Testing A New Lathe and A New Tool

In the Beginning

Two years ago, in February 2009, I got started in the turning world with a Jet 12” by 20” lathe (Jet Model JWL-1220).  For a beginner, the machine worked perfectly and allowed me to finish projects ranging from pens and bottle stoppers to small bowls/platters made with blanks that were rarely more than 1-2” thick and no more than 5” in diameter.  As I gained practice and confidence, I tried to work with larger bowl blanks, but at the point that I attempted to turn a piece of Claro Walnut that measured a more hefty 5” x 5”, I ended up practically chasing my little lathe across the shop as it vibrated and chattered from the centrifugal forces that were quickly overcoming its body weight of easily less than 100 pounds.  At this point the hunt was on for a new and larger machine that would grow with me in the woodturning hobby.

Initial Choices

The first choice machine that captured my attention was the Nova DVR XP.  The machine was highly recommended by the editor of More Woodturning and my woodturning mentor and teacher, my father Steve Staley, had purchased the Nova DVR XP within the year and was very satisfied with it.  The price tag on of roughly $2,250 retail (without legs, that retail separately for over $400 more) was a big jump in price from what the JET had cost but I was at a loss for anything comparable without jumping even farther up the price chain with a machine by Powermatic, Oneway, or Vicmarc.  Retail prices courtesy of Woodcraft at http://www.woodcraft.com/

Finding Laguna Tools

At this point in the search, my father discovered Laguna Tools (http://www.lagunatools.com/lathes) and their line of lathes.  Laguna seemed best known for their massive bandsaws and this focus is readily evident in their Laguna Beach, California showroom.  I happened to be headed into Los Angeles from Atlanta and detoured south from the airport to check out the Laguna lathes in person over the summer of 2010.  Laguna makes five models of lathe, and true to their pattern in bandsaws, they make some massive machines for large scale production work.  But they also make two smaller machines, a smaller 16/43 and a more mid-range machine that closely compared to the Nova DVR XP, the Paltinum Series 18/47.  Viewed in person, the differences between the 16/43 and the 18/47 were obvious in terms of the weight of construction and overall feel of the machine.  While recognizing that the 16/43 was more machine than what I had, I was immediately taken with the 18/47 which was clearly a substantial machine that would more than meet my needs, and its price of $1,854.00 (optional outboard turning mount available for only $145.00) was attractive as well compared to the other similar machines I had been looking at.  I will confess now that Laguna ultimately made me a nicer offer than the retail list that included free shipping from California to Georgia, door to door with lift gate service along with a collection of very nice HSS turning tools that the company is fazing out.  The tools were not of great interest as they duplicated tools I already owned, but since they were free, of course I accepted them.

The considerably greater size of the new lathe, and the 220 volt power requirement, caused me to need to make some modifications to my workshop set up, but once I was ready Laguna arranged shipping on the pre-paid item with no troubles at all, even though the order had been paid and was on hold for several months.  Unfortunately, the shipping department sent the wrong lathe but Laguna proved their mastery of customer service by resolving the matter quickly and easily.  They shipped out the correct machine immediately and also made easy arrangement for the pick-up and return of the machine sent in error.  Any company can manage service when making a sale, but I was especially impressed with the way that Laguna managed a problem.  It is with the problems that the true customer service credibility of a company comes to light.

Machine Specifications

Laguna claims the following for their 18/47 machine:

The New Laguna Tools Platinum Series 18/47 lathe was specifically designed for woodturners by woodturners with capacities designed to match the needs of turning enthusiasts. The 18/47 features plenty of cast iron in the bed and legs to dampen vibration while turning. The legs have cast-in gussets allowing you to add a shelf for storage or additional weight. The headstock slides easily the entire length of the bed to allow you to position for turning near or off the end of the bed, perfect for hollow forms or platters. Standard electronic variable speed with digital readout allows you to adjust the speed with a knob while the 2-step pulley and poly-groove belt allow you to keep in the correct torque range for nearly any application. Lathe operates on single phase 220 volt while the motor is a three phase motor with constant torque monitoring. Speed control can be used in forward or reverse to make sanding a breeze. Standard equipment includes spur drive center, live center, knock-out bar, index lock, face plate, handwheel, and long tool rest.

Machine Specifications:

  • Motor: 2.0 hp
  • Variable Speed: yes
  • Spindle Speed Range –
  • Low: 100 – 1200 rpm
  • High: 200- 3200 rpm
  • Swing Over Bed: 18″
  • Distance Between Centers: 47″
  • Headstock & Tailstock Taper: MT#2
  • Overall Length: (includes motor at max.) 74″
  • Bed Length: 66.5″
  • Spindle Height: 45″
  • Tailstock Travel: 4 1/4 “
  • Face Plate 6″
  • Spindle Thread: 1.25″ x 8 TPI
  • Voltage: 220 volts
  • Headstock/Tailstock Bore: 3/8″
  • Indexing Position: 24
  • Packing Size: 68″ x 22″ x23″
  • Weight: 500 lbs.

Testing the Machine and the Results

To test the overall weight and holding capacity of the machine, I mounted a pecan wood blank measuring 8.5” x 8.5” x 2”, weighing approximately 4 pounds and ran the machine up to full speed at slightly over 3200 RPM.  Obviously, no one would turn at bowl at that speed but this was a test of stability and I am pleased to note that the machine didn’t move a millimeter.  The blank ultimately turned into a nice little platter and the pecan wood had a very nice grain and figure.

I greatly enjoyed the reversibility of the drive as it truly did make sanding fast and comparatively easy.  There is also a safety feature such that if the stock can’t move, the motor shuts off automatically to prevent burn out.  The digital speed adjustment is simple and effective to use and the headstock, tail stock, and tool rest all move and adjust easily.  Thus far, I have found the Laguna Platinum Series 18/47 lathe to be an excellent performer, especially at the price charged.  Physically, the Laguna Platinum 18/47 has some points in common with the Jet Model JWL-1642-2EVS, 16″ x 42″ EVS PRO Wood Lathe, 2HP (retail price $2400.00), but the Laguna has created capacity and a considerably sturdier build, all for a much nicer price.

Testing the Ci0 Easy Finisher

At the same time, I tested out my new Ci0 Easy Finisher, obtained from Craft Supply USA courtesy of holiday gift cards.  The finishing tool cuts with the same elegance and ease of the Ci1 Easy Rougher and between the two tools, a bowl can be fashioned in record time with true ease, even by a relative beginner.  Caution is in order however as this tool will cut blindingly fast, so be very aware of how much you fast things are moving under that shower of shavings.  I found the optional lexan chip deflector sold by Easy Tools to have been an excellent investment.

Craft Supplies USA Spindle Adapter

I also tested a budget saving adapter from Craft Supply USA, the model 191-5240 1 1/4″-8 TPI to 1-8 TPI Spindle Adapter.  My original lathe featured a 1”-8 TPI headstock and I had managed to accumulate a number of Teknatool Nova Chucks, along with some other chucks and face plates, and my wallet was severely distressed at contemplating the replacement cost of these chucks and other items which would now be useless since they wouldn’t fit the new machine and since they were not the SuperNova series that features replaceable threaded inserts.  The adapter is a hefty and sturdy piece of equipment and it isn’t cheap at $54.99, but it is ultimately a bargain when stacked against replacement costs for all the accessories that I can now utilize on the new machine.  The adapter holds everything very securely with no added vibration or off-set issues.


Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with my Laguna 18/47 and would strongly recommend it to anyone looking to move up in terms of lathe size and turning capacity.  The machine is very sturdy, works beautifully, and is comparatively speaking a real price bargain with greater horsepower and nicer features in some cases than higher priced competitors.  My experience of Laguna Tools as a customer service focused company has been overwhelmingly positive as well.  I was also highly pleased with my two new accessories, the powerful and easy to use Ci0 Easy Finisher and the Craft Supplies USA spindle adapter.  I can’t recommend them all enough for wood turners of any level.

One Response

  1. dad