Axminster AW1416VS Lathe
Friday 23 March 2012
George Foweraker tests the AW1416VS lathe from Axminster Tool Centre and finds it a real joy to use. Not only does it offer a good power range as well as solid and smooth running, but it also represents very good value for money
About five weeks ago, I took delivery of an Axminster AW1416VS lathe. I chose this particular model as I was looking for a lathe with specific features suitable for teaching in my workshop and carrying out demonstrations at clubs. It had to have a minimum of 305mm (12in) over the bed to enable me to make decent sized bowls and platters. It had to have either a short bed or swivel head to enable me to turn hollow forms without having to lean over the bed. It had to be light enough to make it transportable and offer good value for money, all at the same time.
The lathe is substantial with 250mm (14in) capacity of the bed bars, 400mm (16in) between centres and weighs in at 41kg. The AW1416VS is primarily of cast iron construction with a wide, flat machined bed. The headstock has a 33 x 3.5mm spindle and the headstock and tailstock accept 2MT fittings. It is supplied with a four-prong drive centre, revolving tailstock centre, 75mm (3in) faceplate and a knock out bar.
When the lathe was delivered it was well packed in a strong box and was complete, which is a definite bonus. There is nothing I hate more than buying something and discovering that it takes days of work to put together. I had the lathe up and running in a matter of minutes. The headstock and tailstock did not quite line up but it was only a case of slackening four bolts on the headstock and moving it sideways a fraction, which allowed me to get the perfect alignment that I required.
The AW1416VS is a variable-speed lathe which uses proven inverter technology, similar to that used on much larger lathes on the market. This system in conjunction with three poly-vee pulleys enables the lathe to have three clearly defined speed ranges and full variable speed in those ranges. The speed ranges are: 0-800, 200-1,750, 400-3,600rpm.
The speeds and direction changes of the spindle are controlled via a magnetic switch unit which has start and stop buttons, a forward and reverse switch and a speed control knob. The magnetic back of the unit enables you to place the switch unit anywhere on the lathe or on any adjacent metal surface. This is a real boon as it can always be at hand no matter what turning you are doing.
There is also a LED digital read out that shows the lathe speed in RPM and this is conveniently fixed on the lower pulley access door. The lathe has a 24 segment indexing system which is used in conjunction with a magnetic locating pin in the rear of the headstock.
The numbers are clearly marked on the largest pulley and the numbers can be seen behind the top pulley access cover. When you are not using the magnetic indexing pin it can be put inside the lower access door for safe-keeping. Belt changing is very simple and even with my large hands there is plenty of room to do this. The motor is released via a simple lever system just below the drive motor which allows you to easily lift the motor for belt changes.
The tailstock is very solid cast iron construction with approximately 50mm (2in) travel on the quill. This quill accepts 2MT fittings. When it is not required, the tailstock slides easily on and off the bed and is made easier by the tailstock having a hollowed out section, thus creating a comfortable hand hold.
This is a well-constructed assembly. The toolrest supplied is 150mm (6in) long and the stem is 25mm (1in) thick. It has a simple release lever too, so you can adjust the rest and the machining is such that there is no play at all in the stem when locked up.
Most of the work I do consists of turning bowls and platters up to about 305mm (12in) so this lathe is more than
capable of satisfying my needs regarding the capacity. I have used the lathe for a month now on spindle, bowl and hollow form work.
The short bed was a real help when working on some hollow forms. It meant that I was able to remove the tailstock off the lathe and turn the inside of hollow forms from the end of the lathe, which is much easier on my back than having to lean over the side of the bed.
I found the lathe to be extremely powerful; on one occasion I roughed out 30 bowl blanks from 255mm (10in) to 330mm (13in) non stop and never once stalled it or had the belt slip. The lathe coped with all the work that I did on it.
I have another five lathes at my disposal but this is now my first choice of lathe for most of the work I do. I am not kind to a lathe, in fact I am quite cruel and make it work hard. This lathe has worked every day for the last five weeks or so and has probably done more work than most hobby turners do in a year.
In my experience, there is no noticeable loss of power on the lower speeds provided you are using the correct pulley on the three step poly-vee belt system. They only disappointment is that the lathe is supplied with a 150mm (6in) toolrest, and in my opinion, it would make sense to supply it with a longer rest with the 150mm (6in) one available as an optional extra.
At just over 40Kg the lathe is light enough to make it transportable from the workshop to my van. The real bonus for me is the 355mm (14in) over the bed capacity, which is very unusual on an intermediate sized lathe. The AW1416VS is a real joy to use. It is very powerful, solid and smooth running, and at just over £500, I think it offers great value for money.