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.