Yet another "which lathe to buy" post

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

The Gray Man

20 Sep 2019
Reaction score
Peebles, Scottish Borders
Hi all,

I appreciate that this is an area of questioning which is brought up with monotonous regularity, but... Which lathe should I buy?
Some background: I've been experimenting with a lathe I made from an old drill press turned on its side - which worked surprisingly well and got me hooked, turning some tool handles, Christmas trees and the like. However the wobble at the chuck end, the limited length of spindle, and the inability to use a chuck or Jacob's chuck is just getting too annoying.

Someone will ask what I want to use it for. In fairness, because I'm new to turning I'm not too sure. I'd like to try bowls and goblets, but I may end up concentrating on spindle stuff. Hard to know yet.

Budget and space are (naturally) limited - I'd rather not spend more than £300 on the lathe itself, although I suspect I'll end up going beyond that. I know people will advise buying second hand, but the used lathe market seems to be both limited and expensive at the moment, and as I live in Scotland the number of sales with accessible locations is limited...

A few specific questions:
  • I'm thinking that a 12" drop (or do I mean swing? i.e. the max bowl diameter) and 18" length (ideally with the capacity to add an extension in the future) is a reasonable starting point - anyone disagree?
  • The general concensus is that electronic speed control is a must. Does that always go hand in hand with belts and pulleys as well, or are some lathes electronic variable speed only?
  • How great an advantage is a swivelling headstock (such as on the Axminster AC370WL)?
  • What speed range is advisable?
  • Should I be looking specifically for MT2 or MT3 or anything else like that, or doesn't that matter too much?
  • Is the ability to switch between forward and reverse significantly desirable?
The obvious contenders seem to be the Charnwood W824, the Axminster AC305WL (or 370? or 355?), the Nova Comet 2, or the Rutlands R2000 (more on that in a minute). I'm inclined to discount Scheppach, Sealey, Lumberjack, Clarke and Draper as insufficient quality, but correct me if I'm wrong. Rutlands seems to attract lots of adverse comments here, despite the fact that their online reviews seem to be wildly enthusiastic - perhaps I should be suspicious of that... Certainly their R2000 appears to be almost identical to slightly cheaper models from Vevor, SIP and the like, but the one YouTube vid review of the Rutlands is positive (although he hasn't used it long).

Are Jet still a player in the UK?

Any other important factors I should be taking account of?

Last edited:
I have a graduate which was a lucky £350 from eBay. I do see them in Scotland sometimes. I bought a new lathe once- a record- and it was a mistake, as was the myford ml8 I replaced it with. I’m now on my fifth lathe and fairly happy. I would carry on as you are- don’t pay too much, see how you get on, and what you do and don’t like about it, and be prepared to go through a few before you decide what you want from it. Of course, you could save quite a lot by trying out other people’s if you can persuade them!
From my point of view I've had a RP305, an RP CL4 and I now have an Axminster AT1628VS. All of them have been good but I knew that I was going to be using a lathe for as long as I am able so I upgraded to the Axminster which has everything I'll ever need. The head swivels which is great for my back when hollowing as I don't have to lean over the lathe as much, it has variable speed and it is very heavy which means very little vibration. You won't get that lathe for £300 but my point is that, if you see this as a long term hobby, you should get the best you can afford now. I bought my first lathe on Ebay and I was lucky enough to find someone selling all the accessories with it and I got a good deal.
Thanks for the responses.

Just to close this out. I'd love to buy a UK based product, but Record Power was too pricey once you add in VS, and the Axminster was a bit feature poor (although I have no doubt a quality product) unless you go for the bigger ones. A few people have recommended the Charnwood, although it appears to be a Chinese made clone which made me slightly nervous. Rutlands seems to be very marmite, clearly some bad experiences had by some people on the forum, which may or may not be fair based on this particular product (which is, incidentally, the same as the WEN 34018).

So I've gone for the Nova Comet 2, which is certainly more than I wanted to pay (£600 including G3 chuck) but includes VS, a good chuck, forward/reverse, the theoretical ability to use add-ons such as a grinding wheel (although frustratingly these don't seem to be available in the UK), solid build and some good reviews. I'll let you know how it goes...