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A few months ago while talking to our friends at Delta, I mentioned I knew next to nothing about turning wood — but the thought of making spindles, cups, pens, and bowls interested the hell out of me. We chatted a while, geeking out about turning like wood freaks do, and had a good time. Then the casual interest turned into a burning need. Being the good sports that Delta are, they lent us one of their 46-460 Midi-Lathes to play with.

Of course, I do have another lathe at hand in the ShopSmith; however, it’s a floor or maxi-lathe and isn’t as perfectly suited to smaller work as a dedicated smaller unit. The 46-460 with its 1 HP(max) motor, 12 1/2″ swing capacity, and variable speed three-pulley system provides a generous range of flexibility for those like me who are just starting out in turning. Delta thinks it’s a fine machine to begin on.

The 46-460 out of the box is basically ready to go. Not a whole lot of assembly is required; however, the modest 31″ long by 7″ deep footprint was slightly more bench space than I had available.

Luckily, Delta had thought to send along the optional floor stand that goes with the unit to hold its 110-lb. girth — some assembly required.

The headstock locates all the power controls. The top features the speed dial, directional switch, and power switch.

The headstock’s business end can be fitted with a chrome faceplate (as seen here), spur center, or in the case of pen making, a #2 7mm mandrel. Opening the large flap cover at the front reveals the multi-pulley system.

The three pulleys progressively ramp up the rotation speed of the piece from 250 rpm at the lowest setting to 4000 rpm at the highest. Using the small belt tensioning lever to the right, you can in a matter of a few seconds get the proper belt position and be on your way.

There’s also an access hatch at the bottom to help seat the belt at the lower end as well.

After the belts are adjusted, the speed dial’s 9 positions will walk you through the power band for the desired rpm.

The tailstock houses the quill, which can be advanced a full 2″ or retracted to its zero position on the tailstock housing. It can be fitted with a live center or, with the throw of the locking lever, removed completely.

It’s something of an understatement to say this lathe (or its sister the 46-455) has been around for years and comes with an impressive pedigree. All the controls and surfaces have a quality feel that inspire confidence even in the uninitiated. And as is often the case, pedigree doesn’t come without cost. The 46-460 will run you about $550 to $650 and the stand will set you back about $130 if you don’t want to construct one yourself. Though it should be said: This is an awful lot of functionality for the money.

I can’t imagine that this lathe won’t perform as well as it looks. Very soon we’ll find out for sure as I attempt to make rounded shapes from small blocks of timber.

46-460 Midi-Lathe [Delta]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon


9 Responses to Turning Round: Delta Midi-Lathe, Part 1

  1. Sprague says:

    I have a Jet 12-20 and love making little bowls on it. Just know that you can easily spend more that the price of the lathe on tooling for the thing!

    If I could do it over, I would buy this lathe for the reversing feature alone. Great for sanding! But this lathe was not out when I bought mine.

    It seems to me that the price of these things has gone up quite a bit. I am pretty sure my lathe cost me just under $300 on sale. Granted mine is not a Variable Speed version.

  2. Rick says:

    I’ve had this very lathe for about a year now. You’ll find that the centers of the head and tail stock are DEAD ON. Most lathes require adjusting, not this one.

    The body of the lathe is very heavy when compared to other Midi’s. It has given me vibration free operation.

    The lathe is also reversible. I think left handed turners may find that very useful. It makes sanding easier by throwing dust away from you.

    Since you’re kinda new to turning, I highly recommend getting another midi to compare to this one. You’ll see just how much better the Delta is. For instance, belt changes are much more difficult on the Jet midi. You have to reach behind it to adjust the lower belt. The front tension lever on the Jet is a PITA compared to the Delta.

    Another HUGE plus on the Delta is the torque. It’s got loads of it.

    One thing I want to know more about is the stand. Originally Delta made base of the stand so feet would angle away from the user. That gave me the impression that it would be more stable than the design shown here. Now the feet run parallel to each other. IMO that spreads the weight of the stand over a small area. Also, IMO, the spread feet gave the user more room for their feet to move around. I would like to know how well this new design is working. I just wish you had the old one to compare with.

    Keep up the good work and welcome to the world of wood turning.

  3. Joe Myers says:

    hi shawn, great site. I haven’t looked at this in along time, you’ve make great improvement. say hello to your mom and dad.

    joe myers

  4. browndog77 says:

    I have always been a fan/owner/user of Delta tools. By extension, I also have had numerous Porter-Cable products. These two great companies are now owned by Black & Decker, and so far the lines have remained mostly un-blurred. While B&D has made some pretty good tools over the years, particularly in their professional series’, they also have a history of filling the low-end market niche. Let’s hope they keep that within the B&D operations. For larger machinery, Delta is still the way to go, IMHO.

  5. browndog77 says:

    @Rick – You are correct. They sold to a Taiwanese company in January. I had been researching Delta over the holidays planning to buy a replacement for my old band saw, and drew from that time when I posted. Here’s to hoping for continued quality control in the company!

    • Rick says:

      Well it looks promising. The new owner decided to build a new factory in the US for manufacturing Delta tools. They have already moved Unisaw construction over there.

  6. Paul Fitzmaurice says:

    As Delta Power Equipment Corp.’s PR rep, I’d just like to let you know that the new factory is in Anderson, SC and we’re making UNISAWS, radial arm saws, line boring machines and Biesemeyer accessories there. Though owned by a Taiwan-based company it is run out of Anderson by guys and gals who have been in the tool business for years, (many former Delta hands before it was sold to B&D) and they’ll will be introducing many new woodworking machines in 2012.

    • Stephen Sodergren says:

      In past years I’ve been able to go to my tool store and Buy a unisex or planer, now I can’t buy the lathe 46-460 anywhere in chicago without going online. Why don’t you have a dealer here so We can get the tools we need? thanks

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