A Comparison of Benchtop Variable Speed Lathes - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A Comparison of Benchtop Variable Speed Lathes

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A tool that I noticed in more than one booth at AWFS (Association of Woodworking and Furnishing Suppliers) this year is a benchtop lathe. Manufacturers are hopeful that woodworkers plan to turn more in the coming year. And these lathes aren’t just ordinary machines with set speed controls; these lathes feature electronic variable speeds.

It’s called a mini-lathe if you’re talking with General International or Rikon, but if you’re looking at new lathe from Delta, you better say midi-lathe (a company-derived title it promotes and has registered). With either name, it still sits on a bench , unless you purchase a stand to go with the lathe. So, how do the different lathes stack up?

General’s lathe is the 25-114 M1. This machine has three variable-speed ranges (as do the other two lathes) set by adjusting a drive belt on successive size pulleys. The General lathe is powered by a 3/4-horsepower (hp) motor that spins the drive spur at 300 , 800 rpm, 640 , 1,750 rpm and 1,300 , 3,600 rpm, depending on the pulley. General has boosted the available turning diameter of this lathe so it’s possible to shape a 14″-diameter piece. The 25-114 M1 is 93 pounds of solid weight to hold the lathe steady when turning. The company says you can turn a full 17″ between centers. Additionally, General’s variable-speed lathe has 24 indexing positions (every 15Ã?º). Look for this machine to be priced around $699 with a delivery date yet to be set.

Rikon also introduced a benchtop lathe, model 70-200EVS. With this lathe you can set speed controls at 400,950, 650,1,700 and 1,500,3,850 rpm. The swing over the bed is 12″(the smallest of the three lathes discussed) and the working area between centers is 16″. A nice feature on Rikon’s variable-speed lathe is a self-ejecting tailstock that allows the removal of the tail center without the use of a knockout bar. Included with a 70-200EVS is an 8″ tool rest, a spur center and live center and a 3″ face plate. Rikon’s benchtop lathe has a weight of 86 pounds. The 70-200EVS is available in Fall 2009 and is priced at $699.

Delta actually introduced its variable-speed lathe last year at the major tool show in Atlanta, but the company re-introduced the lathe at AWFS and brought in a craftsman to demonstrate the machine. Model 46-460 (the variable-speed model) is available now and is priced at $599. This lathe has many features that look appealing. The foremost, in my mind, is the reversing switch that potentially reduces your sanding time, and with the spin reversed, the dust is easily thrown away from the operator and toward dust collection. Also, a feature of interest on this lathe is the belt tensioning system. The adjustment process is quick and secure, and the belts are wide with five grooves, versus the three grooves found on most other benchtop lathes.

Speed changes with a 1-hp motor are again in three steps with the range from 250 (the lowest available rpm for slow roughing of stock) – 700, 600,1,800 and 1,350-4,000 rpm. Work between centers is a maximum 16-1/2″ with the largest possible diameter for bowl turning at 12-1/2″.

If you’re looking for a lathe, don’t look past these benchtop models, unless you want to turn lengthy legs. Of course, bed extensions are available for these machines.

– Glen D. Huey

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  • B Johnson

    In addition to the above mini/midi lathes, I was impressed by Steel City’s granite mini lathes. The bed rails and head stock are made of stone. The lathe with the normal bed (longer bed available) weighs about 155 pounds. Running it at top speed on its varaible drive, it was hard to tell it was running; it was that smooth. Priced in the $300-400 range, I thought it was a good buy, just don’t drop it.

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