I’ve been a lathe owner for a little less than a year so I am in no way qualifying myself as an expert. That said, I have created several salt and pepper mills and chess pieces that have received high compliments so I am an active lathe user.
Like many of my “turning” friends I started by purchasing a rather inexpensive 12” lathe from Harbor Freight. If you have about $80 to spend (even less with a HF coupon) and want to see if turning is your thing, I highly recommend this route. I burned this lathe out after a few months trying to drill center holes in my ginders.
So, after a few weeks of pondering and reading reviews I decided to purchase the 1221VS from Jet Lathe based on size, reputation, reviews and price (on sale at Rockler for $679.99) although I had to wait a couple weeks as it was shipped in from the company.
Size: The 1221 means your stock can be up to 12” thick (a little over 6” from center to bed) and 21” long. I’ve used mine primarily for pieces under 14” long and 4” thick so it works perfectly.
Reputation: Jet tools has a very favorable reputation among the tool industry.
Warranty: I needed a new controller assembly as mine got fried. Jet replaced it and had it shipped to my door within a few days. Their overall warranty varies based on products however my experience was they stand by their product. For further warranty info see: http://www.jettools.com/us/en/service-and-support/warranty/
Variable speed: 3 separate pulley’s give you 3 separate ranges of speed varying from 60 rpm to 3600 rpm. This range gives you slower speeds for drilling larger holes for things like pepper grinders to the fast speed which is great for sanding and finish work. Changing the belt position is rather easy once you get the hang of it.
Speed Readout: This is a sweet bonus as there is no guess work as to what speed your lathe is running at. The readout is located at the on/off and control knob area on the front of the lathe.
Forward/reverse: this option speaks for itself
Tool rest: The lathe comes with a 6” and a 10” cast iron tool rest. They both work well although I need to occasionally grind down the surface and then wax the tool rests for smoother work.
Overall: I give the Jet 1221VS lathe 5 stars and would add more to it based their warranty (and standing by it) and their customer service (Tony W in Parts Dept)! The machine is solid, well built and turns with precision. I even made a couple of slow motion videos of my turning that showed how smooth and precise the lathe operates.
The proof is in the pudding as they say…..so here’s a sample of some of my products turned on the Jet 1221VS.