Newbie Here, What Lathe do I start with

Discussion in 'Newbie' started by William Merryfield, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. William Merryfield

    William Merryfield

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    Hi, I have NEVER turned a bowl in my life. For some reason i am really drawn to turning bowls, and have been obsessed in finding a good cheap lathe, and turning some bowls. I own a reproduction country furniture company, Primitiques, Ltd., and have been buying my bowls from the Holland Bowl Mill for years now, beating the bowls up and painting them. I am just tired of paying $30 for a 17" beech bowl, so decided to just turn my own bowls. I can't wait to pick up some dead, fallen trees, but em' up, and turn them. I need advice. What kind of lathe should I buy, I only want to spend about $350 tops, then upgrade once I get better. I've tried Craigslist, ebay, etc. After reading a ton of stuff, it seems like a Jet mini VS is the way to go, and not that $200 mini lathe, people complain about the resting tool thing and it's poor power. I'm in Philadelphia area, so if anyone can point me in the right direction, or to the right website I would appreciate it. I read the article on here for newbies, and it was great. Anyone here ever join a woodturners club, is it helpful, or is taking a class helpful. One of my woodworkers turns expensive woods, and said, don't take a class, just "turn" and you'll find your way.
    Thanks for any advice, and I look forward to learning from this website, today is my first day. Thanks, Bill
     
  2. n7bsn

    n7bsn

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    WOW

    Em, first ignore the guy that tells you not to take any classes. Bad idea

    Second, you do know that no (and I mean NO lathe for $350 is going to turn a 17 inch bowl. To turn something like that you are going to need something like a PowerMatic 3520, which is more like $4000 (or more, you could spend $8000)

    Third, the Jet Mini is a great small lathe, I have one and do a far amount of turning on it, no real bowl work as I have a big lathe for that. But is really is a great small lathe.

    Fourth, $30 for a 17 inch bowl is a bargain, trust me, even wholesale.

    TTFN
     
  3. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    See my reply to your post on the main forum. Basically, I second what Ralph says. If you can get 17 inch bowls for $30, that seems like a great price.
     
  4. William Merryfield

    William Merryfield

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    Thanks

    Grizzly has a $599 lathe, looks nice, sounds nice, how is the grizzly brand?
     
  5. Ron Kaplan

    Ron Kaplan

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    Just the start

    I started turning bowls about a year ago and believe me the cost of the mini lathe is almost minor compared to the cost of tools and accessories. You can be frugal, but one bowl gouge at about $60 is about where the costs start. Between finishing supplies, safety equipment, chucks and tools you can spend $350 pretty quickly. Oh and by the way, it is addicting. Good luck, be safe and enjoy!
     
  6. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I would rate it as just OK -- not especially high quality, but they seem to honor their warranty on tools. I saw a lathe for $545 which I assume is the one that you were referring to. Basically, their marketing hype is terrible and they make false claims about things such as motor horsepower. They claim that the motor on that lathe is 2 HP, but that is absolutely false. At best, the motor is about 1.4 HP, but that is probably too generous. Even so, it still has sufficient power for bowl turning. But, there is bad news -- it uses a Reeves variable speed mechanical drive -- WARNING -- run away from that type of drive as fast as you can -- it is a maintenance headache. The minimum speed is 600 RPM which is way too fast. I also do not like the rinky-dink toy tailstock on that lathe. Other than that, it is a wonderful machine. :D You would be better served by stepping up a notch to their G0632 lathe for $1495, but that is getting into another price range.

    A lathe that I would highly recommend is the Delta 46-460 variable speed lathe at $600. It is an extremely well built lathe and has been receiving lots of praise from woodturners. It has a 1 HP motor and has a 12.5 inch swing. There is also a five speed version with a 3/4 HP motor that costs $450. I would rate the five speed model a better deal because it will actually have more power at lower speeds than the variable speed lathe.
     
  7. John Van Domelen

    John Van Domelen Retired Forum Admin

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    Was thinking the same thing.

    Spend the money up front on a decent lathe (which one is a matter of debate and saying use xyz lathe would start another one of those holy war threads as turners get rather attached to the lathe they use/own <grin>) - that said - any of the 'big name' lathes will serve you well.

    Resale value on them is good as well, say down the road you decide turning is not for you - the Grizzly is a low resale door-stop, whereas the higher end equipment will resell for almost what you bought it for, especially if held for a few years. The list price on the lathe I own has increased in price every year and resale value is high.

    Not totally knocking grizzly - they do some tools very well - my euro-style industrial band saw (purchased on clearance even) has served me well.

    Also of note, I did not take the advice of turners in my local club and online and buy a nice lathe out of the gate - my current is my third and last lathe... had to sell a door stop along the way... :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2011
  8. Dave W

    Dave W

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    William,

    Turning just kind of sucks you in once you start. When asked, I always recommend buying the biggest one can afford. With that said a mini is a good starter lathe, but you will tire of it's limitations quickly. Having a Powermatic would be great, but cost is usually prohibitive for a beginner. I'm thinking something more in the middle would be worth considering...... The Nova 1624-44: http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/2020011/22005/Nova-162444-Wood-Lathe.aspx You don't get the electronic variable speed, but the step pulley system allows for lower start speeds than the typical reeves drive systems. Belt positioning time is very quick with this lathe, max diameter bowl would be around 15 1/2" ( 15 7/8" with bandsaw blank ), 1.5 hp motor. Keep in mind it also goes on sale a couple times a year in the $900.00 range. Choosing a lathe is tough, just don't jump the gun and get something you will regret a year down the road.

    BTW- I have a Jet 1642, not my dream lathe, but it will do for the time being
     
  9. Royce

    Royce

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    My advice would be to NOT get into the turning of bowls for economic reasons but because you want to be involved in and in control of the entire process.

    How many of these bowls you are able to sell in your store per year would be the driving force in the economics. Right now you can buy a bowl, beat it up and paint it, as you say, and resell it (at a fair profit, I assume).

    Here's the way I see it. In order to turn a fair sized bowl (probably not the 17 inch bowl but a bowl, none the less) you will need a medium sized lathe (new or used), several tools (bowl gouge, parting tool, perhaps a scraper, etc.), a sharpening system, at least a chain saw and perhaps a band saw to get your wood into turning blanks (if using wood in log form) or buy bowl blanks (more expense). Finally, if starting with wood in log form it will need to be rough turned, allowed (or forced) to dry and then finished (that takes more time). You need to either wait for your bowls to dry before finishing or buy seasoned blanks.

    Assuming you could get set up to turn bowls for $2000 (I'm not sure what that figure would be but I bet I'm close) you need to calculate how many bowls you would have to sell before you actually make any money.

    I'm not trying to talk you out of turning your own bowls. I think you would enjoy selling your own bowls instead of someone else's. But do it because you want to make the bowls, not to make more money.

    Just my 2 cents worth!

    Royce
     
  10. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    The Nova is a 400mm lathe, as advertised. That's 15 3/4 as I discovered on my first attempt at maximum diameter. If you have a bandsaw, you can be confident at a kerf below. Best buy for the money as rated in FWW back when and even today. Since the lathe does reverse, you don't need to be terribly precise initially, as you can rotate 45 degrees, and with an appropriate locking hold, turn clockwise to get the max over the bed diameter.

    I feel infinitely variable RPM is of little practical use. If you ask others how they use it, they say they try to get the maximum smooth rate of rotation. Why? Isn't the real objective to get the optimum control of the tool and the longest shaving? Pretty much the same as using a well-tuned plane, a continuous shaving is evidence of smooth removal. At the feed rates I am comfortable with, 680 on the Nova is about ideal top end. Good choice.
     
  11. William Merryfield

    William Merryfield

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    NOVA or Delta

    What's the consensus? Nova or Delta for a beginner wanting to spend around 500 bucks and make 15ish inch bowls
     
  12. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Since the Delta has a 12.5" swing, that automatically leaves it out of the competition for turning a 15 inch bowl. The Nova has a 16 inch swing so theoretically it could turn a 15 inch bowl, but not in the real world. Even modest truing up of a nearly round blank is going to put you at 15 inches before you even start to turn the bowl. Since the Nova is way more than $500, you have a bit of a quandary.
     
  13. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Not sure where Bill gets his data, but the Nova will swing 400mm. That's 15 3/4 in imperial. Anyone with a circle-cutting jig can start there. Anyone with dry wood and good cutting tools can smooth the bandsaw line and get 15 1/2 regularly. All of which only covers OVER the bed. The head will rotate, so as to allow 29" with the Teknatool outboard rest, according to the literature. No reason to doubt it that I can see.

    It costs a grand, which is twice your budget before you even begin to acquire the extras. The more yeast you add, in the form of imagination, the more dough (clever, eh?) you'll have in your hobby.
     
  14. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Are we picking at nits today? Bill got his data from an advertisement which is not necessarily the same as specifications. I am well aware of the other things that you mentioned such as the head being able to rotate and within the confines of numerous conditions, it would be possible (but not necessarily fun) to turn a bowl approaching the over-the-bed limit or hang it over the side and go larger. Some of this might just possibly be overwhelming for a rank beginner. Before we begin to push the limits of the envelope, it might take a while to just work on basic bowl turning.
     
  15. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    As it costs no more to get it right, why not? The real world is not some interpretation of the individual's capability, but the machine's. Better to "pick the nits" than patronize, I should think.
     
  16. John Van Domelen

    John Van Domelen Retired Forum Admin

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    Learning basic turning, joining a local club, getting some one on one time with someone willing to teach whose work and style of work you admire that has a good disposition for teaching, all would be a good first step.

    Expecting to turn a large bowl at near the capacity of a lathe not really made to do so is asking for trouble. Using a lathe is not really like using any other shop tool, it is not just pushing wood at a revolving blade, it fact it's the opposite, a large block of wood is spinning round whilst you stick tool steel at it <grin>.

    I know that not any of the first 50 bowls I turned where over 12 inches in diameter, most a good bit smaller than that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  17. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Well if you really careful you can get a bowl close to the swing of the lathe. I've turned 19 1/2" on my 20 " lathe. Most people in my experience can't. By the time they get it mounted, probably off a little, round it out and fight the banjo location the bowl is getting smaller and smaller. In fact most of my big bowls start out with the chainsaw around 20" but by the time I've done what I plan to do and get the shapes the way I like it the size is more like 18- 18 1/2.
    that being said I'm particularly fond of the Nova 16, lathes. They are very good buys for the money.
     

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