It’s been six months since I swapped out my lathe from the Nova Comet 14 DR to the Laguna Revo 12|16. I think I’m finally ready to really give a solid comparison between the two.
Nova Comet 14 DR
Laguna Revo 12|16
Both lathes are excellent “starter” lathes, and are (at the time of writing) each under $1000 before taxes and any tools or accessories you may want. The Nova Comet 14DR by Teknatool is $675 and the Laguna Revo 12|16 is $999.
|Nova Comet 14 DR||Laguna Revo 12|16|
|Weight||120 lbs||125 lbs|
120V, Single Phase, 60Hz
DC Permanent Magnet
Pulse Width Modulation
|Swing over bed||14 inches||12 inches|
|Distance btw. Centers||18.5 inches||15.5 inches|
|Speed Range||Low: 250 – 1,100 RPM|
High: 750 – 3,450 RPM
|Low: 50 – 525 RPM|
Mid: 325 – 1,750 RPM
High: 650 – 3,500 RPM
Both lathes are very similar, and on the surface appear to be equally good, but in the end, the Revo really does edge out Nova Comet in my mind; and not just because my Nova broke, causing me to go buy the Revo.
Yes, the Nova Comet has a longer distance between centers. It also has an available extension bed that will expand the distance between centers to 44 inches. So if you’re doing spindle work and baseball bats, this would definitely be the option for you. Since I’m more interested in creating bowls, vases, and odd “round things” I don’t really need that.
What I do need, or more like want as the case may be, is the expansion set for the Revo 12|16, which includes a 10 inch Outboard Table, Banjo, and spindle adaptor. This would allow me to bump up from 12 inches to 16 inches of available swing.
Both lathes have a 1 HP motor with variable speed control. The difference though lies in the direct vs pulse width modulation. The biggest place I noticed a difference in the beginning was when I got sloppy and jammed the tool and wood, causing everything to stop. With the direct current, the motor is constantly trying to put out the same power, and just continually pushes against your tool when you jam it, making you have to reach over to shut it off before continuing. With the pulse width modulation the power comes in bursts, and if your tool binds there are moments of lesser power where you may just be able to pop your tool free.
Yes, you should always turn off a jammed power tool, and a lathe is no different. But let’s face it, sometimes your first instinct is to just pull the tool free from the wood instead of hitting the stop button.
Once I was used to the Revo, I noticed another benefit of the pulse width modulation. Things just seemed to run smoother; cuts were easier. With the Nova I had to turn the speed up to get solid cuts on the harder woods. I was frequently running at over 2500 RPM with the hard woods. With the Revo I have yet to need to go over the mid-range max speed of 1750 RPM for the same cuts and hard woods.
Turning at slower speeds when possible is just safer and smarter all around.
Forwards and Backwards
Both lathes feature a reverse for the motor, which is great for sanding. I routinely run through the sandpaper grits alternating forward and reverse to help smooth out any rough grain.
The Nova Comet has a reverse button. It’s also the button that you have to press each time when you first power on, as if it doesn’t know which way you’d like it to start turning. A minor inconvenience at best, but it’s also not a true button, but just a bump of plastic over a small push button. It was honestly easier to press after the Texas summer heat melted the faceplate cover off (yes, the glue on the back literally melted off). The lack of faceplate also made determining direction a little harder as I had to then remember which light was forward and which was reverse.
On the other hand, the Revo has an actual switch that toggles between forward and reverse. To me that’s just much easier to deal with. I can also just look over and see where it’s at before turning things on.
The Revo is the clear winner on this front. It has a a lower low (50 vs 250 RPM) and a slightly higher high (3500 vs 3450 RPM). It also boasts having three ranges to the Nova’s two speed ranges. This may or may not be a big deal to you depending on what speed range you like turning in.
The Revo also makes it easier to move the belt between pulleys to change the speed range. Both lathes give you a way to loosen the tension. The Nova has a nice lever, which shifts the motor to give you slack (Anyone remember dealing with changing an alternator belt? That’s what it felt like.). It was also, quite honestly a pain, and I never felt like I had things lined up right, so I left it on high and ran with it. Laguna also has a lever, but it moves the pulley more than the motor. It also has deeper grooves for the belt, making it much easier for me to know when I have things where they should be. Granted, I leave it on the mid-range most of the time, but I know it’s a snap to bump things up or down.
For starting out, the Nova Comet 14DR is available with an optional accessory bundle. As of writing this I see that Rockler has a bundle with a G3 chuck for just $25 more. When I purchased mine it was about $150 more, but it came with a G3 chuck as well as a long and a curved tool rest. When you’re just starting out, every little bit helps.
Both come with a faceplate, live center, and drive center (and various other little things). Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. The Comet’s tool rest is interchangeable by just swapping out rests on a threaded post, whereas the Revo has a solid, single piece, tool rest. That threaded post combo, as nice as it is, is not very strong, and I went through three before buying Rockler’s tool rests. Some of that I think is just due to me not knowing any better and leaving too much space between the wood and the tool rest, which put too much torque on the tool rest whenever my tool caught, and snapped the rest off from the post. I know better now, but would recommend getting a one piece tool rest if you go with the Nova Comet.
Another accessory difference is the drive center. I’ve dropped both onto the concrete a few times and the one from Nova has chipped in several places. The one from Laguna is still very much intact.
The Nova faceplate has four holes, whereas the Laguna faceplate has six. Sure, six is greater than four, but I haven’t notice much of a difference in gripping power as long as I use 1 1/2 inch wood screws or longer. What is different though is how you “unstick” each one. Laguna has a hole in the side of the faceplate, and comes with a nice little leverage bar to use to pop it loose if you can’t unscrew it by hand. Nova on the other hand, has two flat sides and takes a 1 1/4 inch wrench to loosen it. The problem here is that the wrench provided doesn’t fit; it’s too thin of a metal and too big of a gap, so it pops off very easily. I had to buy a 1 1/4 inch service wrench to do the job. I like buying tools, but I shouldn’t have to buy one to replace the original one. Even Ikea’s tools fit properly out of the box.
If it feels like I’m nit-picking issues on the Nova Comet, well, you’re kind of right. These are all the little issues that made me start to wonder if I had bought the right lathe before it broke on me. Once it broke it was a perfect opportunity to justify spending a few hundred more to get the Laguna.
Don’t get me wrong, the Nova Comet 14 DR is a great midi lathe, and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat for anyone looking to get into wood turning as a fun little hobby and may not turn on a weekly basis. But if you’re looking to turn on a routine basis I’d recommend spending the little extra and getting the Revo 12|16 as it will probably serve you better in the long run.