Lathe Opinions/Reviews

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I'm currently using PSI Penpal, and while I am happy with it(for the most part), I'm thinking it's time for an upgrade.
So, I'm considering the PSI commander. Variable speed with the dial (drawing a blank on proper terminology) is a plus.
I don't have a drill press, and as mentioned in a previous post, doing it right on the lathe would be ideal, so of course that's taken into consideration for this lathe as well.
I'll use the Penpal for the sanding and finishing, since I can dial it down to slower than the 500rpm of the Commanders minimum.
I started to watch videos on it, but does anyone here have any honest reviews and opinions, pros and cons? It'll be a few weeks yet since i'll be taking my time and waiting for the showroom to finally open after their relocation (plus, I don't trust UPS handling it safely and without damage).
Thanks in advance!
 
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I want to add, I was considering the Wen 3421, but I'm noticing the tool rest will sit too high at it lowest setting, so my tools won't hit a pen blank on center as recommended.
 

TDahl

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Dec 11, 2019
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Brentwood
I have only used the Commander for several years now and like it. The speed control is definitely a nice feature. I'm sure there are probably better lathes on the market, but most of the reviews I read indicated it was the best value at the time.
 

monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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Saratoga Springs, NY
I've had the 12" Commander for around 8 years and have been very pleased with it.

I previously had a small ShopFox starter lathe - it was OK for what it was, but it was small and underpowered relative to the direction my interests had taken. I identified a number of options to consider, created a spreadsheet in which I captured the critical information on each candidate, and made my selection.

One of the other candidates on my list was the Nova Comet. In terms of capability as a lathe, it was a viable contender, but I eventually opted for the Turncrafter based on a number of factors including motor horsepower. Recently, there has been a thread on this board in which a user has reported great difficulty replacing the drive belt on his Comet, something that I did not consider in my evaluation. Fortunately, replacing the drive belt on a Turncrafter Commander is a piece of cake - it can be done in less than a minute without disassembling the entire headstock. Incidentally, PSI sells replacement belts (not in the catalog - you have to call them), but there are belt supply companies who sell replacements for less. Belts wear out and they aren't expensive, so its prudent to keep a few on hand.

The 12" Turncrafter weighs in at 106 pounds. It ships in two boxes, so the UPS dude had to use a dolly to get it to the door. I intercepted him and got him to deliver it to the basement bulkhead door, from where I was able to muscle it down the steps and into the shop. Mine arrived undamaged, but I've heard stories of people finding broken parts due to misshandling in shipment. But the fact that it is so heavy means that the trained monkeys can't just throw it around.

The Turncrafter is made in China, and the same lathe is available from other suppliers with a different name and paint color. It does have its quirks - but so does every other lathe, so which ever you choose, you just have to learn its peculiarities and factor them into your work flow.
 

henry1164

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Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
193
Location
Webster, NY
To be clear i only turn pens and bottle stoppers so I have a limited purpose in a lathe. My first lathe (if you can call it that) was a very small Chinese device that did have some speed control - 1500 to 7000 RPM - and I had to do some modifications to make it work well for me. The price was right (about $100 total investment) and I made over 100 pens and a few bottle stoppers. My wife saw how much I had to go through with this device to get a pen turned so she opted to buy me a Commander 12 for Christmas. The rest will be history now as the Commander 12 will do everything I need to do with minimal effort and a precision that is at or above my level. I highly recommend the Commander 12 for pen turning and other small projects.
 

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Crashmph

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Dec 15, 2008
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South Riding, VA
It really depends on your budget and what you want to turn now and in the future. I saved up for a a couple of years to get the lathe I really wanted, a Laguna Revo 12/16. When it came time to get the lathe, I started looking at a bigger better lathe. I eventually ended up with a Harvey T40. It is a substantial lathe that is bigger than most would use for pens, but I also want to turn larger bowls and vases. The T40 is a 220v lathe that is not exactly cheap. Took me over two years of squirreling away money from pen sales to get it. Its servo motor is so quiet it is hardly even noticeable at 3000rpm. Extreme precision with dead on accuracy.

Harvey T40 weblink

Harvey T40.png


Accuracy with no wiggle, right out of the box.
IMG_2028.jpeg
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Pennsylvania
Thanks everyone! Probably going with the Commander. The more feedback and videos Ive watched have certainly nudged me towards it. I don't plan on anything more than pens, the occasional ring, and maybe a small bowl(maybe being the operative word lol). Of course i'll do some keychains and smaller stuff like that, but pens will be my main focus.
 

Borg_B_Borg

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Joined
Nov 4, 2005
Messages
155
Location
Castro Valley, CA, USA.
It really depends on your budget and what you want to turn now and in the future. I saved up for a a couple of years to get the lathe I really wanted, a Laguna Revo 12/16. When it came time to get the lathe, I started looking at a bigger better lathe. I eventually ended up with a Harvey T40. It is a substantial lathe that is bigger than most would use for pens, but I also want to turn larger bowls and vases. The T40 is a 220v lathe that is not exactly cheap. Took me over two years of squirreling away money from pen sales to get it. Its servo motor is so quiet it is hardly even noticeable at 3000rpm. Extreme precision with dead on accuracy.

Harvey T40 weblink

View attachment 304531

Accuracy with no wiggle, right out of the box.
View attachment 304532
Harvey's video on this T40 lathe touts a 0.001" tolerance in headstock/tailstock alignment, but the picture you posted shows a very slight but clearly noticeable mis-alignment that is probably much larger than 0.001". I wonder what could be causing that.
 

Crashmph

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Dec 15, 2008
Messages
1,487
Location
South Riding, VA
Harvey's video on this T40 lathe touts a 0.001" tolerance in headstock/tailstock alignment, but the picture you posted shows a very slight but clearly noticeable mis-alignment that is probably much larger than 0.001". I wonder what could be causing that.
Could be the the dirty dead center or the eight year old live center. Or could just be my terrible cell phone picture.
 
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