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Thread: Looking to buy a lathe! Suggestions?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    Northwest Georgia U.S
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    73

    Looking to buy a lathe! Suggestions?

    Recent the misses and I went to a wood show. ( our first) which she was dreading and I couldn't wait well turns out she left there with more things then I did I guess it's an advantage being an attractive 25 year young lady as she is. She got all kinds of free stufffrom all the old farts!!! (No offense guys) Lol
    Well turns out she was very intrigued by the the lathe area of the show and got to turn herself a pen. And I found my excuse to buy a new tool for the shop that the misses would also enjoy and we could both learn on! Now granted I already know quite a good bit about lathes and have ran metal Manuel lathes and CNC lathes for a solid 2 years as a career. So I get the basics.

    I'm looking for a "good" lathe not "the best" just a really great all round mini lathe for turning pens and maybe medium to small bowls
    That has Variable speed control because I hate changing belts constantly. I'm use to CNC lathes and have become spoiled to not changing belts haha. So Somewhere in the price range of 200-250$.
    Also "good" quality chisels. I've heard many turners say don't go cheap on the chisels and I wouldn't regret it.
    I've done my research but all that comes up is shop fox
    Which I haven't heard anything bad about but also nothing really great.
    Any suggestions ?



    ~Ninja~

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Reno, Nv
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    3,632
    Little more info sir...table top (Jet 1015, Delta) of stand (Grizzly, Jet, Nova) Althought the Nova can be a table top...it's a personal choice.
    Tools...I use Thompson, just google "Thompson Turning tools" and Viola! Crown, Sorby are also notable brands. Go over to Woodturnerscatalog.com and drool.
    Last edited by Jim Burr; 03-11-2014 at 08:06 PM.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    GTA Ontario Canada
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    12,256
    Ok Larry you going to have to put Ninh on the right path when you get there he is heading for the spinny side of the track. Stick to planes Ninh

    http://www.pennstateind.com/store/mini-lathes.html

    http://www.general.ca/products/1_gen...he/25-114.html

    http://www.grizzly.com/products/10-x...od-Lathe/H8259

    http://www.jettools.com/us/en/p/1015...d-lathe/719110

    Here are a few manufacturers of mini lathes no particular order. You will find though that if you want variable speed even on a mini its not going to be in a budget of $250.

    When you look to buy a variable speed, chuck , decent lathe chisels, facemask, and a few other accessories be prepared for close on $1000 for the lot or thereabouts if you wanting new and decent quality with sufficient power to get some value out of it.

    If you drop the variable part and maybe go second hand on Craigslist then you might find something in the good quality mini lathe range for your budget .

    Dont get suckered like i did first time around and forget that when you talk lathe, it dont come with the extras you need. And then while on PSI website look at all the pen stuff accessories you need. This is where you being able to machine stuff could save you a small fortune in making the drilling jigs etc that you see there.

    But take your time and buy a good lathe its like a good mattress to me. Good mattress = goodnights sleep for long time. Good lathe = enjoyable turning for long time. Bad lathe = frustration that bad tools provide.

    Changing belts aint so bad. You can also get some of what we call old iron second hand that are great lathes just need to change the belt for speed changes.
    cheers

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Northwest Georgia U.S
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    73

    Looking to buy a lathe! Suggestions?

    Thanks guys !! And it really doesn't matter to me bench top or stand alone. And I've accounted for the tools and etc. Rob I just don't want to spend 500-600$ on a mini lathe and still not have any tools ! So that's why I'm asking of any good name reliable brands around in that range. I can come off if the variable speed as long as it's trusted by experienced guys as yourselves and going to be good quality for a long time as rob stated !


    ~Ninja~

  5. #5
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    Nov 2006
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    Delton, Michigan
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    i warned you ninh.. you shouldnt have let her go looking around by herself you missed out on a great deal on a lathe that jay had for sale..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Delton, Michigan
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    here is one that looks pretty good ninh LINK
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    San Antonio, Texas
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    Ninh, unfortunately you won't find a variable speed lathe for $200 - $250 unless you get lucky and find a used one someone just wants to get rid of on something like Craigslist. Woodturningz (woodturningz.com) has the Nova Comet II for $349. I've had one for a little over a year and I'm very happy with it. It also has a reverse feature that comes in handy for sanding.
    http://www.woodturningz.com/46000Nova_Comet_II_Lathe
    As far as turning chisels go, I've been just about as pleased with my Benjamin's Best set from Penn State as I am my Sorby and Henry tools. You can get them from Woodturningz as well for less than you will pay from Penn State. They don't have the sets on their web site, but they can order them. The set below would be a good starter set and it's priced at $64 (cheaper thru Woodturningz.
    Benjamin's Best

    Yes, there are more expensive options out there. Are they worth it? If some didn't think so there would not be the variety that there is. The Comet has three belt settings, but I have yet to move mine (it's on the fastest pulley). The lathe does have a few things that could be better, but they do not detract from what you can do with it. The belt door is flimsy plastic (no big deal to me). And I have bogged it down with the speed turned down on a 8" wonky bowl blank so I get them as balanced as possible before mounting so I can turn the speed up. When I can't I just take it easy with the roughing until I can crank it up. Those are my only two real complaints. Oh, if you get one, make sure all the bolts are tight... everywhere. I found a couple that were loose (headstock to bed ways) and it made me think that the head and tail stocks were out of alignment. Once I tightened everything up, it was dead on.

    All that said, if money were not an issue, I'd probably get the 12" Jet VS simply because it has a little stronger motor (so I've been told). No experience personally but I do have a Powermatic 3520B (big lathe from the same parent company as Jet) and it is AWESOME!
    Billy B.

    "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

  8. #8
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    I think if you keep your eyeballs pealed for a used one that's your best bet in that price range.

    If you get lucky you can often get a deal on a chuck and a bunch of other stuff as well at the same time - and let me tell you that stuff all adds up in a hurry!! They don't call it "the vortex" for nothing, its from the sound of dollars leaving your pocket (not to say you can't do great turnings with less, but there is a lot of temptation in the gadgetry section ).

    I started with a set of Benjamins Best (not a pre-planned set just bought some individual pieces I thought looked about right and then added more chisels/scrapers as I figured I "needed" them - usually after trying to do something and thinking "boy wouldn't it be handy if...") and am mostly still using them a couple years later. They may not be the "best" (heh) but they're not bad for the price and I don't feel bad if my grind is a bit off and I end up taking a little to much off of one or the other now and then. Vaughn will tell you to buy Thompsons eventually (and he's likely right!) but if you haven't done it for a while having some beater chisels to start seemed like a good idea to me anyway

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    ABQ NM
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    A lot of good advice so far. My 2 cents...

    Larry, that Craigslist lathe sold for nearly that price when it was new in 2001. It's not a bad starter lathe, but I'd offer the guy about half that price. At $325 he's within $50 to $75 of a nicer new one with a warranty. (Or an even better used one.) Also, this is a chance for the wifey to get pulled into the vortex. Most wifeys like new stuff.

    Ninh, if you're planning to just turn pens and other spindle-type projects, a stepped-pulley lathe really isn't much of a hassle. I suspect a lot of pen turners seldom if ever change speeds on their lathes. If you want to get into bowls and hollow forms, then a variable speed is definitely a welcome addition. But as has been said, I don't think you'll find a usable lathe with variable speed in your current budget. If you can swing an extra $150 or so, the Nova Comet Billy linked to has a good reputation last I heard. I've heard mixed reviews of the Turncrafter lathes from Penn State, but they do have some VS lathes in the $350 range. (Some of their "Penmaking Starter Sets" look like a pretty decent deal.)

    For tools, as I see it there are three basic levels of quality, and which one you choose depends on how much you can (or want) to spend. There's a definite price/performance relationship. In general, the more expensive tools will hold an edge longer, which really makes the tool more pleasurable to use. Tools from any of the groups can get the job done. I own and use some from all three groups.

    The bottom of the heap - but still very usable tools - is the basic Harbor Freight HSS set. These tools have launched a bazillion woodturners. For about $30 to $50, depending on sale prices and coupons, you can get a very workable set of spindle turning tools. (No bowl gouges though, and it's not safe to use the spindle or roughing gouges in the HF set for hollowing a bowl.) It's not great steel, so you get plenty of practice sharpening if you use HF tools, but they are great bang for the buck. They also have a better "professional" set for a bit more money. I still use a couple of the tools from my basic HF set. The diamond parting tool works great for me and I've never felt a need to replace it. The other started out as a skew, but I re-ground it into an angled scraper for cutting a slight dovetail on a bowl tenon. I use that HF tool on pretty much everything I turn in the chuck. There are possibly other sets in this price range of equal quality, but I've not heard of them. Beware of no-name Chinese tools at the flea market or garage sales. If you're gonna go budget, go Harbor Freight.

    The mid level of tools are the Benjamin's Best and similar brands. Better steel, and they hold an edge longer than the Harbor Freight steel. Benjamin's Best also sells bowl gouges...that's what I started doing bowls with. Benjamin's Best is another good bang for the buck. Artisan tools from Craft Supplies USA seem to be similar quality, although I've not used them. A slight step up from there in price - and a bit bigger one in edge-holding - are the Henry Taylor tools that Craft Supplies sells. They are a good value, comparable to some of the top-tier tools. Their Kryo line is very good price/performance, but they are also pretty much in the next tier price-wise. I have some Henry Taylor tools - both Kryo and non - that I use quite a bit.

    At the top level prices, there are a lot of good brands. Sorby, Crown, Hamlet, etc. make nice tools. They are high-quality HSS. I've not had enough personal experience using them to know how long they hold an edge, but they all have good reputations as professional-level tools. They are also priced that way.

    For about the same price (or perhaps a bit less, depending on the tool) are the Thompson tools. As far as holding an edge, they are in a league of their own, in my opinion. (A lot of the top pros have the same opinion.) That's because they are powdered metal, cryogenic tempered steel as opposed to HSS. In my opinion, they are at the peak of the price/performance chart. There's one other company that I know of (and the name escapes me) than is selling powdered metal/cryo gouges, and they are nearly twice the price last I looked. Another advantage that Thompson tools has (again, my opinion) is if you have a question about any of the tools, you can contact the guy in Ohio who makes them. Not some company that imports them. One consideration with the Thompson tools is the fact that they come without a handle, so that should also be factored into the cost. A handle can cost anywhere from almost nothing for a shop-made wood handle to over $70 for a high-end metal handle. I like using padded metal handles with my Thompson gouges because I can take the shank out of the handle for sharpening. I use a sharpening jig, and it's easier to swing just swing the shank around than the whole thing, handle and all. I like the handles from from Monster Lathe Tools, but there are several other good ones available, too. Being a machinist, Ninh could probably whip up his own in an afternoon.

    Even the lowest tier of tools can get the job done. And as Ryan said, it's a good idea to start with some less expensive tools, because at first you're gonna burn up a lot of steel at the grinder. (And that's a good thing. Sharp tools are a necessity.) But once you have the sharpening down, and are pretty sure you plan to stick with turning, my suggestion is to go with the best ones you can afford.

    OK, that was probably a lot more than 2 cents.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    S E Washington State
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    My first set of tools were from Harbor Freight. Still have them, still use them often. I think they were around $40 on sale. My first lathe was a Harbor Freight, model 34706. I used it for several years and them sold it for about $20 less than I paid for it. They run around $270 and less when on sale, I paid around $220. It is not the best, but good for the money. Considered one of HF's jewels. The only problems with it is the low speed is 500 rpm. Little fast for some things like a big out of round bowl blank, but fine for smaller bowls. The tool rest is poorly designed and weak, but workable. I never had any mechanical problem with it. For a starter, I was happy with the service I got out of it.

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