Turning Archive 2007

How important is a test drive? ...kinda long

Randy Johnson Connersville, IN
>Last Saturday I spent the afternoon in the basement of the local Art Association picking up a few pointers from a longtime turner. When I mentioned that I was planning on a major step up from the current Delta Midi, he said something that I have read both on this forum and others.
ďTry out several before you buy one.Ē
Now I have to admit that on the surface this sounds like good sound advice, but for many, including myself, it isnít all that practical.
My plan from the beginning was/is to decide what features are important to me, read owner reviews on the net, compare specs of the lathes that make the short list, and read owner reviews on the net.
When I first started thinking about adding a full size lathe to the shop my first consideration was the Jet 1642. The price was in my range and I could not find the first negative comment on it from present or past owners.
Then two things happened.
The first was a stop at the Fairfield, OH Woodcraft where there was a 20Ē General VS on sale for three grand. Gee, four more inches of swing would be nice. Unfortunately I didnít have three grand to spare so the General stayed there. So did the first place status of the 1642.
The next thing was the discovery that there is going to be a little windfall come October and I can look at some of the high end machines as something within my reach.
The General is now a distant third primarily because of the inboard and outboard spindles being different size threads. This is a minor issue, but it is a non-issue with choices #1 and #2.
The top two choices are the two offerings by Powermatic with a strong leaning towards the 4224. Itís another case of four more inches would be nice. I would seldom if ever need the capacity of the 4224 but itís nice to know it IS there if I need it.
Oneway is still out of reach and hence stricken from consideration, and I want as much between centers as I can get so Iím not looking at any bowl only lathes. ĎSides, they all seem out of my range as well.
So with the list down to two, how important is a test drive? When it is between two lathes that seem to have universal praise from those who own them, what can there be that would make me regret the purchase down the road? I donít see any point in trying out some of the smaller lathes, because as good as any of them may be, I want something bigger. I want this to be the last lathe I will ever buy with nothing to ďtrade upĒ to.
If anyone has a ďI wish Iíd known about that before I bought itĒ stories Iíd like to hear them. Particularly if it involves either of the two on the short list.
BTW, even with just the Delta Midi I can seen a storage problem in a year or so as bowls of all shapes keep appearing. This turning thing is fast becoming a compulsion. I canít believe how long that thing just sat there unused.

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