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Thread: Budget Lathe for Spindles?

  1. #1
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    Budget Lathe for Spindles?

    Any recommendations for a budget lathe for spindle turning? I have no desire to turn bowls, so I don't need anything related to that. For the chairs I make, it's mostly front legs and rungs, max of 22". I do want the capability of doing a Shaker rocker rear leg though, those are around 45". I'm in a rural area and have been watching Craigslist and Facebook for months with no luck, so I think I'll have to purchase new.

  2. #2
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    Most of the small spindle lathe (entry level) would work except that they may not meet your goal of turning 45".

    I had a 1950's version Craftsman 9" cast iron bed lathe. When I outgrew it I sold it and a bunch of accessories for around $100. I mention this because I think that the length was around 48". No frills. No variable speed...but for spindles that probably isn't important. No reverse, but that doesn't matter much either for spindles.

    If you get a lathe, learn to use a skew to do slicing cuts. They are easy to use on spindles and can produce a great finish.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Lester View Post
    Any recommendations for a budget lathe for spindle turning? I have no desire to turn bowls, so I don't need anything related to that. For the chairs I make, it's mostly front legs and rungs, max of 22". I do want the capability of doing a Shaker rocker rear leg though, those are around 45". I'm in a rural area and have been watching Craigslist and Facebook for months with no luck, so I think I'll have to purchase new.
    As Brice mentioned, finding a lathe that will handle 45Ē might be difficult, especially on a limited budget. I donít know of one.

    However, there are some other solutions. You can build a bed extension from steel or even wood that will let you turn a long spindle. Or line up the lathe with a workbench or stand and make something to hold the tailstock. Iíve turned spindles that long on my biggest lathe but used some tricks and an expensive factory bed extension, nothing close to a budget solution.

    A friend told me he lined up the beds of two small inexpensive lathes and turned a spindle over 60Ē long. He made a long tool test from wood for the job.

    Besides the lathe hardware there are something else to consider. The longer a spindle of a given diameter, the more likely it will flex and vibrate while turning. It helps to clamp one end tightly in a chuck however even that doesnít completely solve the problem. Many people buy or make a steady rest, a device usually made with small wheels which support the wood in the center. I donít use one but use techniques to control the vibration on long, thin spindles but those might not be easy for your long rear leg plan.

    I strongly agree with the value of becoming experienced with the skew chisel.

    JKJ

  4. #4
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    45" is going to be tough. I like the idea of getting two older Delta or Craftsman beds and bolting them together to get the longer length. I don't think I'd recommend doing that with the beds made up of steel tube, they are already not very rigid. If you can find a Conover lathe at a price you like you can make the wooden ways as long as you like (I did 6' bedposts on mine). For small diameter spindles you can easily get by without a variable speed motor, which will save you a lot of money.

    Unless you love sanding the skew chisel will be your best friend for spindle work. Some of the English production turners have wonderful youtube videos on the subject.

  5. #5
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    Thanks guys, I may forgo the 45" length since that is a project for future me. If that was the case, is there a budget lathe you would recommend? I know the used market is a good suggestion, there's just none around here.

  6. #6
    Jason, I doubt you'll find something for less. Budget friendly.

    https://www.grizzly.com/products/gri...with-dro/g0462

    It's on sale for just under 1k.

  7. #7
    Well, there are lots of Shopsmith multi tools on craigslist. Not so great for bowls because their lowest speed is a bit high. Other than that, find the nearest woodturner's club and ask around. You generally can buy extensions for the beds, but that is more money...

    robo hippy

  8. #8
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    Second the suggestion to try your local AAW chapter. Folks often have an old lathe sitting around that they don't bother to sell, but would be happy to get rid of if asked. There are a million old Delta lathes out there that would be fine for your purpose. Try to get a #2 morse taper in both the head and tail stock, it will make getting drives and accessories easier. Also if you can find a 1" or 1-1/4" X 8 tpi threaded headstock (pretty much the most common sizes) you will have much better luck sourcing used chucks and faceplates that fit. That's much less important for spindle work-- but once you have a lathe strange things start to happen, and soon many are consumed.

  9. #9
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    Any older and used Delta, Powermatic, or General will get your job done. They all will be far superior to new import lathes made today. Absolutely stay away from Harbor Freight, and vintage Craftsman lathes.
    Last edited by Richard Coers; 06-09-2022 at 10:34 PM.

  10. #10
    Don't laugh, but Harbor Freight still sells its 34706 Lathe. It appears to be a close copy of the JET JWL1236. Used to sell for around $300 but it's gone up to $450 in the last couple years. I have one that I bought used and with a couple minor mods to the stand it's a perfectly functional "starter lathe".

    I dont normally recommend their stuff, but this tool has a pretty decent reputation. I've had no trouble with mine.

    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  11. #11
    A lathe is a very simple machine and I have seen all the basic parts on ebay. Depending on your skills, building a basic lathe is something to consider.

    Jim

  12. #12
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    I would look for a used Record spindle lathe. Mine is, I think, a 48" an it is a really nice unit. The reason I say 'I think' is because I want to use it as a HD Mini/Midi lathe, and I removed the steel bars and replaced them with shorter structural steel bars to bring it down to about a 20". Of course I saved the originals in case I ever want to sell it.

    It is a very sturdy lathe, with a 3/4x16 spindle (again, I think). I got it used for $800 15 years ago. Record is still around, I believe. Made in England. I think Eagle tools used to sell them. Definitely not a cheap lathe.
    Rick Potter

    DIY journeyman,
    FWW wannabe.
    AKA Village Idiot.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Don't laugh, but Harbor Freight still sells its 34706 Lathe. It appears to be a close copy of the JET JWL1236. Used to sell for around $300 but it's gone up to $450 in the last couple years. I have one that I bought used and with a couple minor mods to the stand it's a perfectly functional "starter lathe".

    I dont normally recommend their stuff, but this tool has a pretty decent reputation. I've had no trouble with mine.

    Fred
    Pretty decent except for the pot metal reeves drive pulleys. I sure hope you are keeping them well greased. One binds up and you'll be calling HF to see if they could get you replacements in less than a year. Then you'll call Grizzly for those like Delta owners do.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    Pretty decent except for the pot metal reeves drive pulleys. I sure hope you are keeping them well greased. One binds up and you'll be calling HF to see if they could get you replacements in less than a year. Then you'll call Grizzly for those like Delta owners do.
    So far, so good Richard, but I sure appreciate the warning. Thank you!
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  15. #15
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    My experience lathe shopping is price goes up exponentially with bed length. For example, a lathe at $1000 that can handle 16 inch spindles, then step up to a similar quality lathe that can handle 32" spindles would be roughly 4x as much.

    I have an example in my shop, a $500 craigslist find that can take a 45" spindle in the stocks. The bed rails are simply not stiff enough. I can turn 16" stock pretty OK, but up around 20-22" the rails flex enough for the turning stock to be whipping around its own axis of rotation, at 45 inches it is useless as a lathe. The only reason I am hanging on to it is I might someday find a couple pieces of used railroad track to weld on to stiffen up the rails I have.

    Plus eleventy on learning to use a skew. I started out with a set of 8 inexpensive lathe tools, Buck brothers I think. I bought one nicer skew, a Sorby I think, and can do just about everything with it. A skew is going to be the easiest one to keep sharp, and with practice you can do just about everything with a sharp skew.

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