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Why Have a Swivel Head Lathe?

Independent Reviews
Heavy Duty Lathe Test, (Fine Woodworking, April 2007)
Why buy a DVR XP lathe, (Creative woods magazine, New Zealand, June 2006)
User Report: Teknatool NOVA 1624-44 lathe Australian Woodworker, May/June 2007
Related Pages
NOVA Lathe Overview
NOVA 1624-44
Lathe Accessories 
SuperNova2 Chuck
NOVA G3 Chuck
NOVA Precision Midi Chuck
NOVA Titan Chuck

Where are they made?

Click here to find out.


Most woodturners after they have used a swivel head lathe do not want to go back to a fixed head machine.  Here’s why:

  • Ergonomics.  Traditional fixed head lathes require you to hunch uncomfortably over the bed.  Swivelling the head allows you to turn in a more comfortable position. 

  • This eases back strain – a common turning complaint.

  • Also allows you to position the turning to give clear visual of the cutting face.  Tool handles are unobstructed away from the bed of the lathe.

  • You can even turn the head away from you to back turn bowls.

  • Space Saving.  Fixed head lathes require a lot of space away from the wall to allow for outboard turning.  The swivel head lathe turned 90 degrees to the bed allows all the outboard turning to be done in front of the lathe – this is clear workshop space where the operator stands anyway.  This allows the swivel head lathe to be positioned close to the wall and take up minimum workshop space.  With the trend to smaller workshops this is an important consideration.

  • Same Fixtures.  With fixed head lathes you need to duplicate all your thread fixtures – faceplates, chucks etc for a left hand thread.  This can be quite an extra expense.

  • A swivel head lathe uses all the same fixtures for larger outboard work.

  • Same technique.  Fixed head lathes require you to learn and use a different Left hand cutting technique.  With a swivel head lathe you use the same inboard cutting technique and tools.

You can see on the illustration, the turner in the first picture is not balanced , and is having to crane over the bed, this effect stability and chisel control and for anyone that ’spends long hours at a lathe this is just not good for the back.

The second problem is that often the bed gets in the way when taking a sweeping cut with the chisel, it is common to see this tell tale transition mark in the bowl sweep even amongst skilled turners.  

In the ergonomically designed, 1624 and DVR XPs , it is simple to swing the work to a position that makes turning comfortable.

You can see in the second picture the turner is in a comfortable position. His centre of gravity is directly over is feet, it’s a comfortable position to turn at all day.  The chisel has complete freedom of movement.

You save your back – save workshop space – save on extra chucks & faceplates – use same techniques – why wouldn’t you want a swivel head lathe?

All swivel head lathes offer these advantages but not all swivel head lathes are created equal. The Nova 1624-44 & the Nova DVR XP offers the best Swivel Head options on the market, here’s why:

  • Precision swivel head – locks back to precise center alignment to the bed.

  • Many swivel head lathes do not have precise alignment.

  • Easy to swivel – just undo the lock pin and depress the detent pin lever.

  • Some swivel head lathes have an awkward or inaccessible swivel lever.

  • Can lock the head at any position.  Many swivel head lathes can only be locked at the 90 degree position.

  • Detent Pin lock for extra security and precision.  You can lock the head at 22.5, 45 and 90 degrees for heavy work.


Swivel Head lathes are less rigid than fixed head lathes.


There is no difference between a well built swivel head such as the NOVA 1624 locked properly to the bed, and a fixed head lathe.  Rigidity is important but there are many aspects that contribute to this such as stand design, bed design, alignment, cast components etc. 


Swivel head lathes are not accurate.


True, some are not accurate.  Then again some fixed head lathes are not accurate either.  But well built lathes like the Nova 1624-44 & the Nova DVR XP have precision alignment of the Head & Tailstock. Also the Nova 1624-44 & the Nova DVR XP has an adjustable tailstock for fine alignment – a feature not found on any other lathe.


Fixed head lathes are the traditional design – surely that’s stood the test and is the best way to make lathes.


Traditional turning mostly was around spindle turning for chair/table legs and the like.  Modern turning is more concerned with bowl or free end turning.  Fixed head lathes were never designed for more than occasional bowl work.  The swivel head allows the turner to position themselves  where they are most comfortable.