I am not sure if you would classify this as a mid-life crisis or not. Typically when men go through one, it involves a sports car, motorcycle, or a fling with some co-ed. Me? I got myself a new lathe.
With all of the changes happening in my life, I knew it was time to invest in myself and Green Leaf Wood Studio. I knew that if I was going to increase my production rates that I was going to need to be able to work faster. Sounds reasonable, right? I could have spent a pile of time, effort and money into beefing up my old lathe, add a stable outboard tool rest, figure a way to increase the size capacity and such. I did look into these things but they all added up to the same thing… Compromises and what-ifs. So, I started looking into the “dream” lathe. Here were the things that were important for me…
- 24″ + swing
- solid spindle turning capability for my peppermills
- 2hp or better and enough torque to spin a planet
- so much mass that I wouldn’t need to add ballast
- no need for add-ons
This left me with 3 real choices: a Vicmarc VL300 long bed, a Robust Sweet 16 and a Stubby S-750. Sadly, the VL300 long bed is no longer being made. There is talk that the manufacturer is having a tough time with their castings and the long bed is simply no longer economical to produce. I was concerned about the mass of the Sweet 16. I spoke with the owner of the company and he explained that I could bolt it down or easily add weight via a low shelf. I didn’t want to need to do that but I would. Buuuuut, I would have also needed to replace my bowl coring rig. The Oneway system that I use doesn’t cause me to burst out in song but I like it the best of the available options. So, this leaves the Stubby.
And there she is. It is around 10 years old and slightly different than newer models. As I understand things, after talking to Bill Rubenstein of Stubby Lathe USA, the electronics are different and not quite as programmable as more recent issues. Also, the remote control on my lathe does not have a potentiometer for speed control, nor does it have a forward/reverse switch. Those are mounted on the body of the lathe itself. This is not quite as convenient but the important thing for me is to have a start button away from the “line of fire” and to have a stop button where I am standing. If I ever feel the need, I can get another controller and install these features on the remote but it certainly isn’t needed.
The biggest difference between this version of the S-750 and more recent ones is the bed itself. It is longer than what the S-750 is offered with nowadays. Bill told me that John Jordan petitioned Omega (the manufacturer in Australia) to shorten the bed so that a woodturner could stand on the end of the lathe while hollowing or working the inside of a bowl. The idea with this is that doing so is easier on your back. This has always confused me because when I am working a bowl, I do not lean over the bed of the lathe. Who does this? Why? Maybe when freehand hollowing but otherwise….?
Anyway, what you see is 600+lbs of Australian, cast-iron love. To this point, I have been working on roughing out some bowls from a 1500lb load of black walnut I recently scored. Some of this wood is HUGE so it will take me some time to get through. Oh yeah, the Stubby allows me to turn up to 30″ diameter so I know I won’t have to worry about milling down bowl blanks to fit the lathe. Here’s a sneak peak at the rough outs. There will be many more and hopefully in time for Christmas.
Thanks for stopping y.