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Vicmarc VL300, An Honest Review

Updated: Jun 4

I bought a Vicmarc VL300 back in 2016. It is now 2023 so I believe I can speak about the lathe with some authority. I first used a VL300 on my first day of tuition with Glenn Lucas in Co Carlow. and found it to be an excellent machine. I had actually bought a Jet 2424 shortbed 3HP lathe a few days prior to that tuition but hadn't even had the opportunity to try it out yet. I was at that point making a jump from a 1HP Draper WTL100 to professional grade machines and there was no comparison to be honest.


OP Note; I originally wrote this in 2023 and after reading over it in January, I find the same thoughts are relevant for 2024. I might expand on a few points during 2024 when I have a bit more time.


Vicmarc VL300, An Honest Review

After nearly 8 years owning this Lathe I can safely say that it is everything it is cracked up to be. There is a very good reason why many of the most renowned Woodturners around the world own one of these Lathes. It is rock solid with probably the best designed Lathe feet in the world in my opinion. Like every machine out there, there are a few niggly things which I will deal with later but for the most part this machine is outstanding. I own 7 Lathes and each of them has a different function in my workshop. 4 would be considered professional, 2 school level and one that is a glorified motor attached to cast iron. I also still have my Draper WTL100 but only for use as a face sander. The VL300 is my go to lathe for turning Bowls both green and twice turned. I also turn many small pieces on it too. My Jet 2424 is used for coring operations and taking the foot off finished bowls plus loads of small pieces. I also demonstrate on this Lathe during Tuition Classes and Woodturning Experiences


The Last Time it was Clean!

Below is a picture of the Lathe just after unwrapping it in 2016 and removing the pallet from underneath. I had also just attached the bed extension. It does not look as clean as that now lol.

Vicmarc VL300 brand new and ready for its first job
Vicmarc VL300 Brand New

Toolrests

The VL300 comes with 2 brilliant Toolrests, 6 inches and 12 inches wide. The attached steel bar create a nice groove for your finger or hand to follow ensuring accurate cutting. The Toolrests are beautifully finished and very easy to maintain. The Toolpost fits accurately and snugly inside the housing and the handle locks the shaft allowing no movement during Turning operation. The handles are made of strong material too which you won't get on cheap Lathes. If you turn large Bowls you are going to have to invest in a 16 inch Toolrest to reach the bottom of the Bowls but that isn't the end of the world. My Jet 2424 has a very long Banjo and I sometimes wish the VL300 Banjo was 3 or 4 inches longer but that's just me being used to another machine and not a big issue if you have a 16 inch Toolrest. As you can see in the image here, the Toolrests have seen a lot of use and show signs of real wear and tear.


Vicmarc VL300 Toolrests 6, 12 & 16 Inches
Vicmarc VL300 Toolrests

Remote Controller

The Magnetic Remote Controller box is very well constructed and the 4 piece magnetic hold is very strong so it will not move on its own. The potentiometer ( speed dial) on this model is a bit too sensitive to dampness. This probably isn't a big issue in Australia but in Ireland it is. Sometimes when turning the dial the lathe will cycle up and down in speed and you have to adjust the dial until it settles down. A workaround is to spray the inside of the switch with an electrical contact cleaning spray. I did this twice and now I just turn the dial because it's too much effort to open the box. If you are going to do this, unplug the Lathe first, spray and then wait for the spray to evaporate before plugging in again. This small issue should not turn you off buying this lathe. The box is visible in the top picture.


Changing Torque

Changing the belt from speed to torque is very easy on the VL300 even though it has quite a long belt which stretches from the base of the motor to near the top of the headstock. Open the front left door, loosen the motor stay handles; lift the motor and just tighten one handle. There is a door to the top pulleys at the rear of the headstock. Change the pulley to the desired pulley position. Go back to the front, loosed the handle and put a small bit of downward tension on the motor; tighten both motor locking handles and you are ready to start the Lathe again. Make sure to close the rear door or shavings etc will fall into the pulley area. As you can see from the image below, there is dust and shavings which I should probably clean out. It is currently set to high speed, low torque for general small piece turning. Greenwood would be turned using the far left pulley wheel.


note the 3 pulley positions on the left and the 2 motor height locking handles
View of the Vicmarc VL300 motor

Tailstock Issue

The tailstock extends only 75mm before the quill stops extending, I have been caught many times by this limitation. I don't know if Vicmarc intend to increase this in future models but 120mm would be much better in my opinion. As a reference, my 2424 extends 150mm or so which gives me so much scope for what I want to do. The VL300 has an optional extra though, a 150mm extender built exclusively for the this Lathe and probably the other Vicmarc models. This gives you scope to do different things and makes up for the short quill. I will say however, that the short quill is very strong and stable so maybe they designed it that way on purpose. The quill winding handle has come loose on me and no longer sits flush against the tailstock frame. This is a known issue and Vicmarc have a video on how to maintain this. Moving parts on machines can develop issue, it's no big deal. The picture below shows a slight gap on the right side which allows left to right movement of the quill. Again, this is a minor issue and Vicmarc have a fix for it.



Slight gap between the handle and the frame allows movement in the Quill
Vicmarc VL300 Tailstock Quill fully Extended

Bed Length and Extensions

If you intend to turn bowls you will need to take away the tailstock from the Lathe or you can purchase 1) a Swing away Bed Extender or 2) A straight Bed Extender. I have the later and from what I have seen from other Woodturners, this is the best option; the swing away is kind of awkward to work with. Make sure that the Bed lines up perfectly before tightening up the bolts and you should be fine.


Vicmarc VL300 as it sits on the floor
Vicmarc VL300 Inside leg extender view

VL300 Feet

I mentioned earlier that the VL300 feet were great but they really are well designed and rock solid. My other Lathes have threaded feet and I have opted to remove those feet and sit the Lathes on solid Hardwood instead. The VL300 feet are flat and angled from the Bed outwards so there is no chance of a tip over. They have a bolt in the foot too where a quarter turn here and there can really steady the Lathe on an uneven surface.



Adjusting the Height of the Lathe

Height adjustments are easily made by lifting the lathe with a Trolley Jack in the centre and using a Socket Wrench to undo the bolts that hold the leg end frames. The frames will fall downward and you then lift to the height you want and re-tighten the bolts at that new height. If you don't have a Trolley Jack it might be a little more complicated but not impossible. Lever and fulcrum until you can get a solid bit of packing underneath and then adjust the legs one side followed by the other. Adjust your packing to suit the side of the Lathe you are working on. Make sure you are using solid packing, you don't want the Lathe to tip over due to uneven lengths.


Outboarding

This Lathe has the option to turn outboard at the headstock using the reverse function of the controller. There is a locking collar and wheel that need to be undone to free up this area but to date I have no interest in trying this out. You can buy a Bed Extension, External Banjo and Toolrest if you want to go down this road. Just remember that you will be using the controls in reverse to turn this way.


Maintaining the Bed

I must admit to being a little lazy when cleaning the Lathe bedway. When using dry wood you can just blow off the debris with a compressor and off you go again. Now and then I will use a Furniture Polish with Beeswax to make everything glide smoothly. When I am turning greenwood, I will prespray the bed with WD40 before starting and clean repeat if I'm stopping for more than 20 mins. I have metal polishes but the result is the same using Furniture Polish so why go to that expense. FYI. Please follow manufacturers guidelines for cleaning and don't take my word as gospel.


Take Away

I have highlighted a few small issues with the VL300 but every Lathe on the market has those. The Lathe is ultimately extremely reliable and solid even when turning unbalanced material. I paid over €6,000 for the Lathe back in 2016 but now it is retailing for over €7,000 due to high shipping costs and economic inflation. If I had the disposable income I would certainly buy a second VL300 without hesitation.


My one regret with this Lathe is I failed to mask off the headstock when spraying sanding sealer. The result is a build up of overspray and fading of the Vicmarc blue colour. Laziness reaps its rewards!


Ronaynes in Thurles Co Tipperary Ireland sell Vicmarc Lathes and products through their website mytools.ie and you can check out the Vicmarc VL300 here They sell out with each new order and it takes time between ordering, manufacture and then shipping from Queensland Australia so allow for that. I bought all my machines from Ronaynes and I find them excellent to deal with. FYI: I have no affiliation with them other than being a good customer and I gain nothing from this recommendation.


If you are thinking of buying one of these Lathes, I hope this post has been helpful. If it was, please add a comment below. Thanks for reading, David


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