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Tool Talk - Variable-Speed Midi Lathe


Tool Talk - Delta 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

A little dynamo.

By Alan Lacer

An ideal balance between size and capability is the promise that most mini lathes present: small enough to store on a shelf or under a bench, but big enough (having sufficient mass, power and capacity) to turn sizeable bowls. Delta’s 46-460 variable speed midi lathe actually makes good on this promise.

What sets the 46-460 apart is that its 1-hp motor actually has adequate low-end power to match its 12-1/2" swing. The 46-460 allows making hefty cuts (for a small benchtop lathe) at slow speed in heavy green-wood bowl blanks without significant stalling. This is a real acid test for green bowl turning—a test that mini lathes typically fail.

The 46-460’s electronic variable speed system is impressive. It has three speed ranges (250–700 rpm, 600–1800 rpm, 1350–4000 rpm) and is extremely quiet in operation. Speed ranges are important for both performance and safety. Headstock spindle speeds above 750 rpm are best for spindle work. For bowl turning, especially for roughing out the blank, slow speed (with power) is critical. The 46-460’s slowest speed range (250- 700 rpm) is significant because it allows maintaining reasonable rim speed when turning large or out-of-balance bowls and plates. Rim speed (the rpm at the edge of the bowl) increases as the bowl’s diameter increases; hence, larger bowls require slower spindle speeds.

Changing speed ranges is simple: Pop open the covers, lift a lever, slide the belt and lower the lever. That’s it; you don’t have to lift a motor, loosen handles or make any other awkward maneuver. A handy numbered dial makes it easy to monitor and change speeds within each speed range.

The 46-460 is equipped with a 1" spindle, a headstock spindle lock, an indexing wheel and a reversing switch. (Some turners prefer reverse rotation for finish sanding.) It comes with a good-quality 3" faceplate that’s plated, so it won’t rust from green bowl blanks, and 6" and 10" tool rests that are functional, rather than being cheap toys. Capacity between centers (for spindle turning) is 16-1/2" or 42" with the available bed extension.

A few minuses must be noted. You have to reach over the top of the headstock to reach the on/ off and reversing switches. There’s a pinch point between the handwheel and the spindle lock. And the weight (97 lbs) that helps to make the 46-460 stable during use also makes it hard to move around.

The 46-460 is perfect for turning pens, lidded boxes, jewelry and the tiniest miniatures, but its bowlturning capability at slow speed is the big news. This balance makes the 46-460 a great choice for anyone who wants to start turning, has limited space or intends to do relatively small work.

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Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Delta Power Equipment Corp.,, 800-223-7278, 12-1/2" Variable-Speed Midi Lathe, #46-460; Modular Midi-Lathe Bed Extension, #46-463.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2012, issue #155.