Wood Lathe

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The basis for the following article was written by Tyler Lane for his website, and is used by permission.

Midilathe.jpg

The first major tool I purchased was a wood lathe. Specifically I purchased a Delta Midi Lathe, shown above.(Jet makes a twin to this lathe, the Jet Mini Lathe, that is equally good.) I did this despite the suggestions of several makers that I start out with a drill press.I felt I would want to upgrade to a lathe so quickly that my $200 for the press would not be a great bang for the buck.I now have a press, and a nice floor model at that, but if my use of it is any indication of bang for the buck, I was right.I rarely use it.That said, when I do use it, nothing else would have sufficed.Coming back to the lathe, I decided to go with that as my first major tool because of it's myriad of uses.I use my Delta lathe for:

   * drilling the stummel
   * turning the stummel (when the shape permits)
   * shaping the stummel with a sanding disc chucked into the headstock
   * buffing

Not to mention the fun Christmas gifts I make relatives such as pens, letter openers, duck calls, and pepper mills.The wood lathe is a really nice, versatile tool.

There are two major drawbacks to starting with a lathe verses a drill press.The first is the learning curve for using the lathe.While not overly difficult, turning on a lathe requires the development of a skill that is relatively unique.Of course, one can't turn on a drill press, so perhaps that is an unfair comparison. Drilling on a lathe is not quite as straightforward as with a press, but it is not too hard to figure out.Perhaps I have talked myself out of calling this a drawback.

One very real drawback is cost. While the lathe I have can be found for about $250, not substantially more than an nice drill press, you still must buy a considerable amount of tooling before the lathe is useful to you.If you are on a tight budget like me, this requires patience.I received my lathe from my lovely wife for Christmas.It took me another month or so to save up enough money to buy some turning tools and a chuck.I was so excited about my lathe though, I spu n an old broom handle in it and tried to do some turning with a flathead screwdriver!It wasn't very successful, but I was trying hard to be patient and save money so I could have good tools.

Here is a list of the minimum tooling required to use the Delta Midi Lathe for pipe making:

   * Chucks:
         o 0-1/2" Jacobs (with #2 Morse Taper for my lathe. I also have a 3/4" Jacobs, but I can 
           fit all the bits I use in the 1/2" so 3/4" is not really necessary.)
         o Some sort of chuck to hold the briar in the headstock of the lathe. I use a OneWay 
           Scroll Chuck, but it is rather expensive and is still not as good as a custom made 
           pipe chuck.I initially started with a four-jaw independent chuck from Grizzley.It got 
           me started, but the chuck was a piece of junk that I ruined after only a few months.
   * Turning Tools:
         o 3/8" Spindle Gouge
         o 1/16" parting tool
   * Drill bits
         o various sizes for mortises, though 5/16" is most common
         o 5/32" for draught hole
         o spade bits ground to the desired shape for the bowl.
   * Misc.
         o Face Shield
         o dust mask
         o sanding discs (Black and Decker from Home Depot is all I use...I'd like to find 
           better)
         o buffs (at least one for each step, plus a final clean buff) and compound (brown 
           triploi and white jewelers rouge) and carnauba wax
         o bench grinder: sharpening lathe tools and shaping bits to the desired profiles.

There you go!I hope that doesn't scare anyone away from beginning pipe making, but it is better to go in with your eyes open about what the costs will be.Trever Talbert used to relate on his web page how often people would tell him that they got into pipe making to save money on pipes.As you can see, this is not the best route if that is your goal!

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