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Thread: Looking for a lathe

  1. #1

    Looking for a lathe

    I own a small business building furniture and I have been purchasing my turned dining table legs online. I'm starting to get busier and needing more and more legs and want to lower my costs. I thought of just making the legs myself. I've never been good at using a lathe and I assume the ones I buy are done on a computer programmed lathe or a copy lathe. I was wondering what options are out there for me to use in buying a lathe that can work in those ways but that also won't cost a fortune (if such a thing exists). All information is welcomed. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Michael,

    Here's a link to Vega Lathes manufactured in Decatur, IL. They have 2 lines of copy lathes. Here's the price list from their website. http://vegawoodworking.com/wp-conten...List-20141.pdf
    Ken

  3. #3
    Thanks Ken...after doing some more research, I think I found my answer. As I don't have much money to spend I'm looking for the cheapest way right now to get the results I need, so I found a good 12" lathe on Harbor Freight and then I can purchase a duplicator from Rockler. This way I can glue up the boards myself, get one leg and copy it for much cheaper than buying all the legs I've been buying. What do you think?

  4. #4
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    When I first moved to TN, I met a couple of young men who were taking over their family's saddle tree making business. The had rigged up old Craftsman circular saws to follow good patterns. Their creations were crude, but precise enough for their intentions. If you need copies, there's lots of options. I am afraid the HF lathes won't hold up for the long haul, though.
    Maker of Fine Kindling, and small metal chips on the floor.
    Embellishments to the Stars - or wannabees.

  5. #5
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    A very well known turner here at SMC and around the US, John Keeton, started on a HF lathe IIRC. He started out turning exactly what you are doing.

    If you use the HF lathe take light cuts. Don't try to hog out too much at a time as it will be hard on the lathe.

    When looking at the lathe for furniture, don't just look at the throw or diameter of what you can turn, consider the length too. Other wise you will have to turn legs in two pieces that can be accurately assembled.
    Ken

  6. #6
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    For that type of turning you might be interested in this: http://www.thisiscarpentry.com/2016/...air-balusters/

    Doug

  7. #7
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    Since this is a business of yours I would do a very careful and honest cost analysis.
    I'm not sure you would be lowering your costs by buying a lathe and ALL the supporting tools and equipment to make your own legs. Secondly, the time required just to learn the skills to turn large spindles (legs) could take away from your core business?

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    This is about the only HF lathe capable of table legs. http://www.harborfreight.com/12-inch...ead-34706.html

    It is a clone of the Delta 1236.

  9. #9
    spindle turning is a skill one must work at. It is very hard to learn how to turn flowing shapes and clean beads etc. Think about how many spindle turnings you see on this forum. scratching your head yet?? I have made windsor chairs for 30+ yrs and the legs were one of my biggest hurdles. As said above, I don't think a HF lathe will withstand day in and day out business turning, but heck you might get lucky. If I were you I would seriously think what my labor costs,time, and investment into turning would be vs. the buying of legs. Now if you wanted to learn to turn, and learn all the ins and outs, THEN decide to turn your own, then that to me would be a smart way to proceed. Good luck
    Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says, "oh crap she's up!"


    Tolerance is giving every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

    "What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts are gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts will happen to man. All things are connected. " Chief Seattle Duwamish Tribe

  10. #10
    Thank you all for your input, it is appreciated. I understand what some are saying about weighing the labor costs and all, but I'm the one doing the building and if I'm lowering my overall costs then in a way I'm paying myself more. Again since I am new at this, it's not something I will switch to immediately. This is a skill I'd like to learn and I will continue to buy my legs until I can reproduce them easily. With that said, if I were to get the HF lathe (just to start out) and the lathe duplicator...what other equipment/tools will I need? How exactly does the duplicator work with the lathe? How much skill is needed if I'm just letting the lathe copy the piece in the duplicator? Please don't be harsh, these are things I really don't know the answers to. Thank you!

  11. #11
    I totally agree with John. As most know it is not just a matter of following a pattern unless a scraped finish is what you are looking for. If the legs are not too ornate it would be faster and probably more economic to set up a router to follow the pattern. Coves and Beads, Coves and Beads, to learn to spindle turn is not an easy thing for a busy individual to learn.
    Pete


    * It's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep for life - Sister Elizabeth Kenny *
    I think this equates nicely to wood turning as well . . . . .

  12. #12
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    Why not consider an older but higher quality used lathe as opposed to the harbor freight one? I think it would be frustrating to try to learn to do production turning on a piece of crap lathe with lousy tolerances and poor machining. ESPECIALLY since you are a professional. Cheap tools are just that. Cheap tools.

    I frequently see 1980's 12" Delta lathes in the $400-500 range.
    ---Trudging the Road of Happy Destiny---

  13. #13
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    This just popped up yesterday.
    Last edited by Dennis Peacock; 07-08-2016 at 12:47 PM. Reason: Remove link to other forum.

  14. #14
    I agree with what you're saying, to an extent. I have those coupons for HF so I'd rather get that for $200 to try and learn the basics and to make sure it'll all work out for me the way I'm planning. If it does then I will look into upgrading. If it doesn't, then I'll have only wasted $200.

  15. #15
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    Checkout this video. https://youtu.be/yQkv7ik1lb4
    I rigged up a similar set up and used it on a 1972 Delta lathe to make a set of legs for 6 chairs. It worked, it was relatively cheap, and I made a lot of duplicates in a short amount of time.

    Skip to the 1:45 mark, unless you also want to make your own "lathe" to do this work.

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