Chris' Web Site:
Home Page

Send email to: Chris

Powermatic 3520B Lathe (2006)

PM3520b 3520b

I sold the Jet 1236 lathe and took delivery of a new PM 3520B. I honestly never outgrew the 1236, but I got the bug for a quieter, smoother, more powerful lathe with more swing and my attention soon turned to a few 16" and 20" models. When I was able to get the 3520 for 20% off and no shipping or tax I jumped, and I now have a sweet lathe in the shop. What a diffence a couple grand makes! ;-)

    Delivery & Setup:
  • Picked it up at a local freight depot. One of the beauties of owning your own pickup is not having to pay or wait for a lift gate delivery to your house.
  • The shipping carton was undamaged and securely packaged. Everything came in one big carton on a pallet, and it all fit (barely) into the back of my F150.
  • Getting downstairs was fun. I dissassembled the lathe into its main components (headstock, tailstock, bed, legs, misc items) and tool it downstairs one chunk at a time. A 2 wheel moving dollie with a strap was invaluable. I needed a friend to wrestle the bed off the back of my truck, but other that that everything was done by myself (not recommended but certainly do-able).
  • Read the manual, bolt it together, level the feet, install a plug, and you're off to the races. There isn't much to set up, and the main checks (head-to-tailstock alignment, etc) all needed no adjustment.
  • The free shipping from Amazon was fast - only took a few days to get the lathe once the order was placed.
  • The sliding headstock is great. For turning spindles or anything else needing tailstock support you can keep the headstock on the left side of the bed as usual. But if you want to turn faceplate work without a tailstock you can slide the headstock all the way down the right side of the lathe and have unrestricted access to the work. No need to lean/climb over the bed when hollowing. It effectively becomes a spindle lathe and a bowl lathe in one.
  • 20" swing over the bed. Wow. Slide the headstock down the bed and you can turn something to the floor with an outboard tool rest.
  • The variable speed is amazing. Turn a knob and you have very fine control over your speed. Makes it easy to stay away from resonances and dial in the best possible speed.
  • I like the digital speed readout very much. I know many folks say this is uneccessary, and they're right, but it's a very nice feature - especially for a geeky engineer like me.
  • Torque out the wazoo. There are two speed ranges controlled by 2-step belt sheaves. The lathe came from the factory at the high speed range, and I haven't needed to touch it since. Even for big mongo bowl blanks there is more torque that I've needed.
  • Heavy. Getting it set up is fun, but once it's there it stays put. I haven't had a need for any additional ballast, but there are built-in provisions for a ballast shelf in the legs.
  • Quiet. My old lathe was fine, but the Reeves drive was on the noisy side and there were always things rattling around (esp the locking handles). The 3520b's drive system is incredibly quiet, and everything is build solidly enough so that there is nothing rattling during operation.
  • The knock out bar is very nice. Because it's a slide hammer you don't have to beat on it to release a stubborn morse taper fitting.
  • The little storage doodads are handy. The tailstock casting has a door to store a few small items (I keep my live center accessories there), and there is a shelf that bolts to a leg for storing drive centers, copy centers, the spindle wrench, knockout bar, etc.
  • Not cheap. I got mine for a little over $2200 which is a lot of money. If you pay list price ($2799) plus tax and shipping you're talking a sizable chunk of change. But if you compare the lathe to others in its class (Oneway, Stubby, etc) you soon realize the price compares favorably to others on the market.  [EDIT to add on 11/11/07:  I get lots of email about this price, so I thought I'd add a comment here to answer a frequent question.  I got the lathe at $2200 from Amazon.  It was a fleeting 20% off sale (with free shipping) that lasted less than a day.  I was watching pricing on this item for a looong time, and I was prepared to jump right on the sale price immediately as it happened.  I got lucky, and I haven't seen a price that good on this lathe ever since.]
  • If you work with the headstock at the far left of the bed you need a large amount of room between the lathe and a wall. Because the motor hangs off the left side of the headstock, and because the knock out bar is long, you need leave a good bit of room between the headstock and any wall.
  • Because my old lathe had a 1"x8tpi spindle I had to buy new chuck and buffing wheel adapters for the 3520b's 1-1/4"x8tpi spindle. Same for the tool rests - I had to buy bigger rests for this lathe. Minor issue, but these things have a way of adding up, and are something to be aware of if your budget is tight.
  • You're not moving this thing around your shop very easily. That's mostly a good thing for stability purposes, but if you want to adjust its position even slightly you better think hard about how to move it safely.
  • Fugly color. (yeah I know, but I'm stretching here for "dislikes")

In Summary:
Sweet! If you can manage the cost, and you're serious about turning, this is a fantatstic lathe.

By the way:
I have a couple pics of the lathe work area including the tool storage racks I built.  You can check them out and read a bit about them on this page.

© Copyright 2007 Chris Billman