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My New Powermatic 3520C Lathe verses My Old Powermatic 3520B

My New Powermatic 3520C Lathe verses my Old Powermatic 3520B Photo: My New Powermatic 3520C Lathe verses my Old Powermatic 3520B

I decided to replace my old Powermatic 3520B Lathe with the new C Model.

Here is my unpacking and set up experience. Plus some comparison of the B and C models.

I purchased the new model C on 2/1/2018 for a little less than the $4400 list price.

I am a long time (10 years) Powermatic 3520B owner and a big fan. I purchased my model B on 4/1/2008 for $2700.

I am writing this blog entry because I was frustrated by the lack of real photos on the web before purchasing my Powermatic 3520C. There were some glamour shots put out by Powermatic. But, not much else.

Note: I also own 2 Oneway 2436 lathes, a VB36 lathe, a mini lathe and a metal lathe.

In a Nutshell

After a month or so of use, I think I am going to also be a long time big fan of the new Powermatic 3520C Lathe.

There are some things I don't like. Like it does not come with a power cord. It still has the offset Banjo that I can't live with. But, overall I am really happy.

It is really nice to see a company make a new model that is beefier than the old model rather than making things more flimsy to cut costs! For example, the base of new headstock is wider than the old one and it weighs more!

In my not so humble opinion the new model C is is at least as good as the old model B and probably a little better.

From now on I am going to abbreviate Powermatic as PM. Model C is PM 3520C. Model B is PM 3520B.

Photo: New PM 3520C Lathe Specs for Reference New PM 3520C Lathe Specs for Reference

Click on the photo at the right for new model C specs that I do not mention in this blog entry.

I downloaded this info from the PM web site.

Part 1: Unboxing and Set Up

Photo: Lathe on Pallet Lathe on Pallet

The lathe comes nicely packaged on a Pallet. It fits in a small pickup no problem.

I had help loading it. I unloaded it on my own by unpacking the pallet while it was still on the truck.

I mostly set up the lathe on my own. I needed help turning the stand over after bolting on the legs. And I needed help lifting the Headstock up onto the bed.

Photo: Cast Iron is NOT Light Weight Cast Iron is NOT Light Weight

The PM web info says the lathe weights 726 lbs and the label on the box agrees.

The label says the shipping pallet weight is 770 lbs.

I weighed each of the parts as I unpacked things. I used a modem electronic bathroom sale so all weights are approximate. Probably +/- 2 lbs.

Here is what I found for the new model C:

Headstock: 160 lbs
Tailstock: 53 lbs (the Old model B Tailstock is 46 lbs)

Banjo: 34 lbs
Tool Rest: 5 lbs
Box of Parts: 18 lbs

Main Leg: 70 lbs each
Leg Riser Block: 28 lbs each

Bed: I can't lift the Bed so here is my guess:
726-160-53-34-5-18-70-70-28-28 = 260 lbs

The above weights are with the cast iron triangle shaped duplicating bracket installed on the headstock and NOT installed on the tailstock. i.e. the way the lathe is shipped.

Note: Should I call it the lathe "bed" or "ways"? I decided to go with "bed". Same as PM spec sheet. The "ways" are just the top part of the "bed".

Photo: Shipping Carton Removed Shipping Carton Removed

The shipping carton was made to be easily removed. Just cut the straps and lift it up.

The photo shows what I found under the cardboard carton.

Lathe bed in the middle with legs in cartons on each side. The small carton that fell down is the all the nuts, bolts, and other small parts.

Photo: A Leg A Leg

Each leg is 22-1/4" tall and weights 70 lbs. (Leg height with out the silver feet that go on the bottom.)

Nicely packaged. Easy to remove. No shipping grease or oil BS that I need to deal with.

When I first saw a photo of the new model C, I did not like the new leg shape. Not as sexy?

I fell in love with the new shape when I built my own self to go under the lathe. The new leg shape makes shelves easier to enclose. No stupid big opening (hole) in the leg that collects dust and shavings. The new legs don't have a funny curve that gets in the way of things stacked on the shelf and thus gives you more room on the shelf. Stay tuned, for a new blog entry coming soon with my new weighted shelf design.

Photo: A Leg Riser Block A Leg Riser Block

Each riser block is 4-1/4" tall and weights 28 lbs.

Thus the legs with riser blocks weight 70 + 28 = 98 lbs.

I have the riser blocks installed on my lathe with the silver feet screwed all the way in. From floor to bottom of riser is 5/8". Thus the silver feet on the bottom add 5/8" minimum. Note: I DO NOT have the nut installed between the top of the feet and bottom of leg. The nut would add another 3/8".

From floor to top of ways (bed) is 34-3/4". The distance from top of ways (bed) to center of spindle is 10-3/8". So the center of my spindle is 45-1/8" above the floor.

If no riser blocks it would be 45-1/8" minus 4-1/4" = 40-7/8" above the floor. This is very close to the 40-5/8" spec on PM web site.

The bed is 7-3/4" tall.

If you wanted to make the lathe taller you can crank out the feet a few inches. Or, I see no reason why you could not add more riser blocks. See "Installing The Riser Blocks" below.

The PM web says the riser block adds 6". This is about right if you crank out the feet, under a 4-1/4" riser block.

The old model B only had one leg option. No riser block. The lowest possible spindle height was 45" above the floor. I just measured it on my old PM 3520B.

Note: The distance between the feet on the bottom of legs is the same on model B and C. 21″ center to center.

Photo: The Tool Rest The Tool Rest

The lathe only comes with one tool rest. It is 14" long and weights 5 lbs. Same as model B.

Photo: Box of Parts Box of Parts

Nuts, bolts, feet, wrench, live center, etc.

Photo: Owners Manual Owners Manual

I really like the owners manual. PM ships 3 SEPERATE owners manuals. One in English. One in Spanish. And one in French?

I am stick to death of owners manuals with just a couple of pages of English text and then a ton of useless paper in other languages.

The Owners Manual has one very serious problem. It does not tell you how to hook up the power cord that you MUST supply on your own. More about that later.

Photo: Headstock, Banjo and Tailstock Headstock, Banjo and Tailstock

This is how they ship the Headstock, Banjo and Tailstock.

They are just locked down to the bed via the silver handles. No extra, nuts, bolts or other BS you need to remove. It seems to work just fine.

I was also VERY delighted to find bare metal surfaces coated with just a light coat of machine oil. NOT that heavy crap you have to remove with kerosene. Like, the stuff you find on cheap tools shipped from China, etc.

Photo: The Headstock The Headstock

Close up of the headstock

Photo: The Tailstock The Tailstock

Close up of the tailstock.

Photo: Back Side Back Side

The back side of Headstock, Banjo and Tailstock

Photo: Banjo and Tailstock Removed Banjo and Tailstock Removed

Removing the banjo and tailstock was easy. Then the pallet was light enough that I could slide it out.

Photo: Removing Headstock Removing Headstock

I slide the pallet back in a little and then removed the Headstock. I let it sit on end of tailgate while I got up my nerve.

It feels a like a lot more than 160 lbs at this point. It is not easy to grip, but not to bad.

Photo: Headstock on Dolly Headstock on Dolly

I set the headstock down on to a dolly and rolled it into my studio.

This went ok. But, I decided there was no way I was going to be able to pick it up and install it on bed. I could pick it up. But, I could not pick it up and align the big washer on the bottom of headstock with the ways on my own. I was going to need help.

Photo: Ramp to Unload the Bed Ramp to Unload the Bed

The bed is to heavy for me to lift by myself. To awkward.

I think it is 260 lbs. Not really sure. See "Cast Iron is NOT Light Weight" above.

I got my 2×10 ramps. The ones I use to load and unload my snow blower, rototiller, etc.

Photo: Down the Ramp Down the Ramp

I decided that removing the bed from the pallet was going to be awkward in the truck. So I just slide the pallet down my ramps. No problem

Photo: All Unloaded All Unloaded

Here are all the big parts after I unloaded everything.

Eventually I just rolled the bed off the pallet onto some rubber floor mats.

Note: The model B big useless metal Guard Assembly (that sort of looks like a metal spider web) no longer ships with the model C lathe. It is now an option. So, you no longer have to pay for this big waste of money.

Photo: Contents of the Parts Box Contents of the Parts Box

Here is what was in the parts box after I unwrapped things.

The new model C still comes with the very good "Jet" knockoff of the Oneway heavy duty dual ball bearing live center. The black thing above the big yellow wrench in the photo. The Oneway center is my absolute favorite. The Jet knockoff is a very close second. What's the difference? The threaded part on the Oneway is made of steel. On the Jet it is aluminum. The Jet only comes with the small aluminum cone.

Note: Jet and PM are owned by the same parent company.

The silve sliding hammer knock out bar with brass tip is best of breed. The model C one is the same as the model B.

The new model C lathe comes with the same cast iron face plate as the model B. They are identical. Ok, but not great. Not shown in this photo. See headstock photos above.

Photo: The Feet The Feet

I really like these feet.

Most feet these days are hard plastic with a steel stud sticking out of the top. These feet are mostly steel with just the hard plastic part on the bottom. They look real sturdy.

I removed the nuts you see on the feet before I installed them. This allowed me to crank the feet all the way in and get the lowest possible spindle height with the riser blocks. My floor to center of spindle height with riser blocks is 45-1/8". I wanted my new PM 3520C spindle height to be the same as my old PM 3520B spindle height of 45". Because, I have grown to like that height.

See "A Leg Riser Block" above for more measurement info.

Photo: Installing the Legs Installing the Legs

Here you can see I rolled the bed off of the pallet onto a rubber mat.

The legs are easy to install with a Allen wrench. You just have to put in the 4 black socket head cap screws.

Photo: Installing the Riser Blocks Installing the Riser Blocks

Here I show 2 options for the photo. I show one of the silver feet installed directly in the leg and one installed in the riser block.

The bottom of the legs are threaded to accept the feet. The bottom hole in the riser block is a threaded like hole in leg to accept feet. The top hole in the riser block is NOT threaded. You just install a bolt (socket head cap screw) thru unthreaded hole in riser block into the threaded foot hole in leg.

I really like the riser block design. It is simple and cost effect. I really don't understand whey more lathe manufactures don't go this way. The new Oneway adjustable legs are really expensive. Like twice the cost of the old non adjustable legs.

I see no reason why you could not add more riser blocks if you want to make the lathe taller. I would just make my own. Go to my local steel supplier and ask them to cut me some 3/16" wall thickness, 4" square hollow tub to length. Then drill some holes in them to line up with existing leg foot holes. My steel supplier has lots of scrap cut offs for cheap. You can get 4×4, or 2×4 or 4×6 square tub. 3/16" or 1/4" wall thickness.

The adjustable legs on the Robust lathes, etc are nice. But, lets face it. You probably are only going to adjust them once or twice. Adding or removing a riser block is simple and cost effect. Robust and PM are the same when it comes to changing leg heights. You have to jack up the lathe.

If you want more leg height adjustment in finer intervals then you can just crank the feet on the bottom of the legs in or out.

See "A Leg Riser Block" above for more measurement info.

Note: The distance between the feet on the bottom of legs is the same on model B and C. 21″ center to center.

Photo: Legs, Riser Blocks, and Feet Installed Legs, Riser Blocks, and Feet Installed

Ready to go. But, I decided that thus sucker was to heavy for me to turn up on my own. I would also need help installing the Headstock. So, why take a chance?

Time to find some friends.

Note: In this photo and previous photo I still have the nuts installed between the feet and bottom of leg (riser block). Eventually, I removed those to take the spindle height down to 45-1/8". Like my old B model at 45".

Photo: All Set Up and Ready To Go All Set Up and Ready To Go

It's a thing of great beauty!

Well, not really ready to go. I can’t plug it in and give it a go because the PM people DID NOT ship it with a power cord and plug. Err……!!! See "Main Power On/Off Switch" below.

See "A Leg Riser Block" above for spindle height measurement, etc.

Photo: Old PM 3520B Lathe for Reference Old PM 3520B Lathe for Reference

Here is a photo of my old model B lathe for reference.

Part 2: The Details and PM 3520C verses 3520B

Powermatic 3520C Lathe verses Powermatic 3520B Lathe

Photo: New PM 3520C Headstock New PM 3520C Headstock

Here is what the new headstock looks like.

It still has the same nice silver hand wheel.

Note: This photo was taken recently, after I installed my new shelf on top of the headstock. Ignore it for now. I will talk about it in a future blog append.

New and Old Headstocks Side by Side Photo: New and Old Headstocks Side by Side

I put 2 different photos together here in Photoshop. So things don't line up perfect. But, they are good enough.

The PM 3520C is on the left. The PM 3520B is on the right.

Basically they flipped the controls and belts from left to right.

They added a new spindle nose on the right of the model C (pointed to by red arrow) by removing the funny overhang on the left of the old model B (pointed to by blue arrow). I really like this. The new spindle nose makes it easier to turn things close to the headstock.

I also really like it because they did not change the distance between the in board and out board bearings. i.e. the distance between the green arrows on both headstocks is the same. Roughly 11.5". The bearings on model B and C appear to be the same great bearings.

Having a nice big bearing on the out board side, in addition to the in board side makes the spindle a lot more stable when you mount pieces on the lathe. It is what makes the PM lathes a lot better than the Jet, etc "look alikes". Often the "look alikes" use a smaller bearing on the out board side or no bearing at all!

The bearings on the PM lathes put them in the high end class, with Oneway, Robust, etc.

Note: In the photo, the "out board" side is on the left where the hand wheel mounts. The "in board" side is on the right.

The base of the new model C headstock is 10" wide. That is roughly 2" wider than the old headstock. This improves the stability of the headstock.

The model C is 15" tall. This is 1/4" taller than the old model B.

The distance from top of ways to center of spindle is the same 10-3/8" on model B and C.

Photo: New Control Box New Control Box

Photo of the new movable control box for on/off, direction and speed in the DOCKED position. Pointed to by red arrow.

The new model C uses on/off buttons. I am having a little trouble getting use to this. However, I still think it is an improvement over the model B that used a single red mushroom button that you had pull out for on and push in for off. The push in for off was probably better. However, pulling the old model B button out was really hard. It took like a team of strong men to pull that button out. That, is why I replaced it on my old model B with a nice twist switch. Visible in the previous photo.

The magnet on the back of the control box is good. Not to strong and not to weak. The entire back of the box is covered with a nice thin layer of soft foam that appears to be fairly tough. No photo of back because I already have to many photos in this blog entry.

Photo: Undocked Control Box Undocked Control Box

This photo shows the new movable control box removed from the dock.

The red arrow points to the nice dock. It is recessed so the docked control box does not stick out..

Note: A moveable control box is a nice safety improvement. However, I still feel, that for safety reasons, all lathes should be equipped with a second emergency off switch that lives on the tailstock end of the lathe. It is ALWAYS there when you reach for it in an emergency. Regardless of where the other control box may have gotten to during daily use.

Photo: The Belts and Pulleys The Belts and Pulleys

This is often one of the first things I look at on lathes. To many people pay to much attention to just the HP of a lathe. They fail to look at the belts, bearings, etc. If you JUST put a big engine in a VW Bug car then you still have just a VW Bug. Because the suspension, tires, etc can't handle all of the HP of a big engine.

The new model C has the same great belts and pulleys as the model B.

The BIG belts and pulleys is another thing that puts the PM lathes in the same high end class as Oneway, Robust, etc.

The PM lathes have great motors with belts and pulleys that are really up to the job.

Photo: New Spindle Lock Knob New Spindle Lock Knob

The new spindle lock knob is above the control box. Pointed to by red arrow.

It is big and easy to use. Just twist it to lock or unlock the spindle.

On both the model B and C, there is no micro switch attached to spindle lock that prevents you from turning on the lathe. I don't think this is a big problem. We all drive cars. You just got to known, when the light is red you don't pull out! You wait for the green. When the spindle is locked. Don't try to turn the lathe on!

Note: The old model B originally had a spindle lock that people did not like. Because you had to manually hold it in. I agree it was a pain. Eventually PM came out with a nice little fix. A sliding piece of metal that held it in. You can see it in the photo above of B and C headstocks side by side.

Photo: Spindle Lock Implementation Spindle Lock Implementation

This photo shows how the spindle lock is implement. The red arrow points to the round washer where the spindle lock pin engages.

No change here. Basically the same on model B and C.

I like what I see. The spindle lock has nothing to do with the indexing mechanism. It is a big robust spindle lock. So when you screw things on and off of the spindle you don't put any stress on the indexing mechanism.

Photo: Index Pin Index Pin

The red arrow in photo points the new model C index pin. The index is now implement like most other lathes. The index pin goes into holes in the pulley wheel. See next photo.

The index pin is held out by a spring. If you want to engage it you just push in. If you want it to stay engaged you have to thread the pin in.

Indexing on the old model B was a big mess. On the in board side, you had to screw a pin into holes you could not see. There was more than one hole for index pin … It was basically, totally useless. The new model C is a big improvement.

Note: Initially I had trouble getting the pin to thread into the hole. It just would not thread in there. Now, it seems to work. I am baffled. I think the threads in the cast iron headstock are not the best. This is the only manufacturing or shipping problem that I ran into with the new lathe.

Photo: Index Pin Implementation Index Pin Implementation

The red arrow in photo shows the index pin coming thru the headstock. See previous photo.

The blue arrow points to the holes that the index pin engages.

There are 48 holes. For me, this is WAY MORE holes than I need!

I generally only need 12 or less holes. More holes JUST leads to more mistakes. Trying to use every 4th hole to get 12 divisions. Always gets me all screwed up. I really prefer to use an after market external indexing wheel. I can then easily mark every other hole with a red magic marker, every 4th hole with a blue magic marker, etc.

Photo: New Digital Index Feature New Digital Index Feature

The model C comes with a new digital index feature. You activate it by pushing the "Index / Indice" button pointed to by blue arrow in photo.

When engaged the digital display (pointed to by red arrow in photo) shows the index number. 1 to 48. In photo it is showing index position 42. When you turn the spindle the index number changes.

I don't known of any other lathe that has this feature.

I am sure, some people are going to love it. It does not do much for me. If I could tell it, I want only 12 index positions and it took care of skipping to every 4th hole it would be of more interest to me.

Note: I tried several times, I just could not get a good photo here. In the real world the digital display that is hard to read in the photo is bright and easy to read.

Photo: Digital Index Implementation Digital Index Implementation

The big silver disk and black box pointed to by red and blue arrows in this photo are all new on the model C.

I think they have something to do with the new digital index function. On the old model B there is just a small laser and sensor that senses the actual spindle speed of the square spindle lock washer.

Behind the blue arrow in photo there is a black plastic box with wires and a circuit board. I am happy to see it is protected from the pulleys by a steel plate.

On top of the steel plate there is a laser and sensor that uses the hole in the silver disk to sense the actual spindle speed.

The model B and C lathes sense and display the ACTUAL spindle speed. If you hand rotate the spindle with the motor off the digital display shows your hand rotation rpm. This is a lot better than cheap lathes that do not show the actual speed. They just show you were the variable speed knob (dial) is set.

Photo: New VFD Enclosure New VFD Enclosure

Some people refer to the "Variable Frequency Drive" (VFD) as the "motor controller", etc

The VFD on the back of the model C headstock is now enclosed in a new fancy plastic box. My feelings about this are mixed. Will the VFD overheat when it does not get enough air flow? I am hoping PM knows what they are doing here.

The VFD on the back of the old model B headstock was not enclosed. This made securing the wiring a little more problematic and time consuming to manufacture?

New or foreign safety standards, etc may have led PM to add the enclosure. The PM web says "Fully enclosed VDF for increased user protection."

Note: A VFD allows you to get high torque out of a motor at low speeds by using a 3 Phase (rather than a Single Phase) motor. The VFD converts 220 volts Single Phase input power (standard household current) to 220 volt 3 Phase power for the motor. It varies the frequency of the 3 Phase power to control the motor speed.

The on/off, direction and speed, control box on the front of the lathe sends low voltage (typically 24 volts AC) control signals to the VFD on the back. So all high voltage wiring is limited to the back of the lathe. This is pretty much standard today on all high end lathes.

Photo: The VFD The VFD

Here is what the VFD looks like with the covers removed. I am an Electrical Engineer. So, you known, I just had to take that cover off.

Photo: VFD Model VFD Model

Here is the VFD model number in photo. It looks like it is a E series VFD at www.deltaacdrives.com

The VFD is made by "Delta". I am not really sure, but I don't think this "Delta" company is the same as the old Delta Power Tools company. Or maybe it is spin off?

Delta VFDs are not as widely known as other brands because they do a lot of OEM stuff. However, they are known to be a good brand.

The VFD on my old PM 3520B was a Delta VFD. An older model. It works good. No problems!

Photo: Main Power On/Off Switch Main Power On/Off Switch

The Knob under the VFD on a silver background is the Main Power On/Off Switch. It is unconventional. But it is a nice high quality switch.

The old model B did not come with a main power switch. The VFD was always powered on if the lathe was plugged in. This was a huge over site in my not so humble opinion. I added my own on/off switch to the back of my model B. Thus, I am really glade to see the new switch on the model C.

On the other hand the PM people really irked me. No, that is not strong enough. They really, really, really pissed me off by not shipping the lathe with a power cord. I could not plug the lathe in when I was ready to show it to my friends who helped me set it up! I had to wait a day, go to the store again to get a cord and plug, … I was pissed!

I payed $4xxx.00 for this lathe. They could not afford to ship it with a $10 power cord? Come on?

We have standards in the USA. The lathe power plate says 230 volts, 10 amps, 1 phase, 60 hertz. i.e. for USA sale only. The manual says it should plug into a 20 amp circuit. In the US the standard plug is a NEMA 6-20 for 250 volts, 20 amps with ground. The lathe should come with this cord and plug!

Yes, there are some industrial places were they might use other plugs, or direct wire, but those places are 3 phase, etc. They ship this lathe with a single phase VFD, and plate says 1 phase … thus there is no excuse for not shipping a NEMA 6-20 cord and plug! If someone does not like that plug then they can cut if off!

To top it all off. There is ABSOLUTELY no place in the PM Manual they shipped with the lathe that shows how to wire up that switch!!! And it is a non standard switch! The manual says you should hire an electrician!

They want me to hire an electrician, wait for him to show, pay him $100 or more, … Because, they did not want to ship a $4xxx.00 lathe with a $10 power cord? Err…..!!!

I added the blue cord you see in photo and my own standard NEMA 6-20 plug from Home Depot. Note: The plug is NOT shown in photo.

Photo: Lathe Plate Lathe Plate

See photo for all the lathe plate information.

It correctly shows the lathe should be connected to a 1 phase, 220 volt power source.

Photo: Motor Plate Motor Plate

See photo for all the motor plate information.

I am glade to see here they are correctly showing the motor as a 3 phase motor. The VFD converts from 220 volts 1 phase to 220 volts 3 phase for the motor.

The motor on my old model B has been a great motor for 10 years. I think it is really a good old fashion 2 HP into a load. Rather than foreign crap where they falsely label motors as 2 HP when they can not deliver that under load.

The motor on my old model B is one of the lathes biggest selling points! It appears the motor on the new model C is the same motor. It looks the same and all the plate numbers, amps, HP, etc are the same.

However, it seems like the fan built into the new model C motor moves more air. This could be just my imagination. More air is a better thing. Better cooling. However, I have never had any problems with the model B over heating.

New and Old Tailstocks Side by Side Photo: New and Old Tailstocks Side by Side

The PM 3520C is on the left. The PM 3520B is on the right.

The model C tailstock is a huge improvement over the model B because it has Acme threads in the Quill (the part that screws in and out). It took like forever to crank the old mode B tailstock in or out. The new model C is faster.

The PM web site says the model C has a "anti-rotation" key. Well, the old model B also has one. The new one on the model C looks like it might be better. But, I never had any complaints about the old model B one.

They both have the same great hand wheel. They both have the same good quill locking mechanism (the black handle on top).

The model C has a new very nice silver locking handle.

They both have the same hidden compartment with door that some people love. I absolutely hate it when people hide things in there!

The model C tailstock is 53 lbs. The model B is 46 lbs. I personally could do with out the extra weight. The old one was already on the to heavy side when I wanted to remove it. However, on the plus side, the new one is not some light weight piece of junk.

The new model C quill is marked in both inches and millimeters. Good type size nice and dark but still sharp. Easy to read.

The new model C is obviously wider than the model B at the bottom. The model C is 9" wide at bottom. The model B is 7". At the top, where the quill goes thru they are both the same 8-1/4" wide. Both models are the same height. 13.25" to the top of the hand wheel.

The new model C sticks out more on the left. I am really not thrilled with this because it means I can't get the Banjo as close to the tailstock as I would like. More about this latter.

However, it is nice to have a bigger tailstock base in contact with the bed. It makes the tailstock more stable.

Photo: Bottom of Tailstock Bottom of Tailstock

Here is what the bottom of the tailstock looks like. The model C and model B are very similar.

New and Old Banjos Side by Side Photo: New and Old Banjos Side by Side

Oneway 2407 banjo on left. PM 3520C is in the center. PM 3520B is on the right.

The new model C banjo is roughly the same size and weight as the old model B. The model C has a nice new silver handle. The model C features a new tool rest clamp. More about that latter.

Both the model B and C have an offset tool rest post that I really DO NOT like! They are also to short.

Photo: Oneway Banjo Oneway Banjo

This photo shows why I do not like the PM banjos with a offset tool rest post.

I turn mostly bowls and hollow forms from green logs. In this photo I just finished facing off the end of a log so I can mount a face plate.

With my Oneway banjo in there I have to crank out the quill on the tailstock roughly 2". Blue arrow in photo. This is reasonable and safe.

If I had the PM banjo in there (see previous photo) then I would need to crank out the quill another 2" to get the offset tool rest post in the same space. That would extend the quill to roughly 4". Way to close to the max quill extension of 4-1/2". At 4" the quill is not secure enough for strength and safety because it is extended to far. When the quill gets to the end of the threads a 4-3/4" it just slides out. If I have to do this once and a while then ok. But, every day, no way!

In my not some humble opinion the Oneway banjo is still best of breed. Still way better than the model B or C PM banjo because it is not offset.

Photo: New Tool Rest Clamp for Photo New Tool Rest Clamp for Photo

The top of the new model C banjo features a new tool rest shaft clamp. It is huge improvement over the old model C. It holds the tool rest post, rock solid, even under heavy loads.

This photo shows the new design slid out so you can see what it looks like. The next photo shows it installed.

Photo: New Tool Rest Clamp Installed New Tool Rest Clamp Installed

The red arrow points to the jaws that actually clamp down on the tool rest post. It looks almost the same as a Oneway banjo when you look down the tool post hole.

The new PM design is as good as the Oneway tool rest clamp and probably a lot cheaper to manufacture.

Note: The old model B design really sucked! It was just a knob with a screw that screwed in or out. See photo above. It was like the one you find on most cheap lathes. It allowed the tool rest to move around or drop down while you were trying to turn. Extremely frustrating when you have to stop the lathe to fix the tool rest position.

Photo: Bottom of Banjo Bottom of Banjo

The bottom of new model C banjo looks the same as the old model B. Same good design on the bottom.

I really like the big black ROUND black washer (red arrow in photo) on the bottom of the PM model B and C headstock, tailstock and banjo. It is way better than the square washers used by most (all other?) lathe manufacturers.

Round washers DO NOT have any sharp corners that hang up when you slide things around on the lathe bed (ways). The PM round washer is big and beefy!

The square washers use by other lathe manufactures have sharp corners that hang up and prevent you from easily sliding the banjo around. I really hate how the square washer banjos start to stick after they have been used for a while. This seems to be aggravated by using washers that are NOT big and beefy. Over time they bend and distort? Eventually, you have to remove the square washer from the bottom and file off all the sharp edges. Then it still is not as good as the big beefy PM round washer.

Photo: Banjo To Low Banjo To Low

The banjo on the new model C is still way to low. Just like it was on the model B. This has not been fixed.

The banjos on PM lathes are roughly 1-1/2" lower than the banjos on all other lathes by all other manufactures. See red arrow in photo. PM tools rests are extra tall to compensate for this.

This is NOT a great feature. It means that if you purchase an after market tool rest from any other manufacture it will NOT work on a PM lathe. The tool rest post will be to short because the PM banjo is to low!

It is often necessary to purchase after market tool rests for shapes and lengths not offered by PM. Purchasing special rests with longer shafts, cost extra and limits your options.

Photo: New Model C Bed and Leg Holes New Model C Bed and Leg Holes

See next photo for old model B bed and leg holes.

Like I already said. After getting use to it. I like the shape of the new model C leg. It works better when you make your own shelf under the lathe.

However, some users may not be happy with the new screw hold pattern. The red arrows in this photo and next photo points to holes that are in the same location on model B and C lathes. They are 4" apart and 2-3/4" down from top of bed.

The blue arrows point to new holes on the model C. They do not exist on the model B. The model B only had one hole in the middle. See green arrow in next photo.

I think this means you CAN NOT mount the old model B bed extension #6294727B on a new model C lathe. Well, maybe you still can, but you can't use all 3 holes, just the top 2. Or you are going to have to drill your own center hole

You can get a new model C bed extension. PM # 1353002.

I think the old model B Tail Stock Swing Away #6294721 accessory will work on a model C. Because it only uses the top holes. The PM model C manual seems to imply that.

I don't want to be negative here! Lots of people have Tail Stock Swing Away. I do not known of any one who has a bed extension on a model B. You don't really need one because you can just slide the headstock down to where you need it for outboard turning. So the new model B hole pattern is probably not a big deal.

Note: The distance between the ways is the same on model B and C. 2-1/2" inches. The distance between the feet on the bottom of legs is also the same on model B and C. 21″ center to center. The feet are NOT shown in these photos.

Photo: Old Model B Bed and Leg Holes Old Model B Bed and Leg Holes

See discussion under previous photo.

The End

Like I already said above. I am big fan of the old PM model B and a long time owner. I think, after a month or so of use, I am going to also be a long time big fan of the new PM model C.

The only real thing I don’t like and can’t live with is the PM banjo. I am going to continue to use a Oneway banjo on my new model C lathe, like I did on my old model B.

My Studio July 2015

Here are some photos of my studio in July of 2015.

Photo: Carl Ford Studio Woodturner Carl Ford Studio Woodturner

The entrance to Aladdin's Cave
View from Door

Photo: View from Door

The view of Aladdin's Cave from just inside of the door.
360 of Studio, 1 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 1 of 8

First of 8 photos that shows a 360 degree view of my studio taken from the middle of room.

This photos shows the work area around my Oneway 2636 lathe.

Note the work bench, tool racks and black dust collector hood.
360 of Studio, 2 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 2 of 8

This photo is kind of boring. It shows the main entry doorway, workbench and tool racks.
360 of Studio, 3 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 3 of 8

This photo shows the work area around my VB36 bowl lathe with Long Bed tailstock.

Note the tool racks, green light over lathe hanging from ceiling, black dust collector hood, black air gun hose hanging below dust collector hood.

All of my lathes have very good dust collection and air gun.
360 of Studio, 4 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 4 of 8

This photo show the area between my VB36 and Powermatic 3520B lathes.

It shows my Grinder, AC, exhaust fan and vacuum pump. The exhaust fan is below AC, behind the grinder.

The windows let in lots of good natural light. It is a cloudy day outside. If it was sunny, I would not be able to take photos because the sun streaming thru the windows would over power my camera.
360 of Studio, 5 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 5 of 8

This photos shows the work area around my Powermatic 3520B lathe.

Note the black light on the headstock, sanding drills hanging on front of lathe and jam/vacuum chucks stored under lathe.

All of my lathes have very good overhead lighting and a very good light mounted on the headstock or handing from the ceiling.
360 of Studio, 6 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 6 of 8

This photo shows my non turning tools, tool wall and belt sander.

Note the overhead lights. I have lots of lights in my studio. I use warm white light bulbs in all of my fixtures to create a nice warm and inviting feeling in my studio.
360 of Studio, 7 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 7 of 8

Another kind of boring photo. This photos shows my Red Mini Lathe and Modine heater unit.

I have very good heat and AC in my studio. The heat and AC are distributed by an overhead air cleaner.
360 of Studio, 8 of 8

Photo: 360 of Studio, 8 of 8

This photo shows my metal lathe.
Mini Lathe and Workbench

Photo: Mini Lathe and Workbench

This photo shows a better view of my Mini Lathe and the rolling workbench for my Powermatic 3520B lathe.

The rolling workbenches (tables) in my studio are located so there is a convenient place to set down your turning tools while working at the lathe. You just have to turn around and the bench is there, with in easy reach.

Everything in my studio, except for the lathes is on LOCKING casters.
Bandsaw & Drill Press

Photo: Bandsaw & Drill Press

This photo shows my Band Saw, Drill Press, Planer, and Table Saw.

I only need a 14" band saw with a riser block because I rough out all my turning blanks with my chain saw.
Photo: Air Cleaner Air Cleaner

This photos shows the air cleaner located in the middle of my studio.

I use it to clean the air and distribute the heat and AC in my studio.
Photo: Dust Collector Dust Collector

This photo shows my home made 2 HP cyclone dust collector. It will suck the chrome off the bumper of your car!

It is located outside. This keeps the noise and dust outside!

It is nice and quite inside when I run the dust collector.

When I empty the dust collector it does NOT fill the room with dust.
Photo: Log Storage and Prep Area Log Storage and Prep Area

This photo shows my log storage and prep area outside.

I like to store my logs outside in the shade where they get rained on.

The bench in the middle is my horizontal chain saw bench.

The Rube Goldberg in the back is my vertical chain saw bench.

So you want to buy a lathe? A real lathe?

Updated: 7/8/2017. Change bars in Purple on left. Add new “Parts of a Lathe” section with link to AAW video.

Updated: 2/5/2017. Change bars in Blue on left.  Summary of updates:

1. The new version of the 10″ Penn State Mini Lathe is still my favorite Mini Lathe.

2. I do not like the new Jet lathes. Add them to the list of “Lathes I DO NOT Recommend”.

3. The new 110 volt version of Laguna Revo 18/36 lathe has won me over. Move it to my list of “Recommended 110 Volt Lathes”.

4. The 220 volt version of the Laguna Revo 18/36 is now my low cost “Recommended 220 Volt Lathe”.  It replaces the 220 volt Jet 1642 EVS that is now longer available.

5. The US economy has been stuck in neutral. Thus, lathe prices have not increased by much, if any, in the last 2 years.

Updated: 8/9/2015.  Change bars in Green on left. Add Laguna lathes to not recommended list.  They are close but no cigar.

First published on 7/31/2015.

What lathe should a newbie purchase?

Here is a long winded answer I gave to a student who had a Shopsmith and decided it was time to buy a real lathe.

For the record.  I personally own  a VB36, a Powermatic 3520B,  two Oneway 2436s, and a Penn State TCLPROVS lathe.   At various schools and clubs I have turned on Stubby, Vicmarc, General, Delta, Rockwell, Jet, Grizzly, Vega and old metal cabinet lathes.

pm_3520bIn a Nutshell

Hands down the best lathe out there in my not so humble opinion is the Powermatic 3520B with a Oneway Banjo.

The list price is still $3999 on 2/5/2017. It was the same price back on 7/26/2015.

10/28/2017: The Powermatic 3520B lathe is being replaced by a new “C” model. i.e. the Powermatic 3520C. The B model is no longer available from retailers. They sold out in Aug 2017. See Powermatic 3520B below for more info.

Parts (Anatomy) of a Lathe

Before we get started. Newbies may want to watch this video that covers the names of the different parts of a lathe.

delta_46_460Generally, I do not recommend videos. This one is very well done. It is at a very basic level. The video was created by the American Association of Woodturners (AAW). It features one of the lathes that I recommend below. A Delta 46-460 Midi Lathe.

http://www.woodturner.org/?page=DiscoverWTAnatomyZen

Rent a Lathe (Consider the Resale Value)

I started out with a Delta 1642 Steel Bed lathe. I liked it but the sliding headstock was no good for Metal spinning. So, I sold it and purchased a Powermatic 3520B with a rock solid sliding headstock.

I don’t remember how much I payed for or sold my Delta for.  But, I do remember the difference was $1200.  I owned the Delta for 6 years. So, it was like I rented the Delta for $1200 / 6 years = $240 per year.

If you and your wife went away for a weekend. How much would the room and meals cost?  More than $240?

Is $240 a year for a hobby really so bad?

If you purchase a good lathe (like a Powermatic 3520B) and then you sell it in 5-6 years when you lose interest or want a new one.  How much do you lose?

6 or 7 years ago, I purchased my 3520B for $2900.  The current list is $3999. I bet I could sell it today for $3000 and make $100 profit. Because the 3520B is a great lathe, in high demand with a  reasonable list price.

Things to Look For

First,  a few things you should look for.

1. Variable speed. With 2 or more belt speeds.

Changing belts on non variable speed lathes, gets real old, real fast.

2. Headstock and tailstock with #2 MT (Morse Taper) or #3MT.

3. Headstock with 1-1/4″ by 8 threads.

Oneway standard is M33. But they will do 1-1/4″x8 for no additional cost?

Note: M33 and 1-1/4 x 8 are virtually the same size! M33 is just a tiny bit larger than 1-1/4. Thus M33 is not bigger, better, stronger, etc.

4. No gap in the ways near headstock.

5. 16″ or 20″ of swing.   12″ is not enough.

Greater than 20″ swing over the ways is overkill! Once in a blue moon, If you need more than 20″ swing then do it outboard or with a sliding headstock.

12″ of swing is ok for 8″ to 10″ bowls.  But only 12″ of swing creates issues when you try to lower the back end of a gouge handle while turning bowls. The handle runs into the ways of lathe. 16″ of swing is really the minimum.

6. Forward and Reverse.

7. Variable speed adjustable via a knob.  No speed up/down buttons like on Nova lathes!

8. Sliding headstock for bowl turning or outboard.

Oneway lathes are the only ones on which outboard is really usable.

9. Motor is stand-a-lone.  Not part of the headstock like Nova Lathes.

10. 2 HP or more.    (or DC motor with control box on Mini lathes)

Note: The Oneway 1.5 HP lathes are ok.  Because they use a very good motor and motor drive.  Motor drive = Control Box / Inverter.

11. Adjustable leg height.

oneway_adjustable_legOneway just added adjustable height legs to all of there new lathes.   See Oneway web site.

Robust also offers lathes with adjustable height legs.

I have found the one and only leg height for the Powermatic 3520B is a very good and livable compromise.

Things you definitely DO NOT need

Beware! Sacrilege ahead.   But, just a little.

1. Stainless Steel Ways! Currently all the rage. Biggest waste of money on the face of the earth!

For years the lathes at Purchase college have been ridden hard and put away wet by students.    The lathes show lots of signs of wear.   But, rust is not a problem!

That brown stuff you see on the ways of a lathe after turning green wood is NOT rust.  It  is sap, that came out of the green log!   Sap that dries overnight looks just like rust.   The sap from Cherry logs is brownish, it looks like rust.

2. Tilt away or swing away tail stock! Currently all the rage.

Tilt away tail stocks tilt the headstock down and out of the way.

Swing away tail stocks just swing the tailstock around behind the lathe.

I am willing to yield ground on this one. It is not a complete waste of money for some people with strength issues. However, membership in a gym, may be a better use of money.

An easy and cheap alternative. Is a long chunk of pipe hung from the ceiling over ways of the lathe. With a chunk of rope or chain hanging down. Hook the chain around the tailstock and just slide it off. Let it hang in space. Slide it down the pipe and out of the way.

The 17″ aux bed for turning outboard on a Oneway lathe costs the same or less than tilt away tail stocks. Why not just turn outboard on a Oneway?

3. Digital speed read out. Currently all the rage.

If a lathe has it fine.   DO NOT let this drive which lathe you purchase.

When you are driving your car. How often do you check the speed? Only when you see a cop car? After you have been driving for a few months, probably almost never. You just known when you are going the correct speed. Lathes are the same way.

Just because you were turning a bowl yesterday at 700 rpm does not mean you should do it again today! No 2 blanks are the same!!!

For safety! You should always start at the lowest possible speed and then turn the speed up until you are happy with the speed or the lathe starts to shake. If it shakes, then back off. What the stupid digital speed dial says is a HUGE don’t care!

4. A fancy $100 to $200 stand to go under your Mini or Midi lathe with no storage.

Use an old bathroom or kitchen cabinet, or puchase one at Home Depot. You will get storage and a place to set down your tools.

Second Hand Market

Local AAW woodturning clubs are the best source for used lathes that are not antiques or cheap junk.

You can look on Ebay and Crags List. Buyer beware! Shipping can be a huge problem and expense. If it is in a basement, who is responsible for getting it out? It may cost less to buy a new late due to shipping issues and cost.  Who much is a hospital stay for a wrecked back?

I personally would ONLY purchase a lathe that has ALREADY been removed from a basement and is in a garage.

Most good lathes are sold thru local woodturning clubs, long before they would be listed on Ebay or Craigs List. Thus, waiting for a good buy to come up on Ebay or Craigs list is often a miss guided strategy that is doomed to failure.

I don’t need a “serious” professional model

If you don’t want an antique, junk or cheap crap then you probably do need a professional model.  Because the serious enthusiastic and professional models/market are one in the same.

Stick to lathe models with 16″ to 20″ of swing with a sliding headstock or outboard turning on a Oneway lathe. You definitely don’t need to pay for anything over 20″ of swing.

Also you do not need a “Vector” 3 phase motor. Just a regular TEFC 3 phase motor is good enough. I known, speak english. Basically, you don’t need the fancy motor used on Robust lathes.  Also used on Oneway lathes?

110 Volt verses 220 Volt Lathes

I really DO NOT recommend going with 110 volts.

You really need 220 volts. Get it installed in your workshop now and you will save a ton of money in the long run.

I have seen way to many people who are seriously sorry they settled for that 110 volt lathe. Its not big enough or powerful enough. A few upgrade to a 220 volt lathe. But most, suffer on, or they give up on wood turning. Either way the money spent on that 110 volt lathe and a ton more on tools is all just wasted money.

I do not understand why people are afraid of 220 volts. It’s dangerous right? Really?  People use hair dryers and electric shavers, etc in bathrooms all over Europe where 240 volts is standard! Are people all over Europe dying from electrocution? I don’t see it on TV news. All the governments in Europe must be cooperating (1st time ever) on this big conspiracy to keep the danger of 240 volts out of the news. Further more, all the people in the US are not rubbing there nose in how much better the US is because 110 volts is standard in the US.  🙂

Recommended 110 Volt Lathes

1. Penn State KWL-1018VS  Midi Lathe.   $370 on 2/5/2017. (It was $400 on 7/26/2015)

Penn State KWL-1018VS

The Variable Speed one!  The 10″ one.  Not the 12″ one!

Penn State is now calling this a Midi lathe.   But, it is really only a Mini lathe in my world!

If you compare this lathe to other mini lathes then note how this mini lathe has a real METAL hand wheel on the tailstock. Easy belt change on the headstock and a easy to use spindle lock with 24 indexing positions.

This is a GREAT little lathe. I really fail to understand why people pay a lot more for the Jet and Rikon mini lathes!

You really don’t need more than 3/4″ HP or 10″ of swing in a mini lathe. There are sensible limits to what you can do on a mini lathe. The lathe bed, banjo, tool reset, etc  are not heavy enough to handle 12” work. 8” bowls are pushing the limit on a mini lathe. Thus 10” swing and 3/4 HP is adequate.

Note: The old Penn State mini lathe use to be #1 MT. The new KWL-1018VS is #2 MT. Click here for more info.

2. Delta 46-460 12-1/2″ Midi Lathe.  $580 on 2/6/2017. (It was $610 on 7/26/2015)

delta_46_460Midi not Mini. Midi lathes are a little bigger than Mini.

I known someone who has this lathe. He really likes it, but he also has a larger lathe. I have turned on it. I like it. But, it can only handle small bowls. 8″ or less. Cut edge only. No natural edge bowls. You can do bowls bigger than 8″ or natural edge. But, you can also drive your car at 120 mph. At least that is what is says on the dash board!  🙂

http://www.woodturner.org/?page=DiscoverWTAnatomyZen

3. 110 Volt Laguna Revo 18/36 Lathe. $2400 on 2/6/2017.

delta_46_460 Beware. I have only seen this lathe in photos and talked to people who have used one. I have never seen it up close or turned on it.

Laguna offers a 110 volt and 220 volt version of the Revo 18/36 lathe.

I have always sort of liked this lathe. In the past I gave it a “close but not cigar” rating. I said that if they had a 110 volt version I would recommend it. So, now I am recommending it. It looks similar the Powermatic 3520B but I don’t think it is as good. Not as beefy. Better than the old Jet 1642 and definitely better than any of the new Jets lathes or Nova lathes.

The 110 and 220 version of this lathe are almost identical. The 110 volt version is 1.5 HP. The 220 version is 2HP. There is only a $100 difference in the price!

When you look in the owners manual and the parts list the only difference is the motor and the VFD (Variable Frequency Drive, they call it an Inverter in the parts list.)

Note: It is only a guess on my part, but I think there really is no difference in the motor or VFD. Other than a 110 verses 220 switch on the side of the VFD that is preset to either 110 or 220. They are just running the VFD in voltage doubling mode. Voltage doubling allows you to run a 220 volt 3 phase motor on a 110 volts single phase input via the VFD. Most of the modern low HP VFDs support this. If, I had a good 220 volt lathe design that already had a VFD, then this is what I would do! I would expand my market by offering a 110 volt version via voltage doubling. Voltage doubling is sort of ok, if you are willing to live with a 30% reduction in motor efficiency (aka HP). Well, using 220 volts is really better! The 110 version is 1.5 HP and the 220 version is 2 HP. This is consistent with 30% loss due to voltage doubling. I really don’t understand why more manufactures don’t do this. A 110 volt version of the Powermatic 3520B would sell like hot cakes.

I really want to make it clear that this lathe DOES NOT change my opinion about 110 volts. I DO NOT recommend going with 110 volts. You should upgrade to 220 volts. See “110 Volt verses 220 Volt Lathes” above.

Recommended 220 Volt Lathes

1. Powermatic 3520B Lathe.   $4000 on 7/26/2015 and still $4000 on 2/5/2017.

pm_3520bHands down the best lathe out there for the money! Nick Cook helped Powermatic get everything right on this lathe! It is built like a tank.

This is still my favorite lathe for the money!

10/28/2017: The Powermatic 3520B lathe is being replaced by a new “C” model. i.e. the Powermatic 3520C. The B model is no longer available from retailers. They sold out in Aug 2017. I have not seen a 3520C yet in person. Only on the internet.

On 10/28/2017 the 3520C is currently not available for purchase. Thus, no official list price yet for the 3520C. Word on the internet is $4400.

Currently, I can not find official 3520C info on the web. It is only in the PRINT version of the “Craft Supplies USA” catalog. It says:

– Movable control box
– Redesigned spindle lock
– Adjustable riser blocks for 6″ of height adjustment
– Digital spindle indexing readout
– ACME thread tailstock quill
– Increased weight for stability

So far, I like what I see. They did not screw up the best features of 3520B. They changed the tailstock to ACME thread. A much needed improvement! More positions in the spindle lock wil be nice. The 3520B only has 2 positions in the spindle lock. I don’t care much about the other changes. I like the location of controls on 3520B. Thus movable control box on 3520C is no big deal to me.

I would have really liked to see fully adjustable legs or at least legs that adjusted in 2″ increments. I am really hoping that “Adjustable riser blocks for 6″ of height adjustment” means the new 3520C legs are 6″ shorter than 3520B legs. The 3520B legs are a little to tall for me. But, 6″ lower would be to much. I am hoping I can replace the 6″ riser blocks with my own 4″ wooden riser blocks if I only want it 2″ lower, etc.

Only available in 2 HP.   More than enough HP because Powermatic uses a good motor with a good motor drive.

The only problem with this lathe is the legs only come one height. However, I have found the height to be a good compromise. Short and tall people seem to agree the height is not ideal, but it is ok. On the other hand, only one leg height, helps keep the price down.

pm_3520b_banjoThe banjo on  the PM3520b sucks.  It is way to big and heavy for a 20″ lathe.   I STRONGLY recommend replacing the PM banjo with a Oneway 20″ banjo.  Do this BEFORE you start buying additional tool rests and you will save a lot of money.  Because the PM banjo requires special tool rests with an extra long tool post and thus they cost more.

oneway_banjoThe Oneway banjo design is simply the best out there. No contest. Order the banjo directly from Oneway via there web site under “Toolrest Base Retrofit for Other Lathes”. I have a Oneway banjo on my PM3520B and people love it! The price on 9/2017 was $310 plus shipping of $40 to TX.

Feedback from a reader in 2017 indicates that Oneway will say that you need “Oneway Part No. H0082 – 16″ Banjo For 16″ Swing Lathes”. This causes confusion because the PM3520B is a 20″ swing lathe. I have the “Oneway Part No. 2407 – 20″ Banjo For 20″ Swing Lathes” and it works just fine. This is the one I recommend if you want to use standard tool rests on your 3530B. If you want to use the extra tall tool rests that Powermatic ships with the 3502B then you need “Oneway Part No. H0082 – 16″ Banjo For 16″ Swing Lathes”. Note: This is also confusing because the Oneway part number on there web site is 2407. But, the part number cast into the side of the actual 20″ Oneway banjo is 2408.

Note: The rumor is they redesigned the banjo on the new PM3520C model. They are reusing the banjo from PM90 lathe that has better tool rest height locking mechanism. This would be a welcome improvement. However, the banjo will still not be as good as the Oneway and it will be to low for standard tool rests.

pm_3520b_extensionIf you need more than 20″ of swing the 18″ Bed Extension ($450 on 7/26/2015).    This will increase the swing to 36″.   The bed is 18″ long.  It can be mounted in line with existing main bed or in a position that is 8″ lower than main bed.

The new PM2020 (short bed version of 3520B), I guess is ok if space is an issue.  But you really don’t save any money!

The PM2448 is overkill.  Not worth the money.

Powermatic is a big name dealer, with lots of products. It does not have to make all it’s money on lathes. So it can sell a really great lathe like the PM3520B for a great price.

By from a local dealer to get the best price and delivery options.

2. Stubby S750 (No longer available)

stubby_s750I really like the Stubby design with a John Jordan stand. It is a very stable lathe. I like the sliding bed ways.

But, I can’t recommend it, because you can not buy one. The company that made it is out of business.

3. Oneway 1640,  2HP is $4510 on 7/26/2015 and still $4510 on 2/5/2017.

oneway_1640Many people over look this lathe because it is not Oneway’s top of the line. It is the best Oneway lathe for the money in my opinion.

However, the Powermatic 3520B is less money and a better lathe.  So the only reason to pick this lathe is if you want to rough out your bowls between centers and then finial turn them outboard. Removing the tailstock and sliding down the headstock on Powermatic 3520B (or any other lathe) is not hard but it can get really old, really fast.

The Oneway wins out over the Vicmarc VL300 because you can turn outboard on the Oneway.

I don’t like the other Oneway lathes. See Lathes I DO NOT recommend below.

Unverified feedback from a reader in 2017 indicated that Oneway no longer offers lathes with a 1-1/4 x 8 threads.

Special order from Oneway with 1-1/4 x 8 threads. DO NOT settle for the standard M33.  Spindle adapters suck! No charge for 1-1/4? I don’t care what it costs. M33 is dead!  Extra cost for 1-1/4″ x 8 will save you a bundle in the long run!

By from a local dealer to get the best price and delivery options.

4. Vicmarc VL300.  $6200 on 7/26/2015 and still $6200 on 2/5/2017.

vicmarc_vl300csVicmarc lathes are very good. Lots of people like them. But current US prices are on the high side.

I don’t known any good reason to pay extra for a Vicmarc when you could get a Powermatic 3520B  for less. You can turn outboard on a Oneway. But not on a Vicmarc.

The new Vicmarc lathes have a swivel headstock. Does this weaken the headstock? I would go with the older, solid headstock on VL300.

5. Magma Black Titan 400.  $9000+ Not available in USA.

magma_400This is my dream lathe. The ultimate lathe! The only thing I have seen that comes close to my VB36 lathe or even surpasses it. VB36 quality and built like a tank. With a swivel head that is also a great spindle turning lathe.

6. 220 Volt Laguna Revo 18/36 Lathe. $2500 on 2/6/2017.

delta_46_460 The 220 volt version of the Laguna Revo 18/36 is now my low cost “Recommended 220 Volt Lathe”. It replaces the 220 volt Jet 1642 EVS that is now longer available. I don’t like the new Jet lathes (Jet 1640 EVS, 1840 EVS or 1840 DVR). See my reasons below.

At this point in this blog I use to tell people. “If I was held at gun point and I had to recommend a lathe under $3000, I guess it would be Jet 1642. I would not be happy about it!” I don’t feel that strongly about the Laguna lathes. I think the Laguna 18/36 is a little better than the similar Jet 1642. The Powermatic 3520B is definitely a better lathe than Laguna or Jets. The 3520B is worth the extra money.

See 110 Volt Laguna Revo 18/36 Lathe above for more comments.

Bowl Turning Lathes (220 Volts)

1. Outboard turning on a Oneway 1640  with a 24″ Bed Extension.

2HP is $4510 on 7/26/2015 and still $4510 on 2/5/2017.  +$460 for 24″ Bed Extension.

oneway_1640Currently I think the best bowl lathe  is just turning outboard on a Oneway 1640 lathe. The price and HP is right!

I actually known people who have done this.   At least one of them has never used the inboard side of his Oneway 2436.

The Oneway lathes 1640, 20xx, or 24xx are the only ones where you really can turn outboard. Because they have full size bearings in the headstock on outboard side and full size spindle threads.

You can rough out a bowl between centers on the inboard side of a Oneway.  Then mount it on a faceplate or chuck on the outboard side of the lathe.   Beware!  This is going to require a lot of floor space for the lathe and space around the lathe.

The Oneway 1640 is very attractive for outboard turning because the bed extension on the outboard side is lower than the main bed on inboard side.   See photo.  Thus the swing on the outboard side is 24″.    This should be plenty for most bowl turning!

pm_outboard_standIf you need more than 24″ of swing then remove the outboard bed and use a stand-a-lone Powermatic 520B Outboard Turning Stand ($520 on 7/26/2015.)  Outboard turning stands get mixed reviews.   The PM is the best of the lot.    The best solution is really the floating tool rest beam on a  VB36 lathe.

See #3 above for my comments about ordering the lathe with 1-1/4 x 8 spindle rather than M33.  M33 is dead!

2. Sliding Headstock Lathes

You can side the headstock on Powermatic and Robust lathes and then turn bowls off the end of the lathe bed.   This works.  But, turning more than one bowl in a session becomes real old, real fast!

Because doing the following repeated, becomes tedious.   Starting out between centers, removing the tailstock, sliding down the headstock and banjo, turning the bowl, sliding the headstock and banjo back, reinstalling the tailstock, finishing the bottom on a jam or vacuum chuck.

The headstock on my Powermatic 3520b is heavy.  It takes a lot of effort to slide it.   If the bed is a little dirty from turning green wood or a little saw dust gets in the way then things get ugly.

Turning outboard on a Oneway avoids all the sliding headstock BS.  But, it requires a lot of floor space.

3. VB36  $9000 on 7/26/2015

vb36_w_tailstockI have a VB36 and I love it. It is the best lathe out there for turning bowls. But, I can not recommend it because you need to purchase a VB36 with a tailstock for safety. With the tailstock the price is over $9000 in US due to exchange rates, etc. To much!

Even with a tailstock the VB36 is really only good for bowls. The bearings in VB36 headstock are great for bowls. But really suck for spindle work, even with the tailstock.

I absolutely love the bayonet head, the floating tool rest beam and tilt away tailstock on my VB36. These features drive my friends and students crazy. But, I love them and wish all lathes had them!

If you get a VB36 then you must get a Benson Adapter for tool rest! A VB36 without a Benson Adapter sucks. With a Benson Adapter, it is the best tool rest on any lathe!

The VB36 is now made by Steinert in Germany. The old manufacturer in England was very good the new manufacturer is probably even better.

Lathes I DO NOT Recommend

Beware! Lots of sacrilege here!

There are going to be lots of people who do not agree with what I have to say here. They are entitled to there opinion. And I am entitled to my opinion.

1. Any Jet Lathe. Quality to low.

jet_1642evsJet lathes are popular with new turners because the price is right and some models run on 110 volts. But, I just can’t recommend them. Some times I hear good stories. But, to many people, I known have been disappointed or very disappointed.

I known someone who has a Jet 1642 and likes it. But, he understands it has limitations and discounts them because he feels it is good enough for what he needs.

I have turned a lot on Jet 1642 lathes at the Brookfield Craft Center. I really hate the banjo on the Jet 1642 with a passion! It just will not stay put when I turn bowls. The STUPID little knob that is suppose to hold the tool rest firmly in the banjo does not even come close! The tool rest is always moving around. Err… The banjo is also always moving around on the ways. Because the banjo hold down and locking mechanism is also Micky Mouse! Err…!!! If I owned a Jet 1642 I would replace it with the Oneway 16″ banjo in a second! See my Oneway Banjo comments above under Powermatic 3520 lathe.

In this blog I use to tell people. “If I was held at gun point and I had to recommend a lathe under $3000, I guess it would be Jet 1642. I would not be happy about it!” The Jet 1642 is no longer available. So, I guess I dogged a bullet. I now recommend the Laguna Revo 18/36 for a lathe under $3000.

I don’t like the new Jet lathes that replaced the Jet 1642. Even at gun point I would NOT recommend one of the new ones. I don’t like the new Jet 1640 EVS, or the Jet 1840 EVS or the Jet 1840 DVR. I DO NOT like rotating headstock lathes. They have a well deserved bad reputation. I DO NOT like DVR lathes. They have a well deserved bad reputation. All the big names lathes (Powermatic, Oneway, Robust, etc) use belts, because belts work better! They don’t use rotating headstocks because there is no way to make the headstock dead rock solid and there is no good way to get the tool rest into the right position and make it dead rock solid.

Avoid any Jet lathe that does not have variable speed.

jet_1442_headstockAvoid the Jet 12xx an 1442 lathes like the plague! The motor in back interferes with the swing on right side of head stock!  The rotating part of the headstock is to wimpy, etc, etc.

The Penn State Mini lathes are better than Jet. Well, at least, less money.

The Powermatic lathes appear to be similar to Jet. But, have better bearings, etc. Powermatic is a far better choice then Jet and worth the extra bucks!

2. Any Nova Lathe.  To wimpy.

In particular I do not like the Nova DVR lathe. Pushing AND HOLDING the buttons to go faster or slower, drives me crazy and is a HUGE waste of my time! I known I am not the only person who feels this way! And yea, I known you can program it to avoid this. Years have gone by, and I am still waiting to meet the 1st person who has SUCCESSFULLY programmed it.

The new “Dial-In Speed Knob” on the new Nova Galaxi DVR 1644 Lathe is a much needed improvement. But, is it really an improvement? Or did they just fixed a really crappy design. They now have, what all other lathes have had for a long time.

The new Galaxi DVR 1644 still has a wimpy bed and a sliding and rotating headstock that has a bad reputation for not being dead rock solid.

The bed of Nova lathes is to wimpy. To thin and flexible. So the banjo and tool rest flex to much. The screw in the tailstock is to wimpy. The stand is wimpy. The headstock locking mechanism sucks. etc. etc.

I known lots of people who own a Nova DVR lathe and love it. If they love it, then generally they like to do small things and don’t push the limits.

I also known people who have burned out the motor in headstock or have issues with the electronics.  They are really screwed because everything  is built into the one piece headstock and can not be replaced at any reasonable price. They love to do big things or they learned to love doing big things and pushed the Nova’s limits.  They learned the hard way that the Nova swing may be 16″,  but,  you really can not do lots of bowls over 8″ to 10″.

People primarily purchase Nova lathes because they are 110 volts and the price is right. I think they should just upgrade to 220 volts and spend the extra bucks for a great lathe. Like, a Powermatic 3520B. See my 110 volt my comments above.

No resale value? Nova lathes are hard to sell because they may have been ridden hard and put away wet.  They don’t hold up well due to, wimpy bed, etc.

If you are looking for a lathe in the Nova price range take a look at the new Laguna Revo 18|36 lathe.  I don’t recommend it (see below), but it is a lot beefier.

3. Oneway 1224 Lathe

This lathe is generally not liked by most people. I turned on one for a week at a craft school. It is not as bad as people say. But, I understand why people don’t like it.

The design is old and tired. The 1″ spindle sucks. Only 12″ of swing on any lathe causes issues when you try to turn bowls with the handle in down position.

4. Oneway 24xx and 20xx Lathes

Big time sacrilege here! I own 2 Oneway 2436 lathes, 1.5 hp. And I have turned on lots of Oneway 24xx lathes.

Realistically, I don’t think anyone needs more than 16″ to 20″ of swing.  So 24″ of swing is over kill.

Only 1.5 hp or 2 hp is not an issue in my experience.   Oneway uses good motors and vector drives that make it’s 1.5hp lathes out perform other lathes.

The Oneway 1640 is a very good lathe. The best Oneway lathe. If/when you need more than 16″ of swing then turn out board.

The Oneway lathes 1640, 20xx, or 24xx are the only ones where you really can turn outboard. Because they have full size bearings in the headstock on outboard side and full size spindle threads.

I my not so humble opinion M33 is dead!   No other lathe manufacture has picked up on the M33 thread spindle size.   All of the European lathe manufactures go with 1-1/4 x 8 threads.

M33 and 1-1/4 x 8 are virtually the same size!  M33 is just a tiny bit larger than 1-1/4.   Thus M33 is not bigger,  stronger, etc.

If you get stuck with a M33 Oneway lathe then you can not exchange chucks, face plates, and accessories with your buddies,  club members, etc.    M33 to 1-1/4 spindle adapters are a pain to use, introduce problems and are not cheap.  Special ordering your Oneway lathe directly from Oneway with a 1-1/4 threads will save you a lot of headaches and money in the long run.

5. Any Robust Lathe

Major, major, major sacrilege here.

Currently, all the big name woodturners can’t do enough to sing the praises of Robust lathes. Why? My guess (and it is a guess) is because they are getting really sweet deals on new Robust lathes for there woodturning schools and/or there is lots of room for sales commissions in Robust’s over inflated prices.

Robust lathes have adjustable legs. A long overdue advancement. Otherwise, I don’t need to pay the big bucks they want for Robust lathes. I don’t need Stainless Steel Ways, digital speed read out, etc.

6. Powermatic 4248B

pm_3520b_extensionThe big bucks for this lathe just don’t make sense. It is just a bigger version of the 3520B for a lot more money.

If you need more than 20″ of swing then get a PM 3520B with the 18″ Bed Extension ($450 on 7/26/2015). This will increase the swing to 36″.   The bed is 18″ long.  It can be mounted in line with existing main bed or in a position that is 8″ lower than main bed.

If you want the Gary Sanders light stand on the PM 4248B then you can order it direct from Oneway ($289 on 7/26/2015).

7. Any Lathe NOT sold by Packard Woodworks or Craft Supplies USA.

i.e. Grizzly, Harbor Freight, Shop Fox, Rikon, Apprentice lathes, etc.

In the same class as Jet Lathes? Or are they really in the Harbor Freight junk class? You will not be happy!

Grizzly may be a cut above the others.   But, I still think you will not be happy in the long run.

The crappy aspects of these lathes will just hold you back.   Sooner or latter you will give up on woodturning or decided to buy a real lathe.

The new Apprentice 812 VS Mini Lathe sold by Craft Supplies with that crappy plastic tail stock hand wheel and #1 MT is a copy of a really old design with a well deserved really bad reputation.

8. Any Metal Cabinet Lathe

i.e. any lathe mounted on top of a metal cabinet. Any lathe with motor in a metal cabinet under the headstock.

The noise from the rock rattle and roll of any lathe with a old fashion metal cabinet will drive you crazy.

This pretty much rules out, all of the old lathes on Ebay, etc.

9. Any Vega Lathe.

Bare bones, industrial lathes for companies who hate there employees.

The banjo handle on the Vega bowl lathe is a real ball buster and huge pain in the back side.   It flops all over the place when you are trying to use it.   The tailstock is a complete joke!

No sacrilege here. Everyone pretty much agrees.

10. Laguna Lathes (added on 8/9/2015)

I don’t recommend any of the Laguna lathes.   They come close but no cigar.

Beware.  I have only seen these lathes in photos.  I have never seen them up close or turned on them.

The Laguna mini lathe simply costs to much.  The Penn State TCLC10VS is a better deal.  Easier to change belts, etc.

The Laguna 16-43 and 18-47 lathes, look like more expensive versions of the same old tired designed offered by Jet and Grizzly.

The Laguna Revo 18|36 looks like the old Delta 16-42 Steel Bed lathe with a different headstock.  The Delta was 110 volts.  If it was still available it would be at the top of my recommend 110 volts lathes.   Unfortunately the Laguna 18|36 is 220 volts and thus it does not really stand out.  It is probably better than the Nova lathes in the same price range due to being a lot beefier.

Updated 2/6/2017: Laguna now offers a 110 volt version of there Laguna Revo 18/36 lathe. It is now my recommended 110 volt lathe. See “Recommended 110 Volt Lathes” above. The Jet 1642 lathe is no longer available and I don’t like the new Jet lathes. Thus, the 220 volt version of the Laguna Revo 18/36 lathe is my now my low cost “Recommended 220 Volt Lathe” above.

The Laguna 16-43, 18-47, and 20-36 lathes appear to no longer be available. No real loss here. I have not changed my mind about the Laguna 24-36. See comments in next paragraph.

The Laguna 20-36 and 24-36 lathes appear to be lesser copies of the Powermatic 3520B design for virtually the SAME price.   For the same money why not go with the well known and loved PM 3520B?

I seriously question the headstock on the 20-36 and 24-36 lathes.  It appears not to be as beefy as the PM 3520B.  And the beefy headstock with beefy bearings is one of the great features of the PM 3520B.  The belts and pulleys inside of the Laguna headstock are definitely not up to the PM, Oneway, etc standard and definitely don’t look like they are wide enough to drive 3HP (or even 2HP).

The 2 HP of the PM 3520B is plenty.  You don’t need 3 HP.

The ability to mount the optional bed extension on the front of the lathe near the headstock is of little value in my experience.  You can do this on Stubby lathes.  But, I suspect, most people don’t.  Because it gets in the way and putting it on and taking it off is way to much trouble.   I turn on the headstock side of my PM 3520B all the time.   I just move the banjo up next to the headstock and turn the tool rest to be perpendicular to the ways of the lathe.   It works great.  No bed extension in the way.   I don’t need a second banjo, etc.