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Well-Known Member
May 10, 2011
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Well, my dad's 45th birthday is coming up, and my mom said that she thinks we should get him a really nice lathe, since we have been wanting one for about a year (and he really needs one for his L2 project's nose cone...). We know he wants one (he has told us...), but we dont know which brand is best.

So what would you reccomend? Here are some of the specs I would like....

At least a 32" bed, the more the better.

The ability to turn most woods, and builder's foam.

And also a good set of tools... We would proabably need a good set of tools too. WHich tools do you use for nose cone shaping?

What kind do you have, Sandman? And everyone else? What do you use (if you have one)?
Odds are you will want a Southbend or an old craftsman...

and with get a decent, tooled lathe...look to spend...

at LEAST $600

We own a 12" swing, 48" bed Crafstman, and a 36" bed, Southbend Heavy 10".

I think it was $500 untooled and $800 untooled for ours, but he sold parts off of each of them that we didn't need (such as the turret tail stock off of our southbend).

Not a cheap adventure if you're looking for a decent lathe.

I'm not up to speed on current manufacturers, there very well may be a new model that is cheaper.

I have 3 lathes, a cheap one from Harbor Freight a really good Jet mini lathe (actually it's more of a mid sized lathe) and a Unimat.

I really like and reccomend the Jet mini lathe about $200. Get the extension bed add on ($50)

Or better yet but a lot more money is a Delta.

Good enough for Norm Abrhams!

How big a nose cone could I make on a Jet mini lathe (with the extention)? THeres nose cones that I would like to make that are 32" long (these are long-range plans, mind you...), but, could I make it in two pieces and glue it together?

$250 toatal for a decent lathe is pretty good.... :D What tools do you use, and how much do THEY cost?

What tools does one need for turning foam?:confused:
How big a nose cone could I make on a Jet mini lathe (with the extention)?

A 9" diameter nose cone at the max about 30" long, maybe longer.

What tools do you use

Get a standard wood lathe tool set. Cheap is OK...mine isn't but that's me.:D I just like the feel of Rosewood handles.

What tools does one need for turning foam?

Foam is easy. Mount it on a piece of plywood and attach that to the bowl plate that comes with the lathe. A Stanley Shurform is the best tool it's like a rasp with a replaceable blade. I make sanding blocks from various grit sandpaper from 36 grit (really nasty!) 60 grit, 80 grit and 100 grit.

Fine finish is with 220 grit, 320 grit or 400.

Cheap emery boards work great too.

A mini jet lathe, plus bed extention, plus tools, plus shipping... $350.... Not too bad...

Lets hope my mom has some trick up her sleeve, cause I still dont got $350!:eek: :(
It may be a little late, but I just bought a 14"x40" wood lathe from Harbor Freight for US$79. The tool set cost less than $10.
WHAT!??!?!?!? Could you give me a link, PLEASE!?!?!?! :D :D :D Even *I* can afford THAT!!! :D

POST 2000!!!! Whoohoo!

:D :D :D
It may be a little late, but I just bought a 14"x40" wood lathe from Harbor Freight for US$79. The tool set cost less than $10.
If a cheapo lathe will 'get by' for introductory NC-making and other lathe-type tasks, it might be a good idea to start with a low cost option and see how well it works.
You (or your dad) might learn from the experience and find out a bit more about what you want from a grown-up lathe. Or, you (he) might find that you don't use it as much as you (he) first thought, or that it covers 90% of your (his) needs.
I guess I am just thinking, if it was me, I am kind of finicky about getting the specific hardware that I want when I am spending multi-hundreds of dollars. I would rather take my time and shop a little, try to learn, and participate in the selection?
Alternatively, you could give him a picture of a lathe (like, snipped out of a catalog) with his birthday card, and tell him what you guys are getting for him, and then explain that you want him to help pick it out to make sure he is happy with it.
(theres a long thread i started about this awhile back... search for that, alotta good info in it)
Could you give me a little more info on the specific lathe that you bought? What speeds, ETC? The 40" lathe we were looking at was about $150, so one for half that, well... Its worth a look. Thanx.
Harbor Freight: 14" x 40" Lathe with 6" sander

Here is is. It says $129 on the web page but it's on sale for $79, at least in the store. Here are the tools that I bought for it.

My main interest it turning solid wood nosecones. I'm going to use them to make fiberglass molds, then I can make as many as I want. Another interesting add-on is the copy attachment which will allow you to make copies from existing pieces or templates.
I've been kicking around the lathe question myself for the last couple of days.
I'm just the type of guy that normally prefers to buy good stuff and be done with it, and have good stuff.
However, right now my interest in lathes is focused towards balsa and foam, so I might be able to go cheap and get away with it. If it works, GREAT! If it works for a short time and I decide that I just have to have better I won't be out that much with the old one. If it doesn't work out well at all, then I won't be out much.
In that vein, I found really cheap lathes at
is a link to a lathe.

I guess there is a good chance it's junk and you'll get hosed, but not be out much.
But..... there is always a chance that they do actually get good stuff that just isn't labeled with a name brand.
I used to date a girl who's step dad was an engineer at a factory where they built tool boxes for Snap-On; they also built tool boxes for Sears. The same tool boxes. For both. Some called Snap-on for 3x the price as the ones called Craftsman. Different emblem.
Myself? I'm still in a quandary. :confused:
Have a good weekend,

I'm not stuck too much on brands. I don't know anything about running a lathe, so why should I spend over $100 on something that I'm learning on?

Having said that, I successfully turned my first centering ring on my new lathe. I need 3" rings for a postal-tube rocket that I'm working on, and instead of spending $2 on mail-order rings I spent $100+ on a lathe, tools and materials. At least I can make lots and lots!

lessons learned:

* wear safety glasses even if you wear perscription glasses. Looking back, that's a no-brainer and I can't believe I did something so stupid. At least I didn't get hurt.

* 1/4" luan disintegrates on lathe when you try to shape it. See the first point.

* 17/32" 4-ply plywood does very well.

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