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I was at Harbor Freight today and was somewhat surprised to see their latest lathe looked pretty decent. I played with it a bit and things worked very nicely. It is called a 12 X 36 lathe, but actually the longest possible spindle length is 33 inches (table legs are 29 inches). It has a Reeves drive (five speeds as I recall). I wouldn't want to turn many large diameter things on it because of the Reeves drive, but for everything else, it looks like a decent starter lathe and the price was less than the average mini lathe.
 

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The Excelsior lathe sold at Rockler is the same lathe as the HF 5 speed mini. With a 25% off coupon and the additional warranty you can get out the door with it at HF for less than $180. I guess you can go to Rockler and spend a bunch of extra money for black paint if you like! I have the Rockler extension on mine so its 2 tone!!:thumbsup:
Doesn't the Rockler lathe have a fixed headstock? The HF lathe that I was looking at has a head that rotates up to 180° so that you can turn off the side or end and has a short section of bed so that the tool rest can be moved to the other end. The price they had today was $266, but there are always coupons and sales. I didn't see a mini lathe at our local store, but this store is much smaller than some of the others in the DFW area. The one that I saw looks a lot like this one except I was fairly certain that the one that I looked at had five speeds instead of ten and I don't recall seeing the motor sticking forward -- but then, my memory isn't quite what it used to be. Now, what was I starting to say?
 
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