Wood Lathe Review – Compare, Select, Understand

Wood Lathe Review Compare Select Understand

Selecting a wood lathe that fits your needs can be an exciting and also challenging process.

Which wood lathe is best?

Choosing a wood lathe is a very personal experience. One lathe does not fit all. You must match your turning needs and long term goals with your budget, workspace available, as well as other issues that are particular to you.

In this article, we will unpack many of the critical questions that need to ask before you purchase a wood lathe.

Because this site is all about turning wood bowls, we will be addressing bowl making with all the lathes presented in this wood lathe review.

However, because I also know not everyone wants to only make wood bowls, I will cover other aspects of woodturning that pertain to the wood lathe you select.

Wood Lathe Your Decision

Many factors go into making a wood lathe purchase decision.

Size, price, compatibility, function all shape your decision-making process.

For this wood lathe review, I have selected three different models in three different sizes/classes of wood lathes to share with you here.

Each model in this review is manufactured by reputable companies and is highly regarded in the woodturning community.

When it is all said and done, the final decision of which lathe is best for you can only be answered by you.

My goal with this article is to help you understand the benefits of each lathe and class of lathes and to help you know which may fit your needs.

Your Needs First

It’s a good idea to step back and look at your specific needs, goals, and desires when it comes to purchasing a wood lathe.

What type of turning projects do you currently enjoy?

If you enjoy turning wood bowls most and that’s all you want to do, you may not need a long lathe bed necessarily.

However, if you also like to turn spindle work, lathe bed length may be a factor for you.

How much space do you have for your wood lathe?

A benchtop model may be appropriate for a smaller shop.

These are just some of the questions you need to consider when making your selection of a new wood lathe.

Lathe For The Future

Other questions to be asking yourself include:

Where are you along the woodturning learning curve?

Are you brand new to woodturning, or do you have some time under your belt?

New turners might be excited about a smaller bench model, only to outgrow it quickly if they become more serious about turning.

An occasional turner might be best suited for a smaller bench model, or midi lathe, while a seasoned regular turner might need a more substantial lathe.

If you’re brand new to turning, I suggest you get some time in on a “borrowed” lathe before you make a purchasing decision.

Check with your local turning club or see if you can locate a local turner who will show you the ropes.

The more you turn before making a lathe purchase, the more you will understand which lathe best fits your needs now and well into the future.

What Comes With The Lathe

Most lathes come with a variety of items included in your purchase.

Typically, tools for gripping or removing spindle inserts are included.

A live center on the tailstock, as well as a faceplate for the headstock, are often included with a lathe purchase.

Standard tool rests are also included with a new lathe purchase.

Additional accessories can be purchased to fit your lathe.

Be sure to check the headstock spindle thread size as well as the morse taper size to properly size current or future accessories, such as four-jaw chucks and additional faceplates.

Wood Lathe Power

Wood lathes power output is measured in horsepower. I wonder if horses have ever actually powered lathes? Hm? 😉

Turning traditional side-grain mounted bowl blanks requires force (torque) to cut through the end-grain areas of the bowl blank.

Because of this need for power, I do not recommend turning on a lathe with a horsepower rating under 3/4HP.

The experience of turning bowls on a low-powered lathe can be frustrating and inefficient.

When it comes to turning wood bowls, you want a powerful motor, not for high rotation speed but for torque or turning force.

Wood Lathe Swing

The distance from the headstock spindle to the lathe bed is the radius of the swing.

Wood lathe swing is important because it indicates the largest size wood blank compatible on that particular lathe.

The lathe swing is twice the radius. So, if the headstock spindle is six inches above the lathe bed, a maximum 12” bowl blank can be mounted to the lathe.

The bigger the swing, the larger the bowl blank you can attach, as long as the motor is powerful enough to handle that blank.

Wood Lathe Bed Length

As wood bowl turners, we don’t usually need much bed length since the bowl blank is located close to the headstock.

However, if you plan to do any long spindle turnings, be sure to pay attention to the lathe bed length.

Check with manufacturers to see if bed extensions are available for the lathe you’re considering.

Many times, lathe manufacturer’s make lathe bed rail extensions that can add additional length to a lathe bed.

Headstock Spindle Dimensions

The headstock spindle is the threaded connection point at the motor end of the lathe. See this article for more detailed lathe parts descriptions.

Threads on the headstock spindle are measured by the diameter of the spindle first and then the thread count per inch.

A one-inch by eight threads per inch (1”x8TPI), as well as a one and a quarter-inch x 8 threads per inch (1.25”x8TPI), are standard headstock dimensions, but there are many others as well.

Any current or future accessory purchases, such as chucks or faceplates, will need to match the headstock spindle dimensions.

Spindle size adapters are available and can be used when no other options are available.

But, for stable vibration-free turning, I try to avoid adding adaptors and keep the mounted bowl blank as close to the headstock as possible.

Power Source

The power source needed for lathes is usually 110 volt, standard U.S. house current, or 220 volts.

Larger lathes, with more powerful motors, may require a 220-volt outlet.

Be sure to check what power source is needed for the lathe before you make a purchase.

Variable or Fixed Speed Lathe

When turning wooden bowls, it is necessary to dial in subtle changes to the rotation speed of your bowl blank, especially when it comes to reducing and controlling vibration.

Variable speed lathes are a must as far as I am concerned.

Check this article out for more vibration reduction and lathe speed information.

Fixed speed lathes usually offer three different belt pulley positions to adjust speed and torque.

However, when the fixed speed lathe is turned on, the speed ramps up to the top rate for that pulley position immediately, and no further adjustment is possible.

Several of the midi lathes listed below have this three-pulley adjustable option combined with a variable control knob.

The variable control knob provides the subtle speed control necessary, while the pulley positions allow for top speed and torque control.

Most wood bowl turning conditions require precise speed adjustment and do not need speed faster than 1,000 R.P.M.

Because of the importance of variable speed control, I will not be featuring any fixed speed lathes in this review.

Midi Lathes

In recent years, a new category of lathes has sprouted, midi lathes.

A midi-lathe is a medium-sized lathe that offers many capabilities and is positioned to be larger and more powerful than the smaller mini-lathes but not as big as a full-sized lathe.

Midi lathes are an affordable way to get started in woodturning, and they offer many possibilities.

You can turn just about any type of turning project, including bowls, on a midi lathe.

The size of the bowls may be limited to about 6-9 inches in diameter, despite the advertised swing dimension, but these midi lathes can handle turning wooden bowls.

Because of the smaller motor sizes, most midi lathes have a bit of trouble turning bowls to there full swing size. But back the size of your bowl blank down a bit, and they do a great job.

If you want to make smaller bowls say under about nine inches in diameter, a midi lathe might be a good option for you.

Midi Lathes

  Nova 71118 Comet II Jet JWL-1221VS Delta 46-460
Model Nova 71118 Comet II Jet JWL-1221VS Delta 46-460
Swing 12″ 12″ 12.5″
Length 16.5″ 21″ 20″
Headstock Spindle 1″ x 8TPI 1″ x 8TPI 1″ x 8TPI
Morse Taper 2 MT 2 MT 2 MT
Fixed/Variable Variable Variable Variable
Power Source 110 Volt 115 Volt 120 Volt
Horse Power 3/4 hp 1 hp 1 hp
R.P.M. 250 – 4,000 60 – 3,600 250 – 4,000
Weight 82 lbs. 130 lbs. 97 lbs.
Size 8.9 x 17.8 x 32.9 inches 32.8 x 14.6 x 21.2 inches 36 x 11 x 17.8 inches

Full-Sized Wood Lathes

A step up from the midi lathes are the full-sized lathes.

Most full-sized lathes have more substantial, more powerful motors, more significant work areas, and are mounted to an adjustable base.

The full-sized lathes are designed for the more serious turner and someone who will be turning wood on a fairly regular basis.

Full-Size Lathes

  Laguna 18/36 Revo Jet JWL-1440VSK Nova 1624 II
Model Laguna 18/36 Revo Jet JWL-1440VSK Nova 1624 II
Swing 18″ 14″ 16″
Length 36″ 40″ 24″
Headstock Spindle 1-1/4″ x 8TPI 1″ x 8TPI 1-1/4″ x 8TPI
Morse Taper 2 MT 2 MT 2 MT
Fixed/Variable Variable Variable Variable
Power Source 110 Volt 115 Volt 110 Volt
Horse Power 1.5 hp 1 hp 1.5 hp
R.P.M. 50 – 3,500 400 – 3,000 215 – 3,600
Weight 500 lbs. 400 lbs. 270 lbs.
Size 60 x 26 x 47 inches 87 x 57 x 38 inches 10 x 18 x 42 inches

Professional Lathes

Professional lathes are much like full-sized wood lathes, but they are built a bit more stout and sturdy and designed for regular use.

If you turn wood often and feel you’ve outgrown your current lathe, it may be time to step up to a more professional wood lathe.

Pro wood lathes have many extra features, including better speed control and stability.

Professional wood lathe models can sometimes be custom modified with more powerful motors and additional available options. Check the manufacturer to learn more details about options.

Be sure to check the power source for each professional lathe because most pro lathes require 220-volt current.

If you don’t have a 220-volt electrical outlet available in your workspace, you will need to have one installed.

Professional Lathes

  Powermatic 3520C Grizzly G0766 Robust Sweet 16
Model Powermatic 3520C Grizzly G0766 Robust Sweet 16
Swing 20″ 22″ 16″-32″
Length 35″ 42″ 24″-38″
(3 models)
Headstock Spindle 1-1/4″ x 8TPI 1-1/4″ x 8TPI 1-1/4″ x 8TPI
Morse Taper 2 MT 2 MT 2 MT
Fixed/Variable Variable Variable Variable
Power Source 220 Volt 220 Volt 110 or 220 Volt
Horse Power 2 hp 3 hp 1.5 or 2 hp
R.P.M. 40 – 3,200 100 – 3,000 60 – 2,900
Weight 726 lbs. 584 lbs. 460 lbs.
Size 55.2 x 27.2 x 30.5 inches 24.2 x 69 x 24 inches 56 x 50 x 28 inches
(standard model)
Wood Lathe Review Select Compare

Wood Lathe Review Conclusion

Selecting a wood lathe can be a challenge when you first start turning.

Once you gain some experience at the lathe, you will more easily know which lathe fits your needs best.

Take your time and review the various lathe facts, and hopefully, the wood lathe best suited for you will become clear.

Let me know what wood lathe you turn on now and what made you decide on that model. Leave a comment below.

Check out these other lathe related articles:

Happy Turning,

57 Responses

  1. Hi Kent, Why did you miss out THE ULTIMATE turners Lathe VB 36 , it’s still made now in Germany by Steinert , A brilliant Design with a vast range of accessories , Out of all of the large lathes that I’ve owned over the years the VB 36 is still the Master

    1. Arthur,
      I’ll have to investigate that model. Thank you for writing and sharing!

  2. Hey Kent, I really enjoy your videos. You’re always teaching. And, here I am again seeking out your knowledge. I’m ready to move on from the shopsmith I started with. I’ve been looking for weeks driving myself nuts trying to decide which lathe to get. I’d like to purchase something with an 18” swing or larger. If you were trying to decide between the Laguna REVO 18/36 and the Grizzly 0766, which way would you lean and why? Price point is similar. Just want to make the best decision and get the most for my money. Thank you in advance!


    1. Ryan,
      I think you’ve narrowed down to two very similar models. I have not turned with a Grizzly, but I do have other Grizzly tools that are good. I have turned with the Laguna briefly. Function wise, they are about the same. Personally, I like the styling of the Laguna and the RPM readout is nice. Honestly, I think you’ll do well with either.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  3. Kent,
    I like most of the lathes that you have profiled. I would like to get one that has a 16 inch swing unfortunately most of those lathes have 1-1/4 head stocks and all my chucks and accessories are 1 inch.
    Michael H.

    1. Michael,
      I think if you look at all the benefits of a larger lathe, especially power, the inconvenience of getting headstock accessories is not that bad. Also, check with your chuck manufacture, some chucks have changeable inserts for different lathe headstocks sizes.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

      1. KentI am a machinist by trade,
        I am very new to wood turning but I’m very intrigued after watching your videos.
        With your experience could you tell me what do you think of a shopsmith Mark 5 for a first lathe for just at home I’m 64 years old and I want to make a little bit of hobby out of it thank you Sal Battaglia

        1. Sal,
          Thank you for writing and sharing!
          Good question. If you currently have a Shopsmith, great. It will work and it’s great for getting started.
          In my experience, the Shopsmith does an okay job as a lathe, as well as many other tasks. That’s its strength and weakness. It does many things, which for a small hobby shop is great. However, each of those tasks can be improved with a dedicated tool usually. Again, if you have the Shopsmith, it will work and can be fine.
          If you are looking to buy a lathe for starting the hobby of turning, I would recommend a dedicated lathe. Check out this article > https://turnawoodbowl.com/wood-lathe-review-compare-select-understand-2/
          All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  4. The Delta 46-460 length is incorrect in your chart. That is probably the length of the entire tool, not bed length. I have an early Delta midi model, and the bed length is closer to 20 inches. This page says the distance between centers is 16.5 inches: https://www.toolbarn.com/products/delta-46-460

    Users shouldn’t get this lathe and expect to be able to turn long spindles (unless they get the extension bed).

    1. Kyle,
      Thank you for writing and sharing. I’ll update that info now.
      Happy Turning!

  5. Another key aspect of any larger sized lathe, ie 12″ or greater, is the quality and color of the banjo. My current and previous 16″ lathes were both made by Grizzly and were much improved by replacing their stock banjos with a Oneway banjo, 2-3/4″ wide, overall 18″, 14½” from center of tool-post to center-line of lathe bed. Tool post diam is 1″. Banjo has sliding cam that locks very well with 8″ base handle, and 6″ post handle. White color provides high contrast background that improves all turning operations. Various sized blocks can be configured to fit any sized lathe bed. The length and stability of this banjo are very helpful.

  6. Kent, I received an old Wallace Lathe from my brother last year that he had in storage for many years. 8″ x 36″ cast iron base. The motor is pully drive with speeds of 600, 1300, 1850, 2400 3/4 HP. After turning pizza cutter handles and Bud vases etc. I tried to turn my first cherry bowl and I have had a number of challenges with turning on this unit. I have been following your bowl turning youtube videos and see my difficulties are with my use of tools and this lathe. After reading this article I am convinced I need to up my game to A new full size Lathe because even though I have had a few troubles I have the bug now and want to get better. Thank you for your clear advice by giving options without pushing one way or another on models.

    1. Glenn,
      Thank you for writing and sharing!
      Besides this article and my personal experience, I can’t offer much more.
      I’ve turned a whole bunch on a large powermatic and it was good. But, I took the plunge and bought a Robust Sweet 16 which is much better than the powermatic.
      There are many other options in between. Take your time and get a lathe that seems a bit more than you need, you will grow into it quickly. Going small, especially if you want to do bowls, will quickly results in struggles.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

      1. Hi Kent,

        Any thoughts or suggestions about the Record Power Coronet Envoy 16 inch VS Lathe? I’m thinking about upgrading from my Delta midi.


        1. Jack,
          Thank you for writing and sharing! Good question. Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with the Record Power lathes. I’ve heard good things but can’t share any specific first-hand knowledge. I’m sure it would be a nice upgrade for you.
          All the best to you and Happy Turning!

    2. I’m getting ready to purchase my first lathe. It’s definitely going to be a midi lathe. I’ve been watching videos and looking at reviews for the past three months. I’m glad I found this article in regards to this whole, new and exciting adventure for me.

  7. I am really enjoying your course and am learning a lot.
    I have a Delta 1440 Iron Bed lathe which I bought in 2005 but really haven’t used until now. I have a Barracuda chuck.

    I am noticing a ‘wobble’ to the chuck and bowl. I read that this could be due to a bent spindle and/or bad bearings. My questions:
    1) Is this a problem? I assume it is.
    2) How hard is it to replace spindle and bearings for a relatively non-me mechanical type person?

    Thank you for any advice!

    1. Doc,
      Well, yes, a wobble is a problem. Is there any time when it turns true? If so, maybe it’s not the spindle or the bearings. Otherwise, you’ll need to contact Delta and see what they offer. I hope you get this resolved and are back turning true soon.

      All the best to you, and Happy Turning!

    1. Ha. Sorry, I’m not familiar with that lathe. I’m sure it’s a good one. Happy Turning!

    2. I currently turn on a mini lathe (Excelsior from Rockler). I want to step up to a larger lathe that allows flexibility to try new things, including larger sizes. Having trouble with the balance between cost, speed control and capacity.

      1. Joe,
        I understand. Time to sell a car or something! LOL I’m kidding…sorta. 😉
        All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  8. For professional full size lathe Why don’t you compare the all the lathes like Vicmarc and the Harvey and any other i have missed, for
    Torque, alignment, quite smooth motor/ Bearings, very special features ect…

    1. Mike,
      Great question. I’m sure those are all fine lathes. I’m listing lathes I have personal experience with.
      Happy Turning!

  9. Hello Kent,

    Nice to read/view your articles/video’s.
    I recently bought a Midi wood-lathe from record power, it has the ability to have the head stock turned over the bed.
    Nice to turn larger bowls.
    I bought also a 2 headed MT2 cone to align the head and tail stock. That’s when I noticed that there is a slight difference in height when looking from a side view. I was wondering if this is something that is normal and if so in wish measure it is a acceptable for a normal state.

    I advance I thank you for your response.

    Kind regards

    1. Marc,
      Thank you for writing and sharing!
      I think the head and tailstock need to be in line with one another.
      Are you having any issues when turning?
      Is it perhaps just a visual thing?
      Does your 2-headed MT2 cone (cool idea, I haven’t heard of that yet) align properly?
      I would say if it is aligning, it might just be an optical illusion. If not, I’d contact the manufacturer and see what they recommend.

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  10. I joined a local guild here in Cincinnati, and I am learning on a Jet 1221 VS which I really like.

    1. Dan,
      That sounds great. The Jet 1221 is a fantastic lathe. Enjoy the whole process…all the ups and even the downs.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  11. Hello, I like the facts in the article and I can tell you with out a doubt that without the variable speed it is a challenge to get used to turning a bowl , my first was a turncrafter commander 12 in with a 1 hp motor , I learned to turn pens on it and a small bat and a few nick knacks, that lathe I bought new with no intention of bowl turning. I then about a year later relished I was ready to try a bowl all the videos made it look a lot easier than it really was my first several attempts.
    I found a nova 1624-44. 1.5 hp motor and after reading the article I see that my lathe is a little low by an inch or so ( this will be my project for this weekend) and within a few months of this purchase I found a jet 1014 .5 hp motor for $150 could not pass that up but I do not have efficient room for all three lathes. As for turning bowls I have to use the nova as the other 2 do not have proper power for the bigger bowls that most ppl are asking for. Each lathe has its plus and minus and I would like to one day have that opportunity to try a robust lathe or even a oneway. There is a conversion kit available for the nova it comes with a bigger motor and variable speed and for now that’s what I’m saving my money up for along with a shed so the wife can get her car parked in the garage again. I’ve enjoyed your videos and return to them frequently when I have questions. Keep up the good work it’s much appreciated

    1. Robert,

      Thank you for writing and sharing! That is a thorough explanation of your turning growth. Very nice!

      Thanks for all your support and I wish you Happy Turning!


  12. Kent,
    Great article! About a year ago a friend with three lathes gave me his Central Machinery 12×36 with speeds 600-2400 from the 3/4 horse motor. It’s identical to the Jet JWL-1236. I am now turning about 4-5 days/week. This one bogs down if I dig too deep with a bowl gouge and the headstock sometimes stays in line with the bench – my two biggest issues with it. I also have had a need to turn something larger than 12″ diameter, but simply cannot do it. I am looking at the Laguna 18/36 or maybe even the Laguna 24/36. I have 220 power available. Your thoughts on the two Lagunas, or other similar makes/models, with a price difference of $1,000?
    Thx, Rob

    1. Rob,
      Thank you for writing and sharing! Good questions.
      Most of the manufacturers are making good lathes. Your biggest issues are size and power. I recommend getting the largest HP motor you can afford. If a 1-1/2hp (or more) option is available, spend the extra and get that. The Laguna products all seem very nice, although I have not had an opportunity to turn on one. All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  13. I have a full size Rockwell from the 1950’s Is it possible to convert to a variable speed?

    1. Mike,
      Yes. I don’t know the details but there are switch kits that can be installed on the motor. I believe they convert the motor from AC to DC, but I’m not sure. Find an electrical savvy friend. 😉

  14. Hi Kent, I have watched tons of your videos. I am going to upgrade to a full size lathe from my Shopsmith ( yes, you read that correctly) :-). I just finished your article about lathe selection just to confirm my thought process. I was looking at the Laguna 1836. Your article most certainly confirmed my selection. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. O. Frank

  15. The Rikon 70-3040 looks super intriguing to me. I guess the addition of the sliding bed is an additional ,oving part that could go wrong, but I am curious to see how they hold up. initial reviews I have seen look encouraging. Have you heard anything about these models?

    1. I have not heard anything on this one, but I’m sure it is pretty good. Check it out and all the best to you. Happy Turning!

    2. I can comment on this as I have had the Rikon for a couple months. Things I like: It has a 3 step pulley allowing plenty of power for large diameters and coring. The remote mount switch and the tach are nice. The tailstock spindle has plenty of range and there is some storage in the tailstock. The flexible bed positioning I have not made use of yet, but I will in the future. The tool rest is nice with a hardened smooth steel rod. I am neutral on the wood chips getting caught between the bed ways because of the sliding design. I have been vacuuming them out. That was no surprise. But some negative things that did surprise me include the following: The lathe does not have a proper spindle lock. There is an index pin, but the manual says it is not to be used for mounting lathe accessories. Not strong enough I guess. You have to fumble around with some large wrenches. The tool rest is secured with a simple grub screw which presses against the tool rest post. The banjo tool post opening does not have flats milled into it to help with this. (1860 tech) On my lathe the rolled threads on the grub screw had sharp edges on the end which chewed up the 1 inch shaft on the tool rest. The tailstock assembly has a lot of play between the bed ways. It is about .030″ which gets amplified out at the live center. Because of that you can’t just reverse a bowl to finish the bottom and expect the tailstock to adequately center the bowl for you without fiddling around with it. The spindle has very noticeable resonant vibration at about 1250 and 2050 rpm. At 3000 the vibration makes my concrete shop floor become a soundboard. There are some nice accessories for this lathe but getting them has been a long wait. I have had the mobility kit on order for almost a year. I am making do with these shortcomings for now. But I will have to spend some time and money to get the lathe to the higher quality I was hoping for. I may try tightening up the tailstock fit to the bed with Turcite. And I plan to make an attempt at dynamically balancing the spindle. The lack of a spindle lock I will live with. The banjo/grub screw is working for now. I polished up the end that chewed on the tool rest post. It could be replaced with one from Oneway which would take me from the worst design to the best. I have not yet talked to Rikon about any of this. But I am going to.

      1. Bruce,
        Thank you for writing and sharing! This is a very thorough review of your Rikon.

        Well done!

        Thanks again and Happy Turning!

        1. I have had a somewhat interesting journey with this lathe since reporting some rather negative things about it above. I thought I should report on how I resolved most of the issues with this lathe. The original tailstock that came with the lathe was sloppy and worn out feeling between the bed ways and on the quill screw mechanism. I did get Rikon to provide a new tailstock under warranty. The replacement tailstock fits the bed as it should. Also the quill feels like it should with new precise fit of the associated parts.

          On the other hand, the spindle vibration was not something Rikon wanted to help with and I was left to live with it. So I started researching what could be done and it was obvious that some kind of balancing was needed. I had no knowledge about this, but I set about learning. I could probably have taken the spindle and pulley out and sent them to a service that can do dynamic balancing. But I saw some people on YouTube doing their own balancing. Long story short, I found that you can get vibration apps on your phone that make use of the phones precise accelerometers. I also found an on line procedure on emachine.com for spindle balancing that can be done right on the machine to be balanced. So I 3D printed a mount for the phone that magnetically attaches to the spindle nose on the lathe. With the phone mounted I could run the vibration program which would tell me how much the lathe was vibrating in “g” units. You need this so you can do comparison measurements as you go through the balancing procedure. Following the guidelines from emachine.com I was going to have to add weights to the spindle for balancing. For that I 3d printed a collar that would clamp onto the spindle in by the pulley. The collar has locations spread all around where I could add small weights (washers) that would be held on with screws. As it turns out, for this procedure only three locations evenly spaced around are needed. The procedure is to put weight on one of the locations, run the lathe. take note of the vibration and report the amount of vibration on the emachine site for analysis. Then the site tells you put the weight on a different location and run through the procedure and reporting again. You also may need to vary the amount of weight. You keep doing that a few more times and eventually the analysis and weight amount/spacing will achieve improved dynamic balance. In my case the improvement was dramatic with over 90% reduction in vibration. I ended up needing about 10 grams of weight at about 1.75″ from the center of the spindle. That may not sound like much, but I think I recall a centripetal force calculation reported it would be about 4 pounds of force at 4000 rpm. I never run that fast for what I do. From 3000 and on up the concrete floor became a sound board before balancing. It became a noticeable vibration first at 1250 and then would smooth out until about 1750. Now it runs smooth at all speeds.

          Now lets talk about the lack of a proper spindle lock. I was determined to solve this also and I started out thinking complicated where I would have to machine a steel collar and get it installed on the spindle. It would need to be keyed and have notches to engage some kind of lock mechanism. (then rebalancing would likely be needed) Wow, I just want to make some bowls. There must be another way. Then I saw a Youtube video on wood turning (Sam Angelo I think) and the lathe was the smaller size Oneway. There was no mention of it but I could see the spindle was locked with a wrench that held itself in place with the handle down between and sitting on the bed ways. It was an aha moment and I could do something like that much more easily. So all I needed was a custom designed wrench. It could be made out of mild steel, but how to design it and get it cut out. Well, I am fairly well versed in designing for 3d prints and the first part of that process is a 2d drawing. I had learned of the service “SendCutSend”. That turned out to be my ticket. A 2d drawing dxf format plan for the wrench was sent to SendCutSend and they had the thing back to me in a week. They have a $30.00 minimum fee and for that I actually got two wrenches shipping included. They were made 3/8″ thick. Wow, what a service that is. So my wrench hangs on the spindle and dangles down between the bed ways when I want to lock the spindle. I store the wrench on a magnet mount hanger right there under the spindle nose. It’s not as good as a plunger mechanism with an electrical lock out. But it is a lot better than fumbling with 2 ordinary open end wrenches. I can live with it.

          Now lets talk about the locks for the tailstock and the banjo on this lathe. They are very beefy and heavy. They want to flop over and cause some locking just under their own weight. This is awkward if you are trying to get a heavy piece between centers and want to pull the tailstock up to get it engaged. What the lock arms needed was a friction device that would apply enough drag so the handles don’t flop over and produce a mild lock. So I 3d printed what looks like a big cloths pin. This 3d print snaps over where the lock arm rotates and also secures to the tailstock body with a strong magnet. This solution has worked fine and now the lock levers hold position where ever they are at until I move them. I made one for the banjo also.

          Now lets talk about the Remote switch/speed control. It can be magnetically mounted down by the tailstock end on the front of the lathe. I like it on that end for safety. But, it is all to easy to brush up against the speed control which rotates very easily. I had this happen a number of times, but luckily didn’t send an out of balance piece into orbit. So I decided to improve this by mounting the switch on its own stand. Part of that mount includes a guard that blocks inadvertent movement of the speed control. The switch/speed control are up higher. The ease of use and safety are much better.

          Conclusion: I have mixed feelings because the lathe was disappointing in a number of important ways. I was mad at myself because I should know by now not to be an early adopter. But I have overcome the shortcomings and I gained some really cool skills by sorting this all out. Rikon should have helped me with the spindle vibration. But they didn’t and I’ll be thinking of all this if I am ever tempted to buy any of their tools again.

          1. Bruce,
            Thank you for writing and sharing!
            This is a very thorough review of your lathe. I wonder if this issue is happening with other Rikon owners?
            Thanks for sharing and I hope you can remove the vibration issue and make the lathe work better for you in the future.
            All the best to you and Happy Turning!

    3. Sorry, I forgot to ask this question! I am considering the Nova 1624-44, but it only goes down to 215 rpm. You mentioned it in your write-up, but is that slow enough for large ( 16″) unbalanced pieces?

  16. Kent; I have a huge maple burl that I am trying to turn (approx. 18″ diameter x 6″ thick), that is impossible to center properly and get even remotely balanced. The lowest speed I can get my lathe is 425 R.P.M. I am scared to death to work on it right now. Any suggestions?
    Steve Mair
    Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada

    1. Steve,
      If you can’t get the speed down and you don’t feel safe, don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk. I’d suggest maybe taking some time and carefully chainsaw or bandsaw the piece until it is more balanced and then see if it will turn more true. But bottom line, no bowl is worth injury.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning! Kent

    2. One trick I use on really awkward lumps (on an old Coronet No 3 I inherited from my father) is to use the tool rest to find high spots and remove them with a hand held power planer.

      With a chainsaw I usually find going to an octagon is fine.

      It’s easier to make “shaping” cuts than trying to go for a cylinder right away as you are cutting down hill.

      1. Ed,

        Thank you for writing and sharing! All goods tip!

        All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  17. Kent, what would be a good slowest speed a lathe should go down to? looking at one with a range of 500- 2400 rpm. Do you see any trouble there?

    1. Good Question. Ideally, it would be nice to go down to a very slow RPM like 25-50 for letting finishes dry. Around 100 rpm is common. I think 500 rpm is too fast. If you have an uneven bowl blank to start with, 500 can be too fast and cause aggressive vibrations, which can be unsafe. I would want it to be much less than 500. I hope that helps.

  18. Kent,

    I live in a part of Kentucky where there are Amish and Mennonite communities and I have seen lathes that are powered by water, diesel, electricity and yes even horse power. These are some of the most innovative and productive people that I have ever had the pleasure to know. They don’t want to be photographed so I don’t.

    1. That sounds very interesting. I’m sure they have incredible skill sets that are fairly unknown to most people.

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Kent Weakley-Turn A Wood Bowl-About
Hi, I’m Kent

Hi! I’m Kent, a husband, dad, papa, graphic designer, photographer, artist, traveler, birder, dark chocolate lover and I’m addicted to turning wood bowls! Learn more about me, see the online courses I made for you, and join our group on Facebook. Ready for your wood bowl adventure? Click here to Get Started

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