How Many Lathes Do You Need?

When I was maybe 12 or 13, with my Dad’s help, I built a wood lathe.  The bed was made from a 2 by 6 and the ways were two parallel three quarter inch black pipe.  The head and tail stock were stacked pieces of three quarter inch plywood.  I got the plans from a magazine, probably Popular Mechanics.  Strangely, I remember making the lathe with my Dad more then I remember using it.  I have no idea what happened to that lathe. After I left home and started working I saw an ad for a used Shopsmith.  I had just bought my first house and wanted to do some wood working.   Over the years I have used the Shopsmith lathe option a lot.  It has a nice variable speed drive.  It’s very flexible and easy to set up.  The big problems with it are a poorly designed tool rest and its lack of rigidity.  I have always wanted a better lathe.  After I built my new shop I had room to get a better lathe. Somehow I have ended up with six.  You guessed it, I still usually use the Shopsmith for most of my wood turning.  Let’s look at some of the lathes; they aren’t your usual lathes. Rockwell 11 inch metal lathe – Sometime in the 50’s or 60’s Rockwell decided that they wanted to compete in the metal working arena.  For a few years they made a really great metal lathe.  I spotted mine in an abandoned corner of a manufacturing plant during a tour. After several months of negotiation I got it home and of course it had a major problem.  The carriage was seized up.  Some help from [...]