ctilley182

Beginner looking into a lathe

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I want to start turning my own plugs. Been buying pre-turned plugs from Salty's (happy with the product just feel want to make the plug from start to finish).

 

While looking into wood lathes, automatically get swamped with hundreds of options. Right now, I'm thinking about the Craftsman 1/2 hp 12"x16" Midi Lathe or, one from Harbor Freight seeing as I'm just starting out.

 

Read a few bad reviews about a couple Harbor Freight lathes but a majority of reviews were positive. Anyone have any experience with any Harbor Freight lathes? Should I just spend the few extra $$ and go with craftsman??

 

Any help is appreciated and thanks in advance!!

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Posted (edited)

I am also just starting out, and I went the harbor fraight route. I bought there smallest size its on clearance because there not going to carry it any more good price, unfortunately I couldn't get the bentch rest to lock doew tight and stay that way i returned it and got the next size up i love it its like night and day difference it helps havering a store close by I don't mind returning it if it brakes thats why i bought the pertection plan, it i was ordering online and shipping i might look at it differently.

 

Take with a grain of salt because like i said i am just starting out and only a couple months of using eather lathe.

Edited by Tlacey21walden

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Close friends of mine started and went the jet route....they can produce commercia quantities.....not sure about fancy drilling techniques or what not but they are pleased.

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Posted (edited)

I had this same question last month. Have been a woodworker for 40 years but a lathe had never made it into my shop.  Bought a Jet 1221VS second week of January (there was a 15% off promotion last week) from Woodcraft.  Did not get the stand since I had a leftover router table (made 2 awhile ago) that would work with the lathe if I made a riser to stand on.  Made a couple plugs but have since made 5 rolling pins, 6 honey dippers, 2 small bowls and a lidded box.  And 2 cutting boards but those not on the lathe  :)

 

I got a Oneway Talon chuck with 3 sets of jaws, an arbor chuck, and a Sorby stebcenter.  I like full size carbide cutters, otherwise it's a lot of sharpening.  I got 5 of the Easy Wood Tools cutters (about $125 each) on the recommendation of my son's FIL and am quite happy with them.  Already had calipers, face mask, dust collectors etc.  Made a duplicator from stuff in the shop.  More stuff on the way.  I have so many wood scraps from other projects that I can make plugs in walnut and curly maple and purple heart etc. 

 

So all in all I am probably in at 2 grand since lathe tools and accessories cost more than a lathe.  In retrospect I wish I had a much bigger lathe (Powermatic, Oneway, etc) for bowls etc.  Shop is wired for 220 but those lathes are enormous.

 

My personal advice is get the best tools that work for you financially.  If you are already a woodworker then get something that matches the quality of the other tools in your shop.  If you are only going to turn plugs a lot of folks have said they are happy with a HF setup.

Edited by Naptime

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I bought my first lathe on Sunday. Went with the harbor freight. They were out of the smallest/cheapest one on clearance so I went with the next size up. It's very quiet and vibration free. I was sort of expecting something I'd never want to turn my back on.

 

One thing I read was that it comes with MT1 size attachments which may be hard to find accessories, but there seems to be plenty of options on Amazon. I bought a drill Chuck on Amazon. This is important for drilling straight holes for your through wires. A long drill bit is also necessary. The lathe drill will start the holes, but the long bit in a hand drill will finish them.

 

You'll also need chisels. I picked up the cheapest chisel set at harbor freight when I bought the lathe. I'll probably upgrade later but for now I don't even know what I'm missing with them. Experience well guide me to the right set later, like anything else.

 

You need a way to sharpen your chisels too. I use a bench grinder. I'm sure there are better ways. I'm still researching that, but what I have will do for now.

 

These are the bare bones necessities. Make sure you budget for all of it. I'm no expert, but at least make sure you plan for all the essential accessories.

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I'm a life long hobbyist woodworker with a fully appointed shop with quality power tools. I never got into turning so my lathe was nothing more then a 70's era kit lathe that I would use to turn a few plugs and maybe a couple other dodads. Well it broke a year or so ago and I replaced it with a HF 10 by 18 lathe. I know people don't like to hear this but the reality is turning plugs is not difficult, the shapes are very basic and it does not even amount to wood turning 101. If your simply getting a lathe to turn plugs the HF lathe is all you need. Sure you can pay double but for turning plugs it won't bring anything more to the table. If You want to turn table legs, spindles and bowls then I would recommend a better floor standing lathe.

 

If you look at my avatar that is my primary turning tool. The technology dates back to the tomb builders. It has a max rpm of about 50. It was made from scrap construction lumber and it turns plug bodies just fine. I prefer this lathe because I find turning a plug body on a power lathe to be quite boring and uninspiring while this lathe is just downright fun. A lot slower but way more fun.

 

So do you need a better lathe for plug building? No freaking way. If you have an appreciation for quality matching power tools or if you plan on taking woodturning to a higher skill level or maybe you want to mass produces plugs then the HF lathe is probably not the best choice.

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If you look at my avatar that is my primary turning tool. The technology dates back to the tomb builders. It has a max rpm of about 50. It was made from scrap construction lumber and it turns plug bodies just fine.

 

That is freaking awesome!

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Thank you everyone!! Lots of awesome input that's greatly appreciated! I no way am I looking to mass produce for sale lol but I do think I would enjoy building plugs from start to finish rather than just painting them.

 

Again thank you everyone for the input, think I'll go with the HF and see how that goes!!

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I just purchased my first lathe waiting for it in the mail. I bought a turn crafter 10 from penn state. Bought a set of turning chisels and some hardware for building. A little nervous. I made a name for myself in building rods for 10 years here on longisland. It's been fortunate for me but I want to try something else. Good luck guys

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I'm a life long hobbyist woodworker with a fully appointed shop with quality power tools. I never got into turning so my lathe was nothing more then a 70's era kit lathe that I would use to turn a few plugs and maybe a couple other dodads. Well it broke a year or so ago and I replaced it with a HF 10 by 18 lathe. I know people don't like to hear this but the reality is turning plugs is not difficult, the shapes are very basic and it does not even amount to wood turning 101. If your simply getting a lathe to turn plugs the HF lathe is all you need. Sure you can pay double but for turning plugs it won't bring anything more to the table. If You want to turn table legs, spindles and bowls then I would recommend a better floor standing lathe.

 

If you look at my avatar that is my primary turning tool. The technology dates back to the tomb builders. It has a max rpm of about 50. It was made from scrap construction lumber and it turns plug bodies just fine. I prefer this lathe because I find turning a plug body on a power lathe to be quite boring and uninspiring while this lathe is just downright fun. A lot slower but way more fun.

 

So do you need a better lathe for plug building? No freaking way. If you have an appreciation for quality matching power tools or if you plan on taking woodturning to a higher skill level or maybe you want to mass produces plugs then the HF lathe is probably not the best choice.

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Thank you everyone!! Lots of awesome input that's greatly appreciated! I no way am I looking to mass produce for sale lol but I do think I would enjoy building plugs from start to finish rather than just painting them.

 

Again thank you everyone for the input, think I'll go with the HF and see how that goes!!

Good luck!

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That is freaking awesome!

I did notice the avatar awhile back. Figured you to be a powerless shop (aka hand tool fan). Pretty cool set up. I worked in a grist mill that had something similar.

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My two cents...you don't need to spend a ton of money on equipment. I picked an old Sears lathe on Flea Bay. For $80 I got the lathe and boxes of misc tools, hardware, painting stuff and more. Any way I also have a full wood shop so I built a stand with panel doors out of mahagoney and purpleheart. It's heavy enough that it does not move a mm when a piece is off center and wobbling. It works great. No intension to mass produce. Besides, who knows if you will even like working the lathe.

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