Lathe machines are machines built to serve a specific purpose and even though there’s a lot of variety to choose from, you really must choose the one that suits your needs the best. The average hobbyist will likely be best off with a mini lathe, which has a limited scope of operations but can be very useful for small and personal projects. These are mainly used by beginners who are testing the waters for turning out shapes and designs.
Whilst these mini lathes are not at all suited for professional lathe projects, those who want to make a slower transition to bigger lathe machines do have options to upgrade their mini lathe machines. These upgrades add functionality like variable speeds, arms etc. This also makes sense for those who want more out of their machine without spending a lot of money for a new and bigger machine.
However, there is a limit to how much a basic lathe machine can be upgraded, so it is advisable that professionals who have discovered the power of a lathe machine upgrade to as big a lathe as they possibly can. This is meant for those craftsmen who can see a long future of them using the lathe machine. For those who are unsure of how long they will use one or those who are on a tight budget, there are mid segment lathe machines that usually have a size between 12×34 and 16×36. They cost in between $400-600 and offer enough features and sturdiness for the professional craftsman without burning a hole through his pocket.
There are a few things to consider before jumping in and buying the cheapest or the biggest machine out there for your budget. You need consider the spindle you are getting. The spindle is the core to the operations of lathe machines and they come in standard and non-standard sizes. The is usually a good idea to go for standard sizes like the 1″x8tpi spindles. The bed capacity is also important, as this will determine the size of material with which you can work. Variable speed is another aspect because most professionals prefer to work at different speeds while doing different things to the material. Like for sanding you would prefer a higher speed but for carving, you might want a medium to low speed depending on the detail you want to work in.
Be careful of cheap lathe machines because their parts are often non-standard and are hence very easy to replace. As with other power tools and hardware, buying from a reputed company is always advisable. If you are buying used machines, do not purchase without getting to check it out first. For used lathe machines, try to purchase locally from a shop you know. If you are buying over the Internet even, try to buy from somewhere nearby and pick it up yourself after checking it out properly. Again, keep in mind the purpose of your machine while making a purchase.