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Adds variable speed, subtracts power

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Review by JayT posted 07-28-2018 12:29 AM 1274 views 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Adds variable speed, subtracts power No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

A few years ago, I got a great deal on a 10in Jet lathe that was on closeout. I wanted variable speed, but the deal was too good to pass up. I also knew this kit from Penn State Industries existed and thought I could do the conversion in the future and still have less invested than buying a new variable speed lathe. During the recent Mallet Swap, I was doing a lot of turning and finally decided to spring for this kit and was looking forward to not switching belts near as much.

Issue #1, the Minor Issue

When the kit arrived, I opened the instructions and started the install when the first issue came up. First step in the instructions is to disassemble the single speed motor from your lathe. OK, that’s easy enough. I took off the motor and switches and set them aside. Second step is to align the new mounting plate with the old one and mark the mounting holes. That step includes the following:

”For best results, turn a round spindle to fit snug in the shaft hole in Item A (Part #48) then turn a 5/8” step to match the hole in your Jet or Delta plate.”

Umm, you just had me disassemble the lathe, how am I supposed to turn a spindle to help align the plates? OK, I’ll kind of accept that I should have read all the instructions before starting, but that is still a pretty blatant flaw in the instructions that should be fixed. This kit has been around for a long time, you’d think they would have corrected that by now. Luckily, I had the tools necessary to properly align the plates and get them drilled accurately.

Issue #2, the Aggravating Issue

The rest of the motor installation went off fine, then it came time to add the switch. Second issue. This kit is advertised as being for ”Turncrafter, Jet and Delta lathes” Problem is that the switch isn’t designed in a way to make it possible to mount to a Jet lathe. There is absolutely no safe way to do it. After messing around for a while, I finally mounted the switch to the cabinet my lathe sits on. Not a perfect solution, but figured I could deal with it.

Issue #3, the Big Issue

After making sure everything was aligned and ready, I hit the switch and it spun up just fine. Tried the dial and the variable speed was working, so put a small piece of scrap about 1 inch square on the lathe and proceeded to turn it as a test. Everything seemed to be working, so I moved on to a 2-1/2 inch square piece of red oak to make a prototype for the mallet swap. Turned the speed down to do roughing, started a cut with one of my carbide tools and the workpiece stopped! Thinking maybe the spur center had slipped, I checked everything over. No sign of slipping, hmmm. Tried again and the workpiece stopped again. What the . . . . ? The original motor is a 1/2HP, the kit motor is rated at 1/2HP, why the lack of power?

Tried taking lighter cuts and finally, after a few more stoppages, got the blank roughed out. Went ahead and turned a mallet out of the oak and any time I tried taking much of a cut at all, the motor really bogged down. Next thing I tried was to do the head for a two piece mallet out of some apricot from the smoking wood pile. Same issues with bogging down and stopping. Then I tried to drill out the center with a 1-3/8 Forstner bit.

Before the conversion, I had done a two piece mallet with an Osage Orange head and had no issues drilling with the factory motor. Now, trying to do the same operation with the variable speed kit installed was a nightmare. Advancing the bit at all caused the motor to bog down and stop. I did the Osage head in about 15 minutes, while after an hour and half with the variable speed kit in a smaller blank of softer wood, I still wasn’t done, so gave up and called it a night. Finished the next day when I had a bit more patience.

The two mallets on the left in this pic show what I was working on. The Osage and walnut one on the left was done with the factory setup and no issues. The smaller one right next to it is the apricot and soft maple that was causing the variable speed setup to bog down so much.

Issue #4, the Safety Issue

At this point, I was ready to chuck it in, but decided to try one more time by turning the handle for the mallet, so switched the belt to the fastest pulley. When I went to lever the motor down to tighten the belt, the new plate and motor are just enough off that I ran out of adjustment room before the belt was properly tightened. There was no way to lock the motor down because the plate went clear off the screw. Tried several things and finally had enough. I took the variable speed kit off, reinstalled the factory motor, contacted Penn State Industries and asked for a return authorization for this waste of money.

Just to prove to myself it was the motor and not another issue, like a dull bit, after switching back to the factory single speed setup I drilled out a chunk of red oak with the same Forstner bit. No issues.

The Conclusion, too many Issues

So ends the review for the kit. If you are replacing a 1/3HP single speed setup and only turn pens, it might be fine. The kit does convert your lathe to variable speed, which is why it gets two stars instead of one. If, however, you ever want to do a bowl, mallet or anything larger, it just doesn’t have the power. Add to that the fact that on a Jet lathe anyways, the switch isn’t truly compatible and the mounting plate cannot properly tension the belt on every pulley step and there is no way I can recommend this to another woodworker.

Penn State Industries Customer Service, the Final Issue

I wish the story ended with returning the kit and getting a prompt refund. When I contacted Penn State about the return authorization, the customer service rep was more than a bit snippy. OK, maybe they were having a bad day. After shipping the kit back, I wrote a detailed review on the Penn State website and submitted it, giving the kit the same two star rating I did here. Try to find that review on their site. They have never allowed it to post so others can read it.

Finally, after four weeks of no refund, I called customer service to see what was going on and got attitude from the CS rep right from the get go when they answered the phone, before I even had a chance to ask what was going on. I politely asked for the status of my refund and after getting the sale and return info, the CS rep informed me that they had never received any return. I informed her that UPS tracking showed it delivered on June 29. She put me on hold, finally coming back on to ask if she could call back once the warehouse checked on the status. I gave her my cell # and hung up. Never got a call. Finally got the refund today in my PayPal, but no call.

I can possibly handle a poor product, but censoring a review to keep ratings up and a piss poor customer service experience means I will not be shopping with Penn State Industries any more.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson




View JayT's profile

JayT

5961 posts in 2412 days



18 comments so far

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

5550 posts in 3864 days


#1 posted 07-28-2018 02:31 AM

Sounds like you got the same CS rep I dealt with!

Bought a ‘mandrel saver’ from PSI … after a few pens, the bearing in it started screaming like a banshee, so I (foolishly) ordered another one from them, thinking I just got a lemon. They charged my credit card, and sent me a shipping notice, but it never arrived, and after waiting two weeks, I called their CS. The guy basically accused me of stealing from them, and after a pretty heated exchange agreed to ship out another one if I would “promise to return the original one that was shipped when it arrives.”. I don’t know who lost it … them, their shipping service, or the post office, but I do know I’ll never spend another dime with these people.

The second ‘mandrel saver’ arrived, and after about 20 pens, it started screaming like the first one. Cheap bearings. I bought a more expensive one from Craft Supplies USA … that one has been used on 200+ pens with no problems.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

7121 posts in 1340 days


#2 posted 07-28-2018 03:01 AM

So…... you’re saying I should buy one immediately, right?

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Mosquito's profile

Mosquito

9540 posts in 2494 days


#3 posted 07-28-2018 03:07 AM

Bummer… at least you eventually got your money back. Good customer service seems to be hard to find these days, at least with the first person you talk to…

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - http://www.youtube.com/MosquitoMods - http://www.TheModsquito.com

View Rayne's profile

Rayne

1108 posts in 1741 days


#4 posted 07-28-2018 04:31 AM

So sad to be hearing their CS being like this. They have such a good variety of products too.

View ChuckV's profile

ChuckV

3179 posts in 3728 days


#5 posted 07-28-2018 05:54 PM

There are some 1, 2 and 3-star ratings on the Penn State site. Several of them reflect your experiences with both installation and performance.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View JayT's profile

JayT

5961 posts in 2412 days


#6 posted 07-28-2018 06:25 PM

Yes, Chuck, and I read those reviews before purchasing. Most were older, so I was thinking maybe they had made some changes to improve the kit, especially the motor. My experience says they have not and the motors are still falsely rated at 1/2HP. I could have dealt with the switch and the bad instructions, even modified the mounting of the plate to make it work, but that underpowered motor is a deal breaker. Heck, maybe they hired the former Craftsman guys to do HP ratings. You know, the ones that put 3HP on a 115v contractor saw.

Them not publishing my review, however, makes me wonder how many others had similar experiences in the last few years and also had negative reviews censored. Only PSI knows for sure, but it makes it extremely difficult for me to trust them. I’ve ordered a couple other things from PSI in the past. While not as bad as this kit, I am not enamored with the quality of those, either, so am just going to take my business elsewhere. I do woodworking to relax, so have no desire to deal with companies that cause my blood pressure to go up.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

5550 posts in 3864 days


#7 posted 07-28-2018 07:13 PM

I do woodworking to relax, so have no desire to deal with companies that cause my blood pressure to go up.

Well said … my sentiments, exactly!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View ChuckV's profile

ChuckV

3179 posts in 3728 days


#8 posted 07-28-2018 11:33 PM



I do woodworking to relax, so have no desire to deal with companies that cause my blood pressure to go up.

Well said … my sentiments, exactly!

- TheDane

Bingo! You want to avoid this situation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW_s6EqOxqY

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Pixxture's profile

Pixxture

16 posts in 273 days


#9 posted 07-29-2018 02:04 AM

I had the same issue with Rockler, I could not publish a bad review. I felt “burned” by my purchase, it had all great reviews. I had no idea how anyone could have given the product 4 or 5 stars. Unlike PSI I was able to work with Rocklers customer service, Very long story made short, eventually found that Rockler would not Accept ANY review from my cell phone. Their web site gave every indication that the review was accepted, but it wasn’t accepted and would never show.
Placed the same review from my iPad, and no problem, the negative review was accepted. Six months after the review from my cell phone, was not accepted Rocklers web site still would not accept a review from my phone. I buy a lot less from them now and haven’t tried to place a review from my phone ( it’s been a year) so it may still may be an issue.

All this is to say that it is possible that PSI is having a similar technical issue with their site.

View runswithscissors's profile

runswithscissors

2892 posts in 2226 days


#10 posted 07-29-2018 11:07 PM

If the speed control works like the stand-alone speed controllers (for universal motors), it slows the speed by interrupting the current momentarily (someone who knows better can correct me on this). If so, that means that a slower speed will mean a weaker output. Which is an argument for stepped pulleys—slower is more powerful, not less.

Also, 1/2 hp doesn’t seem like a very powerful motor. I’d want 1 hp or more for what you are doing.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View JayT's profile

JayT

5961 posts in 2412 days


#11 posted 07-29-2018 11:35 PM

All this is to say that it is possible that PSI is having a similar technical issue with their site.

- Pixxture

Possible, but very doubtful in my mind. I did the review from my laptop, not a phone. When I submitted, the message came up that the review was submitted successfully and would be held for moderation before being posted. That says to me that a person was going to review it. Finally, there have been multiple reviews posted since I did mine, so if their system is having issues, it seems really strange that it selectively “lost” a comprehensive negative review while allowing positive ones to post.


If the speed control works like the stand-alone speed controllers (for universal motors), it slows the speed by interrupting the current momentarily (someone who knows better can correct me on this). If so, that means that a slower speed will mean a weaker output. Which is an argument for stepped pulleys—slower is more powerful, not less.

Also, 1/2 hp doesn t seem like a very powerful motor. I d want 1 hp or more for what you are doing.

- runswithscissors

The motor in the kit is a DC motor, not a universal. Not sure what the difference in how they operate to do variable speed. Also, I was getting bogging down even with the speed cranked all the way up and doing a heavy cut. I haven’t had any issue with anything I’ve done with the factory setup, which is also 1/2HP. The power output of the motors just isn’t even close to the same.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8557 posts in 2530 days


#12 posted 07-30-2018 01:10 PM

That’s a royal bummer and there’s no excuse for PSI’s CS attitude.

FWIW and for general information to all, loss of torque at low speed is almost always an issue with VS drive systems, and the VS DC motors generally need to be bumped up in HP to get the same performance as a constant speed motor. A VFD with a 3 phase motor is generally a better, though be it more expensive, solution. And not all VFDs are created equal either. For low RPM torque you want a VFD with sensorless vector function.

Even factory new equipment with VS control motors often deliver poor torque at low rpm. It’s just the nature of the beast.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View runswithscissors's profile

runswithscissors

2892 posts in 2226 days


#13 posted 07-31-2018 04:13 AM

Again, someone with more knowledge can correct (or corroborate) this, but I believe a universal motor can run off either DC or AC (I have a very old B & D angle grinder that says it will run with either type of current). But I don’t know whether a designated DC motor can run with AC.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

2893 posts in 2716 days


#14 posted 08-03-2018 12:43 PM

Back in the beginning of 2017 I bought the Turncrafter Commander lathe.
Although mine came with the so-called 1HP motor with variable speed, it turns out to be a simple two wire DC motor, and the variable speed controller has no amperage compensation for heavy loads, hence the lathe will slow down. This is true especially when you have more than a couple of pounds of wood on it. It also features no reversing switch, even though with a two wire DC motor it only takes a two wire reversing switch from someone like Radio Shack to put it in. I have the setup, but have not got around to putting in the switch. Now that my 90 day electronics warranty is long gone, I should get to it. Reversing on a variable speed lathe is a real plus. Instead, they spent the money on useless handles, and a cord holder on the back, like you are going to shows all the time or something.

I also had a few detail issues, and overall, may have bought the variable speed Rikon if I had to do it again. The BIGGEST was the motor slowdown on load…

So I wrote a review that reflected these issues, and sure enough, PSI refused to post the review.
On the other hand, PSI sells a lot of its items on Amazon, and I am a very active reviewer on Amazon, somewhere where around 3700th out of around 10,000,000+ reviewers.
Amazon was more than happy to post my review, and to date 18 people have found it helpful, and maybe 18 people decided not to buy that lathe.

PSI is hit and miss, a lot like Eagle America. I took a chance on the Turncrafter, and it does pens just fine. Just don’t expect it to turn an 8” bowl, even through the swing over bed is 12”. Their motors are junk, as well as their controllers. Low end stuff. The lathe itself is not bad, just the electronics and motor.

You can see my review of the Turncrafter on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/review/R2P3SILJH6T1LJ?ref=pf_ov_at_pdctrvw_srp

I looked for your motor – it used to sell on Amazon. They probably pulled it due to tons of poor reviews.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Dutchy's profile

Dutchy

3149 posts in 2370 days


#15 posted 08-04-2018 12:39 PM

Companies that sell variable speed units for two wire DC motors are, by definition, debatable.

-- https://dutchypatterns.com/

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