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One Man's Lathe Setup

by Tom Soles
Washington, DC

I have turned wood, off and on, for 66 years. I started when I was about eight years old in my grandfather's shop and have been fascinated with the process ever since. The lathe I first worked on was a modified "big wheel" (8 ft. in diameter) spindle lathe run by man power and sometimes a small electric motor. My first lathe was a cast iron one (no name) as I remember, that was mounted on a railroad tie cut down to about 5 feet. All of my turning tools were hand made by myself or my grandfather on a home forge and "farrier's" anvil. My bowl turning came much later in life but when I saw my first bowl come off a bowl-turning lathe in high school wood shop, I was hooked for life. Sometime in the early 1950s I started bowl turning (on a homemade bowl turning lathe) and have been working at it ever since. After my retirement as a sculptor and art instructor (40 years), I started my real commitment to turning and bowl making. This started ten years ago and I have been at it to this day. I don't know how many lathes I have owned over the years but my shop now holds three and a storage garage holds several more. This article will focus on, what I think, is the final configuration and the "built up model" that will serve me till the end of my days.

When I retired in 2001 I started to look for that perfect setup that would allow me to turn very large bowls, and after looking at all of the domestic lathes and several foreign "guys" I decided on a Oneway from Canada. This search took nine years (I am a very picky guy). Their 2436 lathe with 3 HP motor, extra-long swing outboard attachment with tailstock riser block, big banjo, large tool rest, braking resistor, 96 position indexing head, remote start/stop switch, and delivery to Washington, DC set me back just under ten grand.

Are we finished yet? Hell no! Vacuum system and goodies like Drill Wizard and some tooling, another $1000. You need some chucks (I have and use three), different types of jaws, and a bowl steady rest, another $1000. Now if you also turn jugs that require deep hollowing, you will want the Oneway laser guided Deep Hollowing system (by far the best out there especially if you have a Oneway lathe), guess what $1000. We are not finished yet! I added a Jet industrial belt and disk sander to the end of the lathe on the "outboard side" that can be removed with an "I-beam" lift that runs the entire length of the the lathe set-up. Would you believe it? Another $1000. So for around $14,000. I have what I think is the perfect system. Am I compulsive? Yes! Am I "nuts"? Maybe! Am I happy? You damn right I am!

woodworking tools
System without the sander
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Lathe system/sander with charger bowl
being turned
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Overhead lift over lathe on 6" I-beam
woodworking tools
Sanding system
woodworking tools
Capture bar for laser guided boring bar
woodworking tools
Mahogany/etched glass charger
woodworking tools
Vacuum gauge
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Vacuum pump on slide out dolly
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Laser boring bar
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Spalted maple/mahogany jug

This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of Wood News Online.
Tom can be reached via email at

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