lathes.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View Dave Polaschek's profile (online now)

Dave Polaschek

9279 posts in 1913 days


#6 posted 12-07-2021 01:31 PM

I bought the Harbor Freight 12-33 (though it’s really only about a -31). It’s a solid worker, and I’ve been enjoying it, and it was closer to $300 when I bought it about a year ago. Of course, you need to consider the cost of the lathe tools as well. And chucks. And collets. And…

I think the lathe ended up being about 1/4 of the cost of the whole “turning system” I have, maybe less. I’m still pretty happy with the purchase, but my sweetie might not have agreed so quickly had she been aware of all the “accessories” I would need. She does think the results are pretty, though!

People say that switching belts around to get different speeds isn’t a big deal, but the HF 12-33 has that lever for adjusting speed, and after learning to turn with that, I don’t think I would ever want to fiddle with moving a belt around on pulleys to change the speed. Just me, but when I’m on a roll, stopping to fiddle with a belt would throw off my rhythm.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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Dave Polaschek

9279 posts in 1913 days


#7 posted 12-07-2021 01:33 PM

Note also that we’re having a turning swap beginning in January. Take a peek through the thread if you’re interested, and I’m sure we’ll actually talk about turning at some point in there.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

8755 posts in 2718 days


#8 posted 12-07-2021 01:51 PM

I have to agree that once you have used a variable speed lathe, you will hate changing belts—or you will just pick a speed in the middle at live with it whenever you can. Of course with spindle turning, speed changes are not as necessary as they are when turning bowls from out of balance blanks. If you do buy one of these cheep mini lathes, Penn State Industries sells a variable speed replacement motor that fits it perfectly so you can always upgrade later. I added one to my Excelsior lathe before I upgraded to a full size lathe and it was definitely nice.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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zorro9

11 posts in 457 days


#9 posted 12-07-2021 02:49 PM

No need to buy a new lathe if you’re starting out. Locate your local woodturning clubs for one. I’d stick with a jet as it has a wide appeal, parts availability.

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Ynot

50 posts in 2916 days


#10 posted 12-07-2021 05:51 PM

About 20 years ago I picked up a new, but floor model Craftsman for $50 that sounded like a gravel truck, but it did the trick until I felt the need (swing) to step it up. Since this was/is my main concentration, what my work centers around I bought a Oneway which was a bit costly, but knew it would do what I want and could easily take me into retirement. It’s undoubtedly a great lathe, but I’d love to give a Robust Sweet 16 a try as I don’t do much spindle turning and that may suit me better, but the cost? Ouch! It’s great to start off small, but like others that could change real fast.

My shop is mostly vintage Delta machines that I’ve restored, love the quality and precision from all of them. If I were starting out again I may have picked up a Delta lathe to join the pack. I see them come up all the time, very affordable and I know the quality would be there. Restoring is easy, but time consuming to do it right. In the end you’ll be more satisfied with a quality machine?

If rebuilding isn’t your thing a friend of mine really likes the one he settled on; an Excelsior Mini Lathe from Rockler, also available from Amazon. This time of year you may find a coupon to knock it down a few.

Good luck

View Underdog's profile

Underdog

1802 posts in 3366 days


#11 posted 12-08-2021 12:15 PM

I think I would also steer you away from the older lathes with non-standard tapers. Get one with a cast iron bed, Morse 2 tapers, and standard spindle diameter and TPI. That way when you need accessories, they’re easy to get and you don’t need a funky adapter to make your chucks and drive centers work.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

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