I found a $150 lathe... whats the catch?

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Forum topic by EricW posted 03-06-2009 12:11 AM 4881 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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86 posts in 3541 days

03-06-2009 12:11 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe tool turning

So, i know nothing about lathes, but i want to get started in turning. I found a $150 lathe from harbor freight tools. now, i know that this isnt a great lathe, but what is the difference between the $150 one and an $800 one? should i just laugh and move on from this seemingly great deal?

here’s the link:

i really want to start with doing bowls/vases/plates…

thanks, eric

32 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3673 days

#1 posted 03-06-2009 12:15 AM

DO NOT laugh, but DO move on from this seemingly great deal.

someone said it before , and I’ll say it again – if it has moving parts – do not buy it from HF… (with a few exceptions)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3769 days

#2 posted 03-06-2009 12:42 AM

I’m not a big fan of lathe work, but I would say to look around for a used one, if you’re not looking to spend much money. I have an old Craftsman (I think) lathe, that’s older than me. I got it for almost nothing. Bought a few parts, and it works as good as new. But then I’m not doing anything fancy with it, just chair rungs or taper pins.

View jeh412's profile


129 posts in 3400 days

#3 posted 03-06-2009 03:18 AM

Keep an eye on Craigslist. I often see lathes, along with plenty of other woodworking tools, offered there. You’ll do much better with something other than HF when it comes to a lathe. I’ve bought some tools from HF that are serving me well, but when it comes to something like a lathe I wouldn’t trust that it would run true.

I’ve bought and sold a number of things on CG, most recently bought a 14 inch bandsaw and sold my old 12 inch Crasftman the next day.

-- John, co-owner Sawdust 'n Stitches

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4078 days

#4 posted 03-06-2009 04:02 AM

A friend of mine has a lathe of about this caliber. I’m not sure if it came from HF but one difference between this one and say my little Rikon midi is that the headstock on mine has a morse taper for changing to different attachments whereas the HF model just has a threaded shaft. Most of the higher end lathes have a morse taper type headstock and consequently there is more compatible stuff out there to select from as far as bowl chucks and such. You can get an adapter for the HF style head stock, but comparitively, it’s a real pain in the a$$ to change components. Also, I don’t know if the HF has the same pulley system as my friend’s, but his only had a four speed adjustment settings and the slowest was I think 1140 rpm’s or something like that. If you were trying to turn down something like a 10” diameter bowl, I would think you’d need it to spin slower for safety reason’s. The only other thing I can say is after seeing both of them, the Rikon has way better fit and finish as well as better adjustibility and smoothness of operation. I got the Rikon for a deal from Woodcraft for $299 w/ free shipping. I know it’s over twice the money, but well worth it. Also, like John says, check out Craigslist and also maybe Ebay. HF is good for many things but like I’ve heard it discussed on LJ’s…......If it’s got moving parts and it’s from Harbor Freight, don’t do it. JMHO….....

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3466 days

#5 posted 03-06-2009 04:19 AM

I have a theory that any power tool that comes unnecesary attachments should be avoided. after all if they had spent the money from the sanding attachment on making better quality chucks ,motors and fittings then maybe it would be worth it. Spending your money on something decent just makes projects more pleasant to do rather than fighting a substandard machine which, in the end, discourages you from doing more. Trust me the difference between a $150 lathe and and $800 dollar lathe is like the difference between a Hyundai and a BMW.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View gbvinc's profile


628 posts in 3971 days

#6 posted 03-06-2009 04:56 AM

I own a $150 lathe and an $800 lathe. The above responses pretty well hit the highlights.. Laugh and move on.

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3513 days

#7 posted 03-06-2009 05:34 AM

Do NOT get this lathe. It will not be worth the time, money and effort.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4425 days

#8 posted 03-06-2009 05:36 AM

A pre starter lathe. It’s the one to get before you buy a starter lathe.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3747 days

#9 posted 03-06-2009 05:41 AM

Keep an eye out for local auctions. For $150.00 you can buy one of those $800.00 lathes.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View EricW's profile


86 posts in 3541 days

#10 posted 03-06-2009 05:50 AM

i hear what a lot of you are saying about how HF is not a good place to buy a lathe… and i had a feeling that was true, its just so hard to pass up. I dont plan on using it alot, just as a hobby every so often.. maybe a couple times a month.

What do you think about this one from HF? im leaning more towards this:

it seems more sturdy, and it has more speeds.

Whats a live center, and a spur center? are either of those what you use for making bowls? And can i make vases with this lathe? or it doesnt come with the right attachment?

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3792 days

#11 posted 03-06-2009 05:57 AM

About the only thing you can effectively make with this lathe is a boat anchor or a lighter wallet.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4013 days

#12 posted 03-06-2009 05:59 AM

I actually bought one of those from HF.

I use a lathe once in a blue moon so if it lasted for a week of actual use it would last me for years.
So far I have used it twice and it did the job. Nothing special though.

If it’s something you plan on using all the time, get a good one. If you’re not sure if you are going to like
turning it’s not a bad deal to try out. At least that way you will know what features you want in a good one.

Almost any tooling that you get will also work on a better one, so you won’t be wasting them.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View ccpenco's profile


84 posts in 3408 days

#13 posted 03-06-2009 06:11 AM

craftsman lathes can be cheaper and they allow you to do more than just basic projects

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4027 days

#14 posted 03-06-2009 01:38 PM

This was my first lathe, it has no redeaming features, nothing lines up, the banjo and tool rest bind and the bolts strip out, the base is bent, thin junk, I spent a lot of time just chasing the damn thing around the shop. It’s big brother is just more expensive junk. Take it from someone who has been there – this is no lathe to learn on in fact calling it a lathe is an overstatement, did I mention it has no redeaming qualities? As mentioned in the previous post – I’d rather own a crapsman than one of these. If you spend a little more – when you move on you will be able sell it and move up – I junked my HF – I wouldn’t sell it to an enemy.
Doug in AZ.

-- If you need craft books - please visit our small business at

View EricW's profile


86 posts in 3541 days

#15 posted 03-09-2009 02:39 AM

thanks for the answers everyone.

showing 1 through 15 of 32 replies

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