It is kind of a no totally right answer. There are a lot of choices.
What do you want to turn? How much money do you want to spend? Whatever
the cost of the lathe, expect to spend double that amount (at least) on
tools, attachments, and accessories. You can do little things on a big
lathe, but you can't do big things on a little lathe (at least not
without a lot of hastle). For turning tools, you want high speed steel.
It is the most common, and quality doesn't vary a whole lot. The fancy
powder metal tools that last "4 times longer", and cost twice as much
keep a working edge longer, but not the fresh off the grinder edge that
you need for finish cuts. Check out the AAW (American Assn. or
Woodturners) and try to find a club near you. A club is an excellent
learning experience, and you may be able to find a used lathe for sale,
tools, and even discounts at some local stores.
good is usually in the eye of the beholder and more importantly, in the budget
of the turner...
Basic requirement is stability... you can't turn something true if you're
chasing it around..
Another important factor is quality of components... bearings, motor, etc. have
to be quality or you're in for problems..
Power is important... the more aggressive the turner, the more torque is
wanted... (not really "needed" but torque overcomes bad technique)
Size matters... if you do pens and stuff, start small and get a larger lathe as
you grow into spindles and bowls... 2 size factors: how long can the stock be
and how big a bowl or turning can it turn without hitting the lathe bed..
A very popular lathe is the Jet Mini... turn a 10" bowl or a (I think) 24"
spindle for about $225 US..
BUT.. if you want to get the same lathe with variable speed, legs/stand, bed
extension, etc.. you're over $500 in a heart beat..
My lathe (jet 1442) has a "reeves drive" like a shopsmith... 2 changeable size
pulleys that adjust the speed as you turn a handle...
Some folks elect to get this VS in digital format.. add about $900 for that..
As in most stationary tools there are several brands and qualities available...
Do you want the Unisaw version or the Sears benchtop table saw version? *g*
Hey y'all thanks for the replies, sorry about the spelling error but at
least it gave a few folks something to talk about even if they don't know
much about a lath either :-)
If I hang out here very much I assure you it won't be the last time I am
caught spelling something wrong.
To everyone who shared some info about lathes and the components that make
them unique I appreciate the information very much. I had not really thought
about how very critical the mass and weight is to this particular tool, but
it makes perfect sense that this tool perhaps more than any other needs the
weight to simply stay in one place. I can now see real benefits of the
bigger is better theory for the parts that hold and support the piece that
is rotating too since it may never be balanced and at times may be
dangerously out of balance.
Wood turning is not something I have given a lot of thought to and I don't
know if a lathe is in my future or not. Some of the projects I am looking at
suggest turning some of the pieces. I think I can cut them round enough with
a scroll saw but we will see. My curiosity was tweaked so I thought I would
ask what to think about when pondering the merits of a lathe.
What do you want to do with it?
If you want to make pens, then $200-$300 is a fine price.
If you want to make 20" bowls, then you need to spend more money.
For instance, which describes what you want to do:
Columns for porches
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Most lathes aren't "good" or "bad", they are just better suited for the task
at hand. With that said, some lathes really aren't suitable for any task.
This would be any of the contraptions designed to be powered by an electric
drill and the really cheap and flimsy stuff from China. If you intend to
turn only spindle work, almost any decent lathe will do, as long as you are
able to satisfactorily hold and spin the work at an acceptable speed. If
you want to do bowls and larger diameter work, the requirements increase.
The capacity or "swing" of the lathe and slower speeds are more critical.
For almost any kind of work, the heavier the lathe the better. With more
capital outlay, you generally get a better lathe. If you buy a really
crappy lathe that doesn't work well, you may decide you don't like the
hobby, when what you really don't like is the crappy lathe. I've never
heard anyone complain that they bought a lathe that was "too good". Buy as
much quality as you can afford. A Jet Mini is a very good small lathe and
can be obtained for $250 to $300.
I have had a cheapie and a medium quality one.
Cheap ones are light weight and tend to be noisier and have more vibration
as a result.
Cheap ones bearings tend to be a source of the noise and vibration.
And ultimately, cheapey ones require a wrench to make live end and tool rest
adjustments. You absolutely do not want to have to use a separate tool to
make minor or major tool adjustments while working on a project. Better
lathes have toolless adjustments.
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