Lathe recommendation?

I'm trying to identify a good wood lathe so I can put it on my birthday wish list. Just looking over the reviews on various lathes on Amazon.com I thought the JET JWL-1236 / 708352 12" Variable Speed model for $399 looked good, but an experienced woodturner told me it's nowhere near as good as a Jet mini lathe. Amazon.com lists a model 708351B/JWL-1014 14" Mini Lathe, which sells for $199 plus another $50 for the bed extension so it can handle objects up to 40" long. There's also a variable speed mini version that sells for $299.
Not knowing anything about this subject I thought I'd turn to the knowledgeable folks here for some help. I'd like to try turning some bowls or other wide "vessels" some day, so I'm concerned that a mini lathe might not be big enough for wider objects like that. I'm sure it's fine for table legs, spindles, and other narrow objects, but you never know what I'll want to try eventually.
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Probabably best to ask the question over at rec.crafts.woodturning. If you're interested in turning bowls, then you need to be asking what the "swing" (ie the distance between the spindle centre and bed (or "ways") of the lathe is - this will be your limiting factor. FWIW, if you use the model numbers as search terms on Amazon.com, it comes up with quite a few reviews of both lathes.
I'd avoid the Reeves variable speed system - it's noisy and doesn't seem very hardy. This may well be your friend's objection to the 1236 / 708352. Changing belts is a PITA, but it's quiet and pretty bombproof. Another problem with lathes of this type is that they usually only have one headstock bearing, which is poor design. You really want a headstock where the shaft is supported at both ends, with the pulley arrangement midway between them.
Cheers,
Frank

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On 15 Jan 2004 15:53:50 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comAntiSpam (NoNameAtAll) wrote:

The Jet you mention is a good choice. It is rather lightweight for a lathe, under 100 pounds. But realize you are limited to small stuff. I have a Conover with cast-iron legs and a 14-foot bed, and its cost exceeded my Powermatic 66. It weighs well over 1000 pounds excluding the sandbags. Variable and reversable speed control is nice.
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