Going in Reverse

If you have had the opportunity to turn on a lathe that has reverse capability you may have discovered how the sanding process can be improved in reverse. Some of you can get a beautiful finish with just your skew (Eric!) but most of us still have to sand. There are a few folks who also do part of their turning in reverse. There is a discussion on the Sawmill Creek forum about this.

I had the opportunity to use a lathe with reverse during a woodturning class I took from SPSW member Ed Quesnell at Ted Bartholomew’s shop. I have a Jet 1014VSI mini-lathe which does not have reverse. However, there are some instructions on the web for installing a reverse switch on this lathe. The Front Range Woodturners has a file written by Brandon Mackie based on instructions written by Bruce Perry. The Gulf Coast Woodturners has one written by Mack DeBose. There may be others, but these are the most common.

One thing I noticed on these instructions is that they appear to bypass the breaker switch. I’m not sure if this would potentially cause damage, but I know from experience that that breaker does go off when there is strain on the motor. So I decided to look for an alternative.

As it happens, the American Woodturner issue in December 2011 had an article titled “Add Reverse to a Mini Lathe”. The directions here do not get into the controller box to add the switch, but cuts into the line from the controller box to the motor and adds a switch. This appeared to be more straight forward to me and I could always rebuild, or replace, the motor cable.

So off I went in pursuit of the materials and will say that I have experienced success. My mini lathe now rotates in both directions!

Now for the disclaimers, or more accurately, the AAW disclaimers. In the February 2012 issue of American Woodturner there was a follow on article: “Warning On: ‘Add Reverse to a Mini Lathe’”. These include

  1. A warning NOT to change the reversing switch while the lathe is running. Use the main power switch to turn off the motor before changing the direction.
  2. Use precautions to secure the chuck or faceplate to the spindle before using the lathe in reverse.
  3. Make sure that the handwheel grub screw is tight or the handwheel could come loose and potentially cause damage to the bearings.

If you are wanting to try reversing your mini lathe and are somewhat adventurous, check out these resources and you too can go backwards.