looking for a lathe


zeboim
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Wasn't sure if i should post this here or in power tools, but I'm thinking of giving turning a try.  I have found lathes to be quite expensive.  Considering how dangerous they could be, I'm glad there are no cheap alternatives.  What should I be keeping an eye out for when purchasing a lathe?  

 

I'd eventually like to turn a bowl and also furniture legs and knobs for drawers, but that is the long term goal.  I'd just like to give it a shot now, so I'm down for making anything really.  

Also, will I be able to turn something small like a drawer pull on the same lathe as a large item like a table leg or do they require different styles of lathe?  

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All good points from Tom.  I would add, that I'd be careful correlating cost and safety.  There is surprisingly little difference in safety across all lathes.  If it spins true, the risk and safety is primarily dependent on the tools used and of course the one wielding them.  Dull tools are hands down your biggest risk, followed closely by improper technique.  Everything else is almost a none issue.  

You can pickup a Harbor Freight lathe that will hold up to 36" in bed.  I've been using one for a couple years now, no problems.  My belts are pretty frayed at this point, but that's it.  I've turned just about every size, and weight can be an issue.  Other than that, any issues I've had were clearly my fault.  The kinds of things that happen, and then you don't know if you should be grateful for it not ending worse or ashamed at how stupid you just were.  

 

 

Edited by Chris H
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What to look for... A brand you've heard of, with a common arbor thread size like 3/4-16 or better a 1-8, preferably a #2 Morse taper but a #1 isn't a deal breaker. Craftsman isn't bad if the cost is low, Delta is better especially anything 70s or older. Beware 80-90s Deltas. I would avoid anything 40s or older until you know your lathes. Or maybe you want something modern, then look for a used Jet.
-- Rick M

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You can start anything for less than ten bills...but you'll end up WAY beyond that if it's something you enjoy.  Tom said it straight off...turning looks like a fairly cheap thing to get into on the surface...you quickly realize it's anything but.  It's an expensive wormhole just like every other aspect of this hobby.  Shockingly so.

But yeah, you could be turning pens and small bowls and spindles for less than a grand, easy.  But you'll eventually hit a wall unless you break out more cash.

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Hell, I hit walls every time I turn around.   Waiting for a cyclone now so I can finish a project without filling the house with dust. 

I keep seeing lathes on Craigslist so I imagine one of these days .... I had fun turning wood WAY back in wood shop.  Funny think is I don't think I ever actually made anything.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Can turning be the one place a guy can start for less than 10 bills?  :)

Definitely not.  You can build almost anything and still be in that range.  It depends on how easy you want it to be and how good you are at coaxing quality work out of less expensive tools.  I know that my Dad did some beautiful work and you could buy every woodworking tool he ever owned for well under that.

It all depends on what you want.  You can spend a lot or spend a little.  The work does tend to go much easier as you spend more.

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  • 3 months later...

So I ended up going with a small grizzly.  I've been practicing my beads and whatnot on some monitor stand legs.  Lately, I've taken up pen turning and holy crap, I am in love.  I haven't done any non-lathe work in the shop in about a month (also had a baby, so that takes up a lot of time too).  Thanks to everyone for the advice.

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So I ended up going with a small grizzly.  I've been practicing my beads and whatnot on some monitor stand legs.  Lately, I've taken up pen turning and holy crap, I am in love.  I haven't done any non-lathe work in the shop in about a month (also had a baby, so that takes up a lot of time too).  Thanks to everyone for the advice.

awesome to hear, man!  I haven't tried pens yet but just wait until you start turning bowls - talk about a black hole for your time!

Here's my latest:

 

IMG_0150.thumb.JPG.63ef954c604bd9eedd4ea

 

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