The grand (or many grand) question

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by arbud, May 8, 2004.

  1. arbud

    arbud

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2004
    Messages:
    146
    Location:
    Winston, OR
    I have to ask this question: Why is it we wood turners want, nay, need a lathe that costs from $1,500.00 to several thousands of dollars when a $60.00 lathe will spin wood? (Can you tell I want, nay, need a new lathe?) :confused:
     
  2. Chris Wright

    Chris Wright

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    it's a need

    Take it from someone who started with a $80 lathe, then bought (traded for) a $700 lathe and just recently upgraded to a $2500 lathe, it's worth every penny. The added torque, speed control, preciseness, ease of moving parts around (cam-lock vs. nut & bolt) are just a few reasons. Then of course, there are bragging rights to think about too. :D
     
  3. Jake Debski

    Jake Debski

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2004
    Messages:
    745
    Location:
    Cowlesville,Western New York
    Chris is right! ;) ...but unless you have a Oneway or Stubby the bragging rights are on a downward sliding scale these days.
     
  4. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    To me the brand is the least important aspect of a large piece of equipment. I chose a larger lathe for more power, variable control of that power, and a host of other factors. I did a side by side feature comparison with different lathes. The one compelling feature which I really liked on the PM3520a was the sliding headstock. That feature is not on a lot of lathes, and you know what - I use it that feature all the time.

    Right now I'll be buying a new car and in consumer reports they ranked the cars in my price range - and I chose the top 2 which happen to be Honda and Toyota. Doesn't matter to me which brand as long as it has the features. Ditto for chainsaws. And in lathes under $1,500 I couldn't find the features to justify the purchase. Plus I turn a lot of large bowls - which is pretty tough on a smaller lathe, even if you do it outboard.
     
  5. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    Messages:
    2,542
    Location:
    New Jersey
    For me it was a matter of meta-physics. My growth as a turner (skill + goal = irresistible force) was in conflict with my old lathe (JET 1236 = immovable object). Either Something HAD to give or I was gonna get hurt trying to do something my equipment couldn't handle. :(

    Since I'd been turning for a year+ and was comfortable that the Addiction was well-seated, I "realistically" assessed my interests and focus, whilst looking forward to the day when I'll quit my day job, and decided that I was gonna skip the upgrade-upgrade-upgrade $ituation$.

    5 months lather my Stubby 1000 was wired & spinning wood in my basement shop.

    Found out something; I now tend to forget about the machine. I became aware that with the old lathe, I was constantly fussing with one thing or another to keep it running reasonably straight and true and not making me do my Dances-with-Lathes routine ( This is NOT a slam on JET ). There was always a part of my mind that was watching for a problem or "complaint" from the machine to speak to me.

    Now I forget about the machine and concentrate on the wood and the tool. Just that ability has made a significant improvement in my work-product. Knowing that the lathe can handle way more than I'm able to throw at it enables me to explore and push my own limits. Whether I'm working on a 6" hollowform or a 30" bowl makes no difference to the machine.

    It also forces me to be honest. If something doesn't come out the way I wanted, I've got nothing to blame but myself. :D

    Of course, there IS one problem; responding to a question like this without making it sound like a gloat!

    Mark Mandell
     
  6. Steve Worcester

    Steve Worcester Admin Emeritus

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    2,629
    Location:
    Plano, Texas
    Home Page:
    You can make small stuff on a big lathe, but you can't make big stuff on a small lathe.

    That said, the $60 lathe will have poor alignment and be very flimsy, and in the end, it is often difficult to make even pens on a poor quality lathe.
     
  7. Chris Wright

    Chris Wright

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    Too right...

    Mark is dead on. I too have forgotten about the lathe and my work recently has improved because of it. That and I have gotten faster in production mode by not having to worry about extra tools to adjust the tailstock, and such.

    And, as a VERY happy PM3520 owner, I agree with Jeff. I too spent many months looking at every lathe and decided that the sliding headstock was a featured I wanted. Now, I have a tough time dealing without it at demos. The ability to go from a 35" spindle lathe to a 16" short bed hollowing lathe is great, all with the throw of a cam lock lever.
     
  8. Bill Hunt

    Bill Hunt

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2004
    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Waynesboro, MS
    Pm3520

    ;) All of the above plus the fact that the week after mine was delivered on April 27th the price went up $150.00.

    Bill Hunt
     
  9. arbud

    arbud

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2004
    Messages:
    146
    Location:
    Winston, OR
    The moment of truth

    Now I'll tell you what kind of lathe I have. I have a Craftsman (made in Taiwan and imported by Colovos) because it's what I can afford. The lathe is a 15" x 40" w/swivelling headstock, all cam-lock adjusting, and laser-straight.
    A friend, who is a surveyor, checked it w/his laser. We swivelled the head 5 times and, once the cam was locked and the index pin in, it was straight every time.

    It has turned everything I've put on it from pens to 40 lb blocks of cherry and myrtle, when it's running. I say "when it's running" because the headstock was designed by "engineers" that think the more complex you make a machine the better it is--NOT!

    The speed is controled by two split pulleys, from 382 rpm to 2,190 rpm (friend's laser tachometer.) Every month or so the top split pulley binds up so I have to take the machine apart and relube the shaft--about an hour.

    The main drive belt is buried, I do mean buried, in the headstock. It's a 4 hour job to change that belt.

    Yes, I'd love to have a 3520a or a Oneway but until and unless I win the big lotto prize they're not something I'll ever have.

    As Jeff said, one has "X" dollars to buy something then one does one's research and buys the best something "X" dollars will buy.

    The product support I've received from Colovos has been the greatest. When the original headstock went bad after one month they sent me a new one--no charge. The problem was a manufacturer's defect, pieces of the iron casting got into the motor and it locked up and took out the field coils.

    So, folks, one turns on what one can afford and dream of bigger things. :)

    Thanks for responding; hopefully you responses will be of value to others as well as myself. :D
     
  10. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    Sounds like you are pretty happy with your lathe Bud. I've heard the drive belt on the 3520a is not all that fun to change either.

    I wish Powermatic had a 3HP version of the lathe. I often turn big pieces (bigun's). When you're turning a 19" 50lb chunk it's pretty easy to stall. This is especially true when the piece is out of round or still partly octagonal from the chainsaw work. At that point I run it slow for safety and hence the stalls. I keep hoping the motor will fry, but it's pretty stout so it may be sometime until a replacement 3hp motor can be justified.
     
  11. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    Messages:
    2,542
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Horsing It Round

    Jeff,

    Don't be disappointed if a 3hp (real or otherwise) driver does NOT solve your stalling problem. I opted for a 3hp on my Stubby using the same logic. I could have saved the $400.

    Reason? With a belt driven spindle you can put enough force on the workpiece to stall the spindle while the motor will keep going. I have done so to my 3hp lathe while working 15" out from the center on a 30" rough and when coring that same blank. No, the drive (a 3/4" poly-V) was properly set and tensioned.

    2 hp should be quite enough unless you're going to be turning bath tubs.

    Your mileage may, of course, vary :cool2:

    Mark Mandell
     
  12. Mike Schwing

    Mike Schwing

    Joined:
    May 4, 2004
    Messages:
    76
    Location:
    Baltimore
    Home Page:
    What I've found most interesting is that the more money I spend on a lathe the less time I spend interacting with it. By that I mean that the lathe becomes "invisible" to me, it sits there and spins wood as it was designed to.

    I have a PM3520a with 350 pounds of sand added in a ballast box. I no longer spend ANY time wondering if I can turn a particular piece of wood, nor do I have to fiddle with the balance to keep it from shaking. It just will not shake.

    I don't worry about tool rest deflection anymore. I don't worry about tailstock alignment, I don't worry about the variable speed mechanism locking up.

    All of these things become invisible and they allow me to concentrate on the task at hand, turning wood, NOT attending to a machine.
     
  13. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    Messages:
    2,542
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Sandbagging

    Mike, I went that route with my old lathe because, given the space constraints of my shop, I also had to have it movable so the ballast was needed.

    My Stubby, however, with its small footprint, is set, and I therefore bolted it to the concrete floor since even a 800+lb lathe will dance with 120lb unbalanced blank spinning. If you won't need to move your lathe, you can't get more solid than fixing it to the floor and not having to fuss with the ballast. Also frees up space under the lathe for useful storage, tool racks, etc.

    Note that if you're going to bolt it down, you do have to be careful that the legs and bed are dead-nuts even, plumb, and level, which will probably involve some durable shims like metal washers that won't compress like wood. If you're not paying close attention ("gov'ment work" ain't near close enough), you'll wind up torquing the bed which will throw off your Spindle-to-Ram alignment that is so important to smooth operation. :eek:

    Mark
     
  14. -e-

    -e-

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    Messages:
    173
    Location:
    starting today, on the far side of the moon
    Home Page:
    only wanted to buy one lathe in my lifetime

    When i spec'd out my lathe, i determined that i wanted one that i could grow into --- not grow out of.
    I didn't want to spend anytime tweaking the lathe but rather spend my time developing my technique and art form, as others have said.
    This strategy has worked for me, as I’ve not been constrained by my equipment.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2004

Share This Page