VB36 Shortbed Lathe

Report by Isaac Curran




Ike (Isaac Curran) is now displaying work in The Coastal Design Gallery in Campbeltown Jane & Grant Logan have a well appointed gallery, Grant designs and makes stunning jewellery . www.coastal-deesign.co.uk I have now created a photo page on "photobucket" its a lot easier for me to upload pictures directly to the albums and that way folk can see what we are making.  You can visit my page click here: IKE CURRAN PICTURES


Craft Fair News


I am very sorry to announce that due to ongoing ill health Isaac cannot organise and run the botanic Gardens Craft fair, all dates are cancelled.  Isaac had a procedure on his spine early in February and has just been discharged from hospital with ongoing heart decease problems (29 February 2016).  Isaac and myself are truly sad that this has had to be cancelled.
















The VB36


Please bear in mind that when I write a report on an item, I do so as an independent person and an amateur, I don’t work for anyone except the guys who use my workshop, I always give the companies the opportunity to read the report prior to going live online but will only change an item if a comment about it is valid.

I feel that it is worth mentioning the information given on the Hegner website, I found this to be full and factual and well worth the read.  SEE: HEGNER WEBSITE


If you wish to shortcut the report then please just click on the heading you want and you will be taken there.

Summary  --  My reason for Purchase -- Delivery Time  --- Paintwork --- Main Body

Power Head and Bearings --- Control Box --- Foot switch

Tool Rest and Tool rest Assembly --- Short Bed Tailstock --- Extras


The VB36

I have been dithering about purchasing this lathe for about 4 years and so I have eventually succumbed and in December 2008, 18th to be precise, I ordered my VB36.




The failure of my Silverdrive Statesman 280  (the company are now out of business thank God) to live up to the expectations given to me by Tony Wilson ,(who worked for them at the time), left me nearly £3000 down and somewhat disillusioned with all things British.

However all of my significant lathes so far had been British and the VB36 had been considered and dismissed on a few previous occasions.  The main reason was the fact that the head does not move! And for me operating from my wheeled chair seemed daunting, added to the price ticket, enough said.

My lovely wife has been saving for some time, as had I, she kindly offered to put up half the purchase price, this still left me with £3000 as my end of the deal, yes folks it cost a total of over £6000 with the short bed and a couple of extras.,( see invoice).

A sometime associate of mine had purchased the VB a year or so back and with his recommendation and having gone to see his in situ, also I had a copy of the video (recommended viewing) and stroked the lathe at various shows, decision made the order went in.



Often a bone of contention for me, I placed the order and then asked the direct question, “How long before delivery” and was informed 14 weeks from December 18th 2008 would make delivery time, 26 March 2009, allow a couple of extra weeks because of Christmas, that makes it 9th April 2009!  MMMMM yea right!  I spoke to Roger Buse (THE VB36 MAN) at the Scottish Woodworking Show in March 2009, who explained to me that there had been problems with the production of the casts and that I was looking at a delay, heading into May.  The man was honest and straight about it, more than that you can’t ask (well you could but it wont get you anywhere)  If folk are honest with me and it’s a hand built bespoke item, then I have no problems with that, in fact Roger commented on how calmly he felt I handled the news.  I have to admit, after the time I had with the Silvers I was fairly mellow.

True to his word, Roger delivered the lathe to my workshop on the 19th May 2009, he set it up and explained various bits on the lathe, I had to leave before he had completed the installation (prior Hospital appointment with my cardiologist, having had 6 heart attacks, you don’t miss one of those not even for a VB36.)  Although I thanked Roger at the time, I would like to add a public thank you for the faultless installation.



I have to admit to a bit of a let down, please don’t take that as a negative comment.  After all the hype and the price, it is after all just a lathe!

I found adapting to not having a swivel head a little disconcerting but with plenty of oil on my wheels I soon had myself whizzing into position.  So my real first reaction is that this lathe is understated (if you take away the hype and price), it just seems unassuming.  That soon changes once you begin to use it, words that come to mind are sturdy, smooth, powerful and quite oh and did I mention powerful!  This lathe has power and plenty to spare.


OKAY ruminations over with lets hit the parts.





What a great job, this paint is solid and will defy most scratching, a real paint job worthy of the lathe.



Because I have opted for the short bed, which I don’t regret both on price and the fact that it suits my style, also the fact that I have a couple of other lathes if I do want to do a longer piece.  I have heard a lot about the stability of the VB36 so was a little disappointed at the top heavy nature of the lathe.  The base is manufactured from steel as opposed to the top section which is a heavy cast.  If it were not for the electronics being housed in the base section I would have stuffed this full of bags of wet sand.  In my humble opinion this lathe MUST BE BOLTED DOWN, however don’t do that until you have used the lathe for a few weeks.  When Roger installed it I showed him the space and asked him to put it where he thought was best.  I marked that before I shifted it a little bit, I have moved it around some and now have it bolted down into the concrete floor exactly where Roger placed it the first time.  With regards to stability, it has to be said that the lathe will vibrate with an uneven lump of wood on, even a piece that is not that large, let me clarify the vibration thing “IT DOES NOT LEAP ABOUT” but you can feel the vibration.



I might as well start with the controversial bit of the lathe.  As far as lathe bearings go this is not the norm, as I understand it (bearing in mind that I have difficulty understanding most things) the shaft “FLOATS” on a film of oil inside the casing.  This principle is not new, when I did my demob course from the Army I attended a diesel Engine maintenance course, here I learnt about the diesel pump which has a floating piston to pump fuel to each cylinder, these  pistons are matched to the casing, seems to work okay in them! it is also mentioned on the Hegner website that Rolls Royce use a similar bearing configuration in the Gas turbine division, now please don't tell me they get it wrong. Does it get hot, for sure it does, the heat can become a problem if you are working a few hours with the lathe, the heat is so intense that you cannot hold the handle without a cloth, to rotate the shaft, another problem is the fact that the shaft is pretty hard to rotate and without a chuck on it is impossible to rotate by hand from the front of the lathe, therefore when HOT you need a cloth to rotate the head.  The cast iron around the bearings gets, front and back, get too hot to touch.  Add this to a sunny hot day outside (Thank God not too many of those in Scotland) and the heat at the end of the workshop can get uncomfortable.  Noise is not a factor with this lathe it seems to run almost silently. 

The Bearings require an oil cup and these have to be checked on a daily basis, it is worth a mention here that the instructions do not make it clear where you need to top up to so make sure you get this right from Roger when he installs.  From delivery of the lathe, 19th May 2009 until Roger came up on 21st September and replaced the bearing seals, I had a major oil leak from the rear bearing and a smaller but significant leak from the front bearing.  I kept the oil topped up, checking it sometimes twice in a session therefore it did not stop me from using the lathe, I just made sure the leaking oil did not go all over the place.  When Roger came up he stripped down and removed the shaft and the bearings.  The cause of the leaks was the fact that the main body had not been properly de-burred prior to assembling the shaft and seals, this stopped the seals from doing their job.  Since Roger did the corrective work, I have not had a problem.  I spoke to Tracy Owen at one of the shows and he said that he could not remember when he last topped his up, so it was just bad luck for me.  The “Thrust Bearing” in the picture should be checked on a regular basis and make sure you put grease into the bearing on a regular basis.  It is worth noting here that there are in fact TWO nipples, one at the front and the other at the back of the bronze bearing.  Roger comment to me when he stripped the shaft out was that I had been a bit mean with the grease so make sure you pump in plenty! If it oozes out just wipe it away with some tissue.

Drive pulleys, these are the most substantial pulleys I have ever seen, they are beautifully made both top and bottom.  Printed on the control box is a little chart which shows the speed range for each pulley, so part of the power head is that pulley system and the changing of the belts/speeds.  I have to say at this point that the pulley system was a factor that I worried about prior to owning the VB36, changing the belt from one pulley to another on most lathes is a huge problem when you are less than 100% fit, not so on the VB36.  There are three pulleys and the large pulley gives you the slow speed and a HUGE amount of torque NO REALLY I DO MEAN HUGE the middle and smaller one less torque and more speed.  Changing is SO SIMPLE, just open the cover, wind the Tension Handle, move the belt, wind the handle to tighten the belt then shut the cover JOB DONE!!!








The controls themselves are well marked and the speed range is printed on the front, all switches are good and positive and the speed control requires multiple turns to go from slowest in the range to fastest, which is good.

However why oh why is this a cheap little plastic box with a magnet on the back that would have trouble holding a fridge magnet, the only place on the lathe that this is any good is low down on the flat steel.  Once again the control on the Poolewood DVSL is way better.  I have now taken the magnet off of an Axminster magnetic tray and glued it to a piece of wood fixed to the back of the control box.  This magnet has a rubber cover and the control box will not slide down the lathe.  The lead could do with being a bit longer.  Later I will invest in a couple of good earth magnets and cover them in rubber before affixing to the back of the box, the rubber will stop them sliding down the fantastic paint job.


I rely heavily on this and it is an essential addition to the lathe, I spend all my time suspended from my high chair but can reach the switch easily.  It is positive.  Although the switch is covered, a word of warning, make sure your foot is well clear before putting your hand near the object your turning or the chuck, it is easy to press down on the switch and with a lathe this powerful I have pictured myself being flopped around and around the chuck!!!!!







This was one of the parts that I thought might be difficult for me.  My spinal injury means that continually shifting a heavy bar around was going to painful.  Forget that! Once you have loosened the wedges that press the bar into the lathe, by turning the handle (see1). It is so well balanced that the whole assembly slides in and out easily.

Bennison Adapter (see 2)

I have no idea how folk managed before this adapter was fitted as standard, without a shadow of a doubt this is a great bit of kit.  It allows so much articulation of the tool rest that once you get the hang of it then resetting the main stand is unnecessary a lot of the time.


Drop down leg (see 3) for the short bed lathe I would say this is essential.  If you have an uneven lump on the lathe then by dropping the leg you can stabilise the lathe.

 This whole tool-rest assembly is without a doubt the best I have ever used.










This little item adds just over £900 to the overall cost, think very carefully about your need for this item.  I made the decision to include it, even with the price tag.  Again I had my doubts, this was based on the fact that lifting the whole assembly into place was going to be a struggle.  I have overcome that problem by suspending the assembly on cord and using it as a shelf when not in use, it is locked into place by tightening the bolt at 1 on the picture.  Having the tailstock available for small items and to provide stability to some other items is definitely worth the effort.  Because it’s suspended I don’t have to lift much so it works for me.  The operation of the tailstock is just fine, it’s sometimes a little difficult to get enough pressure applied, by pressing hard at 2 on the handle but that is more because of me rather than the tailstock.  I do find it a little difficult to knock out the live centre as the slot at the side does not allow sight of the end of it but with a solid screwdriver it works.




















I bit the bullet and purchased the Deep Hollowing Tool-rest System and at a cost of £158 it ain't cheep.  This tool-rest is without and shadow of a doubt worth every penny.  The build is robust and well thought out, the curve is perfect and when set up for your work it means you can get the tool close in, even with deep items.  I am not the most experienced deep hollower but this little baby certainly gives me confidence.










I found the ordering to be simple and clear, delivery date was late and extended from 14 weeks to 22 weeks, however I was kept informed with honesty and not mucked about.  I did have some problems with oil leaks and the fact that the casting was not finished properly (the edges were not cleaned away and filed smooth), however, Roger Buse came up from down south and corrected these faults, at one time on the phone he made a statement to me that “Whatever happens he would make sure I had a good lathe” and I believed him and was right to do so.  This is without a doubt, a powerful lathe, however, when turning of centre pieces, even of moderate size, I do feel some vibration, if this was a full bed lathe I feel that the vibration would not be there (it vibrates don't read that as leaps about)  The tool-rest assembly is "just the best I have ever used" and the power is awesome.  The pulley changing is very easy and my doubts about being able to manage without a power head that swivels, were soon set aside.  It is now mid October and I have had the lathe a few months and turned a fair few items on it, from very small 1cm buttons to a very large vessel.  I am turning on average 3 to 4 days a week and this has very quickly become my mainstay in fact I cant remember not having it in my workshop and I regret having ordered that dam Silverdrive lathe a couple of years ago.  The price tag is very painful and I still cringe when I think about it, so I avoid doing that, can I ever justify spending that much money on what after all is still just a lathe, NO WAY but like that advert says


"I'm worth it"  


This lathe is a quality item, I am proud of the fact that it is BRITISH BUILT and I am pleased to own one


Please bear in mind that when I write a report on an item, I do so as an independent person and an amateur, I don’t work for anyone except the guys who use my workshop, I always give the companies the opportunity to read the report prior to going live online but will only change an item if a comment about it is valid.