View Full Version : Metal Lathes Harbor Freight Lathe????

Carroll Courtney
05-19-2012, 10:14 PM
Guys my mind is drifting again and wondering if this is a decent beginners lathe http://www.harborfreight.com/7-inch-x-10-inch-precision-mini-lathe-93212.html
Over the last few months I have had someone machine me some knobs that are about 2" dia out of aluminum,drill a hole in the center and tap a 5/16 thread.These knobs will cost me around 200.00 for this go round.Working within the limits of this lathe,what are the draw backs that by adding alittle more money would have made a big difference,and what is so great about this lathe(if any)besides the price?Can this lathe machine different threads,etc.Just wondering----Carroll
I know you get what you pay for,yes I would like to have one of those old american made lathes

David G Baker
05-20-2012, 1:05 PM
The Harbor Freight lathe would not work for me. For around double the price that Harbor Freight wants for their lathe you can get a used South Bend metal lathe that will do almost anything you want. Shop Craigs List and Ebay, eventually you will find what you need. You may need to spend some time getting educated about lathe work and determine what you need the lathe for. I have a Heavy 10" South Bend that I have had for over 20 years and I love it but on occasion I wish that I had at least a 17 inch swing lathe but I can't justify the expense for no more than I need the larger lathe.

Bruce Page
05-20-2012, 2:01 PM
Carrol, the main complaint that I have read is many of these small Asian lathes use plastic gears that frequently need replacing.
A small South Bend or similar (I have a 14X40 Logan) would be much better.

Carroll Courtney
05-20-2012, 5:19 PM
Thanks guys,plastic gears for a metal lathe spells short life.tks----Carroll

David G Baker
05-21-2012, 1:18 AM
Bruce, I have never owned a Logan but have heard and read that they are great equipment.

Bruce Page
05-21-2012, 2:34 AM
Thanks David. It's a pretty stout little lathe with a 5hp Century motor. It's old and I wouldn't want to have to make a living off of it, but it's great for a garage shop.
I love the South Bend lathes too. A friend has one that is in mint condition.

Scott T Smith
05-21-2012, 9:05 AM
Carroll, there is another dimension to buying used versus new, and that is the tooling. When you buy a new, small lathe, it does not take long before you have more invested in tooling versus the lathe itself, and often times when buying used you can negotiate a package deal that includes the tooling, for less money than what you will eventually spend on a cheap, new lathe and new tooling.

I too have an older South Bend lathe, and once that I replaced the leather drive belt with a serpentine rubber one, it really works well.

Josh Bowman
05-25-2012, 8:50 AM
I have that lathe or at least the next larger version. My neighbor has had one for years and has done some very nice turning with it. My complaint is not with any aspect of the build, except it's hard to get the cross slide gibbs tight enough to keep it from flexing on anything but a light cut. And parting off is tough for the same reason. I like their mill and have no complaints about it. But if for a little more you can get one of the above mentioned, I think you'll be happier. And unlike anything I've gotten into, TOOLING is real. No real work arounds either, like in wood working. You've got to have stuff to cut with and stuff to hold with and stuff to measure with. I easily spent the price of the lathe for tooling when I got into this a year ago. Hope this helps.

George Carlson
05-25-2012, 11:21 AM
Those little lathes are too small and crude to do much with. People have worked on them and made handy lathes for very small parts, but for the most part I would say stay away from them.
I don't usually advise beginners to buy old used lathes. If you don't have any experience, how would you know what your buying? There is a lot of junk out there that has been passed around for years. An old lathe could make a good project, but I don't think that you're looking for a rebuild project.
It you want a small lathe to learn on, and is not expensive, I suggest the Grizzly 9x19. I had one of these about 20 years ago. I used it as a back-up lathe to do small pieces on. They're well build and come with a good compliment of tooling. The only drawback I found was that they do not have a toggle gear (used to reverse the leadscrew), so you can't cut left-hand threads.
See http://www.grizzly.com/products/9-x-19-Bench-Lathe/G4000
BTW Stay away from the 3 in 1 units. They will only make you hate metalworking.

Jeffrey L Nolan
06-05-2012, 9:24 PM
I have the above lathe and while the gears are plastic they can be replaced at Little machine shop.

Not a bad lathe but remember small is the word but no 330 lb neither.


Good luck either way.

Steve Kesler
08-07-2012, 8:29 PM
I would agree with all the comments made.. I started out with an Enco 9x20.. The HF/Enco/etc are all pretty much the same import lathe. I broke two (2) belts, and did have some mangled plastic gears. However, the biggest issue was overall rigidity of the cross slide. Had real trouble holding any type of tolerance. My day job is software and I had an interest in learning CNC programming so I got rid of the Enco and went crazy and got a Haas TL-2. If you need help on some knobs drop me a PM and I can try and help you out.

Bruce Page
08-07-2012, 9:10 PM
My day job is software and I had an interest in learning CNC programming so I got rid of the Enco and went crazy and got a Haas TL-2.

Crazy indeed! I have seen a lot of HAAS milling centers but never the TL-2. That is one sweet lathe!

ray hampton
08-07-2012, 10:58 PM
Crazy indeed! I have seen a lot of HAAS milling centers but never the TL-2. That is one sweet lathe!

sweet lathe is a under statement

ray hampton
08-07-2012, 11:03 PM
the H R 7x10 lathe are big enough for the majority of my work