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

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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


I'd have to concur that the VL240 is the only current lathe, to my knowledge that is on par with the Robust AB, or the Powermatic 3520C. I am hesitant to pull the trigger on the VL240, because it has some things I'd have to overlook, in order to buy it.

There are other lathes entering the market that do have pivoting headstocks, and they are just now getting some scrutiny from turners. That Coronet Regent looks pretty good to me.....but, still have to see how it works out with other turners for me to make any decisions. In the mean time, my 29 year old Woodfast lathe will do EVERYTHING I need it to do. (In recent times, all the parts that wear out have been replaced......motor, VFD, belt, headstock bearings......all replaced. The castings and base will last for the next 100 years! :D )

-----odie-----

View: https://youtu.be/8I4LRClVHSM
 
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From what I can see, the width between the bedways on the Regent lathe looks fairly narrow. I surmise the reason for this, is the width of the rotating center pin of the headstock is that width. Since it's both a sliding and pivoting headstock, I'm wondering just how the alignment of the spindle to the tailstock is assured.....? There certainly must be some amount of play between the center pin and the bedways, so that it can slide.....and, the same would have to be true for the tailstock to slide.

Probably no wood lathe has absolute perfect alignment of spindle to tailstock, but it has to be pretty darned close.....:D

-----odie-----
 
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With my Nova rotating head if I want absolute accuracy I use an alignment tool when I lock it back straight, has a taper on both ends that goes into the tailstock and headstock spindle.

Well.....duh! :D

Are the alignment tools commercially available?

It would seem, offhand, that the alignment could only be adjusted on the horizontal plane, but you get what you get on the vertical plane.......

-----odie-----
 
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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-----

I have never had a rotating headstock, so I can’t “really” judge. It is not appealing to me as I also like to do hollow forms and a rotating headstock won’t work for that and never gave them a look. I guess they are directed to bowl turners. I will say moving the headstock to the end of the lathe is not a big deal and the Robust tailstock swing away is one of the best. This is why we have lathe configuration options as we don’t turn the same thing. What is a want for some is a don’t want for others.
 
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Mine sure saves my back from leaning or lifting and no worries about getting finish on the ways.
Doug.....it sure is easier on the back indeed. I had back surgery in 07 so my back can't take much bending over the bedways for long periods at a time and like you mentioned.........I can hollow out a bowl much easier! :D
 
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Well.....duh! :D

Are the alignment tools commercially available?

It would seem, offhand, that the alignment could only be adjusted on the horizontal plane, but you get what you get on the vertical plane.......

-----odie-----

I got mine on Amazon
New 2MT - 2MT - Lathe Alignment Test Bar for Nova Lathes MT2 - MT2
by Chrome Engineering
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07R65DXQB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_ZP310BMJ6TCMFGEX9QWR?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Obviously the vertical alignment should be checked like usual with centers unless you have a really unusual lathe!
 
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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

I agree, a Vicmark may be the only one with 20”+ swing. Your original post didnt state 20” swing, only that you didn't like rotating HS. I can say the rotating HS on the Nova Galaxi 16x44 is solid and exact, and with the outrigger makes for quick and easy ability to stand in front of the work, for those in the market for a “medium” lathe.

The rotating HS was an absolute must have when I listed my requirements for a new lathe. A robust design outrigger that did not add permanent length (extensions are permanent in this perspective) was another. The other items in my list were fairly standard items from many mfrs - 16” swing minimum, strong stand/leg structure (weight can always be added or lathe bolted down), EVS, 1-1/4x8 spindle, mt2 tapers.
 
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Doug.....it sure is easier on the back indeed. I had back surgery in 07 so my back can't take much bending over the bedways for long periods at a time and like you mentioned.........I can hollow out a bowl much easier! :D

Agreed! I have had 4 back surgeries, from my misspent youth playing football and ultra-heavy weightlifting.
 
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I got mine on Amazon
New 2MT - 2MT - Lathe Alignment Test Bar for Nova Lathes MT2 - MT2
by Chrome Engineering
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07R65DXQB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_ZP310BMJ6TCMFGEX9QWR?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Obviously the vertical alignment should be checked like usual with centers unless you have a really unusual lathe!

Probably won't be anytime soon, but if I end up getting another lathe with a rotating headstock, I'll be sure to get me one of those alignment tools. :D

As for my Woodfast lathe, the headstock is fixed......but, when I use my tailstock, I take up the play in a clockwise direction (looking from the top) before locking it in place. It's probably only a few thousands off, and wouldn't make much difference anyway, but you know, perfect is perfect! ;)

-----odie-----
 
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Probably won't be anytime soon, but if I end up getting another lathe with a rotating headstock, I'll be sure to get me one of those alignment tools. :D

As for my Woodfast lathe, the headstock is fixed......but, when I use my tailstock, I take up the play in a clockwise direction (looking from the top) before locking it in place. It's probably only a few thousands off, and wouldn't make much difference anyway, but you know, perfect is perfect! ;)

-----odie-----


@odie , I bought one of the alignment tools, but have only used it twice. As Doug said, the Nova headstock drops into a detent and is aligned. Just as you have with your Woodfast, I have discovered that there is a tiny bit of play with the tailstock remedied with a bit of clockwise twist when clamping down. In the reality of use this tiny bit of misalignment is probably insignificant.

As to the Coronet models or the Vicmarc, I don't know how these were engineered, but I would be surprised if either company did a shoddy job. Certainly you'd want to lay hands on them as well as the Galaxy, if you were in the market, which you're not.
 
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The Vicmark 240 looks to have about 9 7/8 inch from bed to center, so just under 20 inch max diameter. I am guessing it is a metric measure. It weighs well over 500 pounds, but I don't know exactly. As far as sliding headstock vs pivoting headstock, to me it is about what you get used to. The early pivoting headstocks were terrible. The Vic did it right. I pretty much keep it at 30 degrees, but I have to to try a pasta rolling pin, which is as long as 36 inches and about 1 1/2 inch diameter.... I have been watching Pasta Grannies on You Tube......

robo hippy
 
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I have never had a rotating headstock, so I can’t “really” judge. It is not appealing to me as I also like to do hollow forms and a rotating headstock won’t work for that and never gave them a look. I guess they are directed to bowl turners. I will say moving the headstock to the end of the lathe is not a big deal and the Robust tailstock swing away is one of the best. This is why we have lathe configuration options as we don’t turn the same thing. What is a want for some is a don’t want for others.

To the contrary a rotating HS works for hollowing just fine. I’ve done a few pieces that started with ~15”x 20” logs (16” swing). All OD work done between centers, some hollowing done by hand held with the piece swung out ~20 deg, then finished inline with the bed with a captive tool (no steady rest used).

As for alignment, I just use centers with points to check it. IMO the dedicated alignment tool is not needed. There is a little slop, but with the HS preloaded one way and TS preloaded a direction, alignment is good. Vertical alignment has never been an issue.

Seems there are a lot of uninformed opinions about rotating headstocks - they will do everything a fixed or sliding head will do, with the convenience of getting the lathe bed completely out of the way. No doubt there are limitations as the swing increases, but up to 16” all is fine, and I’m sure Nova’s Orion 18” is just fine. As the swing goes up I suspect a different design is needed - the 10” clamp plate for the Vic as an example.

One thing not discussed herein, and maybe it doesnt belong, is the concept of value. People compare a $2k lathe to an $8k+ lathe without regard to a 4x cost difference. I also have a different mindset than many. There’s the old cliche “buy once cry once”. I’m the opposite. If I overpay for something I cry every time I think about. Would I like to have an AB with every possible accessory in my shop - you bet, if I could get it for $0.30 on the $ or something. So far its not been possible for me to justify one based on what I turn now or want to do in the future, at this time.
 
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To the contrary a rotating HS works for hollowing just fine. I’ve done a few pieces that started with ~15”x 20” logs (16” swing). All OD work done between centers, some hollowing done by hand held with the piece swung out ~20 deg, then finished inline with the bed with a captive tool (no steady rest used).

As for alignment, I just use centers with points to check it. IMO the dedicated alignment tool is not needed. There is a little slop, but with the HS preloaded one way and TS preloaded a direction, alignment is good. Vertical alignment has never been an issue.

Seems there are a lot of uninformed opinions about rotating headstocks - they will do everything a fixed or sliding head will do, with the convenience of getting the lathe bed completely out of the way. No doubt there are limitations as the swing increases, but up to 16” all is fine, and I’m sure Nova’s Orion 18” is just fine. As the swing goes up I suspect a different design is needed - the 10” clamp plate for the Vic as an example.

One thing not discussed herein, and maybe it doesnt belong, is the concept of value. People compare a $2k lathe to an $8k+ lathe without regard to a 4x cost difference. I also have a different mindset than many. There’s the old cliche “buy once cry once”. I’m the opposite. If I overpay for something I cry every time I think about. Would I like to have an AB with every possible accessory in my shop - you bet, if I could get it for $0.30 on the $ or something. So far its not been possible for me to justify one based on what I turn now or want to do in the future, at this time.

Doug, The reason I don’t have an interest in a rotating headstock is the fact the clamping and returning to alignment can (it may not) be problematic. If I can slide the headstock and basically don’t affect alignment I just don’t see that much advantage. If all I wanted to do is turn bowls, then maybe it would appeal to me. I agree that you can’t expect a $2K lathe to be just as good as a $8K lathe. My previous lathe was a Laguna 18-36. I could turn 32” outboard with their accessory. It turned everything I wanted, but had to replace a couple of switches. No problems with Laguna CS, they responded very well. However here is where we differ. I didn’t “cry” when I bought my Robust AB. And I smile every time I use it. I have had it 18 months and zero problems. Everything is high quality and should last a very long time. Worth every penny IMO. I’m 73 and even though the Laguna tailstock wasn’t that heavy, it was still a pain to remove and re-install it. I think the Robust tailstock swing away is one of the best. I just enjoy turning on a larger lathe and the Robust hasn’t disappointed me. .
 
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Doug, The reason I don’t have an interest in a rotating headstock is the fact the clamping and returning to alignment can (it may not) be problematic. If I can slide the headstock and basically don’t affect alignment I just don’t see that much advantage. If all I wanted to do is turn bowls, then maybe it would appeal to me. I agree that you can’t expect a $2K lathe to be just as good as a $8K lathe. My previous lathe was a Laguna 18-36. I could turn 32” outboard with their accessory. It turned everything I wanted, but had to replace a couple of switches. No problems with Laguna CS, they responded very well. However here is where we differ. I didn’t “cry” when I bought my Robust AB. And I smile every time I use it. I have had it 18 months and zero problems. Everything is high quality and should last a very long time. Worth every penny IMO. I’m 73 and even though the Laguna tailstock wasn’t that heavy, it was still a pain to remove and re-install it. I think the Robust tailstock swing away is one of the best. I just enjoy turning on a larger lathe and the Robust hasn’t disappointed me. .

I’m not trying to change your mind, William. You’re happy with where you are at and that’s great. My commentary is directed at others that are looking for a new lathe that are or may in the future read through this thread, and to provide them input from an owner of a rotating headstock lathe of what they are capable of. BTW readers, the Galaxy is capable of up to 29” outboard with the outrigger, and no switches or other parts have needed replacement.
 
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This is a simple Lathe and Mill/Drill laser that you can use to align your headstock to your tailstock in very little time. The (3) screws on the outer perimeter can adjust the laser point onto your center point of your live center,. If you lock the tailstock down before rotating or moving your headstock it is simple to re-align your lathe when you bring the headstock back over the ways, you can adjust the headstock until the laser hits the point on your tailstock center then lock the headstock back down.




Mill Drill Laser Tool.jpg
 
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I’m not trying to change your mind, William. You’re happy with where you are at and that’s great. My commentary is directed at others that are looking for a new lathe that are or may in the future read through this thread, and to provide them input from an owner of a rotating headstock lathe of what they are capable of. BTW readers, the Galaxy is capable of up to 29” outboard with the outrigger, ad no switches or other parts have needed replacement.
And my Nova DVR 2024 is capable of 32” outboard, scary thought!
 
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I think one issue to be considered is the headstock design. If you have seen Stuart Batty demo, he always comments about sliding headstocks having vibration issues. This is echoed by Mike Mahoney, and others. One thing I prefer about the Vicmark headstock design is that the chuck mounts over 2 inches closer to the headstock than my AB. The first 3520As had a similar set up where the headstock spindle was pretty much flush with the headstock tower. Then came a number of 'improvements', mostly about making it easier to access the outside of the bowl once it is reversed. These improvements were either a bell housing like on the Oneway or Robust lathes, or in other cases like the newer PM lathes and the Laguna, were an extension away from the headstock. Can't remember, but it seemed to me that the early Laguna lathes extended out several inches, where others only extended out 2 to 2 1/2 inches. The farther a piece is mounted off the headstock tower, or perhaps cantilevered is more proper, the more vibration issues there are. Think about hollow forms, the deeper they are, the more vibration issues there are, except when the tailstock is engaged. These vibration issues are gone when the tailstock is engaged.

The Vicmark returns to dead center spot on alignment when you set the pin. The pin is a very snug fit.

robo hippy
 
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I think one issue to be considered is the headstock design. If you have seen Stuart Batty demo, he always comments about sliding headstocks having vibration issues. This is echoed by Mike Mahoney, and others. One thing I prefer about the Vicmark headstock design is that the chuck mounts over 2 inches closer to the headstock than my AB.

robo hippy

I believe this to be a very valid point, robo.....:D

Many of the current lathes have that "cone extension", and by allowing more access, it does create another problem, by extending the mounting point further away from the headstock......as in the PM 3520C here:
PM 3520C.jpg

Isn't the real issue here, the distance between the bearings and the mounting point of the chuck, instead of the distance between the headstock itself and the mounting point of the chuck? (I'm assuming that black housing in front of the AB headstock houses the forward bearings. This may also apply to the PM 3520C.) In that case, the VL140 might not have much advantage over the Robust AB. Both of these lathes are specifically designed to allow access to the bowl exterior, when it faces the headstock. The Vicmarc has a very tapered headstock itself, while the AB headstock has free space directly underneath the spindle. This also allows unencumbered access for lathe tools.

robust AB.jpg vl240.jpg

What I've heard said about sliding headstock lathes, is the vibration issues are mostly when the headstock is not directly over the ends of the base, or legs.....like in the photograph of the AB above. With the sliding headstock, I don't see how you can turn the inside of a bowl any other way than in the photo above, otherwise you wouldn't have space for the banjo or the bowl itself. (Possibly with a bed extension, that problem could be alleviated, or minimized.) I cannot verify any of that myself, because I've never turned on anything but a fixed headstock lathe......(Well, except for the Shopsmith I turned on in the very beginning.....but back then, I didn't know what the hell I was doing anyway! :D)

There may be another specific advantage to the VL240, in that it's a "dedicated" swivel head lathe. Any disadvantages associated with the sliding headstock lathes would not apply.....I can only speculate about that, though. :rolleyes:

-----odie-----
 
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You know most of these conversations are just elitist conversations. I can point out people using Harbor freight lathes doing fantastic work and I can point out folks with Vicmarc, ABs and Powermatics who's work is barely above basic if that. No lathe, no tool and no gimmick is going to make you a better turner. Like Emiliano said it is not the arrow it is the Indian! The knowledge is out there, learn it and practice, practice, practice and you can use any lathe or tools to approach the work of those that have put the time in to get there.
 
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Given how well engineered the beds are on the steel lathes, I doubt that the bed is flexing, and that is more due to the extending of the headstock tower. On the thread above about the 40/40 grind vs the swept back grind, I noticed that Tim Yoder now has a Stubby. That is a lathe that may need to be investigated....

robo hippy
 
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I did send Tim an e-mail and he told me the story. Might get to go to the Symposium in Omaha as I have family just down the river in St. Joe, MO, where the Pony Express began, and Jesse James ended....

robo hippy
 
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Odie, When I turn bowls on my Robust I use the sliding headstock. The photo doesn’t show the headstock position for turning bowls. For bowls 12-13” when I turn it around I don’t use the tailstock. When I do use the tailstock, it is just usually for the first couple of inches. Here is a picture showing a more accurate headstock location for the 12-13” bowls I turn.
AC857C85-E01D-43E2-B974-812730C49E8D_1_201_a.jpeg

We all “speculate” about vibration including my self. I have always speculated that proper setup is a must. Every rotating part can and will contribute to vibration. We depend on the bearing and component manufactures to make those parts so the vibration will be minimal or negatable. Our part is then to setup the lathe the best possible. Another speculation on my part is that the cone design actually absorbs the force better than a straight line. Think of a bridge design where the supports are angled to spread the load. When I had my Laguna I took great care setting its up. I had a 14” blank that was just turned around to do the inside on the lathe. At 640 rpm that is the max safe speed for that size I was able to balance a nickel on the headstock without tailstock support. This is not speculation, but actual results. I had 280# additional between the legs on that lathe.
8C0961D3-3425-4FFF-9863-658D1329ABC5_1_201_a.jpeg
 
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Odie, When I turn bowls on my Robust I use the sliding headstock. The photo doesn’t show the headstock position for turning bowls. For bowls 12-13” when I turn it around I don’t use the tailstock. When I do use the tailstock, it is just usually for the first couple of inches. Here is a picture showing a more accurate headstock location for the 12-13” bowls I turn.
View attachment 37462

We all “speculate” about vibration including my self. I have always speculated that proper setup is a must. Every rotating part can and will contribute to vibration. We depend on the bearing and component manufactures to make those parts so the vibration will be minimal or negatable. Our part is then to setup the lathe the best possible. Another speculation on my part is that the cone design actually absorbs the force better than a straight line. Think of a bridge design where the supports are angled to spread the load. When I had my Laguna I took great care setting its up. I had a 14” blank that was just turned around to do the inside on the lathe. At 640 rpm that is the max safe speed for that size I was able to balance a nickel on the headstock without tailstock support. This is not speculation, but actual results. I had 280# additional between the legs on that lathe.
View attachment 37463


You know, William.......I believe every word of what you have to say here.....and, I also believe your analysis of turning concepts are different than mine. We are a diverse community, and each individual may evaluate their circumstances and conditions in different ways. That's the beauty of diversity in a group where "herd mentality" does seem to have a major part in it's movement. o_O Of course, I've expressed this many times before, and am aware of the vehement disagreement with my analysis. :D

-----odie-----
 
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my "must haves" are:
VFD with generic cast iron 3 stage 220v motor (2hp), so $100 or $200 can fix any power problem. combined with min 3 step belt drive
16" over center,
39" center to center for my main output of Native American flutes
motor extending to left, not right and spindle extending to right of main tower- allows putting spur in crotch wood and putting chuck inside bowl for 2nd turn of twice turned bowls.
rotating headstock
tailstock should not be overly sloped to right as to limit full sized turning with live center engaged. It seems many of the 16" lathes do this to geve longer center to center with shorter beds. makes use of a live center extension necessary for some full diameter out of plane blank, I guess this is a deal breaker.
I brought my current lathe home in my car, so breaking down to under 100lb parts was a plus.
my current lathe is a Nova 1624-44 with the 20" bed extension. Converted to 220v 3ph 2hp motor controlled with 3hp VFD. Works great for my needs and since lathe was used total including VFD conversion is $850. Your mileage may vary.
 

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So many lathe discussions start "what do you want to turn?". Well, my experience over the last 30-some years has been "everything, and anything". I don't think I'm that atypical. I know a few people who only turn pens or only turn bowls, but they are few and far between, at least among folks who are a decade into the hobby. When we need bedposts we turn bedposts, when we want a lidded box, we do that, and when one's incredibly supportive spouse says "can you make some yarn winders for my knitting group, pens for the volunteers I work with, a salad bowl for my cousin, or a pepper mill for the church auction" you darn sure bet we do.

So for me, flexibility and adaptability are must-have items. Any part that can be reasonably expected to wear out or break that is proprietary rather than off-the-shelf replaceable is a non-starter.
 
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So many lathe discussions start "what do you want to turn?". Well, my experience over the last 30-some years has been "everything, and anything".

Do you then tell all of them to get a minimum 24” swing with 30”+ outboard capability and minimum 40” between centers with minimum 20” extension capability? Bigger yet? I think you have to start with that question, perhaps adding “think” you want to turn. What happens if it doesnt trip their trigger or otherwise dont use the equipment?

I started with an HF lathe and tool set because I had no idea what I wanted to turn other than a few file handles and other tool handles, and maybe it would help with some other mechanic projects. If I decided it was a waste of $ and time I could throw it away and not be out much. Sure, in my case it became something I’ll do as long as Im capable, but with the number of cheap lathes found for sale second hand, some never or barely used, I think lots of folks ditch early.

Even if someone is looking to step up, the question needs to be asked, unless the person says bgt is infinite, which I have yet to see.
 

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I guess I tell them to get the most capable lathe they can afford and have space for that will allow them to do at least the work they currently envision wanting to do. Another aspect is personality; if having one tool for decades makes you happy that dictates overdoing it at the beginning, if you love upgrading every few years that's a different course. I tend to drive my cars for 20+ years, for example, so I'd better get one I'm going to be happy with for a while.

I had a small, old Delta lathe for 3-4 years, a Conover for 25 years, and I'm two years in on my AB now. I expect I'm done with lathe buying.
 
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if having one tool for decades makes you happy that dictates overdoing it at the beginning

Really, Roger? :rolleyes:

I believe my Woodfast lathe was a great purchase 29 years ago, and I'm not using anything it was capable of now that I didn't use back then.

Undoubtedly, I did a lot of improving over that last three decades of turning regularly, though! :D

-----odie-----
 

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Just saying that I know that I'm really resistant to getting rid of anything that's "still good", even if it never really was. So I now buy a much nicer car, knowing it's going to be with me for 20 years, than I would if I were trading them in every three years. I'm also pretty sure the cost will be amortized over a much longer period, so the purchase price can be proportionally larger to yield the same annual cost.
 

Roger Wiegand

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Nov 27, 2018
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Location
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Website
www.carouselorgan.com
Hey Roger.......I have a hammer that I've had for half a century.......did I overdo that purchase? :D

-----odie-----
Well I have one about that old. The head has been loose from day one despite re-wedging it many times, it's out of balance, the face is at an odd angle to the body, the claw doesn't grab nails at all well, and the handle isn't very comfortable. I hate it every time I pick it up. But, it's not broken, and still pretty much works. I wish I'd bought a decent Estwing at the time rather than this dime store special. So I'd say I certainly under-did it.

(Yes, I recognize this is stupid. I have at least six other much better hammers, but I can't bring myself to toss it in the rummage sale box.)
 
Joined
Nov 4, 2011
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Location
Bay Settlement, WI
A little off topic, but I have a Black & Decker 1/4" drill that my dad bought the day before I was born. I have the receipt!
 
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