This is 10 Honest Reasons Why I Love My Harbor Freight Lathe. I’ve been the proud owner of a mid size harbor freight bench top lathe for over a decade. It’s been nothing short of awesome in my shop, and I’m going to tell you why. Enjoy.
My Harbor Freight Lathe
My harbor freight lathe story starts out a little on the interesting side. When I bought my lathe, it was the first time that I had bought a tool that could do just about nothing for my primary woodworking project.
At the time I bought my lathe, I was making acoustic guitars full-time, and that was the only project that I ever made any major tool purchases around. Literally the only thing that I can use the lathe to make would be bridge pins and ends pins.
Anyone who knows anything about acoustic guitars knows that those little pins are only a few dollars each, and just not worth hand turning in the shop. However, I really wanted a lathe at the time, so I decided to make the purchase.
Also not wanting to spend a bunch of money on something that I didn’t know if I would enjoy or not, I went to Harbor Freight and bought their mid size green lathe. I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the start of my love of wood turning.
It was also the start of a very long relationship with that tool. It’s been over a decade, and my lathe is still running strong. I’ll talk about that and several other reasons that I love my Harbor Freight lathe coming up.
Long Lasting Mid Size Lathe
As I mentioned earlier, my lathe from Harbor freight has been in my shop and fully functional for over a decade. I’ve never replaced a single part, and I’ve had to do zero repairs or maintenance to the tool in that entire time.
Every time I’ve ever asked it to work, it’s just worked. I flip the switch, the headstock starts rotating, and I go to work. It’s a fantastic relationship, and honestly a lot more than I expected from a discount tool store.
I definitely can’t guarantee that every lathe ever purchased from Harbor Freight has lasted that long, but I know that mine has. It’s still running strong too, which is great because I really enjoy making turning projects.
See Also: Making a Wand
Perfect Size for Most Projects
One of the other reasons that I really love my particular lathe is that it’s perfect size for a lot of projects. While there are bigger offerings on the market, they tend to take up a lot more space and for what I make it’s not that useful.
There are also smaller lathes and little attachments for an electric drill that can function kind of like a lathe, but those don’t have nearly the versatility of this tool. It’s literally the perfect size tool for the average woodworker.
I’ve made tons of things for my shop, and for gifts on the tool. It always seems to accommodate anything I’m making, and I really never run into a time when I wish the tool was bigger or smaller.
Common Spindle Size
Another advantage to this lathe that a lot of other discount lathes don’t have is that the spindle size on the headstock is very common. The headstock is where you add most of your attachments, so it needs to get along with what’s available in the market.
Most super cheap lathes only have the ability to turn between centers. This is where the headstock is just a spur that turns the material. If I you’re going to make a spindles that’s fine, but you can do so much more than that with a standard headstock.
For example, you can’t attach a chuck to a lathe that is meant to turn spindles between centers only. The chuck is where you make your first huge leap in improving the ability of the tool, so it’s very important.
Having a spindle that works with all of the accessories that are available allows you to decide whether or not to buy them and use them. You don’t have to buy anything of course, but it’s nice to have the option if it comes up.
Accepts Lots of Aftermarket Attachments
As I alluded to in the previous section, the harbor freight lathe is set up in a way that it takes all of the common attachments for mainstream lathes. The headstock is a MT2, and so is the tailstock.
The spindle is a one by eight (1 inch by 8 tooth per inch), which is very easy to find accessories for. This means you can buy that chuck to take your lathe to the next level and you won’t have to find anything rare or difficult in order to do it.
I recommend buying a chuck as one of your first accessory purchases. It will allow you to hold more material in better ways, and that means you’ll be able to make more projects. You’ll also make them better because of how the chuck works.
Easy Access Panels for Headstock
Another thing that’s nice about this tool is that when you need to get access to the headstock, the panels are very easy to remove. They go in with common bolts, which makes the process really easy and fast.
It’s an absolute pain in the butt when you have to gain access to your tool to do some sort of a repair or speed change and it’s miserable to get into. Some tools are just like that, and it makes it a pain in the butt to do maintenance.
This lathe is very different, and all of the areas that you would need access to are hidden behind the plastic panels that pop right off with a couple of bolts. This makes any maintenance super easy, and it won’t frustrate you just trying to get started.
Easy to Change Speeds
This place doesn’t have a variable speed adjustment that changes the speed of the spindle electronically. It uses a pulley system and gears to do that. Due to the way it’s made, you’ll need to change your speeds manually.
Thankfully, it’s a really easy process on this machine. All you do is unplug the unit, remove the cover plate, and move the belt to a different position on the police. All you do is rotate a Headstart a little bit, and the belt jumps right into position.
Make sure it’s secure by rotating the headstock a few times and watching the belt as it rides between the two sections of pulley. Once everything looks good, you can seal up the access panel and plug your tool back in.
It’s Easy to Vacuum Off After Use
Something thatt’s a pain in the butt with other tools is hard to reach places that tend to gather sawdust and debris. These can be difficult to reach, difficult to clean, and you might not even know that they are filling up with sawdust.
Hidden piles of sawdust that build up inside of machines can cause problems with the operation of those machines. Over time, they can artificially age your mechanical parts, and cause them to fail.
One of the really nice things about this lathe is that there are no hidden parts like this that are difficult to vacuum out. If you use an air line, or vacuum your tools when you’re finished, you’ll be able to get everything out of the unit, leaving it as clean as possible.
See Also: How to Make a Carbide Lathe Tool
Heavy Enough but Not Overly Heavy
The benchtop harbor freight lathe is not a super heavy tool, but it’s heavy enough that you don’t have to worry about the weight. The tool stays exactly where you want it to, but you can pick it up and move it if you absolutely have to.
Woodworking tools tend to be extraordinarily heavy. This is mainly because of the iron and steel that is used in their construction. While a heavy tool is a stable tool, it’s also really difficult to move around the shop.
This lathe is the perfect blend of weight and stability. It’s perfectly stable on the bench, but if you have to move it, you can do it by yourself and most cases. That’s nice to be able to do, especially if you need to break down your shop at the end of the night.
Long Power Cord
Another nice thing about this tool that a lot of times goes unnoticed is the length of the power cord. Some power tools have a very short cord, which can make plugging them in a lot more difficult than it really needs to be.
The power cord on this tool is definitely long enough to make powering it super easy. That’s a good thing, because in some shops it can be difficult to run power to everything.
You should definitely do that though, because the less time you have to spend running around and plugging in tools, the more time you have to make things. It will also be less frustrating, because you’re not searching for outlets and an extension cord.
Comes with a Faceplate and Live Center
Finally, my lathe came with a few accessories that allowed me to get turning right out of the box. There was a spur center, a live center, and a faceplate that came with the unit when I unpacked it at my shop.
The faceplate is really nice for turning things that you can screw to its surface. You can make bowls, goblets, and plates really quickly. The spur center allows you to make spindles and things that you would turn between the centers.
The live center for the tailstock provides stability by holding the far end of the piece that you are working on, but also allows it to spin freely. This is an advantage over a dead center, which only provides stability but doesn’t move.
Though you will definitely want to purchase a chuck, it’s nice to get at least a little bit of a start with these few accessories right from the manufacturer.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know 10 awesome reasons to buy a harbor freight lathe, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. The lathe is one of the most fun tools that you’ll ever own, and the learning curve is very shallow.
You can get into the craft very quickly, and without spending a ton of money. Though you’ll get fairly good at turning things rapidly, you could still spend a lifetime learning all the different types of turning that are possible.
If you have any questions about why I love my harbor freight lathe, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
- More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
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- Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
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