Beginners first lathe

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Forum topic by stratiA posted 11-23-2010 06:59 AM 4528 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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101 posts in 3548 days

11-23-2010 06:59 AM

Hey everyone. I just scored a little extra spending cash courtesy of a birthday. I have been looking for a used lathe to add to my tool arsenal for a while now. Now that I got a little more I’ve been debating getting the harbor freight mini lathe #65345. It’s now $199 plus I got the usual 20% coupon. The reviews are good from their site. Question is who makes this for HF? It looks alot like the jet. Does anybody out there have an opinion as a beginners lathe? I believe that they once offered an extension for this as well but I couldn’t find it on the website. If I get this I may be able to get some decent lathe tools sooner than later. I am hoping other LJ could shed some light on buying this or should I pony up a little more and get the Rikon mini at woodcraft this black friday sale. If I get the Rikon it may be some time before I can get decent turning tools. Any opinions of other beginners lathes are of course welcome. Thanks.

-- Strati Alepidis, Burlington, Ma, Member Red Sox nation

6 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3246 days

#1 posted 11-23-2010 04:16 PM

Whenever someone asks for advice on getting a starter lathe I feel an obligation to say the following – -

To enjoy any success in turning you have to have sharp cutting tools and a good way to consistently sharpen them is essential. I advise people to not try sharpening by hand without a jig. In my opinion, you need a grinder and a jig like the Wolverine jig or something compatible. There are varying opinions about whether it should be a slow speed grinder or regular speed grinder and whether you need an 8” instead of a cheaper 6”. The point of this paragraph is to make you aware that there will be other expenses associated with starting to turn that you may not be thinking about.

Also – - You do not need the real expensive cutting tools, but I advise you to also avoid the real cheap stuff.

I don’t want to discourage you – I just want to make you aware of some additional expenses that will come your way if you want to start turning.

Regarding lathes – - A bench top is great for turning pens and other small items. However, most people outgrow their bench top lathes and want a floor mount with more capacity eventually. An adequate floor mount lathe does not cost much more than a bench mount and, in the end, that is probably what you will want.

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

View dbhost's profile


5767 posts in 3404 days

#2 posted 11-23-2010 04:53 PM

As the owner and very happy user of one, I would recommend the Central Machinery (HF) #34706 12x-33-1/3 (not really, but that is what they advertise) lathe. It is really a 12×36, and is effectively a Jet JWL1236 clone. This lathe is sold under a lot of different names, but overall it is a good unit. I have spun up a lot of spindles, and bowls with mine, and never been left wanting.

Watch your Craigslist. These come up for sale on CL around here pretty often as they are a popular lathe, and sell used around $125.00 or so. For $150.00 you can get a like new unit, with a set of chisels, and if you luck out, with a chuck…

I am going to echo Rich’s advise, and tell you this. I have a Ryobi 8” bench grinder, with white oxide wheels, and a Wolverine jig system, and it ROCKS, but it was not cost effective… To save yourself a bunch of money, I would pick up the PSI 4PC sharpening system with 2 speed 8” grinder.

You might want to jump on that, PSI has a 10% off online coupon for orders over $59.00, but it appears to be very time limited…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View stratiA's profile


101 posts in 3548 days

#3 posted 11-23-2010 09:46 PM

Thank you Rich and Db for your input. I am aware that there are significant costs after the purchase of the lathe. That is why i am leaning toward the HF. I am also aware that I will probably want a bigger unit soon after. However I have severe space restraints which means I simply don’t have floor space. I am continuing my search for a decent used lathe.

-- Strati Alepidis, Burlington, Ma, Member Red Sox nation

View Gibbs's profile


22 posts in 2501 days

#4 posted 04-06-2012 03:11 AM

Just for Info…. I bought a Harbor Freight, aka Central Macnine 5 speed lathe the other day. Then I bought the extension bed for the Excelsior mini lathe from Rockler. Extension came in today, with free shipping, around $70 and fits the HF lathe like it was made for it. The extension is black, but the HF is green…until you flip them upside down and they have the same red-brown base coat paint. Also, FWIW the HF bed was milled and ground to a nicer finish that the Rockler extension. Don’t think it will matter much though. I took my Arkansas Oil Stone and run up and down on the bed of the extension and smoothed it out like it had been well used for some time. Probably didn’t take off enough to measure, but I see the bright spots where it smoothed out the bed a bit better.

-- Vern in SW Michigan look me up at my website at sometime

View Richard's profile


1922 posts in 2862 days

#5 posted 04-06-2012 03:42 AM

Lots of th HF stuff comes out of the same factory as some of the more expensive stuff, just the requirements for QC and fit and finiish from the customer is all that makes a difference. so for a HF unit you might have to do some Clean Up work on it and the others you might not. BUT then some of them don’t come from the same place so you might want to put hands on them firrst just to check. I have a couple of HF tools that are as good or better than some of the other Brand Name units of the same type. But then there are the really bad ones , so you just have to look and touch. Good Luck.

View Gibbs's profile


22 posts in 2501 days

#6 posted 04-09-2012 03:14 PM

One thing I might mention. On the HF lathe I have, I noticed that the plate that holds the motor was not coming flush and seemed to be hitting something. Turned the lathe over and saw that the phillip head screw on the motor was actaully hitting the lathe cast iron bed. Removed the motor and ground relief in the bed where those 2 screws are and no more binding (did both sides). Just passing this along.

-- Vern in SW Michigan look me up at my website at sometime

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