At the time of testing in 2009, General’s 25-200 Maxi-Lathe VS+ was priced at $719, the spendiest of these tools. Sources at the company tell me the price may increase some in the future, depending on the value of the dollar. Still, I think the cost is fair, because this lathe has goodies that make it worth its steeper pricetag.
For one, it’s at least 50 lbs heavier than others — and extra cast-iron is always a benefit for lathes. Mass soaks up vibration, which translates into smoother, steadier cuts. A heavy lathe is also less prone to do the jitterbug across your bench.
Inboard, this lathe offers comparable swing (meaning the largest diameter you can turn) to the competition, but there’s a twist: you can unlock the headstock and spin it around to do larger outboard turnings. That function adds another 7″ or so of capacity for turning bowls up to 16-5⁄8″ round. The lathe comes with a bed extension and longer tool-rest post to accommodate this outboard work. I tried the rig out on a 13″-diameter blank with good results. The tool-rest base was a little tricky to tighten down, but the lathe was stable otherwise and worked fine.
This machine has digital readout, so you can determine precise speed settings. The 3/4 hp motor is located high on the headstock instead of under the bed to enable the swiveling function. That placement also keeps the motor clear of debris, shortens the drive belt for improved power transfer and makes the belt easy to change. All nice plusses. I wish the pulley door had a quality latch instead of a Phillips screw, though.