I have been corresponding with Chris (Crushgroovin) about this lathe and have noticed a few posts from people who were curious or had experiences with it, so I thought it might be deserving of a blog entry. For clarification, this is not the more solid cast iron 34706 model that gets more solid reviews since it is, in truth, a much more solid lathe.
This is the lathe as listed in the HF online catalog -
While I would not be one to recommend this one for purchase, especially since you could spend just a little more and get the better HF model, I have used it for some time with a fair amount of success. The lathe was given to me by a friend and so I took the time to learn its quirks and try to make some decent turnings with it.
The complaints I most hear about this lathe usually fall under the same basic categories – vibration, self loosening tool rests and tail center, and weakness of motor. The following are suggestions that might help with the more common ailments -
Vibration – This lathe is light. It only weights about 60 pounds and is easily carried from one location to another. While this portability is handy, it creates a slew of problems. When you picture that a piece is out of round at the start and is spinning at a decent velocity, the weight is out of balance and will whip. With little weight, this machine will rock (I even had it walk one time. I looked like a cartoon character chasing it). The first thing I had to do was weight the lathe.
Weighting can be as simple as plywood on the stretchers of the legs and putting sandbags or cinder blocks on it. I had about 200 lbs at one time and even created a tray on top of the belt housing and placed bricks on it to reduce any shaking or vibration. Replacing the standard belt with a V belt can also reduce the vibration. If the piece is shaking on the lathe, you are not going to get it properly rounded because your chisel is not going to be able to stay in one position. As it strays, the cut strays.
Vibration also leads to the next issue, which is the loosening of the tool rest and tail center.
This is the sliding banjo tool rest mechanism on this particular lathe
A bolt slides through the mechanism and is tightened using the cam lever that sits underneath
The problem here is tightening the mechanism and not having it come loose in the middle of turning. A couple things can assist with reducing the likelihood of movement of the rest.
1. Tighten (or loosen) the bolt until its tightest tolerance is when the cam lever is all the way to the right and part of the handle is wedged under the hollow steel beam that makes up the lathe body. This wedging (not excessive) helps hold the handle in place and minimizes the play that leads to it becoming less secure.
2. If this does not help, try gluing emery paper to either the bottom of the banjo, or to the carcass of the lathe where the banjo sits. This will reduce vibration along the metal pieces and will provide more friction to keep the toolrest from sliding. I have also gotten in the habit of making sure the cam lever is tight as I change chisels.
Sandpaper can also be applied under the tail center. The only caveat to this is that moving the banjo and the tail center becomes two handed operations because you can’t just slide it in position, but it will hold the pieces to where they are steady.
The lathe is a 1/2 horse lathe but that can be deceiving. I don’t have an exact amp level of it, but it is pretty low. Only thing I can recommend is keeping your chisels sharp and your cuts light. I could rough pretty quickly with a very sharp roughing gouge. When the chisels dull, it doesn’t take much to cause the lathe to come to a complete halt. The thing to remember here is that people have successfully turned with man powered lathes that were probably more underpowered than this model. Light cuts and sharp chisels should reduce any issues with the weakness of the motor.
The TPI on this headstock is proprietary which makes accessories difficult to find. However, Penn State Industries created an adapter for this that will allow you to use 1” 8 TPI chucks that were not available before. I bought this particular item for around 15 bucks -
This allowed me to mount a four jaw chuck to the lathe for hollow vessels.
For bowl turning, I could use the stock drive center to put a tenon on the piece and then add the adapter for finished shaping and hollowing. Only caveat is that the tail center is out of alignment with the drive center (due to the modification of size) and you will not be able to use the tailstock to assist with heavier pieces.
That is all I have. I hope this article will be useful for someone who is having difficulties with this particular model.
-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.