Rookie first lathe

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The Woodster

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1 Jan 2020
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Good morning all
I have recently done a two day Axminster wood turning course and loved it ! I live in Kent. I think I would live to try lots of projects but bowl turning is my main focus. Are there any minimum requirements for my first second hand lathe?
Lots of options.

A feel for overall budget would be helpful (as its not just a lathe - turning Tools, Chuck, grinder, maybe bandsaw & drill press in time also) that can and often do, exceed the basic cost of lathe.

That said, for bowl turning you’ll want at least a 10” diameter capability, maybe more.

If you have access to wet / log form timber then a lathe with inherent weight is always a benefit so cast iron bed is my advice (although all lathes can be made better with addition of weight to the stand / frame).

At the cheaper end (£200-500) I’d be looking for used Axminster M900 / M950 or the more recent but pretty much identical craft versions now stocked. (These have a reeves mechanical variable speed that has its detractors but imho is much better than only 3 or 5 fixed speeds varied by swapping pulley belts if electronic variable speed is out of budget).

Mid range, (£500 - 1500) union graduate short bed bowl lathes are lovely if you get a good one with variable speed etc but are focused on bowl work only. Axminster 1628 (or equivalent), a used record maxi or even vicmarc 175 can be had at the top end for this budget.

Top end (>£1500) then take your pick from oneway, vicmarc, VB etc.

Hope this helps, feel free to ask more Qs but a little more info in terms of budget, kit you’ve already got, size of projects in mind and type of timber you plan on turning will all help more helpful answers.

The Woodster":2hvq9e12 said:
Good morning all
I have recently done a two day Axminster wood turning course and loved it ! I live in Kent. I think I would live to try lots of projects but bowl turning is my main focus. Are there any minimum requirements for my first second hand lathe?

Now that you are about venture into this great hobby think about joining a club you may get the opportunity to try different lathes.
Try to look for a lathe that has a easy to buy accessories for like a common thread size or a common MT in head and tailstock. Variable speed is a bonus with any lathe but not essential. Size that can be turned is another factor especially if you want to turn larger bowls later on.

The above suggestions need to be taken into account when buying new or second hand
check ebay and facebook for collextion only as most used wont post (would cost ££'s), it may take a while but sometime one will crop up in your pricerange with tools and other odds (like with me).

also dont forget things like dustmask, facemask (a fullface from screwfix is cheap and better than goggles) and other odds, this can add nearly as much as the lathe (depending on the cost!)
Record Power (esp the older blue ones CL2/3) are a decent lathe and usually reasonably priced used and widely available.
You probably covered it on your course but apart from the height over the bed (which dictates the maximum size of bowl you can turn if the head does not swivel) one of the more important things to check when buying a lathe is the size of the thread on the headstock and that it also has a Morse Taper ( MT) fitting . Make sure it is a common size so accessories like chucks etc are easily available. e.g the RP lathes are mostly 3/4 x 16 and 1MT.
Most pointless buying a lathe because its a bargain and then realising that you cant add a chuck/ mandrel/ faceplate etc which greatly reduces you're ability to turn various items.

edit: Dalboy beat me to it :)
Personally if buying second hand I would avoid 'modern' all singing and dancing fully electronic motor/controls included in headstock versions, and those using DC 'Treadmill' style motors which were made to a budget for marketing reasons unless they are from a known individual who you can trust and at the right price.
The above often have a short marketing life as models change or retailer franchise changes and limited aftermarket support.

Any faults that develop could well be terminal due to lack of replacement parts or support, even if this is still available then 'whole unit' replacements can be very expensive.

Joining a local club where individuals reputations are respected should be a good guide to being safe regarding second hand machines that may be available.

Older machines such as the Records Nev mentioned or those of basic construction with separate 240 volt mains motors (1 or 3 Ph) and conventional control switches can usually be fixed with generic components.
I picked up a draper WTL90 and had a bit of an issue on start up. I tried to get it serviced but was told the particular model was defunct and I couldn’t buy parts. Fortunately the Axminster pulley wheels are interchangeable but being a new by I’m concerned I may have bought a pup. But maybe be good for parts for others when it eventually dies!
Hopefully I'm not hijacking this thread, but several people have mentioned buying a second hand lathe rather than new. Where's the best place to look for this kind of machinery? Now that I've had my lathe for a little while, there are a few things that I'd love to "fix" in my next lathe at some time in the future. I'm not complaining about my basic Axminster lathe, it's just that when you've used it for a while, you start to understand what everybody else has been talking about. Like a hand wheel. I'd kill for a hand wheel. Oh, and I'd love one of those locking things on the headstock so that I can get the workpiece off a bit easier.

I've had a look at ebay and there's been nothing much on there that I can see. Plus I always go to the machinery sale at the local auction house (only because the timber sale is on at the same time!) but the stuff there is either basic Chinese stuff (Draper etc) or terrifying medieval machinery that needs a stationery engine to run.Is there somewhere I'm missing, or do I have to sell the other kidney and buy something new?
Firstly, do not buy - as in DO NOT BUY - one of those cheap tinplate lathes with twin square bars for a bed. Badged as Clarke, Sip, Draper, Lumberjack, Aldi and probably others, they are not fit for purpose.
Go online and look for a lumberjack lathe at around £140 and you will see the type I mean. I have read so many bad reviews from owners of this model.

Look for a decent brand such as Record, Jet, or one of the Axminster range ( preferably the trade range if you can afford it), and go down the second hand route if you can't afford new - far better than being tempted by a nice, shiny, new piece of cr@p.
In terms of second hand, there are the makes I mentioned above, plus Myford ( ML 8 or Mystro), Tyme, Arundel and Coronet. If you have the pennies then a union graduate or a denford viceroy will last your lifetime. All these are discontinued now so be aware that accessories might be getting scarce. Check that you are getting all the necessary parts ( faceplates, banjo, tailstock etc).
From a personal viewpoint, I started with a Black and Decker drill attachment and it was AWFUL. Then I managed to get a Myford ML8 which was wonderful by comparison, although I suspect anything would be wonderful by comparison. That was over 30 years ago and I still have it. I also have acquired along the way a union graduate and a viceroy, which is why I mentioned them.

Secondly, visit the truly excellent website run by Tony at and you will get information on practically every decent wood lathe ever made ( and metal lathes, milling machines etc etc).
You will find details on spindle threads to know whether currently available accessories will fit - Tyme and Arundel might be problematic here.

If you buy a second hand lathe without faceplates, and later decide you need them, then expect to pay £25 - £45 depending on make, model and size. My viceroy has an outboard thread of 1 1/4" x 9 tpi and I don't have a faceplate so I bought taps to make my own out of wood - cost me £40 but means I can make as many as I need.

Thirdly - if you see a decent second hand lathe going complete with chuck, turning tools etc then don't underestimate the value of those extras. A chuck could easily be worth upwards of say £70, and new turning tools from £20 to £60 each, possibly more. ( Again, DO NOT be tempted to buy a set of 6 or 8 new turning tools for £25 - they belong with the lumberjack lathe ( i.e. in the dustbin).

Fourthly, you must have some means of sharpening your turning tools. Turning with blunt tools is tedious and unproductive, and will turn (?) your hobby into a chore when it should be enjoyable - and you will think it is your fault for not being skilled enough when in fact it is the tools that are the issue.
A bench grinder with a decent rest might be enough, certainly the cheapest route. You might need to get better wheels and rest though. Then there are sharpening kits that go up to hundreds of pounds, for example the Sorby Proedge at around £350. I don't have one but have read loads of reviews praising them. Whatever you decide, you simply must have some sharpening kit. Don't expect to take your tools to the weekly club meeting to be sharpened. You might need to touch up an edge after only a few minutes turning on dry, hard wood.
Hope this essay is helpful. Definitely check out that website. Definitely avoid that cheap kit. And finally
Enjoy turning.


Post script
I jst read the original post again and noticed you are mainly interested in bowl turning. I would not recommend the ML8 for this, I am not a fan of the outboard turning set up which is why I bought the graduate.
You might want to consider a lathe with a swivel head. I have never used one, but it would mean you only use the inboard side so no need to buy accessories for both inboard and outboard ( usually not interchangeable). I believe some Record, Jet and Axminster models offer this facility. The older models I mentioned do not.

I cant say too much as I'm not exactly the most experienced but I have a RP lathe 305 and I am more than happy with it and happy with records support when I had a small issue when it arrived.
You wish to turn bowls. Don't aaarse about with things like ML8s, good little lathes as they are. Stretch the budget and buy something older and larger - barring the motor, belt and the bearings there really isn't a huge amount to go wrong. Steer away from the ones directly driven from the motor - if the motor packs up they are difficult if not impossible to replace. Kiss goodbye to 2 or 3 hundred quid more than you budgeted for. You won't regret it.
I suspect many (including me) buy a first lathe with a view to trying out the hobby. Although you may have expectations of how your interest may evolve, the outcome could be very different. After a couple of years you will know an awful lot more about turning, techniques and where your interests really lie.

So be prepared (unless you have a lot of money to spend on a first lathe) to want to upgrade in 2-5 years. Therefore ensure that whatever you buy now will have some resale value - eg: Axminster or Record are good choices with reasonable quality and good spares back up.
I'm on my second lathe and bought it because I also wanted to mainly do bowls. I bought a second hand Viceroy bowl lathe. I did have to replace the motor, bearings and belts. Also replaced all the wiring and starter so really replaced everything bar the shell. However I now have a solid machine which is great for turning bowls.

One thing I don't like about it though is that because the spindle thread isn't common I could only find one chuck (Robert Sorby) with adaptor which would fit it. The adaptor is an excert rather than insert so it pushes the chuck out and you loose depths capacity. It hasn't really hindered me and I think I could actually use the tail stock and put the tool rest in that to get more depth if I needed but haven't so far.

As others have said, if anything breaks on this I can replace it easily enough so it should last a lifetime...well its already around 50 years old and still going strong so no reason to think it won't last another 50.
Thinking about 'all up' cost to get started.

I set myself up for turning last spring, having done some over 40 years ago and done a lot of general making/diy over the years. I already had a bench grinder, sliding mitre saw (not as good as a bandsaw but you can make square stuff octagonal), pillar drill and workbench plus half a double garage as a workshop.

No time or sufficient knowledge to seek out and assess second hand lathes so I went for new - Record Power 305 12" dia over bed, which suits me fine. Variable speed would be nice 'one day' but the minute or so to change speeds via the belt isn't a real problem. I got an extension bed at the same time because I knew I wanted to turn up to about 1m one day and thought if I wait the extension might be discontinued by the time I want one. In round numbers, lathe £300, extension £70. If 10" throw is enough the DML 250 would do, both have the same chunky cast iron bed and its astonishing how much better value that is than the £150 bracket cheap and pretty horrid ones mentioned above are.

This post is really about total cost though, not about a particular lathe because I have nothing to compare it with.

Basic lathe complete with faceplate, live centre and essential bits £300. (I'm leaving out the extension, optional)
You need something to mount it on. I spend about £25 on 2x4 decking support timber from local merchant and built a seriously chunky but slim trestle style bench at the right height for me. If you buy the record power 'legs' its a fair bit more money.

Then you need some decent tools - set of 5 was c £130 plus bowl gouge another £30. None of these were top brand but they are 'proper'.
Face shield and dust mask add say £30.
Chuck and jaws - anything from £100 upwards
The I found my old grey grinding wheels pretty useless for HSS - new wheels £40 'ish for the pair. Made my own sharpening jigs. In retrospect would have been better to bin the old grinder and buy a 'proper' sharpening wheel.
I had a decent store of abrasives and finishes but if your cupboard is bare you might need £25 or so to get stocked up.

As a very rough guide, if you spend £300 on a lathe I reckon you need to add the same - total budget £600 - to get started so you can do a reasonable range of work. Maybe a bit more. If you want to begin just turning between centres its less, no need for chuck or the bowl gouge to start with. The real win would be if you find someone 'giving up' for some reason and who is selling lathe, tools and all that goes with it as a package. I'm 67, call me in 10 or 12 years ......just starting to enjoy myself.
Fantastic bit of advice thank you.
I found an old clarke cwl12d and loads of kit to get me started. Finding a spare belt is proving a challenge !!
Do you have a local machine mart? Try there if you do. If not give the closest a call and see if they can help.
If you can't get the 'proper thing' someone like standardbearings (, there are others, sell V belts and similar in various sizes. If you have an old belt measure it, if not you can tie string around pulleys, cut it off and measure it. That plus a bit of common sense on the section dimensions will get you there. From memory its the inner (smaller) diameter that you measure but the websites have instructions.