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In the market for a new lathe, what are "must haves", and "deal killers" ?

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Keep it simple, please.....:D

Must haves: Sliding headstock, and/or rotating headstock.....(I prefer the latter.)

Deal killers: Blister buttons and/or permanent controls on the headstock.

(There's more, but in the interest of a fast moving thread, I'm keeping it simple.)

-----odie-----
 
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For me, 3 hp, A/C motor. 24” swing at least. I do big wood a lot. I prefer sliding headstock, as turning off the end is desirable. Wide stance or splay on the legs, and weight. Having controls/switches that can be swapped out if needed is a real plus, IMO. Belt driven vs. direct drive also a must for me. That is a real safety thing in my book as a a belt slipping can save a motor from burnout or a major issue in case of a major stall. Let us know what you decide Odie.
 
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Let us know what you decide Odie.

Hi Roger.....

Oh, I go through periods of thinking of another lathe, but always seem to keep what I got. :D

Next year, I'll have had my Woodfast lathe for 30 years....imagine that!

All I'm really hoping to get out of this, is what are the most important features others want in a lathe.....the "must haves", along with what is the real "deal killers" for them......a sort of accumulation of these things in one thread. :)

-----odie-----
 
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Warranty, swing away tailstock, sliding headstock, wide leg splay. I ended up with a Robust AB. I had a Laguna 18-36 before and it was ok. I didn’t like the steel way as they seemed to scratch up. I was leery of the stainless steel ways on the Robust, but must say I liked the stainless steel a lot better than cast iron, with steel being my last choice. I do some bowls, but also like to do hollow forms so a rotating headstock doesn’t interest me.
 
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I think you need to add size and form of turning. The list will be different for spindle only, or able to do big wood as Roger does. What about hollowing? A long bed is better for me for decent size hf’s, but it depends on whether you hollow by hand, articulating, or captive.
 
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Not in the market either but here goes:
1. at least 2 hp
2. swing away tailstock
3. sliding headstock "if" I ever get around to doing any off the end.
4. indexing system and good spindle lock
5. yes has to have a handwheel.
6. ok got to have a speed display.
7. auto release in tailstock
8. movable controls
 
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I think you need to add size and form of turning. The list will be different for spindle only, or able to do big wood as Roger does. What about hollowing? A long bed is better for me for decent size hf’s, but it depends on whether you hollow by hand, articulating, or captive.

Agree completely.... if you go to any of the "intro to buying a lathe" beginner-type articles, one of the first questions is always "what do you want to turn". That will drive a whole lot of the decisions to follow...
 
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odie, your Woodfast lathe would qualify as an antique. Buying a lathe is like buying a car. So many choices! Would you be keeping your WF lathe as a backup or polishing station?
 
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Agree completely.... if you go to any of the "intro to buying a lathe" beginner-type articles, one of the first questions is always "what do you want to turn". That will drive a whole lot of the decisions to follow...

I think I must interject this here: This thread isn't about what everyone else should consider......It's about what YOU must have, and what are "deal killers" for YOU. :D

-----odie-----
 
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Added to my 3520A
Vicmarc outboard turning bracket/toolpost, bought on sale, at almost half of what it is today
Tailstock swinger, a gift
Two 18 inch bed extensions, needed for job, added to bid
10 foot cable for movable control box, added a few weeks ago, wish I had done it sooner.
Bought the lathe in 2003, I reckon I'll keep it.
These are things I've added to help my lathe grow with me. I buy/acquire as needed.
Deal killers.
Not being able to buy off the shelf components to fix/repair.
 
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Started with a Jet 1236 reeves ~25yrs ago. Upgraded to a PM3520B 10-15yrs ago. Added a Comet2 for 5thwheel travel about 5yrs ago.

No plans to change at this point, if money were free I *might* upgrade to a Robust AB, not sure.

Must haves for me:
- 2+HP variable speed with couple belt ranges
- 20+” swing
- Sliding headstock (mostly turn bowls standing off end)
- Footprint that fits my shop
- Beefy construction for stability
- Handwheel
- 1.25/8tpi spindle to fit all my accessories
- Mobility wheels
- Height to fit (I’m 6’3”)

Niceties:
- Moveable controls
- Stainless ways (for green turning)
- RPM indicator (like a lot, maybe a ‘must’?)
- Swingaway tail stock (although I have PM set up so it’s not a big deal, I remove/replace it several times per day of turning)
- Clinch style banjo
- Better clearance around headstock than my B has
- Custom cabinet w/ outlets etc (that I have now :)
 
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Personal preference- I like cast iron machinery. Massive, dense, vibration killing. Production is intensive compared to small production welded steel machinery. When I bought my Vicmarc VL300 in 2001, I shopped it against every lathe I found at the '01 AAW convention, and in the terms of massiveness, it outshined every other machine in the building. The proof was in my tape measure and caliper.

[Edit- I'd like to defend the stationary motor control concept. I get the appeal of a movable motor control box, but... my lathe is just a few inches off the wall. My motor control box is actually mounted to the wall at a height about half way between elbow and shoulder, about a foot to the right of the lathe. This has the controls always in a safe zone, always in the same position, and after years of this orientation I don't even half to look for the speed knob, muscle memory knows just where to find it. This is a short bed, fixed-head lathe, this may not be the best solution for a longer machine or for movable headstocks, but the concept is worth consideration. I never have to think about where the controls are placed in operation.]

Deal killers- proprietary electronic packages. Non-standard, non-serviceable headstock bearings. Pretty much any "consumable" on the machine that is proprietary and subject to obsolescence. Without any personal experience, Nova lathes come to mind.

My Vicmarc VL200 (and former VL300) are powered by DC motors that have been, and will be, available forever, and controlled by a widely available, standardized AC input/DC output motor controller. (Leeson DC motor and Minarik drives on both lathes. Dead reliable, powerful, and long lasting. And if they break I have a replacement in hand quickly.) The headstock bearing, easily serviceable without special tooling, are tapered roller bearings available at your local bearing shop.
 
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Dave Landers

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Must Haves:
+ stability and weight
+ 2hp or more
+ 20" or more
+ sliding headstock, tailstock swing-away
+ relocatable controls (or ability to modify)
+ reasonable low speed (50 rpm or less)
+ standard sizes for things (spindle, tapers, tool rest posts, etc)

Deal Killers:
- Fancy gadgetry (probably) - things like push-button speed controls
- Headstock that tries to both rotate and slide
- poor manufacturer reputation

Don't Care:
~ color (seriously, I know a guy who claims to care that his shop is color coordinated with his Vic lathes)
 
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Pro - Record Power Coronet Envoy (has all my wants/needs and more)

Con - Harvey Turbo T-40 (Answer your damn phone if you wanna sell something!!)

E04077AF-E8BC-4204-9594-3943F62FBE03.jpeg
 

hockenbery

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One feature I really like is having dual controls.
I have the master set (speed control, reverse) on a pendant at eye level, it swings from head stock to tailstock and pivots.
The second switch is on a magnetic base. I position this on the opposite side of the work from the primary switch.

Nice to have an off or on button with out having to reach across the work.
I move from headstock side to tailstock side often when when turning.

i would want a short bed outboard ***. to me this beats moving headstocks ***
To me the ONEWAY 2416 with a 17” outboard and a swinger comes real close to being a perfect lathe for bowls and hollow for up to about 12” tall. You can hollow off either end.

if you had to turn something long you can use the 17” outboard bed as a bed extension to make a long bed.
Not something you want to do often but you do have that inconvenient flexibility.

todays market has such a rich assortment of quality lathes.
All will perform well for well over a lifetime.
oneway, Robust, vicmarc, stubby, Jet, powermatic, Nova Dvr, Vb3 - all lathes I have turned on quite a few times. Each have many satisfied and a devoted fans because those machines work well for their owners.
 
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I generally agree with most of what has already been outlined but I would like to add a couple of deal-breaker items that were/are important to me...I want a good warranty and I want an expert on my particular lathe on the phone when I call about a problem (not a call center). You get Brent English on the phone when you call Robust plus a 7 year lathe warranty and that was a couple of the buyer tipping points when I was shopping for my last lathe.
 
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For a medium size lathe, the Jet 18 inch lathe seems to be pretty good. The older Jet lathes had a rather narrow leg splay. Not sure about the Laguna lathes. I had a 3520A for 10 years and consider it to be a good lathe. I think the C model now has minimum speed very low, in the 15rpm range or so, which I like for power sanding my warped bowls. The Robust AB is a very good lathe, and probably has the best tilt away system out there for a tailstock, adjustable leg height, and wide leg splay. The turn off speed used to be 15 rpm. I have one of the early ones, and it has 3 speed ranges. I prefer that over the 2 speed range. With low end speed, it is fine for coring, but not fast enough for some of the smaller bowls I turn. High speed range tends to bog down when coring. Oneway is a good lathe, but I don't like long bed bowl turning. I believe the big one has 3 speed pulley set up, but not positive My lathe has always sat in a corner, and the outboard turning wasn't an option. It is now, but still won't go there. It does have a nice wide leg stance, and adjustable leg height. I really like my Vicmark 240. Adjustable leg height and plenty of leg splay, and adjustable leg height. Best pivoting headstock lathe out there. Very heavy. Has a pivot away tailstock system that registers on a bar so it lines up perfectly every time. Very low minimum rpm, 15 or less. Has 3 speed pulley range. As far as cast iron compared to steel ways and body, only real difference I have noticed is that they make different noises when turning.

robo hippy
 
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I remember my upgrade...yes much better bells & whistle...but it all really comes down to u only have one spindle before & after
 
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My really most important thing is that it is cast iron and that goes for the tool rests too. Company reputation counts too. Edit:
I've spent almost half my life using cast iron machinery. Mostly working on Vertical Boring Mills. The smallest had a 12 inch table and the largest had a 14 foot table. I've never turned on an AB (by choice) but have turned on a few Oneways and the steel lathe makes me feel like my body is singing, no other way to describe it. If I have a choice I'll always choose the cast iron lathe. And again you like what you like.
 
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My really most important thing is that it is cast iron and that goes for the tool rests too. Company reputation counts too.

Just curious as to why cast iron only. I have had cast iron, steel, and stainless steel. For me stainless steel is the best. I have used cast iron tool rest, but never want to use one again. They just ding up. I use Robust rest and to me are far superior. I know some will say vibration is absorbed better with cast iron and that is true, but OMO that is negable compared to other setup sources for vibration. I guess for me I never want to go back to cast iron.
 
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I didn't think a swing away tail stock was a big deal until I had one. I didn't think a sliding headstock was a big deal until I had one. I didn't think a magnetic control box that I could locate wherever I wanted was a big deal until I had one. I didn't think stainless steel ways were a big deal until I had them. All of those things and more is what makes an AB the perfect lathe for my uses.
 
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Keep it simple, please.....:D

Must haves: Sliding headstock, and/or rotating headstock.....(I prefer the latter.)

Deal killers: Blister buttons and/or permanent controls on the headstock.

(There's more, but in the interest of a fast moving thread, I'm keeping it simple.)

-----odie-----

Well I have Wants and Want Nots, but lathes are a compromise, so it's all relative.

Wants: rotating headstock; dial adjustable speed; some kind of speed indicator; minimum speed less than 200 rpm; tailstock swing away or other parking; 1 1/4" x 8 tpi spindle; movable control panel or controls at the tail end.

Want Nots: blister buttons (although adhesive "bump stops" are a viable work around); self ejecting tailstock.
 
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I've had my 3520 for a year now and have really liked the weight and the sliding head. If I could change one thing it would be to get a stainless bed; I've been turning a walnut tree that I took down and it's a pain having to do such a thorough clean up after each turning session. A second set of controls would be nice so that I could stop the lathe from either end. Turn the dial down to minimum (~20rpm) rather than to zero. A swing-away that's not a pain to use.
 
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I've had my 3520 for a year now and have really liked the weight and the sliding head. If I could change one thing it would be to get a stainless bed; I've been turning a walnut tree that I took down and it's a pain having to do such a thorough clean up after each turning session. A second set of controls would be nice so that I could stop the lathe from either end. Turn the dial down to minimum (~20rpm) rather than to zero. A swing-away that's not a pain to use.

Karl.....somewhere on the forums, I recall someone mentioning they made a special cart that rolled up to the end of the lathe. This allowed for a removal of the tailstock, and roll it completely out of the way. I thought that was a pretty smart solution to the hassle of getting rid of the tailstock.

-----odie-----
 
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Hi Odie........a rotating headstock was a must for me. I rotate the headstock to the first notch which allows me more room to turn. I have a Jet 1640......it also allows me to easily remove the tailstock.
 
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A411E8BE-86B1-4457-9654-557C29F18506.jpeg
Have this with 36x48 top. Weighs 485# with 1500# capacity. Flat height is 9” and can rise to 45”. Currently it is the base for my mini lathe. Lots of uses.

1BAB14F5-8CCF-4BD8-B1C2-98D99A82B4D4.jpeg
 
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Hi Odie........a rotating headstock was a must for me. I rotate the headstock to the first notch which allows me more room to turn. I have a Jet 1640......it also allows me to easily remove the tailstock.

Hello Lamar..... :D

I've never used a rotating headstock, but if I ever decide to replace the Woodfast lathe, that would be a "must have" for me. The rotating headstock seems so much less hassle-free than a sliding headstock. :(

-----odie-----
 
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Agree completely.... if you go to any of the "intro to buying a lathe" beginner-type articles, one of the first questions is always "what do you want to turn". That will drive a whole lot of the decisions to follow...

True, but when you start turning often "what do you want to turn?" is influenced by what most others are already doing --- such as bowls, hollow forms, pens. Once you start turning, you may discover entirely different things interest you. I did. I made many many bowls, hollow forms, boxes, and plates for the first few years. I really haven't made any of those things for some years now, yet I'm turning at least as much as ever. I've found what interests me. I now have a lathe whose size will allow me to do whatever I want, yet the biggest piece of wood I've put on it for months is 1x1x16. Simply doing what interests me. Previously I did much larger things on this lathe, such as multiaxis pieces at least 16" in diameter and up to 4" thick.

One problem is tunnel vision -- there is so much that can be done on a lathe but few people try. For example, on one forum a guy said he was losing interest in turning since no one was interested in more bowls. There is so much else which can be done. Much of what I do is either multiaxis or things inspired by long-lived regional turning traditions. An odd combination, perhaps, but that's where my interests have led.

A too narrowly focused choice based on CURRENT "what do I want to turn" may lead to frustration once you figure out what you really want to turn.
 
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I have had 4 different sliding headstocks. The only problem I ever had with one, was on my 3520A. It had a cast iron small round plate for the pressure plate. It snapped when coring some black locust. When I called PM about it, they said I could 'buy' the updated version, which was machined metal plate. I told them that they upgraded it because the cast iron ones failed, so send the replacement free. They did. If the pressure plates are the same ones that are on the banjo, that is a huge deal breaker for me. That plate just isn't big enough to take the abuse and extra weight of the motor and spinning blanks. My AB has one that is the same dimension as the headstock base. To me, that is perfect sizing. I have found the headstocks easy to move. Only problem is that the headstock is not statically balanced, so it tips a bit back and to the away side of the lathe. This was never an issue with me, but I am on the Brute Squad, for those who are Princess Bride fans.... Some times, you can get minor wood chip build up under the headstock base. Easy clean off, just release the lever, tilt the headstock back and use one of the painter multi tools to scrape off the bottom front, then repeat the process for the back. Same needs to be done to the tailstock from time to time.

I have heard, from some, that the steel beds flex more than cast iron. I have not noticed that at all. As I have said before, the only real difference I noticed between the cast iron beds and the steel bed and bodies are that they make different noises when turning. The ways on my old PM were a nice black patina when I sold it. I turn a lot of wet wood, well, almost all wet wood, and it would have been impossible to have kept the ways shiny. I would occasionally use some glide coat on the ways to keep them slick. There was no pitting in it at all.

robo hippy
 
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Lamar, odie, I've had a rotating headstock and now a sliding one on the 3520. The previous lathe was not in the same quality ballpark as the 3520 but comparing rotating vs sliding headstock is valid between the two. I *much* prefer the sliding headstock. My 3520 headstock sits near the middle of the bed 99% of the time allowing me to turn bowls with easy tailstock support/removal and getting to turn off the end instead of fussing over the ways. A rotating headstock doesn't allow tailstock support while rotated, a deal breaker for me regardless how sturdy it may be made.
 
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Lamar, odie, I've had a rotating headstock and now a sliding one on the 3520. The previous lathe was not in the same quality ballpark as the 3520 but comparing rotating vs sliding headstock is valid between the two. I *much* prefer the sliding headstock. My 3520 headstock sits near the middle of the bed 99% of the time allowing me to turn bowls with easy tailstock support/removal and getting to turn off the end instead of fussing over the ways. A rotating headstock doesn't allow tailstock support while rotated, a deal breaker for me regardless how sturdy it may be made.

Do you stand behind the tailstock and partially hollow a bowl? Trying to understand your reasoning for not liking a rotating headstock.
 
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Doug,
I make mostly small bowls and platters (5"-12+" range). My process is to friction mount the initial blank (either dried green first turning, or glued up pieced block). This requires using the tailstock while I shape the outside of the bowl and put a tenon on it. Next I mount the bowl/platter in the chuck. Sometimes on larger bowls or platters I use the tailstock for initial stability (along with flat blank on platters) until I get to inside. Then the tailstock is removed (most turnings are ~candy bowls (5-7") that I don't stablize with the tailstock. I have a mount about 3ft from the end of the lathe at the same height so moving tailstock on/off isn't a big deal. After completing the bowl/platter and sanding I use Oneway mega-jaws to reverse hold the bowl/platter (or similar custom jig for larger turnings). At this point I've learned to nearly always use the tailstock again for support, pretty easy to launce a bowl out of the rubber buttons if you take too deep of cut (don't ask, took several times over a few years to learn this :). After the bottom is finished I pull the tailstock off and sand it. Bottom line, I put my tailstock on/off a couple times per bowl and always use it during the initial friction drive to create a tenon and again for friction drives of natural edge bowls (like I just came in from doing :)

I haven't used a face plate in years. I've roughed green, and cored up to ~15" logs using a tenon and Oneway #3 jaws, after turning a tenon between centers. In general I try to use the tailstock for friction driving, and for support on anything large or delicate (cole jaws) as long as it doesn't get in the way. I typically stand about 45deg off the end of the lathe but move around from parallel to the ways to directly off the end (or past) depending on how I'm cutting.

The sliding headstock gives me a short-bed lathe I wouldn't be without.
 
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FYI - here is today's fun (actually the larger walnut bowl was yesterday) with Watco drying in finish room. Largest is 10", smallest 5.5"
bowls.jpg
 
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Ron - I guess I’m surprised that you are negative on pivoting HS. All the steps you do can be done with a pivoting HS, without removing the TS, and have TS support when you use it now (provided the lathe has enough swing for the megajaws). The advantage is no TS removal/reassembly, and complete access to the bowl ID with your body in front of the bowl when hollowing. The work can pivot out 90 or 180 deg, completely off the bed, for sanding/finishing. Mine sure saves my back from leaning or lifting and no worries about getting finish on the ways.
 
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Doug - maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not aware of a 500lb+ lathe with 20in swing over the ways and a pivoting headstock that’s solid and exact. If there is such an animal I might consider but it would have to beat out my current 3520, or the Robust AB (if I were to start from scratch). With a sliding headstock I get to hollow directly in front of the bowl, and swinging tail stock on/off is pretty trivial with my setup. Different strokes...

On edit, I have no experience with Vicmarc which I think would meet those requirements but still think I’d take an AB first
 
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From a intermediate level hobby turner in the peanut gallery just watching what some of you fine turners do:

Must have's:
  1. A fine piece of machinery that works for me, not against me, and that I don't have to baby. And one that I will be proud to leave to a son-in-law and grandson who may turn out to be turners.
  2. Sliding headstock ... cause I'm hooked on doing the inside of bowls unencumbered, am not used to a rotating headstock and it wouldn't work for my shop setup ... and I don't want to change where I put my lathe.
  3. Capacity and power to turn over 20" bowls ... just in case I get a wild hair. Oops, already got one ... thus my post on going bigger.
  4. Variable speed. Seems to me the electronics are the weak link on these machines as far as reliability goes, but I'm hooked.
Turn off's (Deal Killers):
  1. A crappy banjo that squeaks and even digs into the ways when I try to move it. I manage this with lubrication but it's bad material selection and won't live with it again.
  2. A VFD that is not designed for use in a dusty, outdoor shop in a humid climate ... 'cause that's what I've got.
Nice to have's:
  1. 'Merican made ... 'cause that window is closing fast and I still like American made stuff best.
  2. Mobile within reason ... just in case I move off the homestead I don't want to have to hire a crane.
Full disclosure: I've already pulled the trigger and my Robust AB is on order. Good Lord willin' and the pandemic don't rise it should be here for my 67th. Happy Birthday me. The 3520B I've had for 10 years is on the way out.
Disclaimer: Turning is not my life. I do it for kicks and to impress the women folk in my life ... wife, daughters, grand daughters and all their friends ... the old ladies at church. And, sometimes, I think I do it just because I like the toys ... I mean tools ... well made ones. If pressed I would have to admit that I made the plunge and upgraded just because I wanted to and I'm blessed to be able to.
 
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