We all go through phases in woodworking, one of them being tool acquisition. I regret to say in my case this turned into a bit of tool hoarding, but I had a clean out earlier this year. My shop is fairly well equipped and I can honestly say that I have most of the tools that I want.
When it comes to full-sized power tools, I really had everything I wanted except for a lathe. I had a mini benchtop lathe that I used to turn all my benchdogs and, you might remember, some chisle handles, but I’ve long felt that a competently equipped shop was not complete without a full-sized lathe.
As with all of my large tool purchases, I didn’t buy new, instead opting to see what was available on Craigslist, the newspaper classifieds, or garage sales. You can get some amazing deals this way, but have to be very patient. I checked sites like Craigslist every few days for “lathe”, but for the past two years, I hadn’t been finding much.
To fund my woodworking addiction, I put a little money aside each paycheck in a separate account and let it build up until needed. That way, when I do finally come across the right tool at the right price, the money is there to buy it. My whole shop has been purchased in this manner. Table saw, jointer, planer, bandsaw… and I’ve managed to pay less than half of the catalogue price on average. In fact, the only big Grizzly machine that I have purchased directly from the store was my dust collector.
Much as this system has worked for me in the past, when it came to a lathe, I had been stymied. Until, one day an email appeared in my inbox.
A brief backstory. I’m a member of my local woodworking club and a few years ago we were invited to attend the first meeting of a new local woodturning club that was starting up. I went to their first meeting and put my info on their contact mailing list. Unfortunately, being made up of guys who are mostly retired, their meeting times don’t work for people who are employed. I haven’t been to any of their other meetings, but still get their emails.
One of the members had a Grizzly lathe for sale as he was upgrading to a Powermatic. This was exactly the sort of lathe that I had been looking for, so I called him right away and made arrangements to meet and see the lathe. We had a great chat (as woodworkers do) and as his price was very reasonable, I agreed to buy it. The seller had just purchased a Powermatic, but the bed was much shorter. I think he called it a stubby lathe. He told me that he was mostly interested in bowl turning and mainly turned outboard, by sliding the headstock all the way down to the tail end of the bed. The long bed didn’t do him any good.
So, here’s what I got, a Grizzly G0766 Lathe.
The lathe has some really cool features. The headstock is not fixed to the bed, so it can be slid in (as it is in the above image) to make it a little more compact. Or, the headstock can be moved all the way to the left end of the bed with the motor overhanging for greater capacity between centers. I can handle 42″ between centers. If you wanted to, you could remove the tailstock and slide the headstock all the way to the right end of the bed. This would let you turn very large bowls. It also has one other very nice feature, a 3-HP, three-phase motor that is controlled by a variable frequency drive (VFD). This means that I plug it in to standard single phase 240v power and the VFD converts that to three-phase power. The big advantage to this is precise electronic control of the turning speed with no loss of power. It also will turn in reverse with the flick of a switch. Very cool.
The previous owner had cut the wings of the tool rest to make it narrow and easier for bowl turning. Because of this he wanted to keep that tool rest and instead gave me the new one that came with his powermatic. It’s a nice tool rest, but the wrong color. 🙂 I’m sure that I’ll get around to painting it Grizzly green at some point. You can see it in the photo above.
While on the topic of the tool rest, he told me that one of the big complaints about this particular model of lathe was that the tool rest hole in the banjo was 25mm when almost all the aftermarket tool rests are 1″. He had drilled out the banjo to 1″ to fix this. He must have done a nice job, as I couldn’t tell.
The lathe is heavy (about 500lbs) so moving it was a bit of a challenge. We removed the headstock and tailstock and moved each piece separately. I did not have to remove the legs from the bed, as four of us were able to lift it into my trailer in one piece.
The seller told me that he had been very happy with the lathe, but if he were setting it up again he would do one thing differently. He said that overall the lathe was very stable, but that when a very large and out of round piece was chucked up, it would wobble somewhat. This could give the lathe a tendency to walk around the shop a little. He thought that this could be reduced by giving the feet a wider stance.
Since I had the lathe apart, I decided that now was the time to make some outriggers for the bottom of the legs. I went to a local shop that makes logging truck trailers (really heavy duty stuff). They also sell steel and it was the only place that I could get what I wanted. I bought some 2″ x 3″ angle iron that measured ¼” thick. I got a 6 foot pice so that I had enough to make both outriggers. That piece was heavy, it must have been 40lbs.
The legs of the lathe have these adjustable feet that look like hockey pucks, only they’re made of solid steel. The goal of the outriggers is to move these feet further apart and give the lathe a deeper stance. I intended to do this by mounting the feet in a piece of heavy rigid angle iron, and then bolting the angle iron to the bottom of the legs.
I cut the angle iron to length with a cutting disk in my angle grinder. I then cut and ground radiuses on all of the ends and rounded everything over. I used a flappy sanding disk in the angle grinder to go over the whole piece and remove any surface scale. The holes in the angle iron were drilled at the drill press using a slow speed and oil for lubrication. At this point, I realized my mistake. The existing holes in the bottom of the cast iron legs were set too far inboard for 3″ angle iron. Had I bought 4″ I’d have been fine, but it was too late at this point. I’d have to drill new holes in the bottom of the legs instead.
With the lathe upside down, I clamped the outriggers to the bottom of the legs and used the holes drilled in the angle iron as a guide to drill through the bottom of the legs. The cast iron in this location was about ½” thick and this part of the job took a long time.
I wiped the angle iron pieces down thoroughly with mineral spirits to remove any remaining contaminants and get the metal ready for paint. I used Rustoleum Green Hammered spray paint which I have found to be a fairly close match to Grizzly Green. Once the paint had cured, I bolted the leg outriggers onto the legs and then assembled the rest of the lathe.
This has moved the front feet forward by 3-4 inches and the rear feet back by about 9 inches.
At some point, I plan to build a cabinet under the lathe, and the angle iron will give me a good place to attach it. This will also make the whole lathe assembly heavier, which can only be a good thing for stability.
Of course my shop was already packed to the gills with stuff so a few things had to go to make room for the new lathe. I sold my radial arm saw, my 14″ bandsaw, and mini lathe. Selling these things also made the “upgrade” far more economical.
Sorry for prattling on for so long.
– Jonathan White