Penn State Industries - Turncrafter Pro Midi-Lathe - Fine Woodworking Tool Review
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Turncrafter Pro Midi-Lathe

Penn State Industries - Turncrafter Pro Midi-Lathe

The Turncrafter Pro features variable speed control, a 10 in. swing, and the capacity to turn up to 17 in. between centers.

$180, 220 with bed extension (As of 9/1/2007)

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Editor's Review: Head to Head: Midi-Lathes

by David Heim

review date: September 1, 2007

Shopping for a midi-lathe these days is like cruising a rental-car parking lot: You see lots of products, but they’re all Chevrolets.

I recently looked at the variable-speed Turncrafter Pro from Penn State Industries. Like many of its competitors, it has a 10-in. swing (the maximum diameter it can turn), 17 in. between centers, a 1/2-hp motor, and stepped pulleys to change from one speed range to another.

Penn State says the Turncrafter is “the most powerful variable-speed midi-lathe on the market” and that it delivers “full torque at all speeds.” But my testing couldn’t support either of these claims.

I subjected three midi-lathes, the Turncrafter, the Rikon 70-100, and the Steel City 60100, to the same weighted test used to check low-speed torque in a recent review of heavy-duty lathes (FWW #191). The Penn State was the weakest of the three. At its slowest speed, the lathe slowed or stalled with the least weight, 71/2 lb. At the top of its low-speed range, about 1,000 rpm, it slowed or stalled at only 5 lb., a sign that it had less torque at the higher speed. In contrast, it took at least 15 lb. to stall the Steel City at its slowest speed, and at least 10 lb. to stall the Rikon.

In other respects, the Penn State performs well. It’s quiet and low in vibration, with nicely machined surfaces on the bed. Headstock and tailstock align precisely, and the tool rest and tailstock move smoothly. It was as good as any other midi-lathe I’ve used for small turnings. It does have three noteworthy drawbacks: The 6-in. tool rest is too short; the plastic locking levers for the tool rest and tailstock feel flimsy; and the access to the drive belt is at the back of the headstock, making belt changes awkward.

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Editor Test Results:

Stability of Base N/A

Manufacturer Specifications

Manufacturer Penn State Industries
Manufacturer's Web Site
Manufacturer's Phone Number 800-377-7297
Taper Size Headstock Spindle: 1-in. by 8-tpi Morse taper; Tailstock Spindle: Live center, #2 Morse taper
Distance Between Centers 17 in.
Maximum Swing 10 in.
Outboard Turning Option No
Faceplate Included Yes
Speed 500 to 3,200 rpm overall in three ranges
Horsepower 1/2 hp
Amps N/A
Volts N/A

this is my first lathe. i had never turned before and learned a lot while using it. this is a great little lathe. The variable speed is a really nice feature. the only problem I have had is that I burned out the variable speed control. it was my fault because i was using very dull tools because i didn't know how to sharpen them properly. you do have to be careful if you turn larger pieces with a large diameter. the speed control does have a over heating protection circuit. if you trip the circuit, make sure you allow the circuit to cool down before proceeding. for those that bought the same lathe without the electronic speed control, you can buy a new motor and speed control for this lathe for a little more than a $100.00 which is a very good deal.

This is a good entry-level lathe. I was able to buy it and the bed extension at amazon for less than what it sells for for just the lathe on the website. (You can actually buy a lot of Penn State products cheaper through Amazon than ordering directly from the website...strange).I agree with the reviewer's observation that it is somewhat lacking in power, but it has enough to get most jobs done. I've turned some baseball bats, pens, tops, rolling pins, and bowls on it. So far so, good. One recommended accessory: longer tool rest. I just got a 6", 8" and 12" set in a 5/8" diameter post size for it and they are a vast improvement over the tiny 4" rest that comes with the unit. I wish the locking handles for the tailstock and tool rest were solid metal instead of flimsy-feeling plastic, but that haven't broken on me so far, so that's not really a serious issue for me. I also wish it came with a screw chuck from the factory; all it came with were a 3" faceplate and a spur center.

I've had this lathe (w/ variable speed),for about a month now. I purchased it on Amazon for a great price. I have turned a few bowls, spindles, and a few other small items. I have turned both green, dried, soft and hardwood, and I think this lathe is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to turn and have fun without spending a lot of money. Out of the box, it was a snap to set up. I mounted it to the bench where my 1st lathe used to be. The next, and most important in my opinion, was checked the line-up of the head to tail stock, and it was perfect. The factory added #2MT at the head and tail are a big plus. The extension bed and the Barracuda2 chuck system are nice additions to have. The machined surfaces are very good. The plastic handles could have been a bit better, but they will last as long as you don't "torque" em down when tightening them. All in all, I'm very satisfied.

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