Looking for opinions on mini lathes

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TurnKC

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Aug 17, 2018
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I know this is kind of like asking who makes the best chili, everyone has their own opinion! I’m looking at getting a new mini lathe and would like to hear everyone’s thoughts. Right now I’m just doing pens but will eventually do some other small items (wine stoppers, ornaments, etc...) What lathes are out there that all of you like? Thanks for all your thoughts!


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monophoto

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Realistically, the difference between various low-end lathes is often not more than the color of the paint. Most of them originate in China, often in the same factory. They are all pretty good, but you have to understand the 'you get what you pay for' concept. Jet, Grizzley, Rikon, Excelsior, Turncrafter, Nova,, ShopFox - all pretty good.

I started with the ShopFox 1704 - no real complaints about the lathe, but I simply outgrew it.

I moved up to a Turncrafter 12" - which is as much lathe as I can accommodate in my shop. And I've been very happy with it for five years. Don't anticipate making a change.
 

jxdubbs

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I have the nova comet 2 and love it. Jets are great. And on a high end laguna just came out with a new one Chad Shimmel has a review on it.

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Buckmark13

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I make the best chili.....

Now that we got that out of the way, I'll start by saying that I don't have much experience at all yet. But I did a ton of research and thought I'd share my experience. After much back and forth, I decided that buying used was definitely the way to go starting out. Not only can you get something to start with, but you'll end up spending a boat load on accessories. Then you'll get some perspective on what you really want and need. You may already be at that point though.

I ended up getting a used Jet and really like it. The one thing I learned and would highly recommend looking for is one with variable speed. I didn't think it would be a big deal to change the belt. But I find myself wanting to frequently change the speed.
 

leehljp

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Wants list for a good experience down the road:

1. MT 2, you can get by on an MT1 but the MT2 has far more to offer in options.

2. VS - specifically Electronic Variable Speed. it is fun making the first turnings and even a year later. But later, if you are really into it an enjoy it, stopping and changing the belt 2 or 3 times per pen or small bowl turning, - that becomes just a bit of an aggravation.
 

Woodchipper

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Welcome. I have a Rikon 70-050VS which has been replaced with another model. It carries a 5 year warranty...one of the reasons I bought it. As mentioned, you get what you pay for. Hank has some good things to consider for a lathe.
 

mark james

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I have a Jet Mini about 7 years old - for what it cost and was supposed to do I couldn't be happier and still use it a lot. (I have since bought a Nova Midi, non VS, but still wouldn't be without the Jet Mini).

At our Ohio Chapter Meetings, Hartville Hardware has shuffled several demo lathes for our use. My favorite one was one of the VS Rikon's. Not sure of the model number, and only used it for a demo, but I was very impressed with it.

So, from me, Jet and Rikon have had good experiences, and the Nova Midi. As mentioned above there are quite a few good choices, and most are very similar. If you can get to a store where you could compare, that would be helpful.

Oh, Buckmark13 has no idea of what makes good chili! Mine is the best.
 

mark james

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I just looked. There is a Woodcraft in Kansas City. I'd certainly try to compare what they have available. Not necessarily to buy there, but it is always nice to see and feel before purchasing; and, they may do you right for a sale.
 

sbwertz

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My Excelsior is 7 years old and hasn't given me any trouble. I have a bed extender for it and turn canes on it regularly. It isn't variable speed, but I can change belts in about 30 seconds without even looking LOL. Four of my turners at the blind center have them, too, and no problems. (Rockler gives us a great deal for my blind turners!)

And I have proof I make the best chili

https://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/sharon-wertzs-low-carb-chili-recipe
 
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stonepecker

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Mark makes a good chili. I have tasted it. But the best? I think we need a blind taste test. I think mine might be in the top 4.

I have a Jet, Rikon, several off Craig's list......they all work well. VS is a must in my opinion. And like someone said......in some cases, it is only a paint job difference. My go to lathe is my Jet. Love the way everything works.
 

sbwertz

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Actually, for my blind turners, changing the belts works better than the variable speed, simply because they know exactly what speed they are going to get when the belts are on a particular pulley. I've found it is hard for them to judge the speed on the variable speed lathe. But if they put it on the first pulley, it is good for drilling, the second one is for roughing out peppermills and sanding, the third one for handles, etc.
 

brailsmt

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I know this is kind of like asking who makes the best chili, everyone has their own opinion! I’m looking at getting a new mini lathe and would like to hear everyone’s thoughts. Right now I’m just doing pens but will eventually do some other small items (wine stoppers, ornaments, etc...) What lathes are out there that all of you like? Thanks for all your thoughts!


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I just looked. There is a Woodcraft in Kansas City. I'd certainly try to compare what they have available. Not necessarily to buy there, but it is always nice to see and feel before purchasing; and, they may do you right for a sale.
I am in Kansas City, we do indeed have a Woodcraft. The staff is very knowledgable and helpful. Chris teaches the pen turning beginners class, and they have a few mini lathes on display at the counter. I just started at the beginning of December, but I'm absolutely loving it. I bought a Nova Comet II, and I love it. It has belts that you change, but also has a variable speed control and allows you to change speed within a range set by the belt position. Just be warned, I have found the lathe is the cheapest part of this hobby.
 

KLJ

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I used a a Rikon 70-220 vsr for three years and it did a good job. It might be considered a midi instead of mini. I had great response from Rikon costumer service my first one fried the control board the first time it was turned on, One phone call they sent me a new lathe with a shipping label for the broke one. It never gave me any problem. I suggest if at all possible get variable speed and as big and nice of lathe as budget and space can handle. Those " other small items" can get pretty big sometimes !! Also if you buiild a cabinet ( as I did ) to mount the small lathe on the footprint of the larger lathe was not much more.
 

Charlie_W

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Many turners will tell you to buy your second lathe first as you will probably grow out of your first lathe. Also, buy quality .... you won’t regret it.... and if you should want to sell it to upgrade, it will have resale value. If you are like most of us, you will keep your first lathe and use it for drilling or buffing.
My first was a Jet Mini ... still have it and use it regularly... runs great and haven’t had any issues with it at all.
 

JimB

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For pens and bottle stoppers any of the lathes mentioned will do. More importantly will be the features such as MT2 and variable speed. Personally I would go with either Jet or Rikon as I think their quality is better than some of the other lathes mentioned and they both have a 5 year warranty. If you want a little bigger but still a bench top lathe go with a midi. The Jet 1221VS is an excellent lathe in the midi category and will allow you to turn some larger items.
 

TonyL

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I do not think you can go wrong with any that have been recommended. I happened to enjoy electronic variable speed, reverse, and a belt setting with a range of 200 to 3500. This always me to apply finish (i.e. CA), sand, polish, buff, and turn by turning a dial or flicking a switch. However, none of what I prefer is necessary to make beautiful pens.
 

TurnKC

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Thank you everyone for your wonderful insight so far! I am excited to stop by my local Woodcraft and explore my options and play with the different lathes. On a side note I learned I also need to set up a separate thread to talk about chili!


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Dehn0045

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I don't really mind changing belt positions on my non-VS mini (jet 1013), so I guess that makes me strange. Anyway, my opinion is that buying a new lathe just for VS isn't justified -- but again, I am strange and very very cheap. Going from MT1 to MT2, however, I feel is worth the upgrade. Even the quite large wood lathes use MT2, so when you want to buy a lathe to turn your first 32" platter you won't need to worry about finding shop space for your old lathe. As someone already mentioned, the Jet 1221-VS is a nice mid-range option. It doesn't gain you a ton on swing for bowl diameter, but the added bed length is a nice feature.
 

Woodchipper

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Chili? OK, start a thread on it. Going to dinner with some friends in about two hours. Will do some field research on this topic.
 

TurnKC

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Kansas City
For those that want to partake, head on over to “Casual Conversations” to share your chili bragging rights in the thread I just started!


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