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Forum topic by 3285jeff posted 10-08-2014 07:06 PM 1324 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 3285jeff's profile


168 posts in 2223 days

10-08-2014 07:06 PM

Well im back again,,,;lol,,,still undecided about getting a mini lathe,,,,i have a shopsmith but would actually like to have a mini lathe,,,,but after reading different articles,,some say if you have the space and can afford a full size lathe you would be way ahead to buy it considering its versitality and power,,,,any thoughts on this topic,,actually pen turning is more of what im interested in,,,,

8 replies so far

View woodshopmike's profile


226 posts in 2169 days

#1 posted 10-08-2014 07:29 PM

If you really don’t see yourself making bowl or large spindles a mini lathe is all you need. If you think you want to do more than just pens I’d highly advise to step up to a full size lathe as they are generally built better. I’d suggest that you check out whatever model you want in person because some of the mini lathes I’ve looked at are rather cheaply made.

If you’re making high end pens you’ll especially want the tailstock to run true up and down the bed. I know this sounds obvious, but most of the mini rikon, nova, and jet (cheaper model) lathes have such poorly machined tailstocks that it’s just pitiful. They rock side to side in the ways which will make it rather difficult to turn a pen that is true.

If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure you will enjoy turning then I’d get a used mini lathe off craigslist. Make sure you see it run, listen for anything that sounds like a dying cat caught in a fan belt, and at a minimum run the tailstock up to the headstock to check for alignment.

Feel free to PM me with other questions. Hope that helps.


View UltramaticOrange's profile


7 posts in 1839 days

#2 posted 10-08-2014 10:44 PM

Whatever you get, spend the extra $50-$200 to get the variable speed version. A willingness to move the belt works in theory, but variable speed will save you a lot of frustration when first starting out. I was given the same advice and ended up getting the Jet JWL-1015VS because of it. For a beginner (like myself) I can tell you that it was good advice.

I’ve mostly been turning pens and a few handles.

Don’t forget to save some dough for a breathing mask, face shield and decent gouges.

-- Happiness is measured in grit.

View jeff's profile


1155 posts in 3970 days

#3 posted 10-09-2014 12:25 AM

Variable speed for sure.Get a #2 Morse Taper lathe for future accessories.Bigger vs. Smaller—-Larger lathes will turn pens also ect.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

View Evangogh's profile


129 posts in 1836 days

#4 posted 10-09-2014 12:50 AM

I started out with a mini lathe and it was a real waste of money. Even when it had enough power (torque, whatever), I still wobbled around so much that it drove me crazy. I even ended up bolting it down to a heavy table and it didn’t really help much.

In my most humble of opinions, if you have the funds, then go with a bigger lathe. You will be saving a lot of grief in the long run and you’ll be able to concentrate on your work and technique a lot more than how you are going to keep that dang thing still.

View Brian Morgan's profile

Brian Morgan

12 posts in 4090 days

#5 posted 10-11-2014 10:23 AM

I think if you can scrape together the money, go with a larger lathe and by all means an electronic variable speed version. I started out wanting just to make pens, wine stoppers, and the small gift type items sold by woodturning supply stores. After a while I got bored and wanted to do more. I believe the same will happen with you. Turning can be addictive – but loads of fun. When you can take a log and make something out of it without having to purchase a “kit”, it is very self satisfying.

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 3111 days

#6 posted 10-11-2014 11:57 AM

Wait, why are you buying a lathe for pen turning when you have a shopsmith?

I know shopsmiths have some vibration that dedicated lathes (of higher quality) do not have. But that vibrations shows up mostly just when turning larger uneven parts. For purposes of turning a pen its going to be a heck of a lot better then any minilathe on the market. Seriously do not even consider buying a mini lathe, your shopsmith is superior in every single way.

Now if you are comparing the shopsmith to full sized lathes the shopsmith is not as good, its not as stable nor as full featured with speed controls etc, but for pen turning the shop smith is great.

View Bill7255's profile


428 posts in 2790 days

#7 posted 10-11-2014 01:32 PM

I turned my first couple of pens on a shopsmith. It can be done, however a mini lathe is much better IMO. The shopsmith was a pain to get set up. The first mini lathe I bought was a Delta non variable speed. After a while I wanted the variable speed and bought a Jet mini lathe. Nice, but in the long run the variable speed is not necessary. After about a year I got bored with just turning pens and small items. I was able to get a nice PM 90 at a school auction for bowls and larger items. I can turn pens on that lathe, but generally use the mini lathes. I still have all three lathes, only the shopsmith is gone. The real difference is cost between mini lathes and larger lathes. Also mass is your best friend. While the PM 90 doesn’t have fancy features it does have mass. You will just need to decide how much to invest. The mini lathe is best for turning pens, but if you enjoy turning a larger lathe may be what you will eventually want. I do highly recommend the shopsmith pen turning chisels. They are great for pen turning. You will also need to invest in a sharpening system. I use the wolverine system. Also if you get a mini lathe get one with a #2 MT. Most larger lathes use #2 MT.

-- Bill R

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23364 posts in 3611 days

#8 posted 10-12-2014 09:44 PM

Get an electronic variable speed for sure. I have worked on belt changing lathes and Reeves drive lathes and would not want to buy another one when you can change the speed with the turn of the switch and not have any belt and drive problems!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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