Turning Archive 2008

General questions re: lathe selection

Seth Dolcourt

I'm a very new newbie to turning. As a background, my turning projects are going to be stave-constructed drum shells, varying in diameter from 10-20", and in heigth, from 4-18". Generally, the lathe requirements I have are for small footprint, maximum swing capacity and relatively low RPM (200 or so) as a slowest speed. As always, budget is thin, so I'm looking to (safely!) push the limits of less expensive lathes, rather than buying a multi thousand dollar beast.

An opinion at the local Woodcraft suggested buying a lathe where the headstock can slide to the end of the ways, thus allowing outboard turning, rather than relying on turning the headstock 90 degrees for outboard (he cited the amount of fussing needed to re-align head/tail stocks should I want to do spindle turning.) I wasn't sure I wanted to manage a 30-40" long lathe in my small garage shop if all I was turning were drum shells. Generally, what is a common method of supporting tools for outboard turning? I've seen a tripod tool rest system; buy, build, or avoid?

I had in mind buying a Jet 1220 VS, because it's capable of low speeds (270 RPM), which I believe is good for turning a larger shell until it gets rounded, and the 3/4 hp motor seemed like it was up to the task. However, due to the short swing capacity, I wanted to install "riser blocks" between the head/tail stock and the bed, lifting them both up 4-6", to increase swing. Fundamentally, is this a safe way to operate a lathe?

How do you go about mounting a ring shape so you can lathe both the exterior and interior? I've seen 4 jaw chucks, usually no larger than 4" capacity, certainly nothing offered to fit a large object like a 14" snare drum shell.

I have a shop-made rig which turns a shell around a central axis, and a router provides the cutting action. With more head-scratching, I could improve the accuracy of my customized tool, but by then, I'm mostly to the cost of a commercial lathe, I may as well get on board with buying a good tool.

Cheers, and thanks in advance for your comments.


© 1998 - 2017 by Ellis Walentine. All rights reserved.
No parts of this web site may be reproduced in any form or by
any means without the written permission of the publisher.