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    Harbor Freight or what?
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    Member EB313's Avatar
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    I am looking at a mini lathe and was considering the Harbor Freight, is it worth it to get started on?
    I also saw a Grizzly and a Little Machine Shop brand but from whet I've read they're all pretty much the same, any thoughts?
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    Keeper of the Asylum K-fab's Avatar
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    Jet or Grizzly would be better.
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    Don't get a mini lathe. Don't. They don't do anything. Get as big a lathe as you can afford. I got a mini lathe thinking it would do a lot and its useless. Ended up swapping it a few years later for bigger unit that does 10 times as much. They just don't have the rigidity.

    It was fine on small alluminium and brass projects, but if you want to make anything vaguely car sized in steel, they lack the power and rigidity. Good learning curve.

    https://www.grizzly.com/products/12-...ed-Lathe/G4002

    This is the lathe I have now (not a grizzly, but the australian brand equivelant of the chinese made stuff) and its awesome. I have turned 150mm diameter steel and 200 mm diameter aluminium and it never has problems. Holds tolerance to within a thou and thats the extent of my machining ability. It cost over 3 times what my first mini lathe cost and it was worth every cent. It is without doubt the most useful tool I own. I made an attachment to do all my pipe notching with a hole saw. Notch in 20 seconds. $2 worth of scrap steel and it does the job of a $500 notcher.

    If you can't afford to go bigger, I Strongly suggest you check locally for a good, bigger, second hand unit over a brand new mini lathe. You won't regret it.

    Also, you will end up spending as much on tooling as you do on the lathe itself. Someone told me that when I got one and I laughed at them. Between the lathe and the mill there I easily have a few thousand dollars worth of work holding and cutting bits because without them the lathe is useless. The good thing about second hand equipment is that you can usually get much of this thrown in with it
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    Member EB313's Avatar
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    I am just looking for something to get started learning, and to see if I will want to even continue on with it. I do understand the constraints of smaller lathes but are they really that useless? I have been looking off and on for a used one but can't find anything less than about $1800, which is a little rich for a trial....at least for me.
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    Member pigsnot's Avatar
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    I have the Horrible freight mini lathe and their cutting tools. I don't know if it's the lathe that lacks power or bad tools or both. I turned down an axle shaft from an ATV (maybe hardened?) I blew so many fuses I said F it and stuck a piece of copper in place. lol Got the job done but it was obviously way beyond it's capability. Like HAM said, for soft metals, yes, it's OK. Even makes threads. Try better cutting tools than they offer. I have their horizontal metal saw and I use the crap out of it, just oil spray a lot, since it's dry,to save blades and they last long.
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    Keeper of the Asylum K-fab's Avatar
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    Your cutting tools and speeds/feeds are 90% of the problem pigs - but the lathe is not helping one bit either, as you've discovered, it's not the best thing around.
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    Quote Originally Posted by EB313 View Post
    I am just looking for something to get started learning, and to see if I will want to even continue on with it. I do understand the constraints of smaller lathes but are they really that useless? I have been looking off and on for a used one but can't find anything less than about $1800, which is a little rich for a trial....at least for me.
    I have found (here in oz at least) that the 'portable' lathes (the ones that you can lift with an engine crane) hold their value very well second hand, which makes them expensive. Larger lathes that would cost $15000 new, but require a truck and crane to move can be had very cheaply second hand. I found several for about $500.

    Don't be afraid of OLD machinery (as in 50 + year old gear). It may look medieval but if you check the spindle bearings, and there's no surface rust on the ways its probably a great buy. I see these for sale from time to time with adds like "belonged to my father, selling off his estate" and they come with HEAPS of tooling
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    I was told Jet is first off the Chinese line. Better quality.
    Grizzly was second. then you get the rest.. All made at the same place.
    different paint.
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
    #9
    Millenium Member Xbird's Avatar
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    I dream and drool over my quarterly Enco catalog ... LOL ... What's everyone's thoughts on a bridgeport vs a lathe? You can usually find used bridgeports for pretty cheap in cities/areas that USED to have a lot small to medium manufacturing shops. I nearly had a free one a couple years ago, they scrapped it before i could get to it.
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    Re: Harbor Freight or what?
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    I have an older Taiwanese 12x36 lathe that I picked up a few years ago for 300. Even had both chucks and the 5c collet setup with a full set of collets! Works great on most of my needs.
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