So here I was bitten by the wood turning bug but I was missing something very important, the tools to turn with. First I turned to Craigs List to see if I could find a lathe there. Oh there were plenty of lathe’s out there for sale to be sure, but they were either really old and weary looking or fairly new and still pretty pricey for my budget. My thought was that as much as I had fallen in love with the Nova Comet it’s price was a bit out of my reach at the time and did I really want to spend that much money upfront for something that in the long run I may find I don’t like or take to as much as I thought I would.
From there I began looking at other options from local tool shops to countless searches online. For the most part all the price points for lathes are pretty much in the same category. Starting at $300.00 and going up from there with all the bells and whistles that you could think of.
After a number of searches and reading tons of reviews I came across a 10 x 18 mini lathe at Harbor Freight. The cost was minimal and I admit to being one who lives by the motto of you get what you pay for as the price was considerably less expensive then most other lathes in this size. This had me looking into it even more.
I began searching and reading reviews on the lathe and was pleasantly surprised to find that the reviews for the Central Machinery 10 x 18 min lathe were very favorable. The construction was solid, the motor was powerful, the lather has five speeds: 750, 1100, 1600, 2200, and 3200 RPM’s, and the headstock spindle is a standard size of 1″ x 8tpi which make sit nice for adding a chuck down the road. The headstock and tailstock are a MT2 taper which again is standard for most parts.
The price of the lathe is $219.99 but being a patient person paid off for me as I waited for them to put it on sale and then with a 20% off coupon the cost pre-tax was $169.00. Now I will say that with the savings I purchased a two year replacement plan which if I remember correctly was an additional $20.00 just to be on the safe side.
Out of the box the lathe was ready to go with minimal setup, it comes with Allen keys for adjusting the belt. Changing the speeds on the lathe is fairly simple, using one of the supplied Allen keys you loosen the motor, move the belt onto the proper pulleys, tighten it back down and you’re ready to go. After one and a half years of turning I did have to replace the belt which did take some figuring out but in the end not to bad. (Will write a post on changing the belt in the future)
The one thing I did notice that when turning a project the chisels did tend to hang up on the tool rest a bit. That was fixed easily enough by sanding off the paint on it and then applying some wax to the top of the tool rest which then allowed the chisels to just slide across it.
In the year and a half that I have been using the lathe it has performed quite well for me and I’ve been extremely happy with it. I’ve now turned everything from pens, shaving brushes, bottle stoppers, and some small bowls with it. A couple of different chucks have been purchased along with a drill chuck and pen drilling chuck. A few people have mentioned that the motor does tend to run a bit warm and it does but that has not seemed to make any difference in how it performs.
All in all I have been very happy with this lathe and would not hesitate to recommend it as good way to get into turning on a dime.