Category Archives: Tools

Power Carving Textures

http://www.carlford.info/Jalbum/gallery/Milk_Paint/folderimage.jpg

Here is some information I put together for a Power Carving Textures demo that I am doing at my local woodturning club.

I learned most of the stuff presented here in various wood turning symposiums and classes. Mostly from Al Stirt.

Hand Carving


First, lets get this out of the way. Hand carving on turnings often does NOT work good because they are round. When hand carving you have to pay attention to and follow the grain. On round turnings the grain often changes directions and thus is hard to follow. Carving across the grain requires a lot of effort and force that is hard to control.

Hand carving textures is to time consuming and tedious. Power carving works a lot better for textures.

Note: I own a set of good Swiss made Pfeil hand carving tools. If I was purchasing a set today, I would probably go with FlexCut tools. Something like the "FlexCut 21 Piece Starter Set" shown in photo. For around $150 on 1/5/2017. I really like the FlexCut tools. Good tools at a good price. They were not available when I purchased my Pfeil tools a long time ago.

 

Reciprocating Power Carving


Like I said above, hand carving does not work well. Thus I use a power reciprocating carver when I want nice straight or curved lines with nice clean edges. The reciprocating action (quick small back and forth movements like a hammer drill) of a power tool is used to drive a little chisel similar to a hand tool chisel. Controlling a reciprocating tool (starting and stopping the cut) is often easy. They cut across grain a lot easier than a hand tool and create less tear out.

I often use a power reciprocating carver with a V-tool to cave lines that define the boundaries of an area that I then fill with a rotary carved texture. The photo shows an Al Stirt style piece I did after taking a class with Al. The curved lines where carved with a FlexCut V-tool in my Ryobi DC500 Detail Carver. The dots were created with a round ball burr in my Dremel tool.

Reciprocating Power Carving Tools:

FlexCut Detail Power GougesFlexCut "Detail Set" Power Gouges – Around $30 on 1/7/2017. Everyone pretty much agrees that the gouges that come with power cavers (Ryobi, Proxxon, etc) are junk. You should replace them with a set of FlexCut gouges designed to fit in a power carver.

FlexCut makes a "Detail Set" and a "Roughing Set". I rarely use anything other than the V-tool in the "Detail Set". Thus you probably do not need the "Roughing Set".

The FlexCut "Power Gouges" fit directly in Ryobi, Proxxon and Mastercarver handpiece. You may need an adapter for Automach, Wecheer, etc. See FlexCut web site.

FlexCut RG102 HandleYou should also get a FlexCut RG102 handle so you can use the gouges like a hand tool.

Ryobi DC500 Detail Carver – Hands down the best option. It just takes a little bit of forward pressure to start cutting and it does not overheat. Well, like any other tool, it will overheat after a couple of hours of continuous use.

DISCONTINUED! They stopped making the Ryobi quite a while ago. I have one and I love it. I just purchased 2 more of them on eBay for around $50 each plus shipping.

No one really knows why they discontinued the Ryobi DC500. The only good tool Ryobi ever made? They use to be common on eBay at often outrageous prices given they sold for around $20 when discontinued. They still come up on eBay once and while due to estate sales.

Amazon is now selling a "Ryobi DC-501 Electric Carving Knife". $82 on 1/7/2017. I don’t known what to say about these. They get very mixed reviews. "Great power carver". "Quit working after 30 minutes", etc. Cheap Chinese knock off? But Ryobi is cheap …

Proxxon Power Carver – I see there are now MSG and MOS models of the Proxxon Power Carver. Around $160 on 1/7/2017. The older models were known for overheating and thus not very poplar. The new models are ok?

I don’t know if the MSG or MOS model is better. I think one is a little bigger than the other. I would probably get the smaller one to carve textures on my turnings. Smaller is easier to maneuver? The larger one is better for carving big things like duck decoys? The Proxxon is probably your best choice if you can not find a Ryobi DC500 on eBay.

Automach Power CarverAutomach Power Carver – The $310 price turns most people off. It has a reputation for overheating but it is not clear what people are using it for when it overheats. It may be a good tool for big stuff. Duck decoys, etc Not worth the price for wood turners?

Reciprocating Hand Piece – If you already have a Flex Shaft tool (Mastercarver, Foredom, etc) then you can get a Reciprocating Hand Piece that fits on the flex shaft. Just snap it on to the end of the shaft. The hand piece converts from rotary flex shaft to reciprocating. The Mastercarver, Foredom and WeCheer brands of reciprocating hand pieces all seem to be about the same. But, I don’t really known.

I have a Mastercarver one that I don’t use much. It works ok. I just find that dragging around the flex shaft gets in the way. Hard to maneuver. I prefer my Ryobi.

 

Rotary Power Carving


I use a Rotary power caring tool to create most of my textures. I like to use a Dremel with mostly a square cylinder burr or round burr. (Note: Burr = cutter or bit, etc.)

Power carving with a rotary burr is fast. You can carve with the grain or across the grain. No problem. The only problem is the rotary burrs often create a lot of tear out. Splinters that stick up where the burr exited the wood. I clean these up with 3M Radial Bristle Discs. I also use the bristle discs to soften the hard edges crated by rotary burrs.

The photo shows an Al Stirt style piece I did after taking a class with Al. The lines where created using a Square Cylinder burr in my Dremel tool. The dots were created using a ball burr. The craters were created using the end of a Kutzall cylinder plunged into the wood like a router bit. The craters are a good example of how you have to play around with all the burrs you have. Try them at different angles, etc.

Power Carving Burrs

Wood Magazine has a good Power Carving Bits summary here.

I mostly use Square Cylinder, Round, and a Inverted Taper Cone shapes.

Note: The Inverted Taper Cone shape I use is not shown in diagram. Take the Cone Taper and Invert it. This shape is often not part of sets and hard to find. The very common Square Cylinder is almost as good.

Caving burrs come in tons of different shapes and sizes. For carving textures I generally like burrs that are roughly 1/4" in diameter, 1/2" tall when applicable, with a 1/8" shank for Dremel. I don’t care if they are steel or carbide. I have mixed feelings about single cut or double cut. I often favor single cut over double. I like my cutters to cut fast. Some times the double cut are to slow. However, double cut is easier to control and creates less tear out.

Dremel has a "115 High Speed Cuter" (square cylinder single cut burr) that I DO NOT like because the flutes are to far apart. To course. It makes to much of a mess and is hard to control. Unfortunately, it is commonly available at Home Depot, etc. Avoid it.

Other square cylinder single cut burrs with the flutes closer together (the way most manufacturers make them) are ok.

Rotary Power Carving Tools:

ZJchao 10 Pieces Tungsten Carbide Rotary Burr Set 1/8" Shank – Around $15 on 1/7/2017 on Amazon.

Updated 1/25/2017: BEWARE! I just got feedback from a good friend who purchased this set from Amazon. He was not expecting the best quality, but the set he received was terrible! Most of the bits do not run true. They oscillate and vibrate. I should reconsider recommending them. I agree. I should reconsider. But, I don’t known what to do. The set I received runs ok.

Updated 2/3/2017: I now own 3 sets of these cutters. All purchased from Amazon. My first set was all ok. The 2nd and 3rd sets have 2-3 burrs in each set that oscillate way to much! Thus I can no longer recommend these burrs! If you want a good set from a trusted retailer, then I suggest you purchase "10-Piece Carbide Burr Set 1/8" Shank 1/4" Head" item # 627001 from www.woodcarverssupply.com. Around $57 on 2/3/2017. However, given the price difference. I personally would, probably just purchase the cheap set and take my chances. The bad burrs in my 2rd and 3rd sets are ones that I don’t care about. Ones, that I personally will never use.

Their are lots of sets on Amazon. I chose the set show in the photo because it includes the hard to find Inverted Taper Cone shape I like. It is at the end on the left in photo. See discussion in previous section. I purchased this set from Amazon to confirm it really is what I like.

This set is a double cut set. Normally, I would prefer a single cut set, because they cut faster. However this set works good. It cuts fast enough to satisfy me. The cut is also pretty clean. Not a lot of tear out.

CMT Orange Bit and Blade Cleanser – I use this to clean my burrs. The orange formula is biodegradable ….

I put this stuff in an old pill bottle and soak my burrs in there when not in use. When I want to use one, I take it out and clean it with a small cheap BRASS wire brush from local hardware store.

Brass is soft so it does little damage to the sharp edges of burrs. It is one of these things were you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. If you don’t get the crud off the burr it will not cut. If you clean it with a brass brush then you may dull it a little.

 

3M Radial Bristle Discs – I use these to clean up any tear out splinters left sticking up after power carving.

Mcmaster-Carr is the cheapest source for 3" diameter disks. However, Mcmaster does not tell you they are 3M brand on their web site. Trust me they are.

I use only the 120 grit 3" disks. 120 grit is white color disks. www.mcmaster.com 6 of # 4494A55 (disks) and 1 of # 4568A22 (arbor) around $23 total on 1/7/2017. Note: This is not the $22 3M arbor. I use a generic $4 arbor. Just cut the end off the arbor with a hack saw if it sticks out to much for your tastes.

The disks are only 1/16" thick with a 3/8" hole in center. I stack 6 of the disks on the arbor to create a nice 3/8" wide brush. Like the white one in the photo.

Beware! Rio Grande Jewelry Supply, etc sell small 3/4" disks that you can mount in a Dremel tool. The bigger 3" size disks are to big for a Dremel tool. To much mass. Drive them with a hand drill, a flex shaft tool or your variable speed lathe.

Dremel Tool – I have an old Dremel 380 tool that I have been using for a long time. It was a fancy kit with variable speed, etc. I have done a lot of power carving with this tool. It is my favorite. Easy to maneuver. Plenty of power. It does not get hot. I almost always use it at full speed (one speed).

I recently picked up a new Dremel 200 at Home Depot for $30. On sale for Christmas 2016. Something for my students to use. I have been using it and I like it. This is one that I am now recommending. It is 2 speed (high and low). That is one more speed than I am ever going to need to power carve textures. I only use high speed. Around $50 on 1/17/2017.

I only use one speed so I may be able to make due with a Dremel 100 for $30 on 1/17/2017. I don’t have one of these. Thus I don’t know if they are junk.

I never use all the junk (I mean stuff) that comes in the kits. Thus I would just purchase the bare bones tool if available.

Tip: Attach a 12" long chunk of cheap 1/4" gold chain from local hardware store to center hole in your Dremel wrench to keep it from getting lost.

1/2 HP Mastercarver Bench-Top Basic Set (aka Foredom Flex Shaft Tool) – I like the 1/2 HP Mastercaver Flex Shaft Tool better than the 1/3 HP (or less) Foredom tools.

I have the hanging version. If I had to do again I would get the bench version. It now comes with the variable speed controller you need if you want to use 3M Radial Bristle Discs. You can hang up the bench model at any time with a piece of scrap wire.

I like this "Basic Set" because it comes with the small drill chuck hand piece (see photo). I have lots of hand pieces. I like the drill chuck one best. You can mount the 1/4 shaft of mandrels for 3M Radial Bristle Discs in this drill chuck. You can also mount any 1/8" shaft (or any other shaft size) style carving burr in this chuck. Some people don’t like this hand piece. They like smaller diameter hand pieces. I like the diameter of the drill chuck handpiece. It feels great in my hands. You can get additional hand pieces or purchase the "Ultra Set".

Mastercarver tools are only available from Wood Carvers Supply Inc.

Most Foredom and Wecheer hand pieces will fit on the Mastercarver shaft.

Also purchase a "Mastercarver Spare Inner Shaft", Item #797020. $11 on 1/7/2017. If you have one of these then you will never break the shaft on your tool and you will never need it. If you don’t have a spare then trouble is just around the bend.

Tip: Attach a 12" long chunk of cheap 1/4" gold chain from local hardware store to the drill chuck key to keep it from getting lost. Attach your Dremel chuck key to the other end.

Note: I don’t known if I really trust the HP ratings here. Over the years HP has become an almost worthless indicator of performance. Are they ratting the HP under load or no load? Etc, etc. So if a saw a good deal on a Foredom 1/3 HP tool I would go for it rather than pay a high price for 1/2 HP Mastercarver.

Beware: Foredom has a confusing mess of tool options and kits (1/3 HP, 1/4 HP, 1/6HP, etc) aimed at different industries (Jewelry, Woodworking, etc).

Enkay 115-C Flex Shaft with 1/4 Chuck – If you don’t want to spend a lot of money one of these will do the job. Around $26 on 1/7/2017 from Amazon. Drive it with a power drill or your variable speed lathe.

Running your lathe at really high speed 2000+ RPM is a bit unnerving. But is ok for short periods. It works reasonably good with 3M Radial Bristle Discs. But, is a little to slow for good power carving. So one of these plus a $30 Dremel for Power Carving can get the job done.

Note: A "Guinevere Flexibleshaft With Chuck" is very similar. But it is $80 on 1/7/2017. Made by King Author Tools available from Amazon.

You can mount it in the lathe headsock with a Jacobs Chuck (not a good option), a commercial Collet Chuck with a 1/4" collet or home made Collect Chuck like the one in the photo. Make a collet out of UHMW or hardwood with a 1/4" hole the fits in your 4 Jaw lathe chuck.

Any Micromotor Tool – The micromotor tools work great with small power carving burrs. You will QUICKLY burn them out if you try to use them to carve textures with the 1/4" diameter burrs shown above.

Use a Dremel or Flex Shaft tool rather than Micromotor tool.

 

Carving Suppliers


Here are the woodcarving suppliers that I use.

Wood Carvers Supply, Inc – An old well known company. They pretty much have everything. "Mastercarver" band tools are made by Wood Carvers Supply. I don’t like their current web site. Their print catalog is a lot better. I tend to get things from Wood Carvers Supply because I like their Mastercarver Flex Shaft tool better than less powerful Foredom tools.

Treeline USA – Wood Carving Tools – They have most things. A good web site and a very nice print catalog. No "Mastercarver" brand tools.

MDI Woodcarvers Supply – Another company that pretty much has everything other than "Mastercarver" band tools. Another web site that I don’t care for and their print catalog is a lot better.

Rio Grande Jewelry Supply – They have some carving stuff. When they have something you want like a Foredom tool or carving burrs it is often the lowest price available. They have a very good web site and print catalog.

Note: I find the above suppliers usually have better prices than Woodcraft. You can also get things on Amazon. There are good and bad deals on Amazon.

Pattern Layout Tools

Here are some of the tools I use to layout patterns and textures.

Polar Graph Paper – I use polar graph paper to layout equal distant divisions (lines) on a round bowl or plate. The Al Stirt way.

I generate my own Polar Graph Paper using an on line tool at https://incompetech.com/graphpaper/polar/

For 48 divisions, I use: PDF Document Size = 8.5 x 11, Minimum Border = .25 inches, Line Weight Wide = 2 points, Narrow = .75 points, Concentric Circles = 8, Primary Spokes = 12, Primary Labels = degrees, Secondary Spokes = 48, Center Style = Normal, Line Color = Black.

For 36 divisions change above to: Secondary Spokes = 36.

For 5 divisions change above to: Spokes = 5, Secondary Spokes = 20.

The number of "Secondary Spokes" should always be a multiple of the number of "Spokes" for best results.

I have found that generating anything other than 8.5" x 11" and then printing it on multiple sheets and gluing it back together is to much trouble. I just print 8.5" x 11" and then glue it on to the center of 1/4" x 15" x 15" plywood. Extend the lines by hand using a ruler and pencil.

Note: If you want to download a program then try "Graph Paper Maker" by www.blackcatsystems.com. It is virtually the same as the above on line program.

Drafting Compass – I like to use a drafting compass to layout equal distant things. The little wheel in the middle allows me to easily adjust it by just a little bit.

Around $9 on 1/7/2017 from local art supply store, craft store or Amazon. "Staedtler GeoStudent Compass" on Amazon.

 

Quilters Template Plastic – After I draw a shape that I like (triangle, etc), I use this to cut out a template. I then use the template to transfer shape to multiple places. The Al Stirt way.

I also use this to create 1/4″ wide flexible straight edges that I use to layout spirals on hollow forms.

Around $4 for 6 sheets on 2/7/2017. Purchase from local fabric store or on Amazon.

Derwent Graphic 9B Pencil or a Stabilo All 8046 Black Pencil – When I layout a grid on a piece before I draw on a design, I like to use a #2 grammar school pencil for the grid.

Then I draw on the design with a wide soft 9B pencil. The wide line is easy to see and distinguish from the grid. The soft pencil does not leave an impression in the wood.

The Stabilo All 8044 Black pencil washes off with water if surface is sealed first with shellac, polly, or lacquer. It will write on anything! Paper, Glass, Plastic, Metal. It makes a nice wide dark line like a 9B pencil.

Purchase from local art supply store, craft store, or Amazon.

Note: I did not learn this from Al Stirt. Al likes to use a Carpenter Pencil. I don’t like them because they are to hard. When I push to hard they leave an impression in my wood.

Derwent Watercolor Sun Yellow Pencil – I use a yellow water color pencil to draw designs on black things. The pencil will wash off with water if surface is sealed first with shellac, polly, or lacquer.

Purchase from local art supply store, craft store, or Amazon.

Al Stirt taught me to paint a piece black with black acrylic gesso. Sand/buff it with synthetic steel wool. Seal it with lacquer. Then draw a design on it with water color pencil. Carve the design. Then wash off any left over pencil lines with water.

Circular T-Square – I made this circular T-square to help me layout patterns.

The small arm on the T-square has an angle in it that fits the outside of circles. It aligns the long arm with the center of the work. I think I got this idea from Al Stirt.

After I cut a pattern out of “Quilters Template Plastic”, I often tape it to the T-square. This allows me to easily repeat it after indexing with “Polar Graph Paper”.

Note the easy to see, dark lines in the photo drawn with a “Stabilo All 8044 Black” pencil.

 

Books

I don’t know of any really good books on Power Carving Textures on turnings.

Carving on Turnings by Chris Pye is a good book. However it only has a little bit of stuff on textures. It has good stuff on carving leaves, letters, low relief, spirals, furniture stuff, and other traditional carving stuff. It is mostly (all?) hand carving rather than power carving. Chris Pye is a big name in the wood carving world. This book is worth having. But, not if you only want to learn about power carving textures.

Decorating Turned Wood – The Maker’s Eye by Liz & Michael O’Donnell is another good book. However, only the last chapter really, has anything about carving textures.

DVDs and YouTube

I don’t know of any good DVDs. However Al Stirt is a well known master for power carving textures. You can check out some of his demos on YouTube.

In general I DO NOT recommend YouTube. Way to much dangerous stuff is shown on YouTube. Thus I am ONLY recommending the Al Stirt stuff on YouTube. For example "WGNC Demo: Al Stirt carved square platters" on YouTube.

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.

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!  🙂

A good overview of this lathe is on the AAW’s “Anatomy of a Wood Lathe”. Click here for the video 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!

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 “Non-Oneway Lathe Update Options”.   I have a Oneway banjo on my PM3520B and people love it!

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.

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.

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.