Turning Archive 2005
Bill Grumbine (Kutztown PA)
As promised, I have some pictures and impressions to share regarding my Vega lathe. This is not going to be comprehensive, but more like a first impression sort of thing. I am sure I will develop a better sense of what this lathe will and won't do as I continue to use it.
On Friday afternoon, I got to spin my first piece of wood on it. While a significant occasion, I am not one who gets all wrapped up in the gravity of the moment - unless gravity takes the opportunity to drop a heavy piece of wood or metal on my foot! :eek: I did not go looking for a special piece of wood, but rather I selected a slab of chestnut oak for a couple of reasons. First, it was already cut and I did not have to drag the chainsaw out and fight the weeds and humidity. Second, it was bone dry and needed turning before it became unusable. Finally, it is hard wood, and this particular piece started out at 16" by 2"+, a nice medium sized piece to start with.
I started the piece out on the supplied faceplate, which is a very heavy and well made 4" diameter chunk of steel with plenty of holes in it for holding wood. Just to be complete, I brought the tailstock up - well, I almost brought the tailstock up. Every lathe has its idiosyncrasies - that is why we call them that - and one of this lathe's peculiar features is that the tailstock, while having enormous travel, does not quite meet the center of the headstock with the supplied centers, or as I found out, with a skinny slab screwed to a faceplate. To those who are wondering, there is a 2" gap. This gap was quickly removed by installing my Oneway live center. I don't know that I really needed it, but I like to start rough pieces out with the tailstock for support, even when screwed to a faceplate. Call me a sissy if you like.
I started out on the slow speed range, which runs from 0-382 rpm or something like that. I had lots of torque, but I got a little impatient, so I switched the belt over to the high range, which is 0-2400 or thereabouts. I can see where the low range is going to be very nice for really big pieces that are unbalanced, but I think the thing is going to spend most of its time on the high range. There is a little loss of torque at the lower speeds on the high range, but that is not a real issue, and I may be overly sensitive to that, being used to the Poolewood and its direct drive.
I got the plate rounded and shaped on the bottom, and was just getting ready to reverse it when a good friend of mine, who I had not seen in months arrived. While he is a hobby turner, he has to work for a living, so we have not seen much of one another for a while. He had some time to see the new lathe, and after a while insisted that I continue to turn. This was probably not a good idea on my part, since I was jabbering away while cutting, and as a result, went quite a bit thinner than I intended at the bottom of the piece. I came very near to going through. Now, very near sounds a lot like veneer, and that is about what I have left on the bottom of this plate! I told my buddy that it was not a problem, and that I would just tell people it was art and supposed to be that way! It has some cracks in it which will lend integrity to support of the story if not to the integrity of the bowl. ;)
So by now you are probably thinking, "Is he going to show us a picture or not!?!"
Here is the lathe with the plate almost finished. Shavings are not much, but hey, it's a plate! I have some 24" walnut waiting to be bowls, but I need to get a coring tool post for my KM tool before that happens, because I am not turning walnut into shavings!
Here is a closeup of the plate. Nothing spectacular, but it is going to end up being pretty. As I type, finish is drying up in the shop, and if all goes well, it will end up looking like it is about 100 years old. More on that in a different post. The finished size is 15 1/2" x 1 1/2".
Overall, this is a very solid lathe. I need to spend some time with it to learn it better, but it is a very good fit for my shop, especially since it fits in my shop! Some initial impressions: The speed ranges are okay. I could wish for an intermediate one, but I can live with what it has. I have turned on just about every lathe on the market, and I can stall them all with an aggressive cut with the exception of my Poolewood. I can stall it too, but it has to be a [I][B]real[/B][/I] aggressive cut, or a real big outboard piece at a fairly slow speed. The tailstock has a bit of wobble in it, but it also sticks out well over a foot, and I had it stuck in a rough piece. It is dead on center when the proper centers are installed to bring it up to where they meet. I got the lathe to rock just a little bit, but I think the biggest reason for that is my stupid concrete floor, which was poured by drunken sailors. I will be fussing with it a bit, and may go as far as to (gasp!) bolt it to the floor to keep it from moving. The controls are simple, straightforward, and belt changes are relatively fast compared to some other lathes I have used. The machine is whisper quiet, the loudest noise coming from the fan that cools the electronics in the speed controller.
Working around the end is pure luxury. I have the same capability on the Poolewood both outboard and at the end, since its headstock pivots and slides the whole length of the bed, but in either case the setup time is nowhere near as fast as on the Vega. Within a matter of seconds I can twirl the lever at the end of the tailstock and it is off and out of the way. It takes about the same amount of time to reinstall it. The locking levers for the tool rest and banjo are very positive and stay where they are put. The tool rest istelf is not a cheesy piece of cast iron (the worst place for cast iron on a lathe in my opinion) but is steel, and formed for close support and comfortable use. Maximum height is 45" with the telescoping legs fully extended, and that is a little low for me, but I am going to leave it as it is. I like 48" for the spindle height, but that is high for most people, and I have a series of boxes for people to stand on when they come to use the Poolewood. Between this one and the Vicmarc, which adjusts from about 35" to 47", I have the whole range about covered. Tall people just have to stoop!
Thaks for taking time to read, and if anyone has any questions, please let me know, and I will be glad to try and answer them.