Harbor Freight Lathes - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 32 Old 03-14-2009, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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Harbor Freight Lathes

Fellas, new to the forum, need some input. I have a chance on a limited budget to get either a new Harbor Freight lathe or a used Shopsmith Mark V for $250.00 ea. A good deal on the Shopsmith but new on the Harbor lathe. The Harbor lathe has these specs. 12" x 33 3/8" turning ability. Headstock rotates 45, 90, 135, or 180 degrees. Its 3/4 hp. w/stand. Variable speed and they are 600, 750, 910, 1080, 1260, 1460, 1680, 1910 and 2400. It has a cast iron bed with morse taper #2 at both ends. It weighs 184 lbs. Has anyone delt with Harbor Freight on there lathes. It looks like a Grizzly or Jet but I am sure its made in China and probably doesn't have the tollerances of the Grizz or Jet. If you have any imput, please post. See ya. The Spudman
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post #2 of 32 Old 03-14-2009, 10:42 PM
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Harbor freight Lathes

Get the Shopsmith.I have had the HF and after getting it replaced four times and just replacing the motor once,I finally took it back for a refund.(in 6 mo)Some folks have had good luck with them,but I know of many others (and me) that had nothing but headaches.The shopsmith mark V is usually a good lathe.What I would suggest is if you can get someone to look it over for you and see how it works,if you are not familier with lathes.
Good luck
Ken

PS Another idea would be to look at Ricon or Jet,a few more bucks but either one would be a good choice.
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post #3 of 32 Old 03-14-2009, 10:44 PM
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I personally would stay away from HF lathes. I have heard some horror stories from others that tried to start with them. I don't know much about shopsmith so I will let others chime in their.

This is my opinion only and not meant to degrade anyones equipment that may have HF lathes.
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post #4 of 32 Old 03-14-2009, 11:31 PM
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If you don't need the capacity, a good mini lathe is a better option. A good mini is more enjoyable to use.
I won't touch anything that is not 1" X 8 tpi and Morse Taper #2 spindle in the entry level lathe. You don't want to repurchase accessories when you upgrade to a better lathe.
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post #5 of 32 Old 03-15-2009, 12:34 AM
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my old HF turned into a good barbecue one day lol. stupid thing burned pretty well though.
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post #6 of 32 Old 03-15-2009, 05:28 AM
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I'd go with a jet mini.
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post #7 of 32 Old 03-15-2009, 08:56 AM
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I'd be looking for an older used Delta Rockwell or something along that line......many have been manufactured over the years and for sure somebody has one stashed that they aren't using anymore........a little cleaning can make these old treasures work just fine.......I don't beleive that a beginner needs a jillion dollar ten ton lathe to do nice work......."It ain't the gun it's the gunner".......
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post #8 of 32 Old 03-16-2009, 11:40 AM
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Harbor Freight tools / cheap tools

I have not had very good luck with Harbor Freight tools or any cheap tools for that matter. Cheap tools a just not worth the hassle & frustration.
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post #9 of 32 Old 03-23-2009, 09:09 PM
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The peron that said go with the shopsmith is dead right go for the shopsmith.You only have a 12inch clearance for bowls but you have to look at the other options with the shop smith. Table saw. disk sander,drill press, boring machine,jointer,band saw,router,and a few other things. You do have to purchace the add ons but there is a shopsmith forum out there that can help you out. I have wanted a shopsmith for over forty years and finally got one two years ago and am very happy with it. Where else can you get a tablesaw with 1 thousands accuracy. most table saws if you get 1/32 accuracy you are good. with the shopsmith you can get closer then that. i have done it.
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post #10 of 32 Old 03-24-2009, 11:25 AM
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Don't go with the Shopsmith either unless you need the table saw capability. The lathe function of the shopsmith is the worst part. The tool rest and banjo lets the tool vibrate too much. The headstock spindle isn't solid enough and the lathe won't go slow enough. It's also a pain to move the tailstock because you have to use an allen key all the time.
Harbour Freight lathes don't have a very good reputation for rigidity or durabillity.
Buy a Jet mini 10/14. It's about the same price. You can get bed extensions if you need a longer lathe. The quality is far better than either one of the lathe mentioned above. You won't be able to turn as large a work but most people don't turn large work anyway. Most people get hung up on the bigger is better thing and think they need a long lathe. Unless your going to turn table legs and ball bats you don't need more than 12 to 16 inches between centers. If you need a larger bowl capacity spend more money and buy the 12/20 jet mini. It also takes bed extensions so you could turn a table leg.
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post #11 of 32 Old 03-24-2009, 05:15 PM
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I belong to two active Clubs; each has over hundred members. We have several members who have or had Shopsmith lathes. From conversations with them, none of them was happy with Shopsmith lathe. They either have upgraded or planning to upgrade.
Our Club did a group buy on Nova chucks, the Shopsmith owner didn't buy the chuck to fit his Shopsmith. He ordered the 1" X 8tpi that he doesn't have the lathe for yet. He is looking forward to replace his lathe when the economy turns around. He didn't order the 1-1/4" X 8, that tells me he has no plan to upgrade to a full size lathe.
I don't have experience with Shopsmith. John is a very experienced turners. I would suggest you do some more homework before making up your mind. It may not be a bad idea to find a local Club, talk to local turners and try out some lathes.
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post #12 of 32 Old 03-25-2009, 09:22 AM
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I should say that I owned a shopsmith for about 5 years and still have to turn on one when I go visit my Dad. He always has a project he wants turned. Even after 20+ years of turning I can't get a clean cut without chatter on that lathe. It's very frustrating. I noticed that they came out with an adaptor tool rest to make supposedly make up for the lousy one that comes with the machine. It's a rediculously expensive piece of gadgetry that still doesn't address all the other problems that cause chatter with that tool.
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post #13 of 32 Old 03-25-2009, 11:00 AM
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Harbor freight lathes

Thats good to know.I always thought they were a pretty good mach.Saw a few demo's on them,but thats about it.
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post #14 of 32 Old 03-25-2009, 11:07 AM
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well i only own a shopsmith so i have only used a different one back 40+ years in 7th and 8th grade at school. I guess i will have to try a different lathe some time as i can not say the shopsmith is bad,but a $250.00 it is not a bad investment. If you want a good lathe and only a lathe then by all means spend the extra hundreds of dollars for a good one. i guess its like i have a chevy and the others are a mercedes. mine still gets er done for now.It waqs good to hear different opinons on that subject as i might try some caviar instead of just fried fish in my diet.
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post #15 of 32 Old 03-25-2009, 04:50 PM
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The shopsmith is actually a pretty decent machine. I built a lot of stuff, my Grandfather built a lot of stuff on an older 10ER and my dad still builds stuff. $250 is an excellent price, I think I paid about $1200 or so for mine. When turning on that lathe you will find that you need to sand a lot more than on a quality lathe. For spindle turning it's not bad. For bowl turning it suffers a lot. I'm sort of like you. I didn't realize how bad it was until I got a good cast iron lathe with solid bearings and other good parts. My turning improved a ton and was much more enjoyable. That's why I recommend the Jet mini's. They run so smooth and everything works so well that it makes turning a fun hobby.
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post #16 of 32 Old 03-25-2009, 09:05 PM
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thanks again john lucus i feel better and i had tyhought about getting an other lathe mayby a mini to do tool handles and small stuff as i need the saw/drill press/jointer for all my other projects so it has been a hassle changing over all the time to do small bowls and turning spindle size objects. guessw i will have to bite the bullet and spend some money on another lathe.
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post #17 of 32 Old 03-25-2009, 11:09 PM
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Harbor Freight tools very mixed

I've had an HF floor model drill press that has withstood pretty heavy use for 25 years, no problems but last year my old lathe died and my budget and the proximity of an HF outlet led me to buy a $250 lathe, don't remember the model #. The motor lasted about 3 months and burned out. Budget still a problem so I strapped a 1/2HP motor on the side with a hinged platform and just a gravity feed; works better than their motor but still underpowered.

Also, the plastic on the ends of the adjustment knobs all broke off within the first 6 months and I replaced those with Allen wrench bolts. What junk.

Anyway, my point is that in my experience HF tools aren't necessarily bad but I don't recommend their lathes at all based on my one experience.
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post #18 of 32 Old 03-28-2009, 10:52 PM
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To John Lucus you are right i bought a mini lathe for 150 bucks and wow the difference is amasing compared to the Shopsmith.JUst had to let you know.
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post #19 of 32 Old 04-02-2009, 11:46 PM Thread Starter
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Talking Harbor Freight Lathes

Well I did it. I bought the Central Machinery 34706 Harbor Freight Lathe. Put it together last night, turned it on, everything looks good and tight. I went to a Harbor Freight forum and just about everyone who purchased this lathe had really good things to say about it. The other selling point was the price. It was on sale for $220.00 and I had a 20% off coupon for a final price of $176.00 and no tax. You see I live in California and bought it in Oregon saved the 8.25% tax. So it was a good deal. It comes with a face plate, live tailstock center and 4 blade #2 morse taper head stock center. Can't wait to start turning and see how it performs. I will get back to you on that issue. For now I am satisfied with the purchase and let's see how it turns out. See ya The Spudman
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post #20 of 32 Old 04-03-2009, 10:44 AM
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Harbor freight lathes

GOOD LUCK,hope you have better luck than I did.
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