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Thread: Lathe size question

  1. #1
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    Lathe size question

    I have a mini lathe which is fine for pen turning and other smaller turnings. I am limited by size to 12" swing. I have been looking at full size lathes. Since most full size lathes have reversible heads or outboard turning ability. So my question is, if you had to do it again would you go with whatever size you would use 95% of the time (16 or 18") or the largest swing you could afford?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    I would go with the best lathe that I could afford. That might not be the largest swing that I could afford. The times that I have used the swing capacity of my full size lathe all involved unbalanced blanks and/or off-center work (which is inherently unbalanced). Large swing requires a heavy and strong lathe (or a LOT of patience).
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  3. #3
    Join Date
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    I have a 16" lathe and often wish it were bigger. Outboard turning sounds attractive, but mostly doesn't work out all that well due to the lack of a tailstock and often poorly supported toolrest. Most times the biggest bowl I can turn is only about 12" due to asymmetry in the blank. I suppose I could do a better job of making the blank round, but that would probably require a bigger/better bandsaw and take longer than turning it round on the lathe.

  4. #4
    I bought a g0766 with a 22 inch swing and would buy it again or bigger if budget had been there. I only turned a couple things that came close to maxing out the swing but the power that comes with a bigger lathe makes turning things easier sometimes. If i ever buy another lathe one feature i will insist on having is a sliding headstock. When turning things that dont require a tailstock like bowls being able to slide the headstock down to the end with just enough room for the toolrest makes it so much easier. You can stand at the end of the lathe and not have to lean over the bed.

  5. #5
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    I have a Powermatic 3520B and just turned my first (and likely last) large diameter piece off the bed without use of tailstock. The problem with large pieces is what do you do with them. I do turn a lot of long oval natural edge pieces that are almost 20" L (swing capacity) and then 12 to 16" wide that will fit on shelf or easier to display than a 20" D piece. A larger swing is also helpful even on smaller pieces to have the ability to drop a long handle of bowl gouge turning the inside of pieces. I also have a Nova Comet II with 12" swing and have issue with long handle tools so previous comment. The larger lathes usually will have more power, but you also go from 1" to 1-1/4" drive which means some changes to you existing chucks, faceplates, etc.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Thanks for the feedback so far. My budget is $2000, so I am considering the following:

    Grizzly GO838
    Grizzly GO766
    Laguna Revo 18-36
    Jet 1640EVS
    Nova Saturn DVR (16" swing)

    I have heard mixed things about the Jet and Nova (electronics more than anything).

    Chris according to the info on the Grizzly site, it says the headstock can be positioned anywhere along the bed, is this not accurate?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan Lisowski View Post
    Chris according to the info on the Grizzly site, it says the headstock can be positioned anywhere along the bed, is this not accurate?
    Yes it is accurate the headstock locks and slides the same way the tailstock does.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan Lisowski View Post
    I have a mini lathe which is fine for pen turning and other smaller turnings. I am limited by size to 12" swing. I have been looking at full size lathes. Since most full size lathes have reversible heads or outboard turning ability. So my question is, if you had to do it again would you go with whatever size you would use 95% of the time (16 or 18") or the largest swing you could afford?
    Thanks.
    I think some of it depends on what you want to turn. I have Jet minis, a couple of 16" swing lathes (Jet1642s) and a 20" (PM3520b). I rarely turn large bowls, platters, or big hollow forms so I don't need the 16 or 20" and don't ever plan to ever turn outboard.

    But there is much more to it than the swing. The largest lathe is simply a joy to use, even compared to the 16" lathes. It's built with heavier components like the banjo and tailstock and things like the locking levers are more substantial. Even advancing the tailstock quill feels smoother. I like the feel of the lathe even when turning tiny things. (My most recent bowl was about an inch in diameter, accompanied by a 5/8" tall goblet, all on a 2" high table. ) If I need it the PM has the mass to handle an occasional out-of-balance blank or more important to me, an off-axis turning that might shake the smaller lathes more.

    Also important to me is the length of the bed. I occasionally turn long spindles such as handles for farm/garden tools and the PM with the bed extension is perfect.

    handle_shuffle_hoe_comp.jpg handle_ shovel.jpg

    If weight were the only concern I could have looked for an even larger lathe, say the PM4224 which is a couple of hundred pounds heavier but for me the price difference would not be worth it for how seldom I turn unbalanced things. If needed, it's easy to add weight.

    I'd say before deciding try turning on various lathes and feel the difference for yourself. Assuming you are a member of a woodturning club, plenty of people would probably be happy to let you try their lathes.

    JKJ

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris A Lawrence View Post
    Yes it is accurate the headstock locks and slides the same way the tailstock does.
    Chris, sorry for the question, I misread your comment about the sliding headstock.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Another advantage of larger swing lathes: they give you more room to move the banjo under the bowl which is handy to do.

    Example, on my PM3520, the banjo is 2" thick (distance from bed ways to top of banjo). So as long as the bowl blank is less than 16" diameter, I can slide the banjo under it and access it from the headstock end as well as the normal tailstock end. That feature is also helpful when mounting heavy blanks on the lathe...slide the banjo up against the the headstock so it's out of the way when placing the blank.

    I'd never make 20" bowls (max capacity of the lathe) but a 15" blank for a 14" bowl is pretty common for me and works easily on the PM3520. I don't think I could move the banjo like that on an 18" swing lathe.

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Bunge; 01-05-2019 at 7:26 AM.

  11. #11
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    For me it's not the large swing but the mass of the lathe that makes the difference. Yes I do turn larger things occasionally but 90 percent of my turnings can be done on a midi lathe. When I demo on my midi I miss the mass and lack of vibration of my big lathe. What I do like about the smaller lathe is the ease of moving the tool rest and tailstock. It can wear you out by the end of the day when you move my tailstock a lot on the powermatic. It weights 57lbs. It does slide easily but definitely takes more effort than my mido lathe tailstock that probably weighs less than 20.

  12. #12
    Yes think bigger is better. Even if you will only turn things that are 16” in diameter, you have to cut the blank perfectly to fit if that’s your max diameter swing. Wider capacity means you can take tougher stock to it without time consuming prep at the chainsaw or bandsaw (which may also be size constrained).

    Also, know your personal limitations. My lathe has an 18" swing, and manipulating blanks that large can be stressful because I'm no longer so burly (who am I kidding; never was ). So, if you want to turn something even larger, you may want to consider how you will harvest, process, and mount those pieces which can be in excess of 75 lbs (green)
    Last edited by Prashun Patel; 01-05-2019 at 12:53 PM.

  13. #13
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    I agree, bigger is better. I have 40+acres of hardwoods so less limitations is nice. While a 20" bowl is a really big bowl it's not that big for a platter. Maybe in time I'll get more comfortable not having the tailstock when it comes to large and/ or heavy pieces and will do outboard turning. Over all I'm happy with my G0766 (but I got it just before the tariff and with a discount). If I had to do it today the Laguna would be right at the top of my list. I think the 18" swing would of been acceptable but I'm not so sure now. When you need to place the banjo under the blank suddenly the 22" swing becomes about 18". Not sure how thick the banjo is on the Laguna but even if it's 1 1/2" thick that 18" is suddenly 15". That's 15" for a blank, not a bowl. I suspect that as I get more experience I'll be able to position things differently so it's not as big of a deal. For now I'm in the bigger is better group.

  14. #14
    I have posted about my Laguna 1836 before, including the review I posted several months ago. Time flies and it may have been well over a year ago.

    Aside from all the things I like about the lathe itself, with the added bed extension mounted low I have 32 of swing with tailstock support. I have not measured the maximum depth/thickness possible while using the tailstock, but it is certainly sufficient for platters and moderately deep bowls. My guess without measuring would be 6-8.

    However, even without the bed extension, the Revo 1836 slightly exceeds your budget. But, the bed extension could come later and provide the option of doing much larger projects - even small table tops if the need arises.

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Keeton View Post

    Aside from all the things I like about the lathe itself, with the added bed extension mounted low I have 32” of swing with tailstock support. I have not measured the maximum depth/thickness possible while using the tailstock, but it is certainly sufficient for platters and moderately deep bowls. My guess without measuring would be 6-8”.
    .
    John, I will look for your review. However I don't get how a bed extension mounted low would almost double your swing. Maybe it will be in your review, but if it isn't can you explain or show?

    I really appreciate the responses up to this point.

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