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The big little lathe that couldn't...

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Review by dpoisson posted 03-30-2012 02:48 PM 5586 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
The big little lathe that couldn't... The big little lathe that couldn't... The big little lathe that couldn't... Click the pictures to enlarge them

In this review, I do a lot of comparing with the Mastercraft 12” lathe, because that’s the only other lathe I’ve ever used and that’s the one I was looking at replacing.

I went to my local Rona (hardware store in Quebec City) during my lunch break and saw a lathe. Hmm, I thought. Interesting. It seemed well build (very well build actually: solid and uses an MT2 instead of MT1 like my mastercraft lathe, which, as I start buying accessories for my lathe, seems to now be a bigger deal than before). Seemed much better than my small mastercraft lathe. I check out the price tag: It’s on liquidation! 200$ instead of 267$.

I rush back to the office and try to find some reviews…Nothing.
I go to Haussmann’s Xpert site and try to find specs, a manual, anything…Close to mothing.
I search on google and lo and behold, I find a manual. I look it over. I had 2 questions: The HP of the motor and the threading of the spindle.

HP seems to be 1/2hp (I had 1/3hp on the mastercraft), although I would later find out that the actual force of the motor is 1/3hp, NOT 1/2hp. I hadn’t found the correct manual (dooh), and spindle is 1-8tpi (same as mastercraft). I get a pre-approval from the accounting department (the wifey) and right after work, I swing by to pick up the last box they had!

After, the usual routine (supper, taking care of both kids, prepping them for the night, etc, etc), I finally head downstairs to take a look at this new toy. The box was a bit beaten up, but nothing that serious. I open it up and I quickly have that stench of the goop they (Mastercraft does the same thing) put on everything so they don’t rust.

I take everything out of the box and use some Hoppes 9 (gun cleaning product) to remove all the goop and I assemble everything back. Everything held together very nicely. I mean, it just looked way tighter than my mastercraft lathe. No play in anything. When you tighten the toolrest, you KNOW it’s not going to move. I had to tighten 1 nut under the tailstock though so I could get a firm lock when I lock the levers. Nothing serious. All of that using metal handles (sorry, I’m used to plastic handles, so this was a big plus for me).

Up to this point, you’re probably thinking…seemed like a great lathe, why the 2 star rating? Well…it goes downhill from this point on.
I take a piece of sapele (what was I thinking, but I had no pine anywhere near me) that’s about 1.5”sq by 4” long. Mount it on the spurs and turn on the motor. I’m sure we can all agree that such a piece of wood can HARDLY qualify as a stress test of any sort. As I turn the motor on, I can see that the ON-OFF switch doesn’t seem very secure. I don’t think anything of it…but, it’s weird. The motor starts and the piece of wood spins. Wouhou! I grab the speed dial…what the…I seriously think my 1 year old could of yanked out the speed dial from it’s socket. It was VERY loose, wobbly…I didn’t trust it one bit. But anyways, I crank it up a bit to see if I can reach max speed without too much vibration on the lathe (at this point, the lathe is simply resting on my workbench, unbolted). As soon as I reach full speed, I can hear the speed drop a bit and then…nothing. The fuse on the motor tripped and the piece of wood is coming to a stop. As I hit the reset button, I notice there is no resistance…it’s like it’s not touching the motor or something like that. As a matter of fact, I have to wiggle it and tap it rather hard and keep playing with it for a good 2-3 minutes before the motor starts up again. That, amongst other things, is totally unacceptable. I almost seems like the casing where the motor resides has been opened before (loose on-off switch, wobbly speed dial, reset button doesn’t link up to reset on motor). Note that I wasn’t even trying to cut anything at this point…the wood was simply spinning by itself, it wasn’t touching the toolrest or anything similar.

When I finally get the wood spinning again, I notice the fact that the RPM indicator isn’t displaying anything. Geez, talk about a lemon! But again, this could also be due to the fact that the motor casing might have been removed.

In the end, I loved what I saw in the store: the feel of everything this machine had to offer was awesome and cried out “mean machine” at an affortable price. The illusion all crumbled down the second I turned on the power and problems started appearing. I returned the lathe at the Rona. I thought about taking the floor model…but then I thought, if a boxed model was that bad, imagine the floor model.

PS: If things had worked well, I still wish they would of made a 1/2HP version of this lathe. To me this, it would of made more sense. Especially on an Xpert version of a product.

-- http://picasaweb.google.ca/dpoisson




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dpoisson

172 posts in 1565 days



12 comments so far

View Joao Araujo's profile

Joao Araujo

18 posts in 1485 days


#1 posted 03-30-2012 03:22 PM

Hello,

I too bought the same lathe as you did.

If you spin the motor close to its maximum (~3500 RPM) for more than 5 minutes, it gets really hot, I mean you can’t even touch it and at one point the breaker on the lathe pops and you have to wait for 5 mins to be able to reset it.

As I am a curious man, I opened the lathe up and see what is happening. The motor controller/supply board seems to be assembled by someone with Parkinson. My 13 year old some could probably wire it better than it is. The motor is basically a DC motor and I am surprised that there is no vent holes to cool the motor. I didn’t have the same issues with the speed dial/switch/breaker, but they are on the cheap and flimsy side.

Once I get more time for the shop, I will change the switch/breaker/speed dial to something more durable. I will be re-wiring it to something more acceptable and I will be resitting the components on the circuit board better.

Take care,

Joao Araujo

View dpoisson's profile

dpoisson

172 posts in 1565 days


#2 posted 03-30-2012 03:39 PM

Joao, I’m sorry to hear that it seems to be the norm for this line of product ;-(

Hopefully, you’ll be able to fix yours. You should post and share your findings if you can fix the product. I’m sure all the owners would be grateful.

I’ve been checking online and it looks a lot like the Rockler Excelsior lathe, except the Excelsior doesn’t have variable speed.

-- http://picasaweb.google.ca/dpoisson

View willie's profile

willie

464 posts in 1105 days


#3 posted 03-30-2012 04:32 PM

I really hate buying a new tool and having to fix or rebuild it before use. Seems to be getting harder to find decent tools at an affordable price. Makes me want to stick with old, used, good quality, American made tools. If I have to work on them before using them, at least I’ll have something good when I’m done.

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View Swede's profile

Swede

191 posts in 1669 days


#4 posted 03-30-2012 04:45 PM

Man that sucks big time did you take it back or are you going to try to make it work?

I bought a Harbor Freight lathe that was on sale for $200.00 regular $220.00 with a 20% off coupon ended up costing $160.00 + tax. So far my Dad plugged it in and it spins will give it a try this weekend.
BTW my Dad found the lathe I was looking at a Jet but it was close to $600.00 quite a difference.

-- Swede -- time to make some sawdust

View Joao Araujo's profile

Joao Araujo

18 posts in 1485 days


#5 posted 03-30-2012 06:06 PM

Hello,

I have turned some pens/pencils and made some spindles with this lathe, it is under powered but not bad.

It happens to all of us, we buy equipment on sale/liquidation/used because we are on a limited shop budget. Once we open that box, the equipment has flaws, none working/missing/loose parts and we can’t return it because it was sold “as is” so, we end up tweaking/fixing it to meet our needs.

On this lathe, I call it heavy tweaking :P

Take care,

Joao Araujo

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

1185 posts in 947 days


#6 posted 04-01-2012 02:54 PM

I’d say return it and buy a JET. Look for a used one, or even a vintage Delta Homecraft (I know, changing pulleys can be a pain). I think you’ll enjoy the experience of woodturning more when you can focus on improving your technique, and not worrying about the duty cycle of a cheap motor. The Grizzly mini doesn’t get glowing reviews, but a lot of people like it, you may look there as well.

View dpoisson's profile

dpoisson

172 posts in 1565 days


#7 posted 04-01-2012 06:14 PM

@dhazelton: I did indeed return it…I’ll see what happens for the future. It’s just a shame…I thought I was doing a good thing since any accessory I purchase now for my mastercraft lathe is MT1, whereas with the Xpert, I would of at least been “investing” in equipment I could reuse if I later upgrade to a bigger lathe, even though it has very similar specs to my mastercraft lathe.

Oh well! Live and learn.

I watched a video online of someone that has to change the pulleys manually…wow, it’s true what they say: once you go electronic variable speed, you never go back lol

Cheers

-- http://picasaweb.google.ca/dpoisson

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

1185 posts in 947 days


#8 posted 04-01-2012 07:48 PM

dpoisson: Yeah, I looked at the Harbor Freight midi and it was the lack of availability of bowl chucks and such to fit the MT1 that drove me to look elsewhere. I researched Penn State, Grizzly, and some other cheaper ones before I bought the JET VS. It has a 5 year warranty too, which is nice. So far I’ve only roughed out a few bowls with it but just turning a dial is way preferable to taking the back off the machine and shifting the belt over. I also like the fact that the JET has cast handles instead of plastic. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but you will love one if you can find one. A used one turned up on my Craigslist after I ordered new, so they are out there. Good luck.

View willie's profile

willie

464 posts in 1105 days


#9 posted 04-02-2012 01:37 AM

Electronics? On a lathe? Not in my world. My lathe dates back to pre 1900. It never had anything to do with electricity until I converted it back in the ‘70s. This thing was made by Greenfield Tap & Die in Greenfield, Mass. I contacted the company and no one there could remember or had any records that the company ever made lathes. They said there was a fire and a lot of records were lost. My lathe has survived at least one fire that I know of. Someday I’d like to do a restoration but it has always worked well and never needed it. I wouldn’t know how to act with a new one!!!

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View Ben Martin's profile

Ben Martin

34 posts in 1860 days


#10 posted 05-24-2012 02:07 PM

I wish this review had been available 6 months ago when I bought the same lathe. I needed to replace a dead lathe in my shop, and for the price thought this little guy would let me take care of the small projects that pop up from time to time. THe actual job I needed the lathe for fell through, and the lathe sat in the shop until 2 weeks ago, when I got another turning job. Worked ok on small maple. Last week, my business partner needed to do a simple turning, and it worked ok (other needing to tighten things up. Next day, I decide I’m going to turn a few mushrooms, since I had been cutting firewood and saved some good pieces. After turning 5 mushrooms, I mounted a slightly larger piece (2.5” diameter) and just barely got it trued up, and the motor started popping the breaker. This weeked, I’m going to give it another try, and see it the motor can handle another hour of work before complaining. If so, it’s not bad for my purposes, since I can do a few small turnings, then work on another project for a while to let the motor cool. If that’s the case, it should allow me to produce enough inventory for a craft show, then I can invest the profits in a new, more powerful lathe.

I bought mine on sale at rona as well, and had to return it because it didn’e even start. I had to take the floor model, since it was all they had in stock, but when I returned it, they had a new one in inventory, and it worked well enough. It’s definatly not a top quality rig, but it seems to do small jobs well enough.

View Keith's profile

Keith

1 post in 656 days


#11 posted 11-28-2012 06:48 PM

I bought this Lathe last month. It was my first lathe and was very excited I had gotten a great price. I thought well it probably sucks but to learn on it will be great. I was wrong. This was brand new too NOT a demo or opened box!

Problems: 1) The light was broken, just the casing (Also where the light attaches to the machine is really dumb you couldn’t lock the tail down if the handle was at that position)
2) The variable speed knob, as mentioned above, was not tight AT ALL (tightened it)
3) The belt was broken in the box.
4) The speed read out worked a total of ONE time during a test setup
5) The trip switch tripped once.. OK to much pressure… then again and again in fact I think if the lathe just saw a gouge coming it would trip….
6) Pressing the trip switch didn’t always reset it until you pressed it 15 times.

I returned it to Rona and went straight to a real hardware store run by a local family and spent 3x the amount on a midilathe, the King KWL-1016C, but recommended for learning on by someone who owned it. This is not an amazing lathe and has NO bells or whistles BUT unboxing it nothing was broken, it weighed MUCH more and felt sturdier. I was able to work right away and had no problems learning some basics within an hour (yes the skew scared me the first time I caught it LOL)

No I have turned some practice stuff and a bunch of pens for christmas presents and feel more confident to try real projects…

You certainly get what you pay for and even buying the cheapest one at the second store proves that!

View dpoisson's profile

dpoisson

172 posts in 1565 days


#12 posted 11-28-2012 07:14 PM

Keith, once I returned the Xpert lathe (which I had paid 199$+tx), I too bought a King KWL-1016C. But, mine was used but in very good condition, came with 3 chisels (skew, parting tool and gouge) for 150$!

-- http://picasaweb.google.ca/dpoisson

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