Tool Talk – Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

Tool Talk – Delta 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

A little dynamo.

By Alan Lacer

An ideal balance between size and
capability is the promise that most
mini lathes present: small enough
to store on a shelf or under a
bench, but big enough (having sufficient mass, power and capacity) to
turn sizeable bowls. Delta’s 46-460
variable speed midi lathe actually
makes good on this promise.

What sets the 46-460 apart is
that its 1-hp motor actually has
adequate low-end power to match
its 12-1/2" swing. The 46-460 allows
making hefty cuts (for a small
benchtop lathe) at slow speed in
heavy green-wood bowl blanks
without significant stalling. This
is a real acid test for green bowl
turning—a test that mini lathes
typically fail.

The 46-460’s electronic variable
speed system is impressive. It has
three speed ranges (250–700 rpm,
600–1800 rpm, 1350–4000 rpm)
and is extremely quiet in operation.
Speed ranges are important
for both performance and safety.
Headstock spindle speeds above
750 rpm are best for spindle
work. For bowl turning, especially
for roughing out the blank, slow
speed (with power) is critical. The
46-460’s slowest speed range (250-
700 rpm) is significant because it
allows maintaining reasonable rim
speed when turning large or out-of-balance bowls and plates. Rim
speed (the rpm at the edge of the
bowl) increases as the bowl’s diameter
increases; hence, larger bowls
require slower spindle speeds.

Changing speed ranges is simple:
Pop open the covers, lift a lever,
slide the belt and lower the lever.
That’s it; you don’t have to lift a
motor, loosen handles or make any
other awkward maneuver. A handy
numbered dial makes it easy to
monitor and change speeds within
each speed range.

The 46-460 is equipped with a 1"
spindle, a headstock spindle lock,
an indexing wheel and a reversing
switch. (Some turners prefer
reverse rotation for finish sanding.)
It comes with a good-quality
3" faceplate that’s plated, so it won’t
rust from green bowl blanks, and
6" and 10" tool rests that are functional,
rather than being cheap
toys. Capacity between centers (for
spindle turning) is 16-1/2" or 42"
with the available bed extension.

A few minuses must be noted.
You have to reach over the top of
the headstock to reach the on/
off and reversing switches. There’s
a pinch point between the handwheel
and the spindle lock. And
the weight (97 lbs) that helps to
make the 46-460 stable during use
also makes it hard to move around.

The 46-460 is perfect for turning
pens, lidded boxes, jewelry and
the tiniest miniatures, but its bowlturning
capability at slow speed is
the big news. This balance makes
the 46-460 a great choice for anyone
who wants to start turning, has
limited space or intends to do relatively
small work.

Click any image to view a larger version.


Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Delta Power Equipment Corp.,, 800-223-7278,
12-1/2" Variable-Speed Midi Lathe,
#46-460; Modular Midi-Lathe
Bed Extension, #46-463.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2012, issue #155.