Most DIY woodworkers won’t need a full-sized lathe in their workshop. Not only are they costly but they also take up an enormous amount of floor space. For those of you looking to produce small, cylindrical pieces of wood-based art – pens, drawer knobs, tool handles, etc. – then the best tool to use would be a mini lathe.
The mini lathe we’re going to look at today is the NOVA 46300 Comet II from Teknatools. It is one of the highest rated mini lathes produced by this multinational tool company. The company has an excellent track record in producing some of the world’s most affordable mini lathes and scroll chucks. We’re expecting fantastic features, easy usability, and impressive construction and design in the Comet II.
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The first thing we need to consider is whether the Comet II lives up to the Comet name. Speed is crucial in turning blocks of wood into beautiful masterpieces. The Comet II’s ¾-HP motor can spin stock at speeds of between 250 and 4,000 RPM which is quite impressive for a mini lathe.
There are three-speed ranges which can be selected by shifting the position of the drive belt and twisting the variable speed dial found on the side of the unit. The speed ranges are 250 to 680 RPM, 530 to 1,420 RPM, and 1,380 to 4,000 RPM. For most projects, at least for beginners, the middle gear will suffice.
The tool rest plays a vital part in woodturning. It allows users to rest the tool and absorb a lot of the force that’s coming from a spinning blank. The Comet II comes with a 6-inch tool rest which is quite wide. However, it can be a bit too narrow for larger projects, making it most beneficial for turning blanks that are less than 5 inches in diameter. We recommend investing in a compatible tool rest of at least 12 inches long for better support when turning larger blocks.
There are two important measurements when it comes to assessing the capacity of a lathe. These are the distance between centers and the swing over bed. The distance between centers indicates how long a blank can be fitted in between the headstock and tailstock. The swing over bed measures the maximum diameter of the blank can swing before making contact with the bed.
The distance between centers and swing measurements of the Comet II is 16-1/2 inches and 12 inches respectively. You can extend the distance between centers by purchasing the 41-inch bed accessory. For a mini lathe, we were quite happy that the swing allows you to mount blanks that are one foot wide without pushing the ¾-HP motor beyond its limits.
The Comet II features a 12-point index positioner. This is not nearly as many points in many other midi lathes, but it’s more than enough to map out intricate designs in cylindrical objects. The index dial is easy to twist and adjust, accurate, and locks the headstock firmly in position.
Something that you absolutely need to know about the Comet II if you’re low on space in your workshop is that it has a tiny footprint. It sits on a bench and only takes up about 7 x 30 inches of space. For most spindle-work jobs, you only need about a 3-inch clearance from the wall, maximizing space efficiency.
We know that the Comet II hardly takes up any space, but how stable is itThis is an extremely important question since the size of the tool has a lot to do with stability and vibration reduction. We were quite impressed that the Comet II, largely due to the soft rubber feet, will not jump around on your workbench and topple off. The unit can also be bolted onto your work table, but we found this unnecessary.
The Comet II is made mainly of cast iron. The only major components that aren’t are the rubber feet, the drive belt, and the electric motor and its casing. After assembly, the entire unit weighs roughly 85 pounds.
The use of cast iron for a midi lathe is a major plus. It’s super-durable to drops and falling objects. The only sworn enemy of cast iron is water which, if not wiped away, can cause rusting. If you’re storing this tool, make sure that it’s left in a dry place to avoid rusting and corrosion.
There aren’t a lot of things to not like about the NOVA 46300 Comet II from Teknatools. It’s a simple ¾-HP mini lathe that hardly takes up any room, delivers more than enough speed for most woodturning projects, and is extremely vibration-proof. You can spin large 12 x 16-1/2-inch blanks in this tool comfortably. The tool rest is a bit too narrow for many larger projects, but if you’re creating pens, drawer knobs, or even miniature baseball bats, then there won’t be any problems with the rest.