New lathe advice

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mkrevda

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Feb 6, 2019
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Byron Center, MI
I am looking for a new lathe, I am new to turning and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg but I don’t want to grow out of what I buy either. I am looking at at 12in Rikon 70-1280vs for 500ish and the Nova Comet 2 with a chuck for 600is, and the Jet JWL-1221sp for 419. I’ve had people say don’t buy Rikon and people say don’t buy Nova, amd a few say with Jet your buying the name. I just want to be able to turn 12in bowls down to pens and rings. Is the variable speed worth $100 HELP lol
 
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monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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There are many turners who happily use treadle-powered spring-pole lathes. And I've even seen a belt-driven, waterwheel-powered lathe.

But most of us prefer electrically-operated lathes. They are just more convenient.

Variable speed is another form of convenience. It's not essential, but most of us prefer the convenience of being able to quickly vary the speed of the lathe to the nature of the work being done. Higher speed produces smoother cuts and is important on thin spindles (such as pens), but sanding requires lower speeds to avoid overheating the timber, etc.

The three lathes you mentioned are all good - but the JWL-1221sp is NOT a variable speed lathe - you have to swap pulleys to change speed.

So its up to you - what kind of work do you expect to be doing, and how much convenience to you want (said differently, how much inconvenience are you willing to put up with)?

You seem to be focusing on so-called 'midi-lathes' - machines with a 12" swing and a bed length of about 18". There are brands that you haven't mentioned - Laguna and Turncrafter for example. These are also good. The criticism that with Jet, you are paying for a name could be said of any of them.
 
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mkrevda

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Joined
Feb 6, 2019
Messages
10
Location
Byron Center, MI
There are many turners who happily use treadle-powered spring-pole lathes. And I've even seen a belt-driven, waterwheel-powered lathe.

But most of us prefer electrically-operated lathes. They are just more convenient.

Variable speed is another form of convenience. It's not essential, but most of us prefer the convenience of being able to quickly vary the speed of the lathe to the nature of the work being done. Higher speed produces smoother cuts and is important on thin spindles (such as pens), but sanding requires lower speeds to avoid overheating the timber, etc.

The three lathes you mentioned are all good - but the JWL-1221sp is NOT a variable speed lathe - you have to swap pulleys to change speed.

So its up to you - what kind of work do you expect to be doing, and how much convenience to you want (said differently, how much inconvenience are you willing to put up with)?

You seem to be focusing on so-called 'midi-lathes' - machines with a 12" swing and a bed length of about 18". There are brands that you haven't mentioned - Laguna and Turncrafter for example. These are also good. The criticism that with Jet, you are paying for a name could be said of any of them.

That is awesomely helpful. I am focusing on the 12x18 size for space reasons, and the three that I mentioned are in the $500 range I am hoping to stay with in. I never looked at laguna or turncrafter on the assumption that they were far more expensive, but I will take a look. I truly appreciate your help
 

Charlie_W

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Nov 16, 2011
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Sterling, VA USA
In my experience, go for the variable speed drive if at all possible....you won’t regret it later.
Also, compare the horsepower of these lathes as some of the midi lathes are now 3/4 HP instead of 1 HP. Compare warranties.
I will say that the Comet is lighter to carry to shows and demonstrating...but myself and others find the plastic lock levers especially on the tailstock to be somewhat lacking. The tailstock will still creep when locked down.

Note that a 12” Lathe with this type of motor will turn a 12” Bowl if you take light cuts. At 12”, the torque and power of these motors are struggling to do the job. Horsepower ratings can vary. A better picture is to check the amperage.....more amps=more power.

Good luck!
 

indytruks138

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Jan 28, 2019
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Sachse, TX
As a new owner of the Nova Comet II I will say if you plan to plug into a GFI this lathe can have issues tripping GFI, I just got off the phone with Teknatool technical support and he acknowledged it can be an issue.
 

JimB

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Mar 18, 2008
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West Henrietta, NY, USA.
In addition, you say you want to turn 12” bowls... a lathe with a 12” swing is not going to give you a 12” bowl because you need to account for the space the banjo takes and the wood you will remove. You also need to consider if the lathe weight, motor power and slowest speed will allow for turning out of balance blanks.

Personally I would spend the money and get VS. IMO Jet quality is better than the other lathes listed but I haven’t seen the new Laguna 1216 yet but if is anything like its big brother the Laguna 1836 it will give the Jet serious competition.
 

magpens

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Feb 2, 2011
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I would say it is well worth $100 to have the variable speed.

Who wants to stop and change belt position when you are in the middle of turning something and find that the speed is not optimal ?

Check that the VS will go down to very low like 50 RPM ... that is very useful for applying finishes like CA so that you are not centrifugally spraying your shop walls and ceiling (and yourself).
 

monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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Saratoga Springs, NY
One of the regulars on this board suggested an approach to evaluating lathe purchases that I think is really profound.

Suppose you buy a lathe for $XXX, and it dies on the day that the warranty expires. If it had died one day earlier, you could have gotten a free replacement. But because of the timing, you now have to decide whether you like that lathe enough to pay for a repair (or replacement). And if you decide that you don't like it, then the annualized cost of learning that lesson is

Cost = $XXX / term of the warranty

On that basis, a $450 lathe with a 3 year warranty is equivalent to a $750 lathe with a 5 year warranty.

So the bottom line is that you have to look at price, and you have to think about warranty, but you also need to look at the features, and ultimately make a decision based on the total package.
 

SteveG

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Dec 21, 2009
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Eugene, Oregon 97404
I vote for VS...you will not regret the extra cost. It is a feature you will likely use regularly, for the life of your new lathe (unless you opt for the less expensive non-VS). If you chose the later, you will probably regret that decision for the life of your new lathe. You might possibly even buy another new lathe WITH VS.:eek::eek::rolleyes:

One man's opinion...
 

RussBerg

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Oct 6, 2018
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Wi. summer-Az. winter
I am not a wood worker, I just make pens. I have 2 Turncrafters, one in Wisconsin and one in Arizona. They serve my purposes very well. I chose variable speed and highly recommend it. By the way, Penn States service on my Lathes has been very good.
 

randyrls

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Feb 2, 2006
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Harrisburg, PA 17112
Several People have mentioned Variable Speed. One thing about *MOST* electronic VS lathes is that they still have belts and pulleys. To get the full range of speed from MIN to MAX you still need to move the belt. Reeves drive lathes can get full range without changing belts. Direct drive (DVR) lathes don't have belts, but you pay a premium for that. On a specific item it is unlikely you will need to move the belt. If you turn a bowl and then a pen, you may need to move the belt, but this is minor and takes under a minute.
Hope this helps.
 

TonyL

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Mar 9, 2014
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Georgia
the 1221 evs has a belt setting with a 200 to 3600 range..which I leave it on 99% of the time for pens. however, according to jet technical support, the "slower" belt settings with provide more torque. i did find this useful when initially roughing bottlestopper blanks.
 
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