Woodworking Talk banner

1 - 20 of 31 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hello I am a young wood worker looking for some advice from the "Pro's". I am extremely interested in wood turning and am hoping to purchase a lathe in the next couple weeks. I am looking at a 12 In. X 33-3/8 In. 3/4 HP Wood Lathe With Reversible Head from Harbor Freight on the account that craigslist didn't have any promising lathes on the website. Is it worth it to buy from them? Or should I go a better route. Also if you have any suggestions to lathes below $400 please let me know!
Thank You
-Christian
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
26,339 Posts
A lot depends on how much turning you intend to do. If you only use a lathe a couple times a year a HF lathe should work alright. Rumor has it the mechanism that allows you to swivel the headstock is prone to break. My only experience with one is looking at it in the store. If I didn't already have a lathe I would probably buy one. The weight of a lathe helps a lot so if you get a lightweight lathe like that you might mount it on a heavy bench.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
76 Posts
Howdy CC

A lathe is simply put a TOOL. The lathe you speak of is an outdated tool. Yes it will work, as tools of this type worked when they were popular. However there have been vast improvements in lathes since this type came along.
If you even THINK you will do turning for years or even longer then I will suggest to you that you start with a first class variable reversing lathe.
I am an old guy now and have tools that I purchased in the 1960's. If you do turning for a while you WILL eventually go to a more modern lathe.
If you decide you don't like turning then you most likely will SELL whatever lathe you purchase now. The HF lathe will sell for about 25% of cost and a more modern lathe will go for 60/80% of cost.
The VSR (variable speed reversing) lathes have reached about all that a lathe can do. I expect these VSR lathes to be the height of inventing in the foreseeable future.
Therefore I advise a VSR lathe as a starting point. For a few dollars more you can go first class.
Big Jim:vs_love:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,059 Posts
It's acceptable as something that will barely get by if you only plan to use it for occasional use for something like turning a chair or table leg. Some of its shortcomings include:

  • a minimum speed that is way too fast for larger diameter things like bowls and platters.
  • vibration
  • Reeves type pulleys that are cheaply made and wear out quickly
  • headstock lock that tends to not hold position well
  • tailstock lock that isn't very good and allows the tailstock to creep under load
  • toolrest locking lever that is prone to breaking
  • weak motor despite claim of 3/4 HP is probably closer to 1/4 HP
If you don't expect much from the lathe then you won't be disappointed. ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
131 Posts
I have that lathe and a set of cheap harbor freight chisels and I turn pens, bowls, bottle stoppers and whatever else makes me happy.. Been turning almost 3 years and I love it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,883 Posts
If you plan on turning more than 5 times a year you will probably be disappointed. You should be able to find a electronic variable speed lathe used for under $400.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,059 Posts
Don't let the swing (12 inch diameter) nor the length (33 3/8 inches) be the main drivers in your selection. A much better deal in my opinion would be a quality mini lathe (typically 10 inch swing by 14 inches length and expandable to longer bed lengths) or midi lathe (typically 12 inches swing by about 20 inches length and also expandable to longer bed length).

I have a Jet 1014 six-speed mini lathe that I got about ten or twelve years ago and still have it and use it for some smaller projects. I think that it is a wonderful lathe. I use it when I need to take a lathe with me for doing a demo or mentoring or sometimes for a small project such as a pen or bottle stopper or tool handle.

My first lathe was somewhat similar to the HF lathe that you are asking about ... 3/4 HP motor, long bed, rotating headstock, Reeves variable ratio pulley drive, 14 inch swing ... and, it was a maintenance headache with the Reeves pulleys and headstock alignment. It is sitting in a corner because I can't bear the thought of pawning it off on some poor unsuspecting beginner.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,883 Posts
Bill Boehme said:
I can't bear the thought of pawning it off on some poor unsuspecting beginner.
I was that guy once, but the poor quality lathe was the least of my troubles. I didn't even know you were supposed to sharpen your tools let alone know how to use them. As you can imagine my first go at turning was a failure. I sold the lathe to some other poor unsuspecting beginner for the same price I had in it. I was glad to get rid of that pile of trouble. Later, I discovered this forum and I thought you guys were magic for actually being able to turn something. Then I saw a turning demonstration at a gun show. After about an hour of hands on turning and being invited to the turning club for more hands on turning I am fully sucked into the turning vortex.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,021 Posts
I have no experience with the HF but have heard (often) that Reeves drives can be a real pain.
This is a little more but if you also intend to buy a chuck it puts the lathe itself a little under your $400 (the chuck is typically at least $125.
I've had one for 2+ years with no problems.
Second listing with the chuck. Shipping Included.
http://www.tools-plus.com/nova-lathes.html
Or Rockler has the same setup for about $175 more.
http://www.rockler.com/search/go?w=nova comet&asug=&sli_uuid=&sli_sid=
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,883 Posts
The chuck appears to be a metal working chuck, which is useless for woodworking unless you can change the jaw slides. Ask what brand the tools are. I'd say it is too high unless there are some quality tools.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
233 Posts
My experience with Harbor Freight electric tools is that you may get a good one that will perform great, or you may get one that will crap out after a few uses. You never want to buy something and set it in the garage without giving it a good working, otherwise you might plug it in after a couple years, long after the warranty has expired, and there's something so wrong with it that it's useless. Been there, done that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,377 Posts
I agree with not getting a HF. I buy lots of stuff from them, but not power tools. I am new and just bought a new lathe last week. I looked at the Nova CometII for 496.00. It comes with a chuck for free, and I guess a nice one. I would highly recommend that if you can swing the extra 100. The chuck alone is 125.00 or so.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
299 Posts
I found this in craigslist and I am under the interpretation that "older is better" and I stumbled across this one.
There are indeed occasions where "older is better", but that lathe on Craigslist is not one of them.

Pass on that one.

As for the question "are HF lathes any good?", the answer is no, they generally are not.

Better than no lathe at all, sure, but you'd do better to start learning on a better quality machine.

If money is super tight, and you can't wait to save a little more of it, then you'd be better off considering a mini lathe with VSR controls and learn to turn on that. You'll be restricted to smaller work, that's true, but big work is not a good starting point for learning to turn either.

Then, if you catch the turning bug, you can move up to something bigger and sell your mini lathe without taking too much of a bath. An HF lathe won't hold much value at all as a used machine.

And learning to turn is plenty challenging enough without having to fight your equipment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,021 Posts
You haven't said what you intend to turn yet. If it is furniture (chair, table legs, etc) you will need a longer bed. For most items a shorter bed will suffice. I have the Nova Comet and the Nova 1624. I have never needed over 24" length on the 1624. A lot of folks only use a mini lathe.
I am not suggesting the following because I have not used it but in general Grizzly has better quality than HF. The biggest drawback is the low speed of 650 but if you are not wanting to do larger bowls that is not a problem.
Maybe someone here has a first hand critique of this lathe or another similar Grizzly.
http://www.grizzly.com/products/12-x-18-Variable-Speed-Wood-Lathe/T25920
I think Nova's recommended speeds are similar to everyone else and you can see by the chart for rough stock a 650 low speed relates to a max diameter of 6-8" where the Comet low speed of 300 relates to a max diameter of 10" for rough work.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
334 Posts
A few suggestions to add to the good advice already posted-
I agree that "old isn't necessarily better", esp. with lathes. A lot of older lathes don't have good bearings, so they have a lot of runout. Also, they won't accept standard accessories- oddball spindle thread size, and non-MT#2, for example.

I'd look for a lathe with a cast iron bed. Tubular or rectangular steel beds are not rigid enough.

As previously posted, look at a recent vintage midi-lathe. Generally good value for the money, and easily resold if you outgrow size limitations. I got a Craftsman midi (a rebadged Rikon) a couple of years ago through Sears Outlet, and the only limitation I've had is lack of time!

It's hard to do, but try to be patient. I'm pretty certain I'm not the only one who lurks for tools on Craigslist, and who has bought soon and settled for something "okay, but not ideal for me", only to find a better tool/deal listed the next week. Also, remember that the money spent of the lathe will quickly become a small portion of your turning investment- turning tools, sharpening tools and jigs, chucks, etc. add up really fast! Good luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,319 Posts
I agree with not getting a HF. I buy lots of stuff from them, but not power tools. I am new and just bought a new lathe last week. I looked at the Nova CometII for 496.00. It comes with a chuck for free, and I guess a nice one. I would highly recommend that if you can swing the extra 100. The chuck alone is 125.00 or so.
There are indeed occasions where "older is better", but that lathe on Craigslist is not one of them.

Pass on that one.

As for the question "are HF lathes any good?", the answer is no, they generally are not.

Better than no lathe at all, sure, but you'd do better to start learning on a better quality machine.

If money is super tight, and you can't wait to save a little more of it, then you'd be better off considering a mini lathe with VSR controls and learn to turn on that. You'll be restricted to smaller work, that's true, but big work is not a good starting point for learning to turn either.

Then, if you catch the turning bug, you can move up to something bigger and sell your mini lathe without taking too much of a bath. An HF lathe won't hold much value at all as a used machine.

And learning to turn is plenty challenging enough without having to fight your equipment.
Going to have to disagree in part on this. While I can't speak to the bigger HF lathes, the 10X18 is a gem. Does it have it's disadvantages? Sure. But not many, and at $150 it beats the heck out of the $500 ones. Kind of like buying a Chevy or a Cadillac. Or more like buying a Buick or Cadillac. The 10X18 has MT2 head and tailstock, 5 speeds, (yes you have to change the belt) and cast iron construction.

While you can get a bad tool from HF, it's usually apparent in the first 90 days. Have owned the 7X10 metal lathe and one of their bench drill presses, used the heck out of them with no problems, and sold them for almost what I paid for them after years of service. Still have HF 5, 7 and 9 inch grinders, and they are 10-12 years old and still going strong. A lot of pen turners have nothing but good things to say about the 10X18. Oh yeah, my 9 year or so old HF micro mill is still going strong. Ate a plastic gear once, but $10 put it right.

It is what it is, but tarring and feathering HF with a blanket statement that their stuff is no good is just wrong.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,377 Posts
Going to have to disagree in part on this. While I can't speak to the bigger HF lathes, the 10X18 is a gem. Does it have it's disadvantages? Sure. But not many, and at $150 it beats the heck out of the $500 ones. Kind of like buying a Chevy or a Cadillac. Or more like buying a Buick or Cadillac. The 10X18 has MT2 head and tailstock, 5 speeds, (yes you have to change the belt) and cast iron construction.

While you can get a bad tool from HF, it's usually apparent in the first 90 days. Have owned the 7X10 metal lathe and one of their bench drill presses, used the heck out of them with no problems, and sold them for almost what I paid for them after years of service. Still have HF 5, 7 and 9 inch grinders, and they are 10-12 years old and still going strong. A lot of pen turners have nothing but good things to say about the 10X18. Oh yeah, my 9 year or so old HF micro mill is still going strong. Ate a plastic gear once, but $10 put it right.

It is what it is, but tarring and feathering HF with a blanket statement that their stuff is no good is just wrong.
I did not tar and feather HF at all. The man said he has a budget of 400. I asked if he had an extra 100 he could get a Nova Comet II which includes a reversible chuck. The chuck alone is over 100 bucks. Makes financial sense if he can afford it.

I have used HF tools and do not prefer them to other brands. It is an opinion sir:thumbsup:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,319 Posts
I did not tar and feather HF at all. The man said he has a budget of 400. I asked if he had an extra 100 he could get a Nova Comet II which includes a reversible chuck. The chuck alone is over 100 bucks. Makes financial sense if he can afford it.

I have used HF tools and do not prefer them to other brands. It is an opinion sir:thumbsup:
Quoted your post more for the $ comparisons. What you posted was true - IF he had the extra $100. Of course the more expensive machine is a "better" machine, I just don't feel it is 3X better as the price would indicate. To some people, a $400-500 purchase is a modest outlay, to others it is a budget buster.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,883 Posts
Alchymist said:
Going to have to disagree in part on this. While I can't speak to the bigger HF lathes, the 10X18 is a gem. Does it have it's disadvantages? Sure. But not many, and at $150 it beats the heck out of the $500 ones. Kind of like buying a Chevy or a Cadillac. Or more like buying a Buick or Cadillac. The 10X18 has MT2 head and tailstock, 5 speeds, (yes you have to change the belt) and cast iron construction. While you can get a bad tool from HF, it's usually apparent in the first 90 days. Have owned the 7X10 metal lathe and one of their bench drill presses, used the heck out of them with no problems, and sold them for almost what I paid for them after years of service. Still have HF 5, 7 and 9 inch grinders, and they are 10-12 years old and still going strong. A lot of pen turners have nothing but good things to say about the 10X18. Oh yeah, my 9 year or so old HF micro mill is still going strong. Ate a plastic gear once, but $10 put it right. It is what it is, but tarring and feathering HF with a blanket statement that their stuff is no good is just wrong.
How does the HF lathe beat the heck out of a $500 lathe? The HF might be a better value, but saying it beats the heck out of a $500 lathe is foolish.
 
1 - 20 of 31 Posts
Top