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Best Full-Sized Lathe / Upgrade Help

Joined
Feb 8, 2021
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Location
Vancouver,WA
I'd like to ask the forum for help researching and deciding on a full-sized lathe.

The best unit for me within my budget of $4500. I'm a fairly new turner, retired at 50yrs old, and have decided to invest in woodturning as my primary hobby moving forward. I love it! The reason I say "best unit for me" is I also have a significant back issue which is a factor in deciding on some of the features I think I'll need. A swing-away tail stock or similar feature is one I feel strongly about. While in 5 yrs I may have the funds to move to the top of the class (Robust), I don't think I can make that happen within the next couple of years and am already bogging down and outgrowing my Laguna 1216, which I really do like. So, please help give me some experience and perspective on what might be the best choice and why.

I was very tempted by the new Rikon at it's price point and capacity, but think being able to work off the end of the lathe (sliding or pivoting headstock) could make things more physically enjoyable for me. Outboard turning similarly could accomplish the same task. How much are folks using outboard turning or working off the end of the lathe regularly? I enjoy bowls and platters and have access to any size lumber (capacity?) in my area and like to turn green wood (steel beds?). I don't plan a need to do long spindle work.

The Powermatic 3520c seems like a reliable, hard to find fault with machine in this price range, and, a somewhat easy choice based on my reading/research, but I want to explore all the options and learn from you folks. I really like the look of the Laguna machines but are they really only a 1yr warranty? Is that a deal-breaker? Seems everything else it has going for it. The Harvey has a strange servo motor I know nothing about. If doing coring or hollowing is a 3HP choice leg up over the Powermatic? I haven't turned on any of these other machines and am sure there are some alternative I haven't yet considered. I hear Powermatic resale value is good. The used market is dry as a bone in my area (Portland/Vancouver, WA). Thanks in advance.

Laguna 2436
$3900
3HP, sliding headstock, steel beds, outboard turning, 1yr warranty, swing away tailstock


Rikon 70-3040 $3400 (on sale now)
3HP, 5yr warranty
No sliding headstock, no outboard turning, unproven, no swing away tailstock.


Powermatic 3520c $4000~$4500
2hp, sliding headstock, 5yr warranty, proven workhorse/reliable, swing-away tailstock


Harvey T60 $3800
Sliding headstock, relative unknown to me, swing away tailstock


------
Grizzly G0800 - not making anymore, recent reports of poor shipping/damaged machine(s)
Jet 1840 $2700, few features, am I missing something?
-------
Out of price range:
Robust American Beauty, etc ($6800+), Oneway, Vicmarc.
 
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
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Location
Larimore, ND
I have a 3520C and love it. Have put quite a few hours on it since my purchase last April. It does everything I ask it to do without fail. Like you, I have a bad/painful back, bad enough to put me out of the workforce (I retired at 52). To combat that, I use foam floor mats. The TSC horse stall mats worked for a while, now I'm trying a softer mat I picked up at Menards. Don't know if you live rural/city, but I picked up a small Kubota garden tractor with a front end loader, I do all my lifting with it now, helps my back big-time, just a small suggestion for your back if you can do it. I move all my wood with it to where I saw it up for turning or firewood, even then, I use it to carry it to the shed or in the garage. Back pain sucks!!
 
Joined
May 4, 2010
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Bozeman, MT
The Powermatic and Jet are within your price range, but you're also adding a swing-away, which is expensive, and you're going to need to change the size on many of your attachments, so the lathe itself is only part of the equation. There's a Powermatic/Jet outlet up near Seattle where you can sometimes get scratch and dent lathes at a discount, and use the savings for the add-ons. Or find something used.

As always, the "best lathe" question is answered by "what do you want to do with it?" You've considered this aspect of the question. Now you just need to try out your top choices. There are often little differences in lathes that only show up as you use them. Check the local clubs for people who own your top choices and will let you play with them for a couple hours. I bet that answers your question. It's a fun process.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2009
Messages
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Location
TN
I’ve had the 3520b for 10+yrs and am very happy with it. For most bowls and platters I have the headstock in the middle and turn off the end. I take the tailstock on/off a lot and have a holder at the same level nearby to make that easy; if you have back issues you might want the swing away.

The only negative I see from what you said are the cast iron ways for turning green. When I turn green I try and keep towels covering the ways but I still spend 15min at the end of each Green Day with PB Blaster and steel wool.
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2020
Messages
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Location
Hoschton, GA
It sounds like you may be considering upgrading in a few years to the Robust AB. If that's the case, I'd recommend the Powermatic 3520C based on resale value. It's a capable lathe and holds it's value and will be an easy sell in a few years when you get ready to upgrade. Just something else to consider.
 
Joined
Apr 20, 2006
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Location
Erie, PA
For me gotta be cast iron. All my lathes are cast iron. Have never had a problem with rust. I really do not like steel bed lathes, but that is me. I always tell people to buy their last lathe first. My choice would be the Powermatic but if you want the AB you should just grit your teeth and go for it, get a loan and do it.
 

Roger Wiegand

Beta Tester
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
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Location
Wayland, MA
Website
www.carouselorgan.com
Having had cast iron, wood, and stainless steel ways over time, I have to say I really, really like the SS. The one time I turned on a cast iron bed in the last 20 years I left some oak shavings on it over a quick lunch break and then got to spend some serious time with a scotchbrite pad to get the instant rust off. Never even thought of rust on the wooden ways of my Conover. My first, cast iron, lathe was already so pitted I really didn't need to worry about it. That said, all of them worked just fine.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2006
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Panning for Montana gold, with Betsy, the mule!
For me gotta be cast iron. All my lathes are cast iron. Have never had a problem with rust. I really do not like steel bed lathes, but that is me. I always tell people to buy their last lathe first. My choice would be the Powermatic but if you want the AB you should just grit your teeth and go for it, get a loan and do it.

I was going to say something very similar to Bill's response above, but he said it first!

The difference between cast iron and stainless steel seems to me minimal. The engineering of the steel bed top-of-the-line lathes is very good these days. I am one who always did like cast iron, but wouldn't have a problem getting one of the better steel bed lathes. If all things being equal, though.....I'd still prefer the cast iron option.

For me, I am a bowl turner.....and, have no desire to do anything else. Been doing it for almost 40 years, now! I've had my current Woodfast 16" cast iron, fixed headstock lathe for 29 years, and it can do everything I want a lathe to do.....with the possible exception of one thing: The sliding or pivoting headstock option. For sure, anyone with back issues would probably have sliding or pivoting headstock a major priority.....and, it's easy to understand the necessity. I don't have such issues, but I do lean a little more than I'd wish to......I've been doing it so long that I've found methods that make it a bit easier, and one big advantage is to lean against the lathe itself with my hips, for support. Developing specific methods to do bowl interiors without having to lean very far, is also a big help.

My evolved state-of-mind on lathes makes me feel a pivoting headstock would be the better choice, over a sliding headstock. There are very few first class lathes with pivoting headstocks these days, and I suspect the main reason for that, is the engineering aspect of it over a sliding headstock is much more involved......that is, if it's done to a high level of intuitive engineering.

It's hard for me to pull the trigger on an upgrade lathe, because the problems I'm having with a fixed headstock lathe are minimal, and I seem to have solved them satisfactorily......I do desire for the upgrade, but it isn't a necessity.....yet!

One lathe I feel is a top contender for pivoting headstock, is the Vicmarc VL240. The engineering seems way above anything else available with this kind of lathe.

-----odie-----
 
Last edited:
Joined
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Panning for Montana gold, with Betsy, the mule!
but if you want the AB you should just grit your teeth and go for it, get a loan and do it.
have decided to invest in woodturning as my primary hobby moving forward. I love it! While in 5 yrs I may have the funds to move to the top of the class (Robust),

Allen, it sounds like you have decided to make woodturning a priority activity, and if that's the case, you should consider Bill's advice. Bite the bullet, and get the lathe you really want.

How's that old saying go.......something about crying once!

-----odie-----
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2021
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Location
Parkersburg, West Virginia
I also have a bad spine. I have spinal stenosis in two locations in my back and C4 thru C7 fused together. I just bought a new lathe with a pivoting headstock and since using it would never own a lathe without it. Being able to turn the headstock outboard and stand in front of the bowl while turning the inside is a game changer for me. With the pivoting head you shouldn’t need a swing away tailstock.
 

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Joined
Mar 19, 2016
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Haubstadt, Indiana
I went down that path of multiple lathes. Budget dictated my path. My first full size lathe was a PM90. It had a 12” swing. I raised it to 18” thinking it would serve me for a couple of years. However it was a reeves drive and lowest speed was 350 RPM. To upgrade motor and variable speed woul be costly. I bought the Laguna 18-36 thinking the same, won’t need another lathe. It was an ok lathe, but not as heavy as I really wanted. Although the tailstock wasn’t that heavy it was a pain to take off and put back on. I didn’t care for the the Laguna swing away. I finally decided to bite the bullet and get the Robust AB. There are other good lathes at that price, but felt the AB was the best fit for me. I turn a variety of things and for me the a pivoting headstock wasn’t high on my list. Some have a preference to cast iron beds, but I have had all three, cast, steel, and stainless steel. My preference by far is stainless steel. I would not go back to cast and the maintenance issues with cast. I didn’t really like the steel all that much and was initially hesitant on the stainless steel. I have had the AB for two years now and have no desire to change. The tailstock swing away is super.
 
Joined
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Eugene, OR
The only difference between steel bed lathes and cast iron bed lathes that I could tell were that they made different noises when turning. No changes in vibrations or bounce, or anything else that I have noticed. I do have a Vic 240 and prefer it for bowls. I also like that it has 3 speed ranges, like my Beauty, which was one of the first ones. For bowl turning, low speed range is a bit slow, high speed range covers the speed, but if you core, you need to step down to low speed to core. With the 3 speed lathe, the middle speed is just right for both...

robo hippy
 
Joined
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buy used.....keep what ya got.....
 
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Panning for Montana gold, with Betsy, the mule!
I just bought a new lathe with a pivoting headstock and since using it would never own a lathe without it. Being able to turn the headstock outboard and stand in front of the bowl while turning the inside is a game changer for me. With the pivoting head you shouldn’t need a swing away tailstock.

That Record Power Regent 18" lathe is one I have my eye on! So far, there hasn't been much information from those who own them.......probably because it's a very new product.

-----odie-----
 
Joined
Feb 8, 2021
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Location
Vancouver,WA
Sliding and rotating headstock is interesting! 250-3800RPM. The 250 low might make finishing on the lathe a challenge. Also seem to be out of stock everywhere. Price is nice!
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2021
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Location
Parkersburg, West Virginia
That Record Power Regent 18" lathe is one I have my eye on! So far, there hasn't been much information from those who own them.......probably because it's a very new product.

-----odie-----
I have the little brother Envoy, 16” lathe. I have only been turning on it for a few weeks but am very happy with it so far. I would buy it again knowing what I know about it.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2019
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Location
Lebanon, Missouri
@Allen Mattsen appears you are considering full size lathes, which I recommend vs a short bowl lathe (except the Vic 240, its heavy). Weight, and if you become interested in hollow forms are reasons for a full size - length provides more/easier options with hollowing systems.

I also have back issues and find a pivoting HS a pleasure to use. That’s the primary reason I bought a Nova Galaxi (16x44, ~$2400). It has a sliding/pivoting HS, and I have the outrigger. Now Nova has the Orion, 18 x 24 (~$2800) I think, with available bed extension for more length. The Orion does not slide, only pivot, and for whatever reason I dont think Nova has released an outrigger for it.

While the Record Power lathes look pretty good, the slowest speed of 250 rpm is a deal breaker for me. I sand and do some finishing steps on the lathe (very nice to pivot work out 90 deg for sanding/finishing), and wish the Galaxi went down lower than 100 rpm, but its workable.

I like the speed presets and there is more than enough low speed torque - I core up to ~12” bowls no problem. I can stall it with a 5/8” bowl gouge but I have to try to do it. Does 29” outboard. Depends on how big of pieces you want to turn. I routinely do 14-15” bowls and platters and dont need bigger finished OD’.

Another advantage of the pivoting HS - with items to big to clear the the banjo, just pivot the HS to the far side, slide the banjo, swing the piece back in, lock it down and go. No need to remove the piece for clearance.
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2021
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Location
Parkersburg, West Virginia
Sliding and rotating headstock is interesting! 250-3800RPM. The 250 low might make finishing on the lathe a challenge. Also seem to be out of stock everywhere. Price is nice!
I was looking at other lathes because of the 250 low speed but I don’t finish on the lathe so I was fine with it. One of the main features I wanted was a pendant controller so I didn’t have to reach around a turning bowl to change speeds or turn it off. Nova doesn’t offer that.
 
Joined
Apr 1, 2019
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Location
Bashaw, Alberta
Another advantage of the pivoting HS - with items to big to clear the the banjo, just pivot the HS to the far side, slide the banjo, swing the piece back in, lock it down and go. No need to remove the piece for clearance.
You genius. Why didn't I think of that instead of unscrewing the chuck like a dummy.
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2021
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Location
Melbourne, AR
Here’s the answer, maybe if enough people bug them they will import them. Axminster AT508WL. It slides, it spins and has remote/lanyard controls. You can view all the features and specs on Ebay.
 

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Joined
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Allen, if you haven't been there already, Woodcrafters in NE Portland has a PM3520C on the floor that you can check out. The used market might be dry at the moment, but good, full size lathes do pop up somewhat frequently in the area.
 
Joined
Feb 8, 2021
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Location
Vancouver,WA
Allen, if you haven't been there already, Woodcrafters in NE Portland has a PM3520C on the floor that you can check out. The used market might be dry at the moment, but good, full size lathes do pop up somewhat frequently in the area.
I didn't know they had one there. I've been recently, too. Thanks
 
Joined
May 4, 2010
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Bozeman, MT
I started turning at the local senior center on their Delta 1440 iron bed, which had a pivoting headstock and an extension set up for the banjo. It was terrible in the pivoted configuration. As a result, I am frankly shocked, but also very pleased, to hear all the positive experiences with newer versions of pivoting headstocks. Way to go, Engineers!
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2019
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Lebanon, Missouri
Here’s the answer, maybe if enough people bug them they will import them. Axminster AT508WL. It slides, it spins and has remote/lanyard controls. You can view all the features and specs on Ebay.

The woodturning store imports Axminster lathes. Maybe you could contact them about that model.

Go to Axminster/US site: https://www.axminstertools.com/us/axminster-trade-series-at2030vs-woodturning-lathe-102265
Put one in the shopping cart but it stopped me, stated it was overweight and to contact them. If interested call them. Looks like a nice lathe 20" swing, ~2 hp, 600lb, extension for length or outboard turning included $4200 but don't know shipping cost if they will send it.
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2021
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Location
Melbourne, AR
Thanks Roger, but already received a “no” from the owner of Woodturning Store, but was quoted a price on the Record Power. They are “the authorized dealer” for Axminster parts but not lathes. Also received a very quick/nice note from main office in England saying due to Brexit and other restrictions that they could not take internet or phone orders. They referred me to their “exclusive partner” in Australia, which says/shows nothing on their web page. Even the Ebay listing says “may not deliver to US”....
 
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Go to Axminster/US site: https://www.axminstertools.com/us/axminster-trade-series-at2030vs-woodturning-lathe-102265
Put one in the shopping cart but it stopped me, stated it was overweight and to contact them. If interested call them. Looks like a nice lathe 20" swing, ~2 hp, 600lb, extension for length or outboard turning included $4200 but don't know shipping cost if they will send it.
Believe 2.2kw is closer to 3hp but neither here nor there if they won’t ship it...scroll down to the “delivery/returns” tab....international shipping unavailable

Was looking at the AT406WL
 

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Just my opinons:

Previous incarnations of the headstock pivot were not all well done, and have tended to give it a bad name. I have a pivoting headstock on my lathe (Nova 1624 DVR) that works great and I consider it a must have feature. The driver for me is not just back comfort (I don't have a particular problem), but improved access to the work piece, particularly with my hollowing rig. Just the same there are respectable folks on this forum that strongly prefer a sliding headstock.

I can't tell you what's best for you, but I agree with Doug Freeman's suggestion to consider the Nova line. Among their other pro's and con's: The Galaxi has a headstock that rotates and slides with a longer bed, but no swing away option. The Saturn rotates only, but a bed extension and hinge are available (sold separately). I am not up on the features of the Orion.

And as was mentioned, the lathe itself is only the initial cost, there are the options and accessories.

You don't necessarily have to have a swing away to easily get the tailstock off. People have made "carts" with matching wooden bedways that roll up to the end of the lathe and allow the tail stock to slide off the lathe.

Even with a pivoting head stock I'd still want a swing away for the tails stock. Parking the tailstock opens the end of the bed making it easier to install and remove the hollowing rig that I often use.

Stainless steel bedways may not be ferro magnetic. That would be a problem for me and the way I use magnetic lights.
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2021
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Melbourne, AR
Allen, you might consider an overhead hoist of some type. With the size lathe you are looking at you will surely be wanting to handle bigger “wet” pieces...your back will thank you. Harbor Freight has a 440# Pittsburgh for $100.
 
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Panning for Montana gold, with Betsy, the mule!
AXMINSTER TRADE AT508WL WOODTURNING LATHE - 230V Distance Between Centres762 mm or 1,262 mm with bed extensionHeadstock Taper2 MTLathe Speed60 - 1,200 / 100 - 2,200 / 140 - 3,700 rpm (var)Max Diameter900 mm using bed extension mounted on standMax Diameter over Bed508 mmNett Weight280 kgOverall L x W x H1,850 mm (+ 520 mm with bed ext) x 560 mm (+ 330 mm with bed ext) x 1,230 mmPower2.2 kWRatingTradeSpindle ThreadM33 x 3.5 mmTailstock Ram Travel135 mmTailstock Taper2 MTTool Post Diameter30 mmVoltage230 V

This lathe looks interesting, but no 1 1/4 x 8tpi spindle would be a deal killer for me. :(
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2009
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Astoria, Oregon
Stubby 750 occasionally pops up on the used market, but you gotta move fast. Very well engineered and cast iron built, with good customer service from the manufacturer in Australia...even for a used lathe. Specifically designed for bowls and hollowforms (John Jordan had a hand in the design process), and has a 30" swing when the sliding bed is moved back. 2hp 230v motor with true variable speed.
 

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Joined
May 31, 2019
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Highland, MI
FWIW, with my extensive experience in woodturning (2 years) and my extensive and exclusive use of a 3520C (1 year) I can honestly say that it's the best lathe I've ever used (the other being a Rikon mini).
Seriously (or as serious as I get), I've been delighted with the 3520C and the only lathe I look to as a maybe someday item is the AB, but at this point in my turning, my main limitation isn't the lathe, it's the nut that holds the turning tools..
 
Joined
Feb 8, 2021
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Glad to hear this. As much as a Robust would be delightful, I can buy a lot of accessories, tools, and wood with the remaining $3800, and, a larger bandsaw is on my short list. We'll see what happens. I'm getting a lot of excellent feedback in this thread.
 
Joined
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Some day, I may have to take a trip to the Islands to visit Emiliano, just so we can have a play date on his Stubby lathes.... Never had the chance to play on one, yet...

robo hippy
 
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