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Thread: Is bigger than a 12" swing that much of a difference?

  1. #1
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    Is bigger than a 12" swing that much of a difference?

    I actually have 3 lathes. A Delta midi, Jet midi, and a PM 90. I started with the Delta (Lowes close out $130) and began making pens and small objects. I thought I really needed a variable speed, so I bought the Jet. Nice, but could have easily survived with the Delta. I bought the PM 90 at a school auction and changed to single phase. I used a relay to bypassed the original stop with reeves control. This PM 90 was the slower speed 500-2000. Since I bypassed the original stop the lathe goes much lower than 500, guessing around 300 which is nice. I can turn pens fairly well and have sold them, but I am a novice at bowl turning. I have turned a few small lidded boxes. I just turned a bowl that is about 10 1/2" X 4", the biggest I have turned so far. I really don't plan on selling anything. I'll post the bowl for comments when complete. Finally getting to my question, this seems to be a nice size bowl. Is there a reason to be able to turn much larger bowls? $ wise my only hope would be the G0766. Yes more hp and other things, but would I be better off buying better turning tools? I do have a few Sorby, but also some HF that I use. I guess I am wonder how many times I would have a blank to turn larger bowls and just lathe size wise is it worth it. The PM 90 is rock solid and works well. I have faceplates and chucks for it. Maybe better turning tools would be wiser. What are the advantages?
    When working I had more money than time. In retirement I have more time than money. Love the time, miss the money.

  2. #2
    I think you would find more swing useful if you turn some bowls from green wood. Another option that might be useful for the PM 90 is riser blocks. I have seen some with 6" OEM risers on a PM91 (I think). There might be some available somewhere and others have made some out of plywood. However, there are many things that you can turn with a 12" swing.

  3. #3
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    Your PM 90 will turn bowls that are much larger than 12". This is done by mounting the bowl blank outboard (where the handwheel would normally go). Turning outboard was fairly common in days before large-swing lathes became so common. So, if all you want to do is occasionally turn a larger bowl, you don't need another lathe. A larger swing lathe is nice, don't get me wrong. It's just not necessary.
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  4. #4
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    The PM 90 is such a quality, substantial and time-tested lathe that it's hard to think of another lathe in your price-range as an upgrade. If you are not feeling the need to turn larger then you are good. That lathe can do some impressive hollow forms. Given the two options mentioned above - turning outboard or adding risers - you already have a great lathe for more if you need. Better quality tooling is probably the wiser investment than "bigger." Time spent on new techniques or perfecting those you have and refining your designs may be better than time spent setting up a new lathe. My $0.02

    Doug

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Seyfried View Post
    I think you would find more swing useful if you turn some bowls from green wood.
    Yup. For starters, a lathe with a 12" swing can never be used to turn a 12" bowl (dry or green) unless you also have a bandsaw or some other way to make a perfectly round blank. People who start with the typical "chainsaw polygon" blanks will end up with bowls substantially smaller than 12" when they are done. Even if you manage to bandsaw a green blank and get an 11 1/2" bowl rough-turned on a 12" lathe, there is still the risk that the roughed bowl will warp beyond 12" on the long dimension and you will still have to lop off some of the wood to get it back on the lathe, especially with really warp-happy woods like oak.

    In my experience, once you start turning larger bowls and platters from green, you will inevitably want to keep going bigger, certainly past 12". Plus, 12" lathes typically don't have a very big motor in them and will be underpowered for turning larger green blanks anyway (some heavier species worse than others). My original lathe, a 46-460, actually has a large motor for its size (1HP vs. the common 1/2HP on most "mini" lathes) and it still struggled with a some of the larger green blanks I threw on it.

  6. I agree with David in his comments above. If you are able to rig up for outboard turning, then the PM-90 is a great lathe. Lots of iron on that old workhorse. I forget how much horsepower it has, but that can always be upgraded if needed. The G0766 is a super nice lathe, and probably there is no better value on the market for a large lathe. Mine gives me joy every time I go to the shop and I can turn big on it.

    Not sure it is worth it if you only want to turn a larger bowl than 10" a couple of times a year, but you might be able to sell your midi and your PM 90 and come close to the cost of a new G0766. It would not surprise me if that in the new catalog the price has gone up some........this lathe could easily garner the flagship position for the Grizzly lineup, and command a $2K pricetag and still be the value on the market. Their introductory price was a slick marketing move, and has allowed Grizzly to make a big debut in the large lathe category!

    I hope Shiraz doesn't read this post......I don't want to give them ideas about raising prices!
    Last edited by Roger Chandler; 10-30-2015 at 11:25 AM.
    Remember, in a moments time, everything can change!

    Vision - not just seeing what is, but seeing what can be!




  7. #7
    My first lathe was an Atlas 4 speed that had a 1/2 hp motor, which I changed out to a 1 hp motor, and a 12 inch throw. I was already doing the local Saturday Market, and started taking bowls down to sell. They moved, but I kept getting asked for larger bowls. After almost 2 years of this, and still getting requests for larger bowls, I got a PM 3520A. It paid for itself 3 times the first year I had it, which means it paid for all the 'extra' things I needed. I probably sell as much $ worth of small and larger bowls, so while I sell many more smaller bowls, the bigger ones still move. Having 'family' sized bowls makes a big difference. Anything over about 14 to 16 inches is hard to sell, more of a specialized market, but the 12 to 14 inch ones sell well. If you only turn a few of them and are not concerned with production time, then turning outboard on the PM will work. Other than that, 220 volt and 16 inch throw is your best option, depending on what you can afford.

    robo hippy

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the comments. I just get envious of those larger lathes. I think what got me thinking is the blank I just turned I could ha made a 12-13" bowl if I had a bigger lathe. I still need a lot of practice and would like to turn same hollow forms. The PM 90 is big enough for that. I have looked at the PM 91 option, however I have never seen a factory kit for sale. I could raise the head and tail stock, but it would be difficult to raise the banjo. I do have the outboard faceplates, so that is an option. I have seen used outboard tool stands for around $100, or could even make one. Since I am not generating money, I guess I need to have a much improved skill level for a new lathe to be satisfying (now I can turn X with this lathe). The lathe is not going to improve my skills and have not really exceeded the capabilities of the PM 90. Thanks for your comments as the helped me solidify my thinking.
    When working I had more money than time. In retirement I have more time than money. Love the time, miss the money.

  9. #9
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    Are larger bowls and platters what you really "want" to do? It all depends on what you want to do in the future. I have been woodturning for over 55 years, I have no desire to turn a bowl over about 10" diameter. I have turned larger bowls on other people's lathes, but only because they asked me to turn them one. In the end I could consider a larger lathe, but I have no need for one, and really don't care either way. If I opened up the newspaper in the morning and VB36 was listed for sale at a super bargain price, I might consider it, but even at a super low price I would still think long and hard about if I really needed it.

    My old 1972 Delta does all I want or need to do. Like your Powermatic, it is an old piece of iron, it is reliable never needed anything except a bearing change a few years ago. I did disassemble it and repaint it, so the old girl still looks good for being 44 years old.
    that will still be going a longtime after I turn out the lights.

  10. #10
    It is that big of a difference if you are turning platters and large bowls. How often you'll do it depends on your access to larger blanks. In my neck of the desert (we have no wood here), I only have access to store-bought blanks. They rarely get larger than 12". But I have a 16" swing lathe. You can always turn small stuff on a big lathe, but not the other way around. The other factor is that with a 16" swing lathe, you usually get a bigger motor. Bigger = more torque. I can hog off more wood quicker when roughing out a blank with my 16" than I ever could with my Jet Mini. My motor has 3x more HP.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=Justin Stephen;2485173]

    In my experience, once you start turning larger bowls and platters from green, you will inevitably want to keep going bigger, certainly past 12". /QUOTE]

    Its a slippery slope...and addictive. I'm trying ween myself of it....one bowl at a time.

    i find myself trying to go bigger and bigger, but there are practical limits: the size of wood blanks you can source, move, lift etc. They get heavy. How much a lathe can handle. How much power/gearing. And at some point large, turning, off balance chunks just scare me. Drying out blanks, without cracking is tough to.

    but the visual impact of a large bowl or platter is awesome.

    18" is likely. Good size. Larger diameters become very difficult.

    Olaf

  12. #12
    It sounds as much like you have an itch that you need or at least seriously want to scratch. As others have pointed out, the PM90 can handle larger pieces turning outbound, l recommend you consider trying several and just see if you enjoy working on the larger stock as much. If so...then consider how frequently you'd like to turn those pieces and then contrast that against whatever inconveniences there are to out-bound turning on your current unit. New turning tools are great...I think most if not all of us always have that 'next one' in mind but there are several great tool providers available and we don't have to purchase all of them right away. Good luck and let us know how it works out for you...

  13. #13
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    One aspect not mentioned is larger lathes have larger, stronger bearings. Considering the PM90 was sold to schools where they received and generally survived a lot of abuse, that is probably not an issue with it. They may need replacing, but will hold up to what you throw at it.

    Using larger, out of balance blanks on a mini can really stress the bearings on most minis which are really designed for small spindle work like pens. I would spend my money on some better tools and visit the D-Way or Thompson sites. And make sure you upgrade to CBN wheels to properly sharpen those new crucible metal tools.
    Retired - when every day is Saturday (unless it's Sunday).

  14. #14
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    William, everyone seems to want to turn the larger bowls and platters. After you turn a few, you run head first into the what do I do with them wall. I have a 24" Oneway and a 16" Robust which I seldom use(my girlfriend has claimed the Robust). I do most of my turning on my 12" Oneway. Most people say that you can turn small on a big lathe, but, you can't turn big on a small lathe. I would say that 95% of my turnings are smaller than 12". I really like my Oneway 1224. YMMV.
    Joe

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bradshaw View Post
    William, everyone seems to want to turn the larger bowls and platters. After you turn a few, you run head first into the what do I do with them wall. I have a 24" Oneway and a 16" Robust which I seldom use(my girlfriend has claimed the Robust). I do most of my turning on my 12" Oneway. Most people say that you can turn small on a big lathe, but, you can't turn big on a small lathe. I would say that 95% of my turnings are smaller than 12". I really like my Oneway 1224. YMMV.
    Joe
    This reminds me of a conversation I had with Dale Nish 10 - 12 years ago. For those of you who do not remember Dale, he was the founder of Craft Supplies USA and an excellent turner and instructor. My wife and I took a class from him at CSUSA. The highlight of the week was dinner at his home and a chance to view his personal turning collection (Wow!) and tour his shop. In the corner of his basement shop was a PM 90 (IIRC, it might have been a similar lathe of a similar vintage). Here was a man who could have had any of the top lathes on the market and he was using a decades-old lathe, so I asked him why? He said the lathe did all he wanted and he'd gotten a great price on it when the local school district liquidated its wood shops. What about turning larger items? He said he mostly turned small items -- he was well known for his birdhouse Christmas ornaments -- and he could always turn something larger at CSUSA during the day. In the evening, he turned for his personal enjoyment and he found turning the small stuff -- with its premium on precision and creativity -- more enjoyable than turning large bowls.

    My own turning has taken a similar turn (sorry for the pun). I went through a larger is better phase. Now, I prefer to turn boxes. I haven't turned a bowl in years. I'm not saying I won't turn bowls in the future nor am I claiming all turners learn to appreciate the challenges of turning small. I am saying a large swing lathe is not necessary for many turners. I think new turners are ill-advised to buy a large swing lathe until they've turned enough to get a sense of what they'd like to turn.
    Last edited by David Walser; 11-02-2015 at 10:21 AM.
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

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