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Old 07-23-2011, 11:42 AM
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Hey oldred,
Originally Posted by oldred
Probably the most popular lathe that fits that description is the well known 9x20 that is sold under a bunch of different brand names and different sellers, from the respected Grizzly tools to Harbor Freight. Unfortunately unless you happen onto an old American or European machine (getting harder to find all the time!) you will be stuck with a Chinese import of very poor quality such as that popular 9x20. Some larger Chinese imports are actually decent lathes but there seems to be a definite decrease in quality in anything less than the 12x36 machines and the smaller ones are more suited to softer materials like plastics. DON'T fall for "Brand Name" expecting better quality because most Chinese machines are the same regardless who sells them and a better "Brand" will not mean better quality. An example is that 9x20, The older Jet brand sold for over $1200 while the SAME EXACT machine at Harbor Freight is usually less than $700 and the only difference is the color! The newer Jet looks somewhat different than the others but it is cosmetic and a trick to make you think it is different. Grizzly, Enco and a couple of others have this lathe priced somewhere between HF and Jet.
Thanks for pointing all that out as I would've never known to be on the look out for any of those things. I will admit it was a cheapo Harbor Freight unit that originally sparked my interest in these machines, and that one is a 7x10 mini lathe for $500.

Originally Posted by oldred
That 9x20 is of course only one example but it is by far the most popular and I suppose if a person is willing to accept it's limitations it can be usable, I used mine (Jet) for several years but honestly IMO it is a piece of junk. If you have room for a bigger lathe I would strongly recommend at least a 12x36 because there is not that much price difference and the smaller hobby lathes are very limited in usefulness.
I was looking up the various sizes and, given the open garage space I have, a 9x20 would perhaps be the large I could do.

Originally Posted by oldred
What do you intend to use it for and about how big did you have in mind?
Honestly I had not thought about either of those two thing until you asked. While I have no specific projects in mind, I suppose if I had access to one and played with it long enough for practice, creativity might spawn a few ideas. At this point, the most I can see myself doing is making long knurled handles for type of a cart or workout equipment something. If I ever got any good at it, perhaps work on heads. Maybe make art out of junk parts.

Originally Posted by oldred
Also I would strongly suggest avoiding the 3-in-1 multi-purpose machines because each function is so compromised in the attempt to be able to do everything that it really does nothing very well.
Glad you mentioned that as well because I was sorely tempted to call the seller for this unit: 3 in 1 Mill/Lathe

Forgive me if my question sounds ignorant but, would playing with a wood lathe give some sense and feel of what I could do what a metal lathe? I ask because they are significantly cheaper (a used Craftsman is going for $110 locally) and I have been getting into some wood projects around the house so it would come in handy.

Thanks for tips and pointers Sir!
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