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First Pen Turnings on a Cheap Lathe

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Blog entry by rozzi posted 1560 days ago 1344 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have had very little experience on a wood lathe and really never had much of a desire learn to use one but I have always just wanted to have one to play around with. I have been watching Craig’s List and checking some auctions hoping to find a cheap one to mess with in case I did not enjoy it. From previous reviews and blogs here on Lumber Jocks and not wanting to invest much money I decided to take a look at Harbor Freight. I had decided if I bought a new lathe if would be a Midi or Mini lathe. I liked the Jet and Steel City and I wanted variable speed. I just tought they were a little to much money since I really did not know if I would really use it much. Once I got to Harbor Freight I knew right away I did not like their Mini Lathe but they had a full size 12×36 on sale for $229.00 on New Year’s Day and they also had a 25% off coupon. That got the price down under $180.00. I just decided I couldn’t pass that up. When I got it home it went together quickly and things appeared accurate. Now I had to turn something of value. So I ordered a few pen kits, bought a mandrel. I took the original tool rest and cut it down to 6 inches, softened the corners, sprayed it black and gave turning a pen a shot. It was fun and my first one turned out alright at least my wife and friends were impressed. For what I will use this lathe for I am very happy with the Harbor Frieght 12×36 wood lathe with variable speed. A decent deal with not alot invested. Making a pen was alot of fun and even a little bit addictive. I still want to try some duck calls but I need to buy or make some kind of mandrel. If anyone would like to share any information about making calls or know a good web site please let me know. I am just not sure how to set the lathe up to turn a call.

-- Duane, Iowa



2 comments so far

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2366 posts in 2387 days


#1 posted 1559 days ago

Glad you are happy with your lathe!
I’d be interested to find out where to buy parts for and get information about making game calls too.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View David Murray's profile

David Murray

182 posts in 1616 days


#2 posted 1559 days ago

I got a Harbor Freight (Central Machinery) mini lathe for Christmas 2008. Around $130, it works well for turning pens and other small projects. Won’t be able to get repair parts for HF tools, at least I don’t think you can.

John, you can get game call kit’s and info from “Penn State Industries.

-- Dave from "The Sawdust Shed"

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