|Review by Grondor||posted 09-19-2011 04:27 AM||15365 views||4 times favorited||19 comments|
I did my first wood turning when I was about 13. It was in wood shop in school, and I made 2 or 3 pieces—a bowl and a bat for sure. It was fun, but it was also TERRIFYING! The lathes we had were industrial sized monsters with motors that could lift the Titanic, and more than once did I have a catch that bent the chisel, once it launched it towards the window I was standing near with rather catastrophic results.
More recently I started looking up some videos on YouTube about wood turning, and came across HaydenHD, who does some amazing work, plus he films and explains well! I find that most wood workers who make YouTube videos use junk music throughout the entire video, do little to explain what they’re doing and instead just show off their work. HaydenHD, however, changed my views on wood working videos.
After much agonizing over the insane prices of a wood lathe ($2000-$3000 for a potential hobby is a little steep for me) I found a lathe at Harbor Freight which looked like it would do what I needed it to, has variable speed and looks solid. My wife was kind enough to buy it for me for our 13th anniversary, and after much ado I managed to get the 180lb box down into the basement and the lathe assembled.
First off, it’s solid. I’ve purchased some cheap tools in my time, from Ryobi to Craftsman, Black & Decker and Skil Saw … they all come with flimsy plastic casings, underpowered motors and hardly anything aligns. This lathe, however, was heavy as sin, aligned perfectly straight out of the box, and has not yet failed me.
Note: I am the epitome of a “beginner wood turner.” I’m as green as a freshly cut bowl blank. Along with the lathe my father bought me a set of 8 basic chisels (not terrible quality), and we had a lot of scrap wood lying around. I glued up some pine boards to make a large enough piece to play with, and started turning, and I haven’t looked back since.
Pros to this machine: It makes wood spin, it has a tool rest for me to put my chisels on, and that (in my not-so-humble opinion) is what a wood lathe is. The variable speed has proved to work well for me (just have to be careful to remember to turn it back town to 600 RPM after I’m done, since you can’t change the speed unless it’s running), the tool rest with its swing arm is awesome, the tail stock works well … I actually have nothing bad to say about its performance.
Cons: It didn’t come with a plate/disk/whatever on the back of the headstock, so when I turn small spindles I have to rotate using the spur if I want to do so manually. I’m looking into either fabricating or purchasing something to facilitate this. Also, while the tool rest is nice and sturdy, the black paint coat on it made it so that I had issues with my tools gliding easily until I sanded it down using up to 400 grit paper.
A side note … In order to learn how the different gouges, skews and chisels work, I’ve given myself an assignment of making one little wooden mushroom a day for a year, and I’ll turn some other miscellany in between. I’ve turned some skinny “magic wands” (10” long, 1/4” thick at the thinnest) that despite my greenhorn skills didn’t snap, and I’ve yet to buy a nice jaw chuck or spindle steady thingamabob. I know it’s not because I’m an exceptional wood turner, so I can only thank the reliability of this lathe. Once I get a couple of bowl gouges I’ll start making some bowls and plates and I’ll see if I need to weigh it down, but so far I’ve had no problems with it.
A wand I made for my wife, African Blackwood handle, Purpleheart wand.
Tool handle I made for one of our handle-less rasps. I used a piece of scrap oak railing left over from when I installed railing to the 2nd floor.
A wood mallet that I could have bought for $3 at the hardware store, but I wanted to make my own. The handle is oak, the head is cedar (for its softness and light weight)
A mushroom turned from a piece of applewood. Half of it is this intricate dark color and pattern, the other side is very light like maple.
A collection of mushrooms also made from applewood (branches cut off from our apple tree which was rubbing up against power lines).
A mushroom turned from Cocobolo.
Considering I’m “just” using an “underpowered junk lathe from Harbor Freight that would serve better as a boat anchor” (quote from another website’s review), I’d say this thing is performing miracles!