Questions #1: Want to get into lathe work

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Blog entry by Jim posted 12-17-2009 02:31 AM 3857 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Well, with all my hard work and time put into restoring my great grandfather’s lathe, I finally got it all refurbished.

Then it broke.

The pulley wheel being aluminum had already taken a beating over the years while in storage and it finally split with the tension of the belt and motor. Long story short, I don’t want to let it become a money sink when it’s a pretty simple lathe.

That being said. I still want to do pens and bowls, etc. I’ve done a little research, decided for space reasons a mini will do me just fine. I like the Jets, but they are a bit more than I was hoping to pay (still trying to acquire a lot of other tools of the trade). I heard the Rikon’s are decent knock offs, but I also wondered if anyone knew anything about the Central Machinery HF knockoff that’s a benchtop model. It’s about $200, just curious. I’ve heard reviews on the large ones and didn’t know if it was junk or gem. I know I should buy the best I can afford, just wanting to see what all info I can get to compare. I’ve recently come into $200 in menards gift cards, unfortunately all they have are the Performax large lathes (already heard how bad these can be), so I almost contemplated seeing if I could sell off those gift cards for cash and just go for the Jet or Rikon. Or if the HF one would get me by for the time being. I’ve searched all over Craigslist in the area, but the only lathes here are the big industrial metal lathes, and the OLD craftsman lathes.

Thanks for taking the time to read on my problem. Any advice is appreciated, but I’m betting I already know the answer, try to get the Jet or Rikon.

Also, is 1/2hp enough, or should I definitely try for the 3/4hp?

-- -- Jim - Kokomo, Indiana

6 comments so far

View Darell's profile


436 posts in 4106 days

#1 posted 12-17-2009 02:52 AM

I bought the Rikon last summer and have been having a ball turning pens, back scratcher handles and 4-in-1 screwdriver handles with it this fall. I chose it over the Jets partly due to price but also because the belt is easier to move when you need to change speeds. There are excellent reviews on the Rikon and the Jet lathes on this site. Check them out. I won’t knock any of them. I only know that I’ve very well pleased with my Rikon.

-- Darell, Norman, Ok.

View dbhost's profile


5772 posts in 3744 days

#2 posted 12-17-2009 02:52 AM

I have one of the larger HF Central Machinery lathes, the Jet JWL1236 knockoff, and it has peformed fine for me. I am no Harbor Freight hater by any means, but for the $$, unless the mini is on sale, I wouldn’t bother. BUT… The mini DOES go on sale frequently for around $119.00 or so…

The #34706 is on sale for $229.00 and if you have I think it was Octobers issue of Wood magazine, there is a 20% off any single item coupon in there, which gets that lathe into dirt cheap territory…

A LOT of turners on on these lathes and enjoy them…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Wayne's profile


10 posts in 3617 days

#3 posted 12-17-2009 03:16 AM

Reguarding the Chicago Machinery bench-top lathe: I bought one a little over a month ago. So far, I like it. I have had one problem, though. The tail stock and the tool rest both have locking levers with plastic handles. The handle on the tool rest stripped after only a few uses. The threaded metal portion is still fine and will still secure the tool rest. I solved that problem by replacing the handle with one I built myself. Other than that, I have no complaints (especially about the price). Also, I bought a Delta Reversible Wood Turning Chuck . It hooks up great with the Chicago Machinery lathe and allows me to work with turnings up to 2 inches in diameter. In case you’re interested, the model number is 46-461. I paid about $60 for it. I’ve been working with wood for over 40 years and this is my first attempt at lathe work. So far I’m having a blast! Good luck in your new adventure! P.S. 1/2 hp is fine.

-- Wayne, Utah,

View JamesVavra's profile


304 posts in 3828 days

#4 posted 12-17-2009 04:12 AM

I started with this one:

It was fine, but a little too lightweight. I built a cabinet/base and loaded 100 lbs of sand in it and that helped tremendously. I have a small HF scroll chuck that I don’t seem to be able to find on their site right now. It was great for pens and small things, but I wanted to do larger bowls.

I moved up to a Jet 1442.

If you want to make the drive down to Nashville, I could make you a great deal on the old HF lathe, stand, and chuck.


View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23387 posts in 3618 days

#5 posted 12-17-2009 04:49 AM

Hi Darell. I bought a Harbor Freight mini and it works just fine. Watch for the sales and you can get it for $120.
I’ll bet it is made in the same factory as the ones that cost twice the price and it had electronic speed control….................................Jim

ps Pick up a Grizzley chuck for it and you’ll be all set to go 3/4-16 thread

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4406 days

#6 posted 12-17-2009 05:04 AM

at my age, it would be odd for my great grandfathers lathe to have even “one” aluminum part.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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