Anyone using RIKON mini lathe?


Decided I really need a mini lathe in my shop :-) Anyone using the Rikon 70-100 care to comment to it's abilities?
Stew
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Stew...
I received one of the Rikon lathes for review, and found it to be a piece of junk. It does have many good points going for it that no other mini lathe has.-- largest swing capacity of any mini lathe at 12", tool holder, a fold-up carrying handle, indexing spindle lock, a chip deflector between the bed ways.
That said, I found the machine to be sub-par in just about every aspect. The inside latch of the hinged belt cover scrapes the belt when you open and close it. The belt pulleys were not co-planar. Adjusting the belt for speed changes is difficult. Fit and finish was awful with numerous paint chips and sharp casting edges on the cast iron. The tool rest snapped off (!) under normal use. The motor is extremely noisy. Mounting screws were missing. And there were several other issues that required tweaking and adjusting before it was in basic running shape.
Unless they've corrected these things since I tested it in November, I'd steer clear of it. You'd be far better off spending a few bucks more and getting either the Delta or Jet mini. I especially like the Jet, and have used one within minutes of pulling it out of the box -- it was ready to rock and roll with no tweaking or adjusting required.
A.J.
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I can second that opinion on the Jet. I have one and it is great! Smooth & quiet.
A.J. Hamler wrote:

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I have the rikon you ask about and found it to be great so far. The only thing is that SWMBO got it for me for santa day, the tool rest was missing so woodcraft ordered on for me, a shipment came in to the store with a bunch missing the tool rest. Mine does not have the problems that the other post have indicated. I like mine..................Brian

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We have beat this lathe to death on the woodturning rec. Love it, hate it, everyting in between.
My .02: Too big to be a mini/midi, too small to be full sized. Too heavy too lug around as a mini/midi, but has large capacity than the comparable Jet or Delta.
The boys at Woodcraft report the following: Like all the tools that come straight from China (not Taiwan) they have qualtiy control issues. One batch of lathes is good, one isn't. Fit and finish seem to be an issue and the one on display in WC certainly looked rough to me. On the one I saw, the indexing ring wouldn't stay on, or in place. Problems with alignment were obvious as the tailstock/headstock was about 1/8" (!!) out of alignment. Lots of slop in the tailstock, making remounting (think spindles here) a real problem. With as much capacity as the lathe has, it could use a bigger, stronger motor. Only a couple of broken tool rests (for WC, this is sweet victory) out of the 15 or so they have sold in the last 2 1/2 - 3 months.
We don't have a Rikon service center here, so I don't know who will maintain/warrant or work on them. That always scares me.
I have two Jet minis, and have absolutely punished them over the last 8 or so years and they still run flawlessly. You can't imagine...
They still run great, and Jet has been pretty forthcoming with help when needed. If there are any turners on this group that go back to the old days when the Jet minis were introduced, there were a lot of problems. Maybe Rikon will get it all squared away.
Robert
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Hi Robert...
I agree with your thoughts.
Interestingly enough, in spite of the problems on the unit I tested -- including the indexing ring, which I forgot to mention -- the headstock and tailstock were perfectly aligned out of the box.
I was working for Woodcraft at the time I had the lathe and wrote up a detailed list of the problems that (I was told) were to be forwarded to the company, and it may be that they corrected some of the things before later batches came off the line. This is not uncommon with new tools; manufacturers frequently make corrections based on early feedback from reviewers, that are reflected in later product runs.
As I stated up front in my post, the machine has many things going for it that no other mini lathe has, and I really wanted to like this lathe as a result. But the unit I got was simply sub-par in all respects, and as a reviewer I have to be honest with my assessment based on the tool that I had at the time. Hopefully, they've made the corrections in later units. The company seems responsive to the market, and makes some good tools -- their big band saw is a good example -- so hopefully they've gotten the bugs out of this one.
Still, I stand by my statements regarding the unit I tested, and would continue to recommend the Jet.
A.J.
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A.J.:
I am familiar with the "back story" on you and this lathe from your postings to another group. For those who are not, Mr. Hamler has been a well respected editor/writer in the woodworking publishing end of this business of many, many years. He was of late a senior editor at the WoodCraft magazine, and apparently came to blows with management over this very machine. My understanding is this (and if you are following this A.J., please correct me where I am wrong):
Mr. Hamler did not like the machine for a mulititude of reasons. He actually tested it hands on for more than a month, and carefully evaluated the lathe as he knew this was going to be something that WoodCraft was going to push as a lower priced, higher capacity lathe (and something new to sell) to be an alternative to the Jets and Deltas. Pressure from the WoodCraft magazine owners wanted a good review, and Mr. Hamler couldn't give one to an inferior pieced of equipment. Although this is only a reworked Fisch turning center which itself is looked at as an questionable piece of equipment, this is to my knowledge the first of the production models that were made in China, not Taiwan.
(To appreciate the difference in this, look at the all Chinese bandsaws sold by Delta compared to the Taiwanese saws sold a few years ago.)
The details are heresay after this, so maybe Mr. Hamler could set the record straight. I had heard that he valued his reputation too much to soft sell the review, and simply would not give the lathe a good review. I had also heard that he suggested that they wait until production kinks were ironed out and the lathe be reviewed at a later time to ensure that it got as fair a shake as possible, especially in light of the fact that WC was pushing for a >good review<. WC declined, and wanted the lathe - however it needed to be done - to be well reviewed. Again, Mr. Hamler declined.
It should be noted that this is something that is entirely credible. WC magazine reviews are kind of like having the marketing guys for the company you are reviewing write the reviews. Why would you review very many products you don't carry? Why would you give poor marks in a review for products you advertise, promote and sell? Well, obviously, you wouldn't, and you couldn't. The WC magazine has some neat stuff in it and is certainly priced right as a subscription magazine, but let's face it, it should be considered a strong advertising vehicle for their parent company with a few woodworking articles along the way. >>> It is no small coincidence that WC has an exclusive on these lathes, and will have for probably another 24 months.<<< It is the same deal that the cooked with Jet on the minis many years ago.
So go figure.... would you print a bad or even questionable review about your new prize bull? With woodturning being the fastest and strongest segment of woodworking (according to the manager at our local WC that was studying company info) I think not.
That being said, apparently (again from what I heard through the grapevine) Mr. Hamler drew the line in the sand, refusing to do something he knew was wrong. Then, in famous corporate jargon, WC decided to "take the magazine in another direction". In other words, Mr. Hamler was politely let go. So it seems to me they wanted more of a mouthpiece/shill rather than a reviewer with skills and integrity.
So if you are still with this thread A.J., how close was I?
I went to WC and looked at the machine when they go them in, and simply was not impressed. I was suspicious as they would not let anyone demo a machine, not even the staff. They wouldn't even plug in the display. So my experience as I posted earlier was from simple observation, then conversation with the only real woodworker at the store. Like me, he does woodwork for a living (WC is his second job so he could get some benefits), and doesn't want to spend his hard earned dough on something that could be "store credit" later on.
If all this is true, I applaud your sense of personal integrity and so should others. As a full time woodworker/remodeler/cabinet builder, I a tired of bland, watery reviews that say nothing. How many times do we read reviews and think "well hell, that was a lot of nothing. What a waste of time." Some of the magazines (between the reworks/reprints of articles from sister publications) seem to fill their pages with blather so they can actually have more pages on which to sell advertising space.
I do not have time to look at all the tools out there when I need a new one and I at least partially rely on a good, in depth review of machinery from a competent writer. Although we know this happens all the time, think how pissed off we are when we know we are deliberately duped. There is a fine line in advertising that splits highlighting the good points of something and just flat lying about the low points. But a tool review is not supposed to be an advertising vehicle. I want a fair and honest review for my money, warts and all, with no regard for the seller's bottom line.
Once more, if you are following this A.J., let us know where you land and set up shop again.
Robert
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Robert...
You're mostly correct on all counts. They very much wanted a good review in the January issue, since they had an exclusive on the machine for, I think, six months, and wanted the review to coincide with it being offered in the sales flyer that was to come out at the same time. I had planned to include a review, written by me, in the January issue. I did not know at the time that it was going to be in the flyer, nor did I know at the time that it was a Woodcraft exclusive. When I discussed the machine's shortcomings with the WC product manager, it was only then that I learned that the president of WC himself had expressed his strong desire that he wanted it in that issue. I made it clear to the product manager -- a nice guy, by the way, named Jason -- that I didn't want to know stuff like that. I always made every effort NOT to know what the retail side was doing, as I wanted the magazine completely separate. I didn't even go to the weekly product meetings after the first month or so I was there simply to remain editorially ignorant of the retail side. When he learned that I didn't like it, the WC prez suggested that I should go to the local WC store and "review" one of the Rikon lathes they had set up and in-use at the store. I said no. Editorial integrity demands that a reviewer test an out-of-the-box unit (the same way a buyer would), and not one that had already been set up, tweaked and broken in.
Anyway, the product manager and I discussed the machine several times, and I gave to him a detailed list of its shortcomings (and the snapped tool rest) that he wanted to share with Rikon. I also agreed, shortly before I was shown the door, to test a new machine under the belief that perhaps I simply had gotten a lemon. As I said in an earlier post, the machine has a number of unique features, and I was impressed with the unit I saw at the AWFS show last summer. I really did want to like it, so I was agreeable to giving it a second chance. He was in the process of acquiring a new machine when I was tossed out by the aforementioned WC prez.
I will disagree somewhat with your assessment of reviews in the company-owned magazine in general during the time I was there. Until the time I left, every review was 100% honest. With the exception of reviews done by one of the product managers -- an incredibly knowledgeable woodworker named Tim Rinehart -- every single review was done either by me or by one of my freelancers. Tim's reviews, even for stuff carried by WC, included warts; they're weren't all love fests. Under my editorship, the magazine also reviewed quite a few tools made by manufacturers that WC doesn't carry, as well as some from manufacturers the stores do carry, but not those specific tools. Two good examples would be the impact driver roundup in the January issue, and the mini-router roundup in the Holiday issue -- WC doesn't carry even half the tools that were covered in those two articles.
Of course, I'm no longer there, so I can't speak for their integrity when they "edit" future reviews. Everything could change. That is, of course, if the magazine evens continues, which I doubt. At the moment, no one there even has the title of "editor," according to their masthead. It's being put together by the production manager, along with the catalog director, who has been given the title of "publisher." I was told by the prez when he fired me that they were changing the magazine to take it in a new direction. The previous Publisher and the national sales director were both told the same thing when they were fired. The new "publisher" has since gone online on other forums saying that there is no new direction. Either I was lied to when I was fired, or the "publisher" is lying now. Both can't be true.
Either way, it doesn't speak much for their honesty.
A.J.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:
[A steady voice, an even hand, snipped]
Thanks for that, it clarifies something C. Self mentioned in passing a couple monthes ago(?).
er
--
email not valid

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I really appreciate the frank opinions and advise given this request. my local WC store is out of stock but expects a shipment in the coming week. I'll certainly give the Rikon a good looking over but from what I've read, I'm leaning towards the Jet. Also the Orange Borg apparently has the Delta at the same price as WC's price for the Rikon.
Thanks, Stew
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Delta is a good little lathe. I've got one, I don't use it much, but I like it.
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A.J.:
Glad to see my contact at WC was getting the truth, instead of the normal company line. My buddy at WC is a solid, decent man, not prone to gossip. But then on the other hand, he is there every Mon - Thur, every week. So he talks to every tool company rep, every WC rep, every traveling teacher (David Marks was here just a while back) and everyone in between. So he gets a lot of info, some of it no more than gossip. But your story has really hit home with some for different reasons.
One group seems to think "what kind of company has this become, and where are we going?" (heard from some of the employees at WC), and the guys in my circle that are dyed in the wool cynicists that believe the only reason that WC bothered to put out a magazine was to shill their own products. A few items of interest presented along the way no doubt, but not the thrust of the magazine. Sadly, in reading your last post concerning the timing and circumstances of the lathe review, to appears they may have not been too far off.
I am used to reading my computer magazines, and when they don't like something, it is nasty. It gets mean really fast, and it simply all boils down to performance. Did it do what it was supposed to do or not? Did it do it easily, or was it a PITA?
We now suffer tool and machinery reviews that read (to me, anyway): This saw isn't for everyone, that's for sure. But if you have the time to tweak it, set it up, and can stand the fact that it is underpowered and falls out of adjustment regularly, then this may be the saw for you". You can take out saw, and put in just about any other kind of tool. It is open season on some tools (Craftsman) and no one cares. But for all the bigger tool makers, it seems that the harshest reviews I read now are "we were disappointed with XXXX, and contacted the manufacturer about XXXX, and they assure us that XXXX is an anomaly, and they were as surprised as we were. They are sending us a new one for testing in the future. They have also assured us that XXXX will never happen again". So then, all is well in Oz.
But for me and the rest of us that >still< can't resist picking up those mags on occasion, please stick to your guns, don't back off, and continue to do what you do. And as before, let us know where you land after the dust settles.
Robert
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Amazon is currently offering a $40.00 promo which brings the price of the Jet to $239.99. Then the Jet rebate coupon for $25.00 brings the price to $214.99. With free shipping it's pretty hard to pass up. Stew

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