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Another Harbor Freight gem!

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Review by dbhost posted 1780 days ago 16533 views 4 times favorited 37 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Another Harbor Freight gem! Another Harbor Freight gem! Another Harbor Freight gem! Click the pictures to enlarge them

Knowing that the lathe itself is just the tip of the financial iceberg when it comes to wood turning, I needed to control costs wherever I could without sacrificing quality I searched, talked with the club representatives at the various woodworking shows etc… And the response came back about the Jet JWL 1236 and its CLONES… It would appear this lathe had been rebranded by several companies, including, but not limited to Grizzly, MasterCraft, and for those of us that are a bit on the cheap side, Harbor Freight under their Central Machinery brand name.

Unlike other Central Machinery products I have attempted to decipher the owners manual to, the 34706 lathe was written in perfectly understandable American English. I am chalking this up to an accident, or rewriting someone else’s manual…

The entire thing came in one just sub 200 lb package, with plenty of foam block to keep the parts from banging around, and into each other. Everything was in good condition, present and accounted for.

The complaints I have read about the stand being unduly flimsy are partially true, and one of two reasons this lathe gets 4 instead of 5 stars. I somewhat thing this is unfair though as this is a matter of the TYPE rather than the specific lathe. Unlike the 1440 the 1236 and its clones get stamped steel stands instead of nice solid, heavy cast iron. So yes, this lathe DOES tend to do a little dance across the floor with uneven bowl blanks the the like, but more on that later on… Overall for what it is, the stand is acceptable.

The other area that I disliked, again was part of the design with the positionable head. Bringing the head back to center does not always, well… Bring things back center. I had some initial trouble lining my center pins on my live center and spur drive. Harbor Freight support was no help at all. BUT… Some quick perusing the exploded parts diagram in the unusually helpful manual led me to fiddle with the nut below the headstock, a minor adjustment later and it swings back where it belongs and the centers line up perfectly!

The variable speed settings lowest speed is 600 rpm, which is a bit high for large diameter turnings, but not horrid… Power is plentiful from the 3/4 HP motor, not enormous but nothing to sneeze at. Yeah you can jab a skew in a work piece and stop it, but then again people can do all sorts of stupid things…

The fit and finish of this lathe is top notch, every bit as nice as the “Real” Jet lathes on display at Woodcraft. Good quality paint, good machining on the cast iron, everything just fits right. Simply put, this is no slacker.

Back to the stand issue. Like most all other lower end free standing lathes, and that is what this is, do not mistake this for a high end large capacity lathe, it does it’s job nicely, but it is no 16” swing machine by any means… Well like others of this type, the stand is simply stamped steel, and offers NO ballast, or weight to resist vibration with…

A simple piece of scrap plywood cut, and screwed to the spreaders, provides ample room to drill through for slots to store your bits and pieces like spanners, faceplate, knock out bar etc… But more importantly, there is enough room to stow at least 2 80lb bags of Concrete. That additional 160 lbs helps anchor that lathe to the ground, and keep it from dancing around the shop floor…

Just like all the other Harbor Freight machines, but it smart, get it on sale, and use the 20% off coupon. Mine was on $179.00 sale with the 20% off coupon. The price tag is well worth it. This lathe with an inexpensive chuck, and a good HSS starter chisel set can get you quickly finding turning Nirvana.

As long as you expect this to behave like the type of lathe it is, you will be VERY well pleased with the quality of this lathe. It is every bit as good as the more expensive brands, but without the higher price tag…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com




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dbhost

5377 posts in 1816 days



37 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

111999 posts in 2161 days


#1 posted 1780 days ago

interesting review well done

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View dustbunny's profile

dustbunny

1149 posts in 1879 days


#2 posted 1780 days ago

I also bought this lathe for the price tag and features.
Mine came out of the box with no issues, all aligned.
I put a piece of plywood on the leg supports, and built a small box for accessories on the ply shelf.
Awesome review, and if I can add a note- if anyone is thinking about trying turning, this is a great machine at a price that is not going to bankrupt you.
Try it, if you don’t really like it you haven’t broken the bank.

Lisa

-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~ http://quiltedwood.com

View Doug's profile

Doug

43 posts in 1892 days


#3 posted 1780 days ago

Anchor it to the floor, I don’t have a central Machinery wood lathe, Mine is Delta made in 1960, But it’s anchored just the same

-- Use your imagination ! you'll be suprised

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5377 posts in 1816 days


#4 posted 1779 days ago

Dustbunny, you got pics of your box / shelf layout? Mine’s a basic shelf drilled to hold the accessories nice and tight… I have considered building a box, or a proper stand, but nothing springs to mind…

Doug, If my workshop wasn’t my attached garage, I would SERIOUSLY consider it. A friend of mine’s soon to be ex father in law has an old Rockwell that is anchored to the floor of his shed / shop. He never has to chase his lathe…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2605 days


#5 posted 1779 days ago

I had that style lathe a few years back and did a ton of work with it.
The Reeves pully needs a good cleaning about once a year but it ran like a top for me.
I put a plywood shelf across the leg standards and sandbagged it.
It make a huge difference in vibration.

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Mike67's profile

Mike67

96 posts in 1920 days


#6 posted 1779 days ago

Good review, thanks. I have that lathe now and have used it for a bunch of furniture parts – chair legs, spindles, etc. It works fine. Great starter lathe at a good price when its on sale.

View jake's profile

jake

39 posts in 2287 days


#7 posted 1779 days ago

I don’t have a lathe and appreciate your review. I have to watch the price of my tools and can’t just buy the top of the line as many people do. With so many tools made in the same factories these days, there are many bargains if people are willing to look past the brand. I will likely buy one based on your review, thanks!

View dustbunny's profile

dustbunny

1149 posts in 1879 days


#8 posted 1779 days ago

David,

I built this box as part of the shelf, it is basically four sides of 1” pine scraps I had laying around, and a double hinged lid. Because the legs are mounted on angles, a solid lid will not swing up without hitting the height of the space, or the top of the tapered legs. I pretty much threw this together in an hour or so.

I had a piece of styrofoam from some boxed machinery, I cut out spots for my faceplates, and it had compartments that I put stuff in. It mostly has chucks, faceplate’s, tool rests, and wrenches.

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If you need more info you can PM me.

-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~ http://quiltedwood.com

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5377 posts in 1816 days


#9 posted 1779 days ago

No need, you gave me LOTS of ideas… Love that box idea, super easy to do, What about ballast with it though? I don’t see enough space for sand bags…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2605 days


#10 posted 1779 days ago

You can drop a bag on either end and still have access to the storage.

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Broda's profile

Broda

313 posts in 2103 days


#11 posted 1779 days ago

I have no doubt that that is the same as the popular MC900 lathes we have in australia. they are sold under different logos ie. Carbatec, Timbecon, hare and forbes etc. but are all made in the same factory.
I bought mine second hand for 200 bucks (including a nova chuck) and I have had no problems with it. Its a great lathe for a bigginer turner untill they can upgrade to something better.

This is mine; they look identical

-- BRODY. NSW AUSTRALIA -arguments with turnings are rarely productive-

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5377 posts in 1816 days


#12 posted 1778 days ago

Yeah it looks the same. I have seen this lathe online in various colors and stripes with different names on it, they all seem to be off of the same line in Taiwan, just go through different paint and stickers…

FWIW, I LOVE that orange color, and if I end up needing to repaint mine just might get a coat of orange…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5377 posts in 1816 days


#13 posted 1777 days ago

Just looked up that MC9000, yeah it looks identical…

You guys in Oz are getting hammered price wise though. That lowest price on that lathe I found is the equivalent of $330.00 U.S.D., still far less expensive than buying it with a Jet label but about double what we can buy them for on sale here… Of course I am not privy to the sale flyers and such.

FWIW, regular full retail for this tool here in the U.S. is $249.99 for the Central Machinery variant.
It runs $799.00 for the Jet variant.

Aside from cosmetic differences, such as color, striping etc… mounting location of the switch and the switch itself, which I honestly prefer where the Central Machinery switch is. Makes it a LOT easier to put this lathe on a different stand…. and possibly the tool rest, but the demo model I saw in store appeared identical…. I really see no difference other than name brand recognition. Which is worth something if you are a retailer, but worth diddly squat if you are just trying to turn a few spindles and bowls…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

615 posts in 1851 days


#14 posted 1770 days ago

great review, i plan on getting this lathe as soon as i have the extra cash

View DTWoodknot's profile

DTWoodknot

150 posts in 1770 days


#15 posted 1765 days ago

Nice review i think you sold me, i have an old craftman that my brother found @ the dump that I have been bringing back from the dead and now that i have it work i want abetter one but don’t want to spend a lot.

-- Dave, I wood if I could but I can't so I woodknot

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