Help picking a lathe

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Forum topic by fredito posted 03-22-2010 05:27 PM 971 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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27 posts in 3113 days

03-22-2010 05:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe turning question

I am looking into getting into turning…I have pretty much narrowed it down to a HF lathe- $199 on sale and has decent reviews or a midi from PSI…I am looking mostly at making bowls (I wouldnt think anything huge), pens, ect. Mostly small stuff, not table legs. I think when things are all said and done the price between the 2 should be fairly close once everything is bought. I dont really want to jump into a Jet something a little more pricey. I have been watching CL and nothing has come up in the past month and a half or so….so between these 2 and what I am looking at doing which one would you choose?
Thanks in advance

9 replies so far

View b2rtch's profile


4822 posts in 2473 days

#1 posted 03-22-2010 05:33 PM

As you said you read the reviews for the HF.
Those who have a HF are happy with it and the price cannot be beaten.

-- Bert

View fredito's profile


27 posts in 3113 days

#2 posted 03-22-2010 05:46 PM

With the HF I would have to pick up a faceplace correct? Any recommendations?

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4822 posts in 2473 days

#3 posted 03-22-2010 05:49 PM

The HF comes with a face plate.

-- Bert

View fredito's profile


27 posts in 3113 days

#4 posted 03-22-2010 06:02 PM

Thank you…sorry about all the questions!

View b2rtch's profile


4822 posts in 2473 days

#5 posted 03-22-2010 06:06 PM

Fredito, Why to be sorry, we are to help each others.
Thank you for the opportunity to help you.

-- Bert

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2499 days

#6 posted 03-22-2010 06:18 PM

Before finalizing your decision I suggest you take a look at Grizzly.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 2694 days

#7 posted 03-22-2010 07:14 PM

When looking at a lathe – the spindle to bed size (swing) will tell you how large a bowl you can mount. The distance between centers will tell you how long a spindle. Pens can be turned on almost any lathe (there are even several specialty mini lathes for pen turning only). Make sure you get the most horsepower possible. It will certainly help to reduce the frustration when trying to turn on an underpowered lathe (it slows or stops under even minimal tool pressure)

You will also want a good tool rest and if you plan on bowls right away – you will need a good chuck (PSI Barracuda II is one of the better for smaller lathes – Nova’s mini/midi chuck is also excellent). For pens, you will need a good mandrel. Centers for turning are another good idea – I recommend steb centers for beginners as they have excellent hold and are easy to use.

FOR SAFETY – GET A FACESHIELD! – and a good mask or dust collecting system. You should also wear an apron or smock to protect from splinters and pieces that will be throw off as you turn.

Finally, a good set of turning tools. For a smaller lathe you do not need a bunch of specialty stuff…pens usually need a small gouge and a skew (not much else typically). Make sure you get HSS (high speed steel) at a minimum – some of the really cheap sets from china use the lowest grade steel and can be dangerous – they chip easily and will catch on the wood. HSS will stay sharper longer…of course there are Cryo and Powdered..but they are very expensive. You will also need to learn to sharpen. I recommend diamond sharpening (its cheaper than a full blown “system”) and a leather strop with diamond compound.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3643 days

#8 posted 03-22-2010 09:23 PM

The HF looks like a lot of lathe for the price. As long as there are some reviews out there verifying that it isn’t a piece of junk, I would go for it.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2656 days

#9 posted 03-22-2010 10:07 PM

The #34706 lathe is a good machine, especially for the money. A word of warning about turning though, the lathe is only part of your expense. As a bare minimum you will need.

- Lathe. HF 34706 $199.00
- Chuck. PSI Utility Grip 4 jaw self centering chuck with free jumbo jaws promotion for $89.99 (+ S&H). That chuck is pretty much identical to the Wood River chuck I own. I really like the Wood River. Reviews on the PSI are good too…
- Basic Set of Turning tools. Again PSI has about the most bang for the buck. High Speed Steel 8 pc set $69.99. Great tools, lousy case. Be prepared to glue the case together, They seem to forget to do that at the factory…
- Face Shield. While you are at Harbor Freight cough up another $12.99 for their basic face shield.

From there it kind of goes up, but that will get you started, and you can spin up most basic stuff… From there on out it is just a matter of fancier, or prettier…

Best of luck with it, and welcome to the addiction!

-- My workshop blog can be found at

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