Still haven’t fixed my lathe yet, but I now have a good idea where the problem is. And it lets me off the hook as it applies to what I thought was a lack of woodworking smarts.
On the downside, it looks like the problem may be difficult to actually fix since it involves some sophisticated electronics in the variable-speed control. There’s a circuit board with a bright LED and other electronics as part of the motor assembly, and I think I may ultimately have to get a motor repair service to take care of it. As with other areas of woodworking, it’s always best to avoid something you don’t feel comfortable doing and I sure as heck don’t feel comfortable pulling out electronics and being successful at it. This will likely invoke a hefty repair bill, but it’ll be worth it to have someone take care of it who really knows what they’re doing.
On the other hand, with the cause of my problem and its solution being so highly technical, I don’t feel nearly so bad being clueless about what was wrong with my lathe. This issue is similar to a car repair that was once something anybody could fix with a 10-cent part in the old days, but simply can’t be done by the user anymore because of the almost total computerization of today’s vehicles. My last car repair was handled by literally plugging one end of a cable into my car and the other into a computer with the latest Dodge/Chrysler software and drivers. No mechanic ever crawled under the car and got greasy; it was all done with a computer.
I suspect this repair will be similar, although I suppose the repairman may need to crawl under the lathe motor to replace a circuit board as opposed to simply uploading new software.
Either way, it’s now clear that I didn’t have to feel bad about coming up short in an area of woodworking knowledge. It turns out that the problem – and solution – is no longer even in the realm of woodworking knowledge at all.