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Thread: Recommendations for lathe

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    I'm one of the chosen few to be born in alabama

    Recommendations for lathe

    Not knowing anything outside of theory that is to say I have no practice, but get the idea of the lathe are those cheap ones that pop up on a google search for 89.99 worth getting...

    I know you get what you pay for and better tools are just that better tools but I don't want to dish out the money if it's something I find I have no talent for or end up breaking...

    My question to you pros is basically this will that thing work well enough to do the smaller things to get me practice or should I just save a get a better one also tools blades and what not input couldn't hurt

    Basically I'm trying to talk myself into get a lathe but don't really know what I should get or what I'm looking for and looking for input

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    Get yourself to a woodturning club. Confess you are a newbie. Then be prepared for help. They will invite you to use their lathes (many clubs have them). They will offer you a mentor. Beats trying to decipher what you read on the interwebs. You will get an opportunity to try out all sorts of tools, quality and otherwise. In the beginning all it will cost you is bringing the meeting treats. Then when it is time to spend money on tools, you will be an informed and lightly experienced consumer.

    Second most important thing is to dedicate yourself to learning how to properly sharpen cutting steel. The club members will help with that as well.

    Third is holding the wood on the lathe. Scads of ways to do that, some of them pretty pricey.

    But to answer your question on the sub $100 lathe. Not worth the money. On tools, get one really good one and learn to use it properly. Which one will depend on what you want to turn, spindles or bowls. If I was that strapped for cash, I'd get a bowl gouge, a scraper, and a parting tool.

    But bottom line, if you really want to explore the vortex of turning, then get yourself to a woodturning club. Its worth whatever distance you may have to drive. Once there, you are likely to find someone close to where you live. Not only the proper way, it is also the least expensive way.

    Need help finding a club? Visit and use their locator.

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Hey James,

    Not sure which ones you're finding for $90, I don't see much in that price range around here.. You might get lucky and find something used in that price range but I wouldn't hold my breath based on what I've seen around here

    If you can possibly hook up with a club you'll likely be able to find a few turners who will not only be willing to give you a ton of great information and help but will also be willing to show you around their setup and talk about what they use and help you get outfitted.

    Here are a handful in AL (more generic but they appear to have a few turners) has some more..

    If you're close to the border you might look for a club here or at the link above

    There may also be a forum member near you who'd be willing to help (its a long ways from oregon ).

    I'm going to skip the specific recommendations here without knowing what sort of turning you want to do and with the point above that rather than some arbitrary list from one of us actually getting a little hands on and looking at some setups will serve you a whole lot better in both the short and long term.

    Keep in mind that the tooling can be a wee bit of a money sink as well, I'd figure on spending at least a couple hundred on basic chisels, required safety equipment (face shield at least), etc.. if you can find a deal on someone selling their whole kit sometimes it can be a good deal, but you have to look pretty close at what they're selling and make sure its not marked up junk (at least I see that a fair bit around here).

    Now having said that you could always just build a spring pole lathe and use hand forged hook tools

    Minor caution - I would NOT use hook tools on a powered lathe as a beginner because they're a whole lot more challenging to not have things go sideways.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    I'm one of the chosen few to be born in alabama
    All good advice I'm at the opposite end of everyone listed in all those sites...I'm at the beach in alabama and Ryan if I ever make it back to my cabin south of grants pass I'll come ask ya for advice in person...but I think I will follow up looking for persons around here...also after further looking into the 89.99 lathe it was a mini lathe diy...thanks for the insight...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Clyce, Texas
    Since you're not near one of the clubs, one other option is to take a road trip to Atlanta or Birmingham and take an introductory woodturning course from the Woodcraft there. I'm sure they do it once a month at least, usually in the evening. Will give you a great idea of whether or not you want to get involved and what it might take to start. Yes, they will try to sell you their products.

    I started 7 years ago after 6 months of research on what lathe I wanted to buy. Everyone I talked to or read about said the same thing ... "I bought XYZ lathe and 6 months later I wanted something larger". I bought all the lathe I thought I would need for what I wanted to do and have been very happy with it. A buddy of mine decided to start turning after seeing what I'd been doing and he bought a Harbor Freight lathe. Six months later, he bought one like mine.

    I wouldn't recommend a $90 lathe as a starter lathe unless I had a boat that needed an anchor that size.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Quote Originally Posted by James may View Post
    All good advice I'm at the opposite end of everyone listed in all those sites...I'm at the beach in alabama and Ryan if I ever make it back to my cabin south of grants pass I'll come ask ya for advice in person...but I think I will follow up looking for persons around here...also after further looking into the 89.99 lathe it was a mini lathe diy...thanks for the insight...
    Well it's a short 5-6 hour drive from here depending on traffic Still a lot closer than Alabama though.

    This one in Semmes is likely a bit closer.
    Actually their domain appears to be defunct so not sure if that's still a club. Hmm.. Might be a dead end but you could try the number I guess.

    There's a club in penesacola

    And one in North biloxi

    Perhaps one of those is close enough to not be to far?

    Like Steve I "overbought" on my lathe and have been happy I did so. That wasn't exactly cheap though. I had some experience from 20+ years before in high school which had inexplicably stuck with me a lot better than most of the other stuff I learned back then. A fair bit had changed, but it was enough to get me started again. Like you I'm an hour plus away from the closest club so haven't been able to take advantage of that resource, it would have saved me a fair bit of poking around had I been able to though. I'm also pretty sure I've taught myself some bad habits (figuring out what they are is always a challenge).

    Good luck on your search, and if you have questions or concerns along the way, we're all here to give advice worth at least add much as you're paying for it

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Parker County, Texas
    Definitely check out a club if you can. When I got my lathe 8 years ago, I honestly had no idea if I was going to like turning or not. I liked working with wood and built heavy pecan and mesquite rustic tables before turning. I bought a sorta medium priced lathe and some cheap tools and got started. Liked it so invested in better tools real quick. No clubs were convenient for me and woodcraft wasn't either. So, I learned a fair amount by watching some you tube videos. There are a few nuts on there, but some are pretty good at what they do. Good luck on your quest!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    I'm one of the chosen few to be born in alabama
    Thanks after I read all these last night I started thinking about looking in Pensacola...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
    My first lathe was a Harbor Frieght job that I bought used for $75. It was a long, sad story, but I was able to do some spindle (between centres) turning on it. I sold it at a loss, and bought a Grizzly lathe used, for $250. It's a good lathe, though probably not a great lathe, but I have turned many bowls on it, as well as doing some neat spindle work. The lathe sells for about $600 new, and is a decent purchase. Keep looking in the classified, and you should be able to find something equivalent. When I was looking, I came back here for advice on the lathes I was looking at, and got some valuable help from this forum.

    See if any of your local high schools offer woodworking courses for adults. Some do. I took one course at Lee Valley, and since then have learned mainly from watching YouTube videos, and making lots of mistakes. Still, making stuff on the lathe is the most fun you can have with your clothes on, so keep at it.

    The other member of Mensa, but not the NRA

    Everyone is a self-made person.

    "The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their veracity" -Abraham Lincoln

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    Like Roger, my first lathe was not the best for what I was doing... my son gave me a Ridge spindle lathe for Christmas about 12 years back... good for spindles, pens and smaller items that you could turn at a high speed... not good for bowls.... When he gave me the lathe, he also gave me an inexpensive set of tools... I still have the tools, but upgraded the lathe to a Jet 1442 with a Reeves speed unit... much better for bowls...I've also upgraded some of the tools, but still use most of the original set...

    I second the advice from above, learn to keep your tools sharp... I still use inexpensive tools, but have bought a good slow speed grinder, a sharpening jig and a CBN wheel to sharpen on... a great many will tout the high priced tools, but in truth they are only as good as your skill in using them... a good high speed steel gouge will do if and the key word is IF you learn to sharpen and to use it.

    I also use some of the lesser expensive chucks to hold my work piece, but if given a choice and a better budget, I would up grade them to the better versions. Also would upgrade the Reeves speed control to an Electronic Speed control...

    And like Dave, I'm self taught... a lot of time watching You-tube videos, reading books and practicing what I saw... and as I tell lots of people, wood turning is the most fun you can have with all your clothes on.
    Tellico Plains, TN
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

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