Harbor Freight Lathes Any Good? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 58 Old 11-21-2010, 01:45 AM Thread Starter
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Harbor Freight Lathes Any Good?

Hi Guys! Just wondering if anyone has any experience with any of the Harbor freight mini lathes. I am looking at the 10" X 18" 5 speed lathe. With a coupon it will cost about $160. I am just looking for a good beginners lathe and the price looked too good to pass up, but I thought I should check with the pros first. Thanx a bunch,

-Tony
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post #2 of 58 Old 11-21-2010, 04:51 AM
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hi Tony,

i do not have any experience with harbor freight lathes cause i will not buy any power tool from them. some say they are made in the same chinese factories as the name brand stuff. but just from visual inspection the hf stuff is POOR quality. i would recommend checking craigslist or a local classifieds for a used lathe. my first lathe was a used jet mini (about a billion out there) in excellent condition that i purchased for $175 with extension and some cheap tools. give it awhile and you can find an even better deal.
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post #3 of 58 Old 11-21-2010, 04:54 AM
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We looked at that one and the 8" with the electronic variable speed. Both are nice and heavy and both have strong motors but in the end we bought the smaller one since it was only $80 (on sale and the 20% coupon) though I did add another $20 for the 2 year warranty. So far I have had no complaints and my son and I have turned 50 some pens, a few chess pieces (practice mostly) and a kilt pin. The reviews on the 10" are pretty good as well. For the money and as a starter lathe they seem hard to beat.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:17
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post #4 of 58 Old 11-21-2010, 05:01 AM
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do a forum search ... there was a LONG thread not too many months back w/ a long discussion of HF lathes.

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post #5 of 58 Old 11-21-2010, 06:10 PM
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Thumbs up Harborfreight Tools Wood Lathe

Hi Tony,
I have been using a Harborfreight Tools mini-lathe and I enjoy it. I have used to to sand and refinish turned table legs and to carve spindles. I just bought a chuck from Harborfreight and am looking forward to making some small items, e.g., peppermills. I'm looking for a supplier of peppermill hardware with reasonable prices. No luck so far.
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post #6 of 58 Old 11-24-2010, 05:27 PM
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I don't know if you're still looking for a lathe, but Woodcraft has a black friday sale on a Rikon mini lathe for $279 (reg $369). I have a Rikon bandsaw and have been very pleased with it.

http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/208...ini-Lathe.aspx

Dale
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post #7 of 58 Old 11-25-2010, 02:30 PM
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I just bought the 10" x 18" HF mini; and it was $159 with the 20% off coupon. Been looking at this for a few months and I had been put off by the catalog and web site specifications for this lathe. The specs said it had a #1 Morse taper on the tailstock. Most good machines will have the same #2 taper on both the headstock and tailstock. It turned out the catalog and web site are both wrong. It's got the correct #2 taper on both ends.

For what it's worth, I think it's a clone of the $299 Turncrafter 10" mini lathe sold by Penn State Industries. I bought the 20" extension bed from Penn State because HF does not sell it. They are either the same machines or a very good clone since the parts are interchangable, IMHO. Well, the paint is a different color.
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post #8 of 58 Old 11-27-2010, 09:25 PM
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I've used the HF 5-speed for about 4 months now and it's been great. HOWEVER, make sure you retighten evry nut, bolt and set screw on the machine before u use it. The pulleys on mine were loose and caused some strange noises before I figured out what the problem was. It's been a lot of fun though.
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post #9 of 58 Old 11-30-2010, 10:50 AM
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If you have to have a lathe for that price I'd suggest going after a used one from a better brand. HF power tools are not quality tools by any means. I'm sure that many people use them and have success on them, but if you own or use a better quality product the differences shine through.

Face it guys, HF is not known for quality machinery. They're known for bargain machinery.
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post #10 of 58 Old 11-30-2010, 01:14 PM
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thekctermite, while I tend to agree that I probably wouldn't buy power tools from HF, the fact that so many people see them as a good option for "beginning turning" says to me that, for the price, it's worth it. To the people who detract so much from their tools and "Chinese crap" I say, the only people who blame their tools are people that aren't doing it right.

To the OP, I'd say look for used equipment. I got a Jet MiniLathe (9" swing, 14" bed length without extension, 1/2 HP) for $150 or $175 off craigslist. It had never been used when I bought it and it was still in the original box. There are plenty of good deals to be had if you can wait a bit to get them.
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post #11 of 58 Old 12-01-2010, 01:40 AM
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I have no doubt that the 12" X 20" VS Delta with 1 HP is a much better machine than the 10" X 18" 5 speed HF machine with 1/2 HP; but that Delta is almost $600. I felt that since I could get the HF lathe for $160 and a set of Benjiman's Best lathe tools for $55 I could get started and learn whether I want to get into this in a bigger way. If I do, I will add a bigger better machine. I will still be able to make pens and small stuff on the HF. The OP's original question was directed at the value of the HF lathes. I see the value and quality as a good starting point for the money.

I also know that eventually a person might find a used machine at a good price, but I have been watching CL for 3 months and all I have seen there is dozens of the ultra cheap HF 14" x 40" machine with the square tube steel bed that's pure crap and old Sears Craftsman machines with the single round tube bed, again too flexy, and ocassionally a very nice Powermatic or similar machine for over $2000.

Of course, now that I have bought and paid for a HF lathe there will probably be dozens of Delta and Jet and Rikon lathes listed on CL tomorrow, so everybody get ready. You're welcome.
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post #12 of 58 Old 12-01-2010, 09:30 AM
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Thumbs up Feedback from some experienced turners

I attended our regional annual woodworkers show and demonstration last week and noticed that all of the 5 demonstrating turners were using Jet mini-lathes. I told them that I had recently become interested in turning and had bought the Harbor Freight mini-lathe.

They agreed that the key is that the head and tail stocks align properly and that there is minimal vibration of the lathe while the spindle is turning. Two of the 5 turners had started out with HF mini lathe and said they had no problem with them. I have found both to be true of the HF model. I have sanded sculpted table legs and am now making peppermill. I was able to prepare the blank easily using a 19" long rough gouger. The short handle tools are lighter and don't provide the same stability as the long handled ones. Price is an issue, however. I got a set of short tools for $30. I bought a long rough gouger for $40, but it is worth every penny.

My next lathe will have a longer bed and I will probably turn to a used Jet lathe for that purchase.

Last edited by Stanjay100; 12-01-2010 at 09:31 AM. Reason: typo
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post #13 of 58 Old 12-01-2010, 02:13 PM
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Stanjay, one of the projects on my list is to turn long handles for my "Benjamin's Best" cheapy tools. They seem to cut just fine, for a newb like me, especially after I sharpen them, and the only issue I have (so far) is the length of the handles. I think I got mine on ebay for about $30 as well. I have plenty of "scrap" that will make fine long handles for them, though, once I get the longer tube lathe set up or get an extension for my jet mini.
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post #14 of 58 Old 12-02-2010, 09:19 AM
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Short handled tools

Hi Frankp,
When I bought the long handled gouging tool, I was pleasantly surprised to find the the gauge of the steel was twice the thickness of the short handled tools and the edge held for much longer between sharpenings. If you get a chance to try the longer tools with twice the weight, you will appreciate the increased stability and cutting power of them. I bought the rough gouger for shaping blanks. It's worth every penny. Makes me want to buy more 19" tools.
Stanjay
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post #15 of 58 Old 12-05-2010, 11:59 PM
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?

Let's be reasonable. HF tools are there for the woodworker who wants to purchase a power tool that doesn't cost much, and in the real world isn't very high quality, either by reputation or looks.

Buying a lathe that you know you are going to replace is by simple terms short sighted. I'd say kind of like buying a motorcycle. Buy a smaller one to start with, and within a couple of weeks, you'll be wanting a larger 'better' one with more power and accessories. You will buy 4 or 5 bikes before you're satisfied. Now look at how much your poorer quality lathes are worth used....not very much.

Skip buying that HF, save money a little longer and buy a better quality lathe for not much more money, that is good quality and will last you as long as you have decided on 'turning' being a long term hobby, avocation. Then go buy the lathe of your dreams. That is my reccomendation to my WT students
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post #16 of 58 Old 12-06-2010, 10:08 AM
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Thumbs up Buying a low cost lathe

Dear Okiebugg,
Under normal circumstances, I would agree with your strategy to buy a good product initially. In this case, however, I had no experience as a turner, except watching demonstrations of what looked to be fun. So I bought the Harbor Freight mini-lathe for $200 rather than the Jet for $400. I understood that I might ultimately give this lathe away to someone who wanted to try turning.

As it turns out, I am enjoying this lathe. It turns peppermills, spindles, pens and more. I will keep it and my next lathe purchase will be one with a longer bed. Had I not taken to turning, I would have spent the bare minimum to discover that. For me it was "Win-Win".
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post #17 of 58 Old 12-06-2010, 10:24 AM
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Yea! What Stanjay said.

An I hadn't thought about using color before.
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post #18 of 58 Old 12-06-2010, 12:30 PM
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I do not have HF mini, but rather the #34706 12x36" lathe (Jet 1236 clone) and it's been great. My only issues have been a so so factory belt, and fasteners that need loctite to keep from backing off on the stand... No biggie... I guess I have had it for about 2 years now, and I use the heck out of the thing... Sure makes nice piles of shavings by my feet...

I have a bit of a different opinion than a lot of the brand name enthusiasts out there, and would just recommend that you buy the best tools you can afford, but don't buy what you don't need, and won't use. I have a bit of HF house branded equipment, and some of it is stuff I use every single time I go out in to my shop. And it is all holding up quite well, and I fully expect it to be around and working well in 20 - 30 years from now. I'm not abusive to my equipment...

My HF Inventory so far includes...
Band Saw with HF riser block kit. It's a nice band saw after I modded it up. Had Grizzly offered the Polar Bear series at the time I got mine, I would have been better off going that way. My HF saw is roughly equivalent in features to the Grizzly... And mine is effectively a hot rod...
12x36 cast iron bed lathe. Been great. Centers line up spot on after some noodling with adjustment, everything works as it is supposed to, spur drive does what I expect. Tool rest is a little lame, then again, so is the one on the JET. Aftermarket stuff fits...
2HP dust collector. I did what so many others did, got the dc cheap, threw a Wynn filter and a Thien separator at it and went to town, happy as a clam.
12" SCMS, Not in my shop yet, but plan on grabbing one. My 10" non slide B&D lacks the capacity I need more often than not, and I can't afford one of the big names. These get good reviews, so I will go with it, and be picky as snot while the warranty is good...
48 misc bar clamps. Excellent results with them...
Cheap hole saw set. Wouldn't wish this thing on my bonehead ex BIL...
Universal mobile base. Odd dimension requirement for base lumber, but other than that, it's been a pleasure.

Sure there are plenty of pieces of garbage offered by HF, but there are tons of good tools to be had in there too. That's why so many HF Gems lists have been compiled over the years. Unfortunately HF occasionally drops one of the gems (the 8" jointer for example) but keeps a real piece of junk (the 7" jointer for example...). Do your research, starting with Googling "HF Gems List" to see if the tool you are interested is worth looking at...

For the most part, the cast iron lathes through HF are worth the $$, and then some...

FWIW, that doesn't mean I don't want to eventually upgrade to a bigger better lathe, but I know I don't need to. I just have Mustard lust...

Interested in my woodworking, workshop and whatnot? See http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com, want to see my other interests such as hunting, fishing, off roading, and camping? See http://wildersport-outdoors.blogspot.com

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post #19 of 58 Old 12-07-2010, 08:09 AM
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okiebugg, I'll respectfully disagree. As with most things, there is occasionally a ridiculous markup on tools. I tend to think lathes fall into this category as they are elegantly simple in design and yet people pay outrageous amounts for them. Yes, materials on the "big boys" are generally better quality but there is nothing wrong with a $150 lathe as long as the spindles line up. Many people do upgrade in the future but that doesn't necessarily mean they sell the old "cheapy" they bought first. Plenty of people use these as "entry" lathes and continue to use them for small projects well after they move onto larger machines.

You will see from my post history that I tend to be cantankerous about this particular subject, though, so I tend toward the opposite of the spectrum from "normal". I build tools for whatever hobby I'm in so I don't see much point in spending 4 times the price for essentially the same piece of equipment. That's me. I also don't tend to be the guy that "upgrades" constantly. I still have the first tools of everything I've bought except a tablesaw (first was given to me and not level) and a router ("broke" the first). I buy a lot of my equipment used, and I've gotten a couple of really good deals but generally speaking I buy what is the best bang for my buck, which usually means "low end". Other than my router, which was a no-name brand, I haven't even come close to breaking or wearing out any of my tools, even the cheap ones. The "broken" router is slated to become something else one of these days, when I have the time, such as the drive for another lathe. So far, I haven't found anything I can't build with cheap tools.

That said, I also don't see any reason to drop a lot of money on something "you know you will want later" when that simply isn't true. Some people like turning from the start. Others learn to like it, and still more simply never get into it. No point spending a lot of money if you don't, in fact, know you already like it.

Last edited by frankp; 12-07-2010 at 08:13 AM.
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post #20 of 58 Old 12-08-2010, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankp View Post
okiebugg, I'll respectfully disagree. As with most things, there is occasionally a ridiculous markup on tools. I tend to think lathes fall into this category as they are elegantly simple in design and yet people pay outrageous amounts for them. Yes, materials on the "big boys" are generally better quality but there is nothing wrong with a $150 lathe as long as the spindles line up. Many people do upgrade in the future but that doesn't necessarily mean they sell the old "cheapy" they bought first. Plenty of people use these as "entry" lathes and continue to use them for small projects well after they move onto larger machines.

You will see from my post history that I tend to be cantankerous about this particular subject, though, so I tend toward the opposite of the spectrum from "normal". I build tools for whatever hobby I'm in so I don't see much point in spending 4 times the price for essentially the same piece of equipment. That's me. I also don't tend to be the guy that "upgrades" constantly. I still have the first tools of everything I've bought except a tablesaw (first was given to me and not level) and a router ("broke" the first). I buy a lot of my equipment used, and I've gotten a couple of really good deals but generally speaking I buy what is the best bang for my buck, which usually means "low end". Other than my router, which was a no-name brand, I haven't even come close to breaking or wearing out any of my tools, even the cheap ones. The "broken" router is slated to become something else one of these days, when I have the time, such as the drive for another lathe. So far, I haven't found anything I can't build with cheap tools.

That said, I also don't see any reason to drop a lot of money on something "you know you will want later" when that simply isn't true. Some people like turning from the start. Others learn to like it, and still more simply never get into it. No point spending a lot of money if you don't, in fact, know you already like it.
Dear Mr cantankerous. I think that you are the exception to the rule. I don't mean to sound cruel, but your storyline is about you. Count the number of times "I" is written in your diatribe There is nothing bad to be said about you being frugal.

I was just making comment about what I and others have seen over the past 40+ years. We used to joke about about buying bigger and better toys as adult men.

I'll refrain about commenting about quality if it's going to get your underwear in a bunch. I will however purchase quality every time I purchase anything.
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