Mar 07 2012

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New Tool! Excelsior Mini-Lathe

Last Saturday, after months of talking to a friend about his Excelsior Lathe,  I finally decided to purchased one. Of course the fact that it was on sale at Rockler for $200 with the free bed extension didn’t hurt. Unfortunately they didn’t have any more left in stock when I bought it, so I had to wait until it could be shipped to the store. In the meantime, I needed some turning tools, so I picked up this set of Harbor Freight HSS turning tools that my friend recommended as a good starter set.

Like everything else from Harbor Freight, the chisels were covered in oil, so my first step was to wipe off all the oil and apply a coat of past wax over the exposed steel to keep it shiny. I also noticed that the tips weren’t very sharp out of the box, but then again most tools aren’t.

Monday night I got a call that my lathe was in. So Tuesday morning I went to pick it up and bring it home. After removing it from the box, I again wiped all the oil from the bare metal surfaces and applied a coat of paste wax. I figured if I didn’t do it then, I’d never get around to it.

Once I got the lathe set up, I wanted to start turning some test pieces, so I found a piece of scrap 1″ oak dowel and chucked it into the lathe. The first thing I noticed was the dull tools were producing dust rather than shavings. The second thing I noticed was that out of the box the lathe was set to run at the highest speed. After removing the two belt access doors and changing the drive belt to run at the middle speed, I tried turning again and found it to be more manageable. After 15 minutes of playing, I found myself becoming more confident with the tools.

There’s something satisfying about shaping wood on the lathe, I can understand why it’s so addicting to many woodworkers. I also understand that I have a lot to learn such as:

  • How to center stock in the lathe
  • How to sharpen all the different tools
  • How to best position the tool rest for the task
  • Which tool do I use for which operation
  • How to hold the tools properly to reduce chatter.

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