When attempting to determine the best heavy-duty lathe, important characteristics include stability, torque and tool rest design. A heavy-duty lathe is often defined by its primary purpose, because these machines often must be specially designed. For instance, a lathe designed primarily for fine woodworking will differ from an industrial lathe meant for mass production. Regardless, the best lathe will often include these shared characteristics.
A heavy-duty lathe must often hold large, off weight or unruly objects, so a steady and stable lathe is desirable for most applications. Roughing out shapes, perhaps for a bowl or baluster, might require the lathe to rotate at a low revolutions per minute (RPM) even while a tool is applied to the surface. If a lathe tends to vibrate or rock at a low RPM, it may be symptomatic of a design flaw that could limit productivity and lead to frustration. The best lathe will likely include a sturdy design or effective mounting options.
The best lathe also will be able to generate enough torque to keep large objects in motion, even at the lower speeds. The potential torque is a primary consideration when buying a heavy-duty lathe. Using a heavy-duty lathe often involves low-RPM, heavy-object applications, and some models may support more weight than others. If a large lathe cannot keep an object in motion, then it probably is not worth the investment.
Perhaps the most important consideration aside from basic functionality is the tool rest design. The tool rest is likely to take most of the wear and tear during the lathe’s life. A poor tool rest can cause considerable frustration. Look for a sturdy, easily adjusted and durable tool rest, which will often indicate the best heavy-duty lathe design. In this case, especially, it may be helpful to seek out user reviews or trade publications reviewing various lathes with different tool rests.
Buying a heavy-duty lathe is often a significant investment, so it is important to balance out functionality with price and the desired application. The best lathe will often be one that provides just the right amount of functionality without sacrificing quality. Depending on the application, a heavy-duty lathe can vary widely in price and reliability. A heavy duty bench lathe meant for home use, for example, might have less service opportunities than an industrial lathe, despite the dramatic price difference.