|Review by OSU55||posted 01-18-2014 06:16 PM||4923 views||5 times favorited||14 comments|
I had never used a lathe for wood turning, and wanted to give it a try. I didn’t want to break the bank to have a lathe for occasional use. As others have, I wound up with this HF model. I haven’t tried anything larger than 6” dia, but so far I’m extremely pleased. I think I paid ~$180 with discounts.
Although I’m new to turning, I’m not new to machinery of all types, and a wood lathe is a simple machine (I’ve been in automated manufacturing in engineering for 30 yrs). As with most Harbor Freight stuff, the basics are there, you just need to finish it off. I disassembled everything – headstock including reeves drive and head pivot mechanism, tail stock, tool rest saddle – to degrease and deburr all the sharp edges. Taking a file and sandpaper to the bed – top, bottom, and center slot – is important. Mine had a lot of burrs and casting slag which will cause the mounts to snag and be difficult to move. All of the parts got the same treatment, including the eccentric lock down shafts and holes. Everything got a good coating of furniture wax for rust prevention and lubrication. I did put synthetic grease on the shafts for the drive pulleys so they would slide easily. The drive belt was replaced with one from the auto parts store. I’m guessing it took 8-10 hrs to go through everything.
I played with the lathe some before all of the work described, and what a difference the deburring made! Everything works and moves smooth as butter. I replaced the tool rest with the 12” and 4” Woodcraft modular type with the hardened rod as the rest. The HF cast iron rest kept getting dinged by my inexperienced tool handling. The Woodcraft rests are nice, I’d buy them again. I had to slightly enlarge the tool saddle hole for the 1” shaft, but it was easy to do. I had to lap the bottom of the saddle so the tool rest was parallel to the centers.
The instructions say not to change speeds unless the lathe is turning, and always start in the lowest speed. You can turn the spindle by hand and push on the lever and the pulleys will move and change speeds. Also, the lathe will come up to speed when set to a higher speed, at least with smaller work mounted. Not that I’m recommending these things as common practice, just passing along observations.
Research suggested the lathe centers should be about elbow height to start, and adjust as needed. My elbow is ~47”, so that was the target. With the height gained from the mobile stand and base, I still needed ~2-1/2” to hit my target. Poplar wood blocks (finished with polyurethane to add wood stability) were placed between the bed and stand. Longer bolts from the bbs took care of fastening everything together. It has proven to be very stable, and the height seems about right..
I’ve read many complaints that the stand that comes with this lathe is flimsy. I strongly disagree. It’s actually a very strong stand. The assembled lathe as it stands is not heavy enough to prevent the lathe from hopping around with unbalanced work. I mounted the lathe on a 1-1/2” pine slab, attached to an HF mobile base. I also put a 3/4” plywood shelf in the supports provided in the stand. This is a very rigid setup. The lathe itself is super smooth. Vibration from unbalanced work is stopped by adding weight to the stand on the base or shelf (pic shows 20# lead shot on left, and the white “bags” are small stamping cutout scrap from a local shop taped up in a plastic bag adding about 20# each).
I mounted a dust hood underneath the bed. It’s mounted on flat steel stock and can be slid to the location of cutting. It catches some of the chips, but the most chips going through come from the ones that stack up on the lathe. I just push them over into the hood and they’re gone.
I highly recommend the HF #35444 HSS turning tool set. These are made with good HSS – yes, the tips need grinding and shaping, but you have to be able to do that anyway. Maybe the balance and handle shape/finish aren’t up there with the high dollar stuff, but I’ve been able to turn nice shapes and surfaces with them, and for ~$65 they are hard to beat. I also have Hurricane HSS Roughing Gouge Set 1” & 2” and their spindle gouge set. These are good HSS and inexpensive. I use a Grizzly wet sharpener with a Tormek SVD-185 gouge jig and other Tormek and Grizzly jigs to grind and sharpen turning tools. The lapped edge off the leather wheel definitely lasts longer for me than an as ground edge.
Also pictured are Penn State Ind Superdrive Centers #2 MT taper in 5/8” and 1” sizes, a 60° Live Tailstock Center #2 MT, and a Golden Goose 1/2” Drill Chuck that have worked very well. This lathe has #2MT tapers on both ends which is a popular size for many accessories.