What's a minimum HP rating I would want if purchasing a lathe? I have no
intentions, at this time, to do any major lathe projects. I've never used
one, therefore, I want to learn the trade, but also use it for minor
projects and making square wood round at times. I'm looking at a 1/2 hp - 14
inch lathe and want to make sure 1/2 hp is sufficient, or should I opt for
!/2 Hp is more than enough to do anything small, pens, small bowls,
spindle and such.
If you are turning anything more than 6" diameter, you might want to
step up 1 hp.
I have Jet with 1/2 hp and it does all mu small project just fine.
The sharpness of the tools is more important than power. I've had my
lathe over 12 years now, and never thought about power. Vibration,
variable speeds, reverse switch, bottom shelf, ease of use, distance
between centers, taper size, etc are important considerations. Try to
think about what you will be making--spindles, bowls, table legs,
rolling pins, fireplace columns, pencils? Tools and accessories can
be expensive, but do choose wisely and choose quality.
I think I have an old 1/4 horse motor on my lathe and it has turned
out a lot of candlesticks, stair spindles and stuff like that without
any problems. In some ways less power is better because you are more
likely to stall the motor than fling the tool.
"We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and
bring something to kill"
If you do small stuff and/or have a very gentle touch with the tools, 1/2 hp, if
a TRUE rating, should be ok..
As a beginner, I don't think the light touch will be there for a while..
My 14" lathe was a 1hp Vs jet and was/is excellent.. I did a lot of large,
unbalanced stuff on it and never lacked for power..
I'd suggest that you look for a used lathe, and buy as much hp as you can budget
and as large a lathe as you have room for..
I usually suggest starting on a mini, but they're getting more expensive and
rarely sold used as we all keep them.. ;-]
Start with tools from harbor Freight or that level, abuse them and wear them out
at the grinder..
After you've got experience turning and sharpening, if you still have the
turning bug, add more tolls as needed, at the quality level that you can
At the risk of being flamed, I'd suggest avoiding any lathe tool that has
someone's name on it.. You'll pay more for the name than the tool..
Personally, I don't think a $200 bowl gouge is going to make me ten times better
than the $20 ones that I use and abuse because they work for me.. YMWV
Please remove splinters before emailing
I agree, and still think the Jet mini is the way to go if one can
wait. I bought a second mini for some demo and teaching about a year
and a half ago because the original owner wanted a VS mini, and was
convinced that the VS would make him a better turner.
I don't mind moving the belts, and never have.
I would wonder if contact was made with the woodturning club in OP's
area of they could find a person that was looking to "upgrade" and
wanted to sell their existing mini. Worth a shot, no?
AMEN! I always try to point anyone starting to this set from Penn
At the price, I can't buy ONE Sorby, Taylor, Crown or anyone else's
English metal gouges for what that set costs. It is custom made for
the mini and has all you need (including a roughing gouge) to get
I have many Penn State tools, and they are real winners. Great steel,
maybe not as good as my Sorby stuff, but at 1/3 or less of the Sorby
cost, it works for me. And when you buy the set (which is usually a
bad idea) you can try different kinds of gouges, and grind away with a
clear conscience as you aren't grinding on an $90 or better gouge.
Once again, couldn't agree more. If you find yourself ordering
something from Penn State Mac, take a look at their 1/2" bowl gouge.
I bought their 3/8" bowl gouge and liked it so much I another two so I
could get two different grinds on them. (I did the same thing with
their 3/8" spindle gouge!)
The 1/2" is great and I even bought a 5/8" which I have yet to use.
The steel really holds up well. but on the 1/2" and the 5/8" they use
that same short ash handle (yikes!) they use on all their mid sized
tools. Be prepared to knock the handles off and put some on you can
After looking around at their recently remodeled site, I found this
set as well, and I have most of the tools in it. It is a great set,
even if you have been turning for a while.
On Tue, 29 Jul 2008 00:52:26 -0700 (PDT), " email@example.com"
Yep.. Penn State is where I buy most of my turning tools.. Love the 5/8" bowl
gouge.. for some reason, I don't have a problem with the handles or notice them
being short.. You using 2 hands on the handle again, Robert? ;-]
I'd maybe like a deeper flute or something, but they work for me and the price
I started with this assortment and still use them:
I think at the time, it was about $60 and I didn't even notice when I ordered
them that the set included a 2" roughing gouge..
I remember unpacking them and wondering why they included a pooper scooper with
my order.. lol
Funny, though, how it looked so damn big and I just KNEW that I;d never use the
big, clumsy thing.
And now, it's my first choice for roughing big stuff, especially bark removal..
Please remove splinters before emailing
I have the $200 (on sale) Harbour Freight lathe and am very happy with it.
A cheap lathe is good enough... keep the money for the chucks and tools (and
I would adise as a buy list:
- Lathe (HF $200)
- 6" or 8" grinder with a 120 grit white stone ($50 at HF for the 6" grinder
+ $20 for stone at woodcraft)
- Roughing gauge (I got some from grizzly)
- Large skew
- Spindle gouge
- parring knife
- round scraper
- chuck (I got the $70 or so Grizzly one, the nova is WAY to expensive)
- small diamound stone for honning
you could start with the HF $55 or so lathe tool set, but I realy enjoyed
moving to the better tools bought from grizzly....
altogether, this will set you back in the $500~$600 range... as you can see,
the lathe is only 1/3 of the total :-(
later on, if you get more money and realy feel that you need beter, you can
upgrade the lathe... lathes are relatively easy to resell anyway...
I would agree with the list below but to add: electric motors are generic by
electrical code, change the motor out later. Look to quality of the lathe
itself. For instance the bearings, pulleys, tail stock assembly, can you
turn the head around for bowl work, etc. If you are an experienced wood
worker of other stuff I would expect you would get into heavier work so look
for stability most., many guys use sand bags.One minor caution, lathe work
is often an acquired thing, many wood workers don't get into it leaving lots
of creativity available, A big deal is finding just the right finishing
Though I disagree with a few things on the list, I did want to add a note about
The slow speed one at Woodcraft seems to be highly recommended in the
woodturning group, and at $100 is, IMO, a better deal than the HF model..
Main difference in price is that the WC one comes with 2 good wheels included..
I almost bought one last year as a 2nd grinder because it cost me $65 for 2
wheels and for another $30 I could have had them shipped on a new grinder... lol
My normal suggestion for starter tools:
"middle of the road" tools that I use every day...
I buy the 5/8" bowl gouges a couple at a time for about $25 each and don't worry
about abusing them.. I can reshape them for whatever I'm working on without
having that sinking feeling, as you watch a $150 gouge get shorter and shorter..
I also recommend the CHEAP set of chisels from HF ($20?) to learn
sharpening/shaping/honing on.. Learn on the cheap stuff and then sharpen the
real tools and start turning.. YMWV
Lots of good stuff from a variety of people who know a lot about turning.
I'll add one thing, well maybe it's two.
Someone else recommended looking at rec.crafts.woodturning, and I'll
second that. An excellent source of information on a daily basis.
One of the guys there, Darrell Feltmate, has an excellent starting point
for a website. An incredibly amount of information. Just his plans for a
grinder setup is worth the visit. Highly recommended.
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