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This article was published in the February 2013 (#41) edition of Woodturning Design.
Introduction: One of the reasons I bought a Powermatic 3520B is that I liked that it had a sliding headstock. I learned to turn back in the 1980's on a Myford ML8 lathe, on which bowls were usually done outboard. You lose tailstock support turning outboard, but in return you get full access to the bowl and can almost always help support the tool by keeping it against your body, which makes it a lot more secure. Have a look at Figure 1 and Figure 2, of the position for starting a hollowing cut, to see what I mean. In Figure 1, with the headstock in normal position at the headstock end of the lathe, I have to hold the tool handle with just a hand because it's a long ways over the bed of the lathe. In Figure 2, however, with the headstock mounted near the tailstock end, I can stand at the foot of the lathe and support the tool handle with both my hand and pin it against my hip. The latter position sure feels a lot more secure.
However, once I got the lathe, I found myself not sliding the headstock down unless I was going to do a lot of turning there. The weight of the tailstock is considerable and then there's the problem of where to put in. I mentioned to Joe Herrmann that I was considering one the tailstock handling add-ons to overcome this inertia, and he suggested the JT Tailstock Manager.
Ordering: I went to the website at http://www.jtturningtools.com/tailstockmanager and ordered the tailstock manager. JT Turning Tools processes credit orders through PayPal, and as I had a PayPal account this was easy. There was also a guest process if you don't have and don't want a PayPal account. This was on a Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon I got an email saying the Tailstock Manager had shipped via USPS. It arrived Monday afternoon in the large "if it fits it ships" Priority Mail box.
In the box was the Tailstock Manager and the two bolts and two washers needed to mount it. The ways of the Tailstock Manager are made from steel 5/8" thick and 2-1/2" wide. All the other parts are 3/8" thick steel. It's all welded together with good clean looking welds. The hinge is a high grade 3/8" bolt. There was no manual or instructions in the box, but there is an extensive manual with lots of pictures in pdf form on the JT Turning Tools website. It's pretty intuitive anyway.
Installation: To install the Tailstock Manager all I had to do was attach it using the pre-tapped holes at the end of my lathe bed. I put the bolts on and snugged them up, then aligned the tailstock manager ways with the lathe ways by bridging the junction with a wood block and tapping it with a hammer. Then I tightened the bolts. I did have to adjust the locking cam on the tailstock so that the tailstock would slide on to the Tailstock Manager. Installation took me about 15 minutes. It would have been less, but I had to take the tailstock off to adjust the cam, and instead of folding the tailstock manager out of the way to do this I stupidly took it all the way off and had to reinstall it.
Using: The manual states that you can remove the stop bolt from the lathe as the Tailstock Manager will prevent the tailstock from sliding all the way off. I recommend that you leave it on for several reasons. One, it's small and easy to misplace. Two, the hole will fill up with sawdust so it will be hard to replace even if you find it. Three, when the tailstock is folded down out of the way, the stop bolt will keep the tool rest banjo from sliding off.
Figure 3 shows the tailstock near the end of the lathe with the stop bolt removed. To lower the tailstock you first remove the stop bolt and any center mounted in the tailstock and slide the tailstock onto the Tailstock Manager. Lock the tailstock securely with the cam lock. Unscrew the locking screw all the way and hold on to the tailstock as it swings all the way to the rest position. Replace the stop bolt, then slide the tool rest banjo and headstock to the desired position. When I timed this it took 35 seconds, including moving the banjo and headstock. Figure 4 shows the Tailstock Manager in the stored position. It's completely out of the way below the level of the lathe bed. Unless you left the tailstock ram fully extended with a cone center mounted I can't imagine it getting in the way of free access with your turning tools.
To remount the tailstock on the lathe first return the headstock and banjo to the headstock end of the lathe. Remove the stop bolt. Swing the Tailstock Manager up and hold it there while you tighten the locking bolt. Then loosen the tailstock cam lock and slide the tailstock onto the lathe and replace the stop bolt. Then return the headstock and toolrest banjo to the headstock end. When I timed it this also took 35 seconds.
Conclusion: If you don't use the sliding headstock capability of your Powermatic 3520B or Jet 1642/1442 you're missing out. If you don't have one of the aftermarket tailstock handling products you're working harder than you need to and less likely to use the sliding headstock. The JT Tailstock Manager is a good one as it’s easy to install, quick to use, and it gets the tailstock completely out of the way. Disclosure: I bought the Tailstock Manager, it wasn't a review loaner. If it had been a loaner I would have bought it.
Author: David Reed Smith is a basement woodturner living in Hampstead, Maryland. He's so happy with his new lathe that he's even trying to clean up some of the habitual squalor around it. As there was some editorial concern expressed about the apparent authorial authenticity due to missing recurrent themes, he wishes to add that alternatives to removing and replacing the stop bolt would be to either stick it with hot melt glue to the inside of the tailstock compartment or to wrap it in 2mm craft foam secured with blue tape so it doesn’t rattle about when placed in the compartment.