View Full Version : Harbor Freight lathe's
02-27-2010, 07:51 PM
first let me say if i could go out and dump 5,000+ usd on a lathe i would but i cant so I'm looking at Harbor Freight lathe's. i started looking at there 7x10 mini lathe but my father talked me out of it when i asked his advise "lathes are like wood chippers, get the biggest one you can afford" so I'm now looking at there 9x20. are any of you using one of these lathes and can i get a impression/review of it.
thanks for your time
They're okay for the money. The first thing you need to do is take it all apart, clean out all the packing grease and foundry sand, adjust the headstock bearings and carriage gibs, etc. Once you get everything dialed in the 7x10 or 9x12 can work well.
02-27-2010, 10:18 PM
thanks for the fast reply TRX, its nice to here + feed back on them
02-27-2010, 10:19 PM
I have a 1993 chinese 9x20 lathe that enco stuck their name on. Its made in the same factory as the harbor freight ones. Looking at the newer models and mine I can tell that along the way they have been improved in the last 17 years. The lathe is easy to use and isn't too heavy. The bad things about it are that they aren't built especially rugged and I've had to replace 2 gears for the power feed that wore out. It would be 3, but I could turn one gear around as only the outer 1/2 of it is used. A lot of the replacement parts I've received from enco have been of better quality than what was on the machine that lasted 15+ years, so they have been trying to make them more reliable. The quick change gear box is only 1 lever and when changing to a different threading pitch I have yet to be lucky enough to not have to change the threading gears. It also comes with a steady and center rest! The tailstock is a morse taper #2 and the headstock is a morse taper #3. You will quickly spend more money on tooling than what you have in the lathe, or at least I did. Keep an eye out on ebay for cheap tools for your lathe. If the lathe doesn't come with the stand, I'd spend the extra money and get one as its nice to have storage for everything. I put wheels and levelers on my cabinet so I could move it easily.
Generally I like the lathe, but I wanted a larger one so I'm restoring a larger Sheldon lathe right now and using the 9x20 to help fix it. If I didn't have a lathe, would I buy the 9x20 lathe again? Yes.
02-28-2010, 12:14 AM
Rather like moleman I have a small (7x10) Harbor Freight asian lathe that I am using to help restore my larger (12x36 inch Clausing) lathe. The little 7x10 took some real effort to get tuned-up properly. They are nearly a kit lathe as TRX mentions. I love the digital speed control on it. So much so that I blew it up from too eager use. I replaced that spendy controller with a much beefier one for a mini-mill from the Little Machineshop. They also supplied a small steadyrest - a vital item on such a shortie lathe. The lathe cuts inch and metric (approx) threads very well using manual change gears.
Your father is quite right about getting the largest lathe that will fit your wallet and space available. You don't have to spend $5k if you shop hard and often. You also need to know somethings about lathes before going shopping. If you are totally new at this stuff perhaps your father can help guide your efforts. I would take a nightschool class in machining. In fact I did many years ago and taught the machine tool lab in later years as a teaching assistant.
Gun stuff typically calls for a "larger lathe" of perhaps 12x36 inch with a headstock bore of over 1.25 inches (1.5 inches is mo better). Tooling is needed. Many machinists will rightfully claim that the tooling costs as much as the lathe. Mine never has because I shop for used stuff or make my own tooling.
Today I spotted TWO Soutbend lathes on Ebay (used) for $84.oo in California (Interschola listing). Yup, that's right. They were "parts machines" because they were missing the compounds and the 3-phase motors were not bolted in place !!!
Happy shopping !!!
02-28-2010, 12:45 AM
The 9x20 is the one I should have bought... I have the 7x12... trust me, get the 9x20 if you are choosing between these two.
02-28-2010, 08:01 AM
shop around for a used one if you have the luxury of time. also depends on what and how often you will be using it for, i searched for a while and found one locally, a 13" leblond someone was using to turn wood on(ie. not beat up and worked to death) for under $650 with some tooling to boot:) the deals are out there if you have some time to look. just my opinion. out.
02-28-2010, 11:50 AM
Ive been looking for a Lethe for a bit now, Ive looked every were (cregs lists, uncle H and ebay) with no luck on local (in Maine everything is like gold and no one gets ride of anything until its just about totally used up.) I'm going to have to drive from Maine to mass. (the closest HF) to order the 9X20 in person but the good thing about it is my 20% off coupon would be good( a major advantage.)
02-28-2010, 12:49 PM
don't jump into a lathe purchase.
there are good web respources around for the chinese 9x20 lathes, and apparently, they really are all made in the same factory(ies).
I was looking at getting one, but they do require a going over apparently. and for gunsmithing, they are on the small side.
grizzly's gunsmith lathe looks pretty good.
my best advice, which is what I did, is to educate yourself first, then watch ebay and craigs list like a hawk and pounce when the lathe and price are right. I ended up with a pretty nice south bend for maybe a little less than a 9x20 price.
practicamachinist.com can help you out A LOT. there are some serious gearheads there, and good deals too.
02-28-2010, 07:22 PM
Ditto on the PM website:
Machinery for Sale or Wanted - Practical Machinist - Largest Manufacturing Technology Forum on the Web (http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/machinery-sale-wanted)
You might have to drive a bit to get one, but they are out there.