Lathe recommendation for garage hobbyist?

jpberg

Lifestyle Coach
Staff Member
Sales
fiddle sticks, dude, I’ve been doing this for 4 years, and I’m STILL new. I’m still cutting my teeth. Get a Precision Matthews 10x22. Short of that, get a Grizzly. Make sure it’s variable speed. That’s my lathe recommendation.

Apart from that, you asked a question. We answered. It’s the progression of where things go when you decide to make pipes. @Sasquatch advice about throwing $800 in the trash is right. It’s an $800+ gamble off the line, which, if you’re fine with that, is totally cool. And this advise STEMS from remembering what it was like to start, and what it took to make a passable pipe - tooling and expense wise. It’s just a “be prepared” statement.

That said @DannoH makes a good pipe with basically no tools. He can weigh in on what that’s like.
@dwaugh made me a remarkable pipe using only hand tools. It can be done. As to the rest, I’ve read this story five thousand times at pipe makers forum. I know how it ends.
 

N80

If you can't question it, it isn't science.
Sales
I am a rank amateur pipe maker. Occasionally I finish a pipe that is presentable. I started with a drill press and a Dremel tool. It takes maybe an hour before all of the realities of pipe making manifest themselves.

I found that the tenon tool is not that useful.

Where am I now? Hand-me-down wood lathe with purchased chuck and jaws. D-I-Y French wheel. Hand-me-down band saw. Lathe mounted buffing wheels. 90 year old drill press. Fordham tool. Harbor Freight belt sander. Lots of files, bits and piles of sandpaper. Shop-Vac dust collection.

With this stuff I can make a pipe that I'm proud of. Maybe one in three or four attempts. The rest end up in the trash or as shop pipes. The wood lathe is limiting in a number of ways, not just accuracy. There is no way that this would be my business or even my main hobby without a metal lathe.

As it is, I enjoy it the way I'm doing it now. That's all that matters at the moment.

My advice, start with as little as you can get by with. Experience is a fabulous teacher. Then spend your $2000 wisely.
 

DitchPig

Active member
I am a rank amateur pipe maker. Occasionally I finish a pipe that is presentable. I started with a drill press and a Dremel tool. It takes maybe an hour before all of the realities of pipe making manifest themselves.

I found that the tenon tool is not that useful.

Where am I now? Hand-me-down wood lathe with purchased chuck and jaws. D-I-Y French wheel. Hand-me-down band saw. Lathe mounted buffing wheels. 90 year old drill press. Fordham tool. Harbor Freight belt sander. Lots of files, bits and piles of sandpaper. Shop-Vac dust collection.

With this stuff I can make a pipe that I'm proud of. Maybe one in three or four attempts. The rest end up in the trash or as shop pipes. The wood lathe is limiting in a number of ways, not just accuracy. There is no way that this would be my business or even my main hobby without a metal lathe.

As it is, I enjoy it the way I'm doing it now. That's all that matters at the moment.

My advice, start with as little as you can get by with. Experience is a fabulous teacher. Then spend your $2000 wisely.
Thanks for the advice, how do you like the lathe mounted buffing wheels?
 

Sasquatch

May Cause Drowsiness
Staff Member
Excellent post from @N80.


Yes, just... do it. The realities of pipe making become manifest, and you just have to solve the problems as they come up. How do I mount this? How do I shape this? How do I unstick this?

And what I see is guys who have never handled a file, have no idea how to turn on a bandsaw, guys with no shop repertoire at all, and they show up on facebook and basically ask "Hey guys, how do I make a pipe?" and they go through all kinds of horrors and find out it's not for them.

A guy with some skills previous in woodworking, carving, turning, or simply machining, a few tools and some know how... they can get going at this and produce something, and then it's just refining it from there, which is for many or all of us, a lifelong process.

I hate every pipe I've ever made, I kid you not. All I see is flaws in execution. I never finish a pipe so much as give up on it, I stop trying to make it better because probably I'm one file stroke away from throwing it in the garbage - that's the perfect time to stop.

You'll get nothing but help and support, DitchPig, pipe makers are a remarkable species in this way. But.... as a species, we are also a little tired of the guys showing up on facebook and asking if they can make a pipe from a potato and a guitar string. We're a little jaded at this point too, those of us who have worked hard to be even mediocre at this craft. So excuse us if we sometimes bust your balls a little.

And JPBerg is JPBerg. He's actually an AI personality construct, just not a good one. We couldn't afford one of the sexy Japanese dolls.
 

Yakster

Well-known member
I hate every pipe I've ever made, I kid you not. All I see is flaws in execution. I never finish a pipe so much as give up on it, I stop trying to make it better because probably I'm one file stroke away from throwing it in the garbage - that's the perfect time to stop.

I see this from other pipe makers on this forum too, it's hard to realistically assess the beauty of your own creation when all you see are ways that you could have done better.
 

SwampWeed

Black Twist & Black Beer
Patron
Sales
Thanks for the advice, how do you like the lathe mounted buffing wheels?
I have the beall 3 buff arbor on my wood lathe for restorations. My only real complaint is that the arbor could be a bit longer to leave more space between buffs, but then you'd need a bigger lathe to mount the thing.

You definitely want variable speed on whatever motor you are using... Low speeds <800 rpm can be more important than high speeds, especially for finish work. (Speaking from a woodworking pov , not pipe maker as I said)
 

Cramptholomew

It's, like, Phyllis Diller funny.
Sales
Excellent post from @N80.


Yes, just... do it. The realities of pipe making become manifest, and you just have to solve the problems as they come up. How do I mount this? How do I shape this? How do I unstick this?

And what I see is guys who have never handled a file, have no idea how to turn on a bandsaw, guys with no shop repertoire at all, and they show up on facebook and basically ask "Hey guys, how do I make a pipe?" and they go through all kinds of horrors and find out it's not for them.

A guy with some skills previous in woodworking, carving, turning, or simply machining, a few tools and some know how... they can get going at this and produce something, and then it's just refining it from there, which is for many or all of us, a lifelong process.

I hate every pipe I've ever made, I kid you not. All I see is flaws in execution. I never finish a pipe so much as give up on it, I stop trying to make it better because probably I'm one file stroke away from throwing it in the garbage - that's the perfect time to stop.

You'll get nothing but help and support, DitchPig, pipe makers are a remarkable species in this way. But.... as a species, we are also a little tired of the guys showing up on facebook and asking if they can make a pipe from a potato and a guitar string. We're a little jaded at this point too, those of us who have worked hard to be even mediocre at this craft. So excuse us if we sometimes bust your balls a little.

And JPBerg is JPBerg. He's actually an AI personality construct, just not a good one. We couldn't afford one of the sexy Japanese dolls.
This should be stickied.

@Sasquatch is much more measured, thoughtful and precise with his responses.
 

N80

If you can't question it, it isn't science.
Sales
Thanks for the advice, how do you like the lathe mounted buffing wheels?
One of my better purchases. As mentioned in a post above I wish it was longer with more space between each wheel but they have to fit a wide variety of lathes.

I think you can tell from the responses you've gotten here that pipe making can be extremely demanding if making a really nice pipe is your goal.

In terms of simply making a pipe, well, I was successful on my second try. It is made of walnut. I bought a cheap Chinese plastic churchwarden stem for it. It is butt ugly. Of no recognizably named shape. None of the drilling is right. The finish is not what you'd technically call a 'finish'. The stem and the shank don't match up right. But, it is a pipe and functions as a pipe and I still smoke it from time to time. In that regard you can have 'success' fairly quickly. For reasons I can't explain I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to make a better pipe, a 'good' pipe in fact. Went so far as to enter a pipe swap with the guys on the Pipe Makers forum. I thought I'd made a jewel. Hand cut stem and everything. The guy I sent it to for critique found tool marks on it that I had not seen. I was embarrassed but learned a lesson: A good pipe is hard to make no matter what tools you have.

I say if you want to make pipes then start making pipes. Failure is a great teacher. Post pictures here. Even the failures....it is a popular topic. Folks here are VERY kind to beginning pipe makers. Maybe too kind. You might not get a real serious critique here. That's okay. Encouragement is good and keeps you going. I think if you want a serious critique here on this site, you might have to ask for it explicitly. You might even have to request if by private message. But if you do ask....and you get one....don't get defensive or make excuses (I always have tons of excuses.....those tool marks are an artistic choice!). Just learn from it.
 

Cramptholomew

It's, like, Phyllis Diller funny.
Sales
One of my better purchases. As mentioned in a post above I wish it was longer with more space between each wheel but they have to fit a wide variety of lathes.

I think you can tell from the responses you've gotten here that pipe making can be extremely demanding if making a really nice pipe is your goal.

In terms of simply making a pipe, well, I was successful on my second try. It is made of walnut. I bought a cheap Chinese plastic churchwarden stem for it. It is butt ugly. Of no recognizably named shape. None of the drilling is right. The finish is not what you'd technically call a 'finish'. The stem and the shank don't match up right. But, it is a pipe and functions as a pipe and I still smoke it from time to time. In that regard you can have 'success' fairly quickly. For reasons I can't explain I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to make a better pipe, a 'good' pipe in fact. Went so far as to enter a pipe swap with the guys on the Pipe Makers forum. I thought I'd made a jewel. Hand cut stem and everything. The guy I sent it to for critique found tool marks on it that I had not seen. I was embarrassed but learned a lesson: A good pipe is hard to make no matter what tools you have.

I say if you want to make pipes then start making pipes. Failure is a great teacher. Post pictures here. Even the failures....it is a popular topic. Folks here are VERY kind to beginning pipe makers. Maybe too kind. You might not get a real serious critique here. That's okay. Encouragement is good and keeps you going. I think if you want a serious critique here on this site, you might have to ask for it explicitly. You might even have to request if by private message. But if you do ask....and you get one....don't get defensive or make excuses (I always have tons of excuses.....those tool marks are an artistic choice!). Just learn from it.
To add:
My first couple pipes were just like @N80, only cherry wood. i just INSISTED on making my own stems, and they were absolute dog turds. Was I proud? fiddle sticks yeah! Do they burn leaves? Yes. Does looking at them now make my face pale? Sure as carp.

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for public critique. I really never did. I dared ask people I respected directly. Honestly, with my psyche, I don’t think I could handle being publicly eviscerated for an obvious turd, so I avoided it. I didn’t need my skin thickened, I needed help. I found a few makers that I knew would be firm but helpful. And I tried to never use the excuse “that’s an intentional design element”. There’s nothing new under the sun. Start off with classic shapes, before you venture into Dali land. Believe me, someone has already made a pipe that looks just as horrendous as your best wild artistic expression in pipe form. Ask me how I know. I’m not being a dick, it’s just reality. Humility is your friend in pipe making. Like @Sasquatch i get the place where I say “I can’t take this any further”, and have to call it done. I also hate all my pipes.

All this to say, make a pipe. If you need help, you’ll get it. I’m more than willing to help anyone out. I remember what it was like starting out. Along with tooling, and shaping, there are also suggested standards for measuring certain things. All that needs to be learned and worked out. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Good luck. You have my support.
 

N80

If you can't question it, it isn't science.
Sales
I’ll also throw this out though many will disagree: I think delrin tenons make life easy especially if you don’t have a metal lathe. A 5/16 delrin tenon fits perfectly in a hole and or mortise drilled with a 5/16 bit. There are tips and tricks to gluing them in the stem but that’s pretty easy to learn.
 
Top Bottom