Harbor Freight 14" x 40" Wood Lathe: Best for the Small Shop?

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Review by ThomasLightle posted 03-11-2016 04:15 PM 12235 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Harbor Freight 14" x 40" Wood Lathe: Best for the Small Shop? No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

As always comments are welcome and encouraged.

I have been looking into buying a lathe for some time now. I mainly need it to turn some simple dowels, but I would like to pick up the skill of turning beautiful pieces as well.
The Harbor Freight 14” x 40” wood lather is mostly written off by critics mainly because it is an entry-level tool by Harbor Freight. I use this video to highlight why I think it is perfect for my shop and my needs at this moment. Here are a list of some of the most common complaints/concerns:
Constructed of tube steel and not cast iron
Non-standard spindle thread
Anemic motor
High vibration (due to light weight)

I think this lathe should be considered (by the beginning woodturner) for the following reasons:
1. Affordability – entry-level pricing at $150 new (I got mine for $50 at a garage sale)
2. Versatility – long bed and large 14” capacity makes this lathe pretty versatile as well as the added disc sander on the opposite end of the spindle.
3. Most importantly for my small shop – Portability. This lathe weighs maybe 30-40 lbs. It is easy to pick up and move around and I can clamp it down to my workbench when I need it to be rigid and stable for turning. Since it is so light, I can hang it on the wall when I am not using it – something that would be very difficult to do with even the smallest cast iron lathes.
Is it as good as a Jet, Powermatic, or even Grizzly? Of course not, but as long as you temper your expectations, this lathe can be a valuable addition to any beginner’s work shop. I hope you enjoy the video.

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-- Thom

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56 posts in 1742 days

6 comments so far

View jimintx's profile


934 posts in 2432 days

#1 posted 03-11-2016 09:36 PM

I don’t think this lathe is still offered, is it?
It isn’t in the HF website listing for lathes, and I haven’t seen it in a store in the last few years.

The heavy lathe they now offer, priced at $299 but almost always discounted a bunch, is the one I have.
There are quite a few reviews and comments on it on the LJ review pages.
It is listed as “12 in. x 33-3/8 in. 3/4 HP Wood Lathe with Reversible Head”.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3362 days

#2 posted 03-12-2016 12:37 AM

This one is long gone. I think they quit selling it because it had so many issues.
Sometimes, HF will put in other models because they get them made cheaper, but they also discontinue if it just rots on the floor of the stores. I think this lathe fell into the latter category.

Another good example of that was the radial drill press they used to sell. I had one that I bought back in 2000, and just recently sold it because it would flex when trying to drill at some strange angle, and you could not keep the angle due to the cheap way the table and head were on the main post. Grizzly now sells sort of an updated model of it.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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3026 posts in 3038 days

#3 posted 03-14-2016 03:52 AM

Nice review, you pointed out all the issues with this lathe, good & bad. I have this same lathe, got it when I received a coupon for it at $90. Figured I’d try turning, never having tried prior. I also bought the H F $35 turning tools with the lathe, then afterwards I got the 4 jaw chuck, the face plate, and the Jacobs chuck for the tail stock.
Since then, I got hooked. I bolted the lathe on a 2X4 & plywood base which made it rigid and stable, with a shelf under it for storage & weight to keep it from walking.
I’ve turned many tool handles, a carvers mallet, and others miscellaneous items, but recently posted a bed I made by turning the posts. I determined the maximum length spindle turning is actually 38.5”, but what the heck. I’ve received more than my $90 worth of fun with this gem. If the early masters could make fine American Period furniture with a wooden pole lathe, I’m pretty sure you can do so the same with this device. Have fun turning.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View ThomasLightle's profile


56 posts in 1742 days

#4 posted 03-15-2016 02:09 AM

Hey thanks for all your comments, guys. I love seeing everyone’s thoughts about these things.

-- Thom

View woodbutcherbynight's profile (online now)


6152 posts in 3256 days

#5 posted 03-21-2016 04:03 AM

I have two friends with the 299 version lathe and have actually used one to turn a spindle. Not bad, for the average hobby projects it gets the job done easily. For those wishing to move up a notch Grizzly has one for 595 plus 95 shipping that I have seen. After that it goes to 1200 and up.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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1384 posts in 4389 days

#6 posted 03-22-2016 03:48 AM

I’ve got that lathe I bought in either the late 80’s or early 90’s and have turned 100’s of table and island legs with it. The only thing I’ve done to it is put a new belt on it several years ago. Mine is black and I have it mounted on a stationary cabinet I made for it. I also use a duplicator on it and one thing it will do is turn a leg long enough for kitchen islands.
I’ll be using it again soon to turn more table legs and legs going on an outdoor set of base cabinets. I paid $90.00 for it.

I think HF still has the lathe.

-- Bruce Free Plans

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