If you’re a beginner just starting in the wood making industry, or you have a small task to complete, and you aren’t willing to throw a big chunk of cash on a new wood lathe, then you’re at the right place!
For you to spend more than $200 on a machine, whose job is to spin wooden pieces and keep them in place seems silly! That too if you’re a beginner who’s just trying out a new hobby, and might lose interest in it quite easily.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s help you get an in-depth understanding of how a cheap or even 2nd hand wood lathe can do the same job as an expensive one.
What Does Wood Lathe Do?
Before we move forward, let’s understand what a wood lathe does. In simple words, a wood lathe can somewhat be compared to a Bench Vice. With the additional ability to rotate your workpiece along a particular axis. Even though this doesn’t perform much of a task, its presence is mandatory when you’re considering doing some work on your pieces.
This includes tasks such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, deformation, facing, and turning. All these are completely essential when it comes to designing or creating art, that requires each side to be symmetrical and precise. These are more famous among artists, producing some tremendously creative and aesthetic work.
On A Budget?
Even though it’s a small task they do, it’s quite necessary to have them around. That is if you are determined to have a quality finish. However, the problem is a good lathe might throw you over budget!
Here’s the dilemma summed up; you need an excellent lathe that gets your job done, but at a price that they don’t sell them at! This might turn out to be a problem, however as the saying goes ‘if you’re determined enough, you can get anything done.’ The same can be applied here.
How To Select A Good Cheap Wood Lathe?
Since you’re buying a lathe at such a low price, you must have a physical look at the product before you’re buying it. To make sure that you’re not getting ripped off, you might want to consider these factors mentioned below:
Identify The Parts
It’s essential to make sure all the necessary equipment is in place; you don’t want to drive home and find that you’re missing parts. You might not be getting the fancy add-ons that are present in branded machines. However, the necessary ones should be there.
The wood lathe comes in a few key parts, first, come to the headstock. This is where the motor lies; you must check the headstock for other essential items such as the spindle and lock.
Second, you’ll find the tool rest, which should include a locking mechanism, with the bed. And third the tailstock, which must consist of the poppet barrel, barrel lock, and handwheel.
All this must rest on a well-lubricated bed to make adjusting according to the length of the workpiece simpler, and all must come together on the wood lathe stand.
Weight Of The Wood Lathe
The heavier a component, the harder it is to move; this is the simple mindset that you must follow. For a woodworker, and even more so for a beginner, even the gentlest of vibrations could ruin your outcome.
Make sure the set up you are buying cannot be easily lifted, a lightweight set up will be the cause for high vibrations. This will cause your work to turn out uneven. Throwing off the entire reason for having a wood lathe.
If you’re able to try choosing from a selection that is forged using cast iron rather than fabricated ones, this will give you that sturdiness and make the entire operation go out as smoothly as possible. However, this may raise the price, so we ask you to use your best judgment here.
Bench Mounted or Floor Mounted
If you want to save out a few bucks, this is your chance. Considering the line of work you’re trying to do if its just a small job that you are willing to do from home. Then you can skip out on the floor stand, and opt for a bench mount that can be attached using clamps.
This will not only save money but also will save you the hassle of clearing out space in your garage. However, you must keep in mind that the table you are attaching the device too should be sturdy and of the right size.
You might have to compromise in a few areas considering you’re on a budget. But this is the one place where a compromise would not be recommended. The headstock is the key element of the contraption, harboring the motor and spindle.
Make sure the headstock that you’re buying is a solid build that is cast. And also, make sure the bearings inside spin freely when you turn it. Any form of hesitation here might mean cheap quality bearing; these won’t be able to take many loads. A good spread between the bearings will allow for greater rigidity.
If you’re using accessories with your spindle, you may want to check their thread size. This usually shouldn’t be a problem considering you’re using the industry standard i.e., 3/4in×16 TPI.
If the thread sizes do not match, you might have to consider buying a different spindle that matches the size since quite a large investment is taken up in chucks and other accessories.
Amount of Swing
Lathes may have headstocks that are completely fixed in place; these end up being a problem for bowl turning. Since your main focus is to turn bowls, we’d recommend against a fixed headstock. For smaller bowls, this might be okay; however, for bigger ones, it’s a complete necessity.
With only a few degrees of swing from the center, it’ll make working on your bowls much more convenient. By swinging the bowl, you’ll be allowed to get all the corners with your tools, allowing you to do a smooth and even job.
Motor and Controls
These are where a compromise might become necessary. When you’re on a budget, you might not be able to expect a high-powered motor or controls that include all the bells and whistles.
Rather what you should look for is a decent motor; if you’re into just turning bowls, then a 1/3hp motor should do the trick. If you can get a bigger motor, at the same price, then that’s a win.
Before you buy the product, we recommend that you give it a spin. To check for how much it heats up, also, you might want to try it out with a load on as well. To see if it can handle the regular load you’ll be working with.
Given you’re on a budget, you might miss out on the varying speed controller and other fancy gizmos. What you might want to look for is solid wiring on the on/off switch and tactile buttons.
As important as the rest, the tailstock is where the other end of your workpiece will rest. There are two boxes to tick on this. First, a check should be made on its ability to move freely on the bed. This will make sure, making adjustments isn’t a problem.
Second, the handwheel must allow you to turn the barrel freely. Going both inwards and outwards. This will give you the freedom to do drilling work easily and also stay precise.
Where Will You Get a Lathe That Fits Your Budget?
Prices on Amazon for a fairly decent lathe will start from around $250. Unless they’re running a huge discount if you’re lucky enough, you mightn’t be able to catch those. However, check this article on woodenuknow.
The places you should be looking out for are:
You’ll have to spend some time over here looking for the best, and it might also not match your needs on the first try. However, the best deals usually come quickly.
You’ll have to spend a little time going meeting one seller after another to find your best fit. However, this will save you from spending $500, keeping more to invest elsewhere.
A large number of people who arrange garage sales they end up selling off tools that take up space in their garages and aren’t used frequently. With some luck, you might find the deal that matches your needs.
A large number of times, these garage sales include very old wood lathes. These lathes might look old; however, they are made to withstand the worse of circumstances. Usually forged with high grade cast iron and steel, these carry the quality-driven workmanship that we’ve lost with passing the time.
These are heavy-duty equipment; they may not include the same high-tech devices as we find in newer models. But, it will last for many more years to come, delivering the same power and efficiency. Skipping out on such deals would be a waste and a lost opportunity.
As the economy booms, people keep updating their equipment to deal with greater demands. This means they sell off their old equipment, checking up with your local stores you might find someone willing to sell a 2nd hand lathe at a low price.
These woodworkers use much more heavy-duty equipment, so if you’re lucky, you might get a fully functioning wood lathe inside your budget.
If all else fails and increasing your budget isn’t possible in any way. Then, you could consider making your lathe. These are pretty simple to build, with a large number of “how-to” YouTube videos available. Making one would take the extra time, but would stay inside your budget and even boost your morale.
A Wood lathe is a great tool to show your creativity on. However, price hikes act as a barricade. We hope that this article provides you the required information to break that barrier. Keeping the few pointers we provided, you should be able to buy a lathe that’ll last you for a few years.