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Harbor Freight Lathe (#34706) as My Ultimate Lathe

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Forum topic by Hockey posted 04-29-2017 12:47 AM 1878 views 1 time favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


04-29-2017 12:47 AM

I recently bought a HF lathe model # 34706, thinking I could always upgrade. I’ve been using this lathe almost daily and have turned bowls, finials and boxes with it. It has a 3/4 hp motor, with 12” swing x 33 3/8”. Runs great so far. I keep thinking how can this lathe be so good for as little money as they go for. I truly hope it lasts a very long time because I want it to be my ultimate lathe. I really like this thing.

Please tell me about your experiences with this model lathe. Any high mileage ones out there?


21 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile

cabmaker

1624 posts in 2647 days


#1 posted 04-29-2017 12:59 AM

always nice to see someone happy with their purchase.!!!!!!

Hope you get many years out of it !

enjoy the journey JB

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Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#2 posted 04-29-2017 02:18 AM

Thanks, Cabmaker.

View Rick_M's profile

Rick_M

10634 posts in 2218 days


#3 posted 04-29-2017 02:34 AM

I don’t have that lathe but I’ve owned plenty of old lathes, several older than me. They are among the more simple woodworking machines and generally the parts that wear out like motors, bearings, belts, and tool rests are easily replaceable. So you should be able to keep it going the rest of your life barring any catastrophe like a broken casting.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#4 posted 04-29-2017 02:53 AM

Thanks, Rick. Old lathes are cool.

View tschmidty68's profile

tschmidty68

16 posts in 250 days


#5 posted 04-29-2017 05:05 AM

What I’ve noticed with HF tools, they either last a month or years.. it’s been hit or miss in my expierence. Don’t have any expierence with the lathe, just other products

-- Haven't lost a finger....yet...

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Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#6 posted 04-29-2017 02:34 PM

RickM, I checked out your website that you linked. I read with great interest, “How to buy a vintage wood lathe”. Although I really like my HF lathe, I am always on the lookout for vintage lathes, and will buy one if I find a good deal. However, I was at a loss as to what to look for. Your article will help me greatly. Thanks. By the way, if I find one, I do not intend to get rid of my HF lathe. Thanks, RickM.

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

8324 posts in 1324 days


#7 posted 04-29-2017 02:56 PM

The head on mine will flex when I tighten the live center. Other than that it’s solid. Not the best but definitely not the worst.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Hockey's profile

Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#8 posted 04-29-2017 03:11 PM

TheFridge, I haven’t noticed that on mine. Is that something that developed over time on yours?

View SignWave's profile

SignWave

440 posts in 2873 days


#9 posted 04-29-2017 03:53 PM

I have that lathe, and it does a fine job. I’ve only had it for about a year, but it seems to be holding up fine so far. There are some things about it that I would say are “rough around the edges”, but I’ve made modifications to fix most of them. Nothing to keep me from turning what I want.

Some examples:
  • The “handles” on the banjo and tailstock lock down are floating bars. I turned a handle for each of them to make them more comfortable, and to keep them from floating around. I also turned a handle for the speed control knob that was a bit bigger and more comfortable.
  • The live center that came with it is not usable. Mine did not turn true, and it left marks on the workpiece. If you don’t already have one, then get a decent live center.
  • The stand was made for a shorter person than me. I made a base to raise it up a bit. I bolted the legs to the new base (which is solid) and it not only helps raise the lathe up, but it makes the base as a whole a lot more stable.
  • The bolts that adjust the banjo lockdown would loosen, so I put some thread lock on the threads to keep it from moving. They should have used a nylon locking nut instead of a simple hex nut.
  • The banjo lockdown bar (the eccentric bar under the banjo) has ridges in it, so it tends to bind when I’m adjusting the banjo position. I haven’t fixed this yet, but it’s at the top of my list. I’m thinking about filing the ridges down to make it easier to operate.
  • The toolrest post size is 25mm, not 1”. Where I live, it’s hard to find alternate size/shaped toolrests with a 25mm post. I’d like a narrower toolrest as an option, and maybe a J shaped toolrest for bowls.
  • The “extension” on the banjo is not very stable, so I don’t really use it. I wish they’d have just made the banjo longer instead.
  • The motor is a bit under-powered, but if you keep your tools sharpened, it’s fine. When mine starts bogging down, I put a fresh edge on my tool.

If I could find an affordable replacement banjo, that would remove a lot of the minor frustrations.

Most of these are little things, and I can manage them. This lathe is well priced, and I don’t mind customizing tools to make them work better, so this list really isn’t a complaint. If I’d paid for a Robust, then I would have higher expectations, naturally. :)

-- Barry, http://BarrysWorkshop.com/

View Hockey's profile

Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#10 posted 04-29-2017 04:14 PM

Thanks, Barry. Appreicate the detailed response. I was wondering what to do about the tool rest post size as well. Thinking of going to a machine shop to see how much they will charge me to ream it out to 1”. Another thing on the tool rest, I did just strip out the lock bolt handle. I contacted HF and they are sending me new ones under warranty. Customer service was excellent. In any event, I am planning on upgrading the handles.

When you say “an affordable replacement banjo”, are these easily interchangeable with other lathes? Also, what kind of prices have you found?

View SignWave's profile

SignWave

440 posts in 2873 days


#11 posted 04-29-2017 05:25 PM

I also thought about having the banjo reamed to 1”. It shouldn’t cost too much, but I haven’t gotten a quote yet. I think there are enough issues with the banjo that I’d rather put all the money toward a replacement.

As far as a replacement banjo, I presume that most models should work with any lathe. The only thing that needs to match closely is the locking plate (the part under the bedways), so if the replacement doesn’t fit exactly, you could use the one that came with the lathe (or if you’re so inclined, fabricate your own).

OneWay makes replacement banjos, but the one for 12” lathes costs about the same as the HF lathe itself. I’m sure they’re nice, and having one would be a joy, but it’s a bit more than I want to spend on this lathe.

I’ve also seen used banjos from other lathes on places like ebay, but I haven’t seen anything that is much better at a price that I like.

If the banjo didn’t work at all, I’d have probably found another solution already. The issues at this point just make it a bit harder to adjust than I’d like.

-- Barry, http://BarrysWorkshop.com/

View Rick_M's profile

Rick_M

10634 posts in 2218 days


#12 posted 04-29-2017 05:47 PM

If careful, you might be able to drill it out to 1 inch.

And thanks for the kind words about my blog.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View Hockey's profile

Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#13 posted 04-29-2017 06:48 PM



If careful, you might be able to drill it out to 1 inch.

And thanks for the kind words about my blog.

- Rick M

You are welcome. I wouldn’t even try to drill it out. No center point, even if I had a metal cutting drill bit that size. I certainly don’t have a reamer that size either. I will leave that to the professionals.

View Hockey's profile

Hockey

90 posts in 250 days


#14 posted 04-29-2017 06:56 PM

Thanks, Barry. If they fit fairly universally, maybe there is something on the used market. I will be looking.

I checked out your website just briefly and skimmed through a couple of videos. Nice site. I’ll go back when I have more time and watch the videos. I can use all the instruction I can get. What is that little lathe you are using? Do you have any videos of using the HF lathe (34706)?

View SignWave's profile

SignWave

440 posts in 2873 days


#15 posted 04-29-2017 07:32 PM

Thanks for the comments on my site. The smaller lathe is Rockler’s variant of the 10×18 mini lathe that so many places sell (e.g. HF #65345). It’s more refined than the 34706, but it’s smaller and only has 5 speeds instead of being variable speed. By “refined”, it’s the little stuff like the banjo being smoother, and having a better live center. I’ve had to tweak it a bit, as well, such as the tailstock slipping.

I should make a comparison video…

-- Barry, http://BarrysWorkshop.com/

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