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  • How to pick my first lathe?

    Hey everyone,

    I’ve been trying to get started on my turning journey for about a year, but have been delayed for any number of reasons.

    as I try to get going again, I have a few questions about my first lathe.

    I want to do spindle work mostly (pens and pepper mills, perhaps chess sets, but mostly hybrid spheres and eventually baseball bats). I’m trying to pick something I can grow into, not out of, which is also not going to break the bank (500-700$ ideally). I’m also looking for something that doesn’t require a ton of modernizing.

    I know a bit about Morse tapers and live tail stocks (I’m trying to recall the proper terminology, sorry). For what I want to do, I believe I need something capable of about 1/2-1hp, and a machine that doesn’t need modernizing. For example, a lot of beaver lathes I see on marketplace and Kijiji tend to need adaptors or modernization. This is according to a friend who irks with lathes as a career.

    if anyone can provide some direction, it would be greatly appreciated.
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  • #2

    Re: How to pick my first lathe?

    What about something like the Rikon 70-105 (Runs around $600 IIRC). It's a 1/2HP, 10x18" lathe, and a 21" bed extension is available for it.
    A new, modern machine from a reputable manufacturer, designed for pepper mills and pens, with the possibility of expanding to baseball bat length (a length that may prove difficult with your budget and aversion to old kit)

    Edit: Someone wiser than me will have to comment on whether or not 1/2HP is enough to turn a 3x38" baseball bat blank
    Last edited by ThePracticalPeasant; 06-22-2021, 06:53 PM.

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    • #3

      Re: How to pick my first lathe?

      UOTE=Showe33;n1334684]Hey everyone,

      I’ve been trying to get started on my turning journey for about a year, but have been delayed for any number of reasons.

      as I try to get going again, I have a few questions about my first lathe.

      I want to do spindle work mostly (pens and pepper mills, perhaps chess sets, but mostly hybrid spheres and eventually baseball bats). I’m trying to pick something I can grow into, not out of, which is also not going to break the bank (500-700$ ideally). I’m also looking for something that doesn’t require a ton of modernizing.

      I know a bit about Morse tapers and live tail stocks (I’m trying to recall the proper terminology, sorry). For what I want to do, I believe I need something capable of about 1/2-1hp, and a machine that doesn’t need modernizing. For example, a lot of beaver lathes I see on marketplace and Kijiji tend to need adaptors or modernization. This is according to a friend who irks with lathes as a career.

      if anyone can provide some direction, it would be greatly appreciated.[/QUOTE]

      Maybe you should go and speek with your friend who irks lathes as a career ??

      If you would like to turn large baseball bats and also be able to turn spares you will need to break your piggy bank IMO, for that length you need a larger lathe or an extension on a smaller lathe, for spindles a 1/2 hp is just adequate, but as soon as you go to large swings you will need more horses.

      A used lathe is probably your best bet, a old General 160 lathe for instance will give you nearly the length and a large enough swing, and there would go for about what your budget is (with some luck)

      Get on KIJIJI daily and be ready to pounce on the good one quickly, as they are gone fast in most cases, like this one that should do for you imo.

      https://www.kijiji.ca/v-power-tool/o...1595?undefined

      Or try to find one of these.


      Click image for larger version

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      Last edited by Leo Van Der Loo; 06-22-2021, 07:59 PM.

      Have fun and take care
      Leo Van Der Loo

      Comment


      • #4

        Re: How to pick my first lathe?

        I would venture a guess that a smaller and well balanced lathe would be ideal for small spindle work like pens and whatnot. But you probably don't want to limit yourself too much in turning capacity either. Someday you'll start into bowls.

        I find it interesting how older lathes tend to be quite long but I think very few turners make use of the full bed length. Unless you're making table legs or baseball bats. Newer lathes seem to be shorter but with larger turning radius.

        For me, I find there is too much vibration on my old Rockwell/Beaver lathe for small detailed work. I stick to bowls for now. I've replaced the bearings in my lathe and that helped but I think the OEM stand is just too flimsy. I could probably improve things if I build a more robust stand. Maybe some day. I know industrial rotating equipment generally needs a base that is about 2~3 times the mass of the equipment. That is probably overkill for hobby shop equipment but its a good guideline.

        Sorry my ramble got a bit off topic...


        Comment


        • #5

          Re: How to pick my first lathe?

          Originally posted by burlingj77 View Post
          I would venture a guess that a smaller and well balanced lathe would be ideal for small spindle work like pens and whatnot. But you probably don't want to limit yourself too much in turning capacity either. Someday you'll start into bowls.

          I find it interesting how older lathes tend to be quite long but I think very few turners make use of the full bed length. Unless you're making table legs or baseball bats. Newer lathes seem to be shorter but with larger turning radius.

          For me, I find there is too much vibration on my old Rockwell/Beaver lathe for small detailed work. I stick to bowls for now. I've replaced the bearings in my lathe and that helped but I think the OEM stand is just too flimsy. I could probably improve things if I build a more robust stand. Maybe some day. I know industrial rotating equipment generally needs a base that is about 2~3 times the mass of the equipment. That is probably overkill for hobby shop equipment but its a good guideline.

          Sorry my ramble got a bit off topic...

          Joe the lathe should spin with very little vibration if there is no wood mounted on it, the culprit with the older lathes ia usually the stiff V-belt and the way the motor is mounted.

          The newer lathes and a lot of equipment now has the multi V belts, as they are much easier to bent and straighten, the motor should be solidly mounted so that it is not jumping up and down.

          Using a V-belt that has the notches in them, so-called timing belts help with less vibration and also better traction with less tension needed, that all helps.

          Yes the older lathes are longer because they where used to turn furniture parts, like chair and table legs even baseball bats can be turned on them lots of times, and bowl etc was hardly ever done.

          And yes remember, you can turn small things on a larger lathe but not larger things on a small lathe

          Have fun and take care
          Leo Van Der Loo

          Comment


          • #6

            Re: How to pick my first lathe?

            In the turning world as most of us have found out the crystal ball insight into what we end up doing with the lathe is poor at best. To say that you just want to turn spindles might be short-sighted. If you seriously get into turning It isn't easy to buy the "one lathe for life" until you get some experience unless you want to throw a big pile of money at the problem when you start.
            billh
            KenL likes this.

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            • #7

              Re: How to pick my first lathe?

              My spindle rotates smooth and quiet when there is no workpiece. Very little chatter if you were to ride a straight edge against the chuck diameter. Then if put some pressure or weight on the stand its even better.

              My motor hangs below the Lathe bed on a pivoting bracket. This is the way it came including the 4-speed pulley setup that is attached. I changed the plywood so that everything mounts securely. The weight of the motor keeps tension on the belt. Maybe not ideal tension but it seems to work. I don't notice any belt slippage or stall when I'm turning.

              I think the smallest spindle blank I've tired is about 2" x 8" long. That runs very smooth with no issues.

              I get vibrations on large turning blank but that should be somewhat expected until you get the shape symmetric. That's just physics, the more mass you have further away from centre the amplitude of vibrations will be higher. Density variances in the wood could cause some imbalance too but quite minor compared to non-symmetric shapes spinning (even at low speed).

              In any case...back to the original topic....I think there are a lot of good used lathe options out there on Kijiji. That might be a cost effective option for getting into it. You can always upgrade later as your skills improve. I know I plan to. Chisels and Accessories are the real investment (in my opinion) and the costs can add up quickly. Make sure you're looking at your total costs to get started, not just the Lathe.

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              • #8

                Re: How to pick my first lathe?

                I still will insist that the motor on the wood lathe should be held solidly, the motor will try to "climb the belt" when more torque is demanded by the turning, it is well known that this will make the motor jitter or jump.

                With the motor mounted solidly this will not happen.

                Have fun and take care
                Leo Van Der Loo

                Comment


                • #9

                  Re: How to pick my first lathe?

                  Originally posted by Leo Van Der Loo View Post
                  I still will insist that the motor on the wood lathe should be held solidly, the motor will try to "climb the belt" when more torque is demanded by the turning, it is well known that this will make the motor jitter or jump.

                  With the motor mounted solidly this will not happen.
                  I completely agree. If gravity is the only thing tensioning the belt, it will slip. If it's on a hinge, you can improve the tension by adding a spring that pulls the motor down tightening the belt. This still allows for relatively easy pulley changes.

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                  • #10

                    Re: How to pick my first lathe?

                    You have to realize that the lathe is only going to be about 1/3 to 1/2 of your initial investment in woodturning. Ultimately less than that. As Leo has said with the budget you have set and your desires, a used lathe is going to be your best alternative. There are two General 160s on Kijiji now and one with a DC variable speed drive. They are not the lifetime lathe, but are a starter. Lowest speed high for green wood turning unless you have well prepared blanks. Unfortunately parts are an issue in some cases as they are no longer in existence. Seeking out a guild or club is really worthwhile. Wellington Waterloo Woodturners are probably the closest to you. I have been involved in guild leadership and teaching for 20 years and would certainly; be willing to talk to you if you want to. PM me your contact details if you wish. I am a half hour from Cambridge.
                    Mike

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                    • #11

                      Re: How to pick my first lathe?

                      Originally posted by tool fan View Post

                      I completely agree. If gravity is the only thing tensioning the belt, it will slip. If it's on a hinge, you can improve the tension by adding a spring that pulls the motor down tightening the belt. This still allows for relatively easy pulley changes.
                      Weights will also work and some belt dressing helps.
                      Egon
                      from
                      The South Shore, Nova Scotia

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                      • #12

                        Re: How to pick my first lathe?

                        For the OP I’d suggest getting set up for turning the smaller items that he has mentioned. A good quality electronic variable speed small lathe would be best for small items. It does not take up much room and is portable. It’s also probably safer to learn on than the large lathe turning larger diameters. The tool/accessory requirements between the small and large lathe will also be different.
                        Egon
                        from
                        The South Shore, Nova Scotia

                        Comment

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