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Forum topic by ShotgunWillie posted 04-11-2016 06:57 PM 741 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ShotgunWillie

13 posts in 240 days


04-11-2016 06:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe turning beginner help

Hey Everyone,

I’m relatively green to woodworking and brand new to turning, and I’m looking into buying a lathe for the first time. I just want something to play around with to get a feel for turning. Harbor Freight sells a 1/3HP 12” mini-lathe for $130. My question is this: Is a 1/3HP 12” enough to be useful to my purposes, or should I just spring for something a little bigger?
I guess versatility is what I’m looking for since I don’t even know enough about turning to know what I’ll be focusing on exactly.

Thanks in advance,
Will

-- "A gentleman is someone who can play the accordian, but doesn't" -Tom Waits


10 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

1881 posts in 1594 days


#1 posted 04-11-2016 07:49 PM

I recommend this mini lathe over the one you are looking at. This lathe has MT2 Morse tapers in both head/tail stock verus MT1.

http://www.harborfreight.com/5-speed-bench-top-wood-lathe-65345.html

Easy to bog down that 1/3 HP lathe just turning pens.

-- Bill

View HapHazzard's profile

HapHazzard

92 posts in 328 days


#2 posted 04-11-2016 11:20 PM

I have one of those. Want it?

It’s okay if tou want to turn pens, but not much else.

Take a look at this one. http://www.harborfreight.com/power-tools/woodworking/12-inch-x-33-3-8-eighth-inch-wood-lathe-with-reversible-head-34706.html This one will let you turn some wood.

-- Unix programmers never die; they just > /dev/null

View jeff's profile

jeff

988 posts in 2925 days


#3 posted 04-11-2016 11:38 PM

Do you have lathe tools and a way to sharpen them?.Accessories will add up fast.I like my bench top lathe but wish I went bigger.You can turn large pieces on a big lathe but not large pieces on a small lathe.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

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ShotgunWillie

13 posts in 240 days


#4 posted 04-11-2016 11:42 PM

I’m really only looking to do some minor stuff. I’ve never even used a lathe, so I feel like anything more than a benchtop puts me out of my depth. Not to mention my budget haha.

How much would you want for it?

Bill, I checked out the one you recommended. It has very good reviews. Thanks for the suggestion.

-- "A gentleman is someone who can play the accordian, but doesn't" -Tom Waits

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ShotgunWillie

13 posts in 240 days


#5 posted 04-11-2016 11:51 PM

Hey Jeff,

No, I don’t have any tools or accessories. That’s why I’m thinking of opting for a small benchtop to keep the cost down. I feel like I can’t justify springing for a pro level one since I don’t know what I’m doing.

-- "A gentleman is someone who can play the accordian, but doesn't" -Tom Waits

View HapHazzard's profile

HapHazzard

92 posts in 328 days


#6 posted 04-12-2016 12:16 AM


How much would you want for it?

I honestly don’t think it would be worth the shipping.


Bill, I checked out the one you recommended. It has very good reviews. Thanks for the suggestion.

That one is very similar to my lathe, which is an Excelsior. I don’t turn bowls, so I don’t mind that it only has 10 inches of swing, and I have a bed extension so I can turn ballusters, newels and various other posts and spindles I need to make. While it was a big upgrade from the little 8×12 variable, it’s still pretty limiting. If I had to do it over, I’d go with that 12×33 inch one. You never really know what your needs are going to be until you start turning. Then you start looking at things and thinking, hey, I could make that! Then you look at your lathe, take out your ruler and say, no, I can’t.

-- Unix programmers never die; they just > /dev/null

View bigJohninvegas's profile

bigJohninvegas

207 posts in 922 days


#7 posted 04-12-2016 04:30 AM

Will, I would search around your area and see about a turning club. Get a chance to turn a small project and see how you like it. I had one of the rockler excelsior lathes, Harbor freight clone.
And if you like turning at all you will out grow a 10” lathe almost overnight. Now that does not mean that you need a big hi dollar lathe either. The 10” lathe will give you pens, spindles, and small vase’s all day. I got really tired of having to change the belt all the time to control the speed. I guess some don’t mind that.
If your budget will let you. A lathe with a 12” swing or better, and variable speed control will keep you going a long time. A good friend and pro turner once told me that they should give you the lathe for all the money they will make selling you goodies for it. watch out for that its true, and easy to waste money on things that you really don’t need.
My friends say I really have the bug.
about all I do now is turn, vs. flat wood projects. So much that I went and bought a big Jet 16X42 this past black friday. I’ll bet I have as much in tools and accessories as I do that new lathe. And thanks to Jimmy Clewes here in Vegas, and my friends here on LJ, most of what I have is good usable tools. very easy to buy junk, and stuff you don’t really need.
Good luck,

-- John

View MrUnix's profile (online now)

MrUnix

4203 posts in 1659 days


#8 posted 04-12-2016 04:36 AM

You can typically find those harbor freight 12×33 lathes (or very similar ones) on CL in the sub $100 range. If you are patient, even better ones will pop up at that price point as well – just be ready to jump when they do.

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

1881 posts in 1594 days


#9 posted 04-12-2016 11:10 AM

That ½ HP mini lathe with either $65 or $80 HSS spindle turning tool set at HF should get you up and running. Another advantage is 1” x 8 TPI spindle verus ¾” x 16 TPI on that 1/3 HP lathe. There is a lot of optional equipment for both spindle sizes. If upgrade to that 12×33” lathe your optional accessories will fit with no trouble.

If have a bench grinder or belt sander can sharpen your tools free hand. If don’t have a bench grinder don’t buy one out of Harbor Freight they seem to die too soon. Go to another big box store.

Sharpening jigs whether homemade or bought will help you achieve repeatability at the bench grinder. I am a big fan of Wolverine Sharpening system. The basic system & Vari grind jig cost about the same everywhere. You can ask & get a free catalog from Packard Woodworks.

http://www.packardwoodworks.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=packard&Category_Code=sharp-wss

Some people like this Oneway clone. You can ask & get a catalog here too.

https://www.pennstateind.com/store/LCGRIND4.html

Whether to buy a mini or full size lathe up to you and what you want to turn. Someone already said can turn small things on a big lathe but cannot turn big things on a small lathe. What they didn’t say can have fun on both!

-- Bill

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

1056 posts in 1449 days


#10 posted 04-12-2016 11:52 AM

I’ll bet there are some turning clubs around New Orleans. It would be worth the time to spend a few hours with some people gaining some equipment, tools, and methods knowledge.

I was where you are ~3 years ago. My only lathe experience had been sanding some spindles years before. I mainly just wanted to make some tool handles and hand plane knobs. I ended up getting the big 12×33 HF 34706 (review here). Glad I did. I thought maybe some day I’ll turn legs for chairs or a table or something and need the length. No, but I ended up needing the outboard turning capability. I’ve turned quite a few 15” bowls and platters, and many smaller ones. Prior to getting the lathe, I hadn’t thought about bowls, vases, etc. but that’s the majority of what I turn. Definitely go with the 1/2 vs 1/3 hp HF benchtop lathe, if you go that way.

If you have the room and the extra ~$100 or so, the 34706 is the way to go. It enables a lot more projects that you might not have considered yet.

And yes, the accessories add up. You have to get tools – the 61794 HF tool set is pretty good – I still use them, and I like Benjamin’s Best and Hurricane. Gotta sharpen – Wolverine style jig, and an 8” 1/2 speed grinder if you don’t have a grinder – a 6” can work if you already have it. Barracuda2 chucks from Penn state ind is a great value scroll chuck. Tool rests with a hardened steel top rail are worth it – I got tired of filing all the dings out of the cast iron type. Good luck!

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