Central Machinery - #34706 12x36 Cast Iron Wood Lathe. (Jet JWL 1236 clone). (Rating: 4)

Knowing that the lathe itself is just the tip of the financial iceberg when it comes to wood turning, I needed to control costs wherever I could without sacrificing quality I searched, talked with the club representatives at the various woodworking shows etc… And the response came back about the Jet JWL 1236 and its CLONES… It would appear this lathe had been rebranded by several companies, including, but not limited to Grizzly, MasterCraft, and for those of us that are a bit on the cheap side, Harbor Freight under their Central Machinery brand name.

Unlike other Central Machinery products I have attempted to decipher the owners manual to, the 34706 lathe was written in perfectly understandable American English. I am chalking this up to an accident, or rewriting someone else's manual…

The entire thing came in one just sub 200 lb package, with plenty of foam block to keep the parts from banging around, and into each other. Everything was in good condition, present and accounted for.

The complaints I have read about the stand being unduly flimsy are partially true, and one of two reasons this lathe gets 4 instead of 5 stars. I somewhat thing this is unfair though as this is a matter of the TYPE rather than the specific lathe. Unlike the 1440 the 1236 and its clones get stamped steel stands instead of nice solid, heavy cast iron. So yes, this lathe DOES tend to do a little dance across the floor with uneven bowl blanks the the like, but more on that later on… Overall for what it is, the stand is acceptable.

The other area that I disliked, again was part of the design with the positionable head. Bringing the head back to center does not always, well… Bring things back center. I had some initial trouble lining my center pins on my live center and spur drive. Harbor Freight support was no help at all. BUT… Some quick perusing the exploded parts diagram in the unusually helpful manual led me to fiddle with the nut below the headstock, a minor adjustment later and it swings back where it belongs and the centers line up perfectly!

The variable speed settings lowest speed is 600 rpm, which is a bit high for large diameter turnings, but not horrid… Power is plentiful from the 3/4 HP motor, not enormous but nothing to sneeze at. Yeah you can jab a skew in a work piece and stop it, but then again people can do all sorts of stupid things…

The fit and finish of this lathe is top notch, every bit as nice as the "Real" Jet lathes on display at Woodcraft. Good quality paint, good machining on the cast iron, everything just fits right. Simply put, this is no slacker.

Back to the stand issue. Like most all other lower end free standing lathes, and that is what this is, do not mistake this for a high end large capacity lathe, it does it's job nicely, but it is no 16" swing machine by any means… Well like others of this type, the stand is simply stamped steel, and offers NO ballast, or weight to resist vibration with…

A simple piece of scrap plywood cut, and screwed to the spreaders, provides ample room to drill through for slots to store your bits and pieces like spanners, faceplate, knock out bar etc… But more importantly, there is enough room to stow at least 2 80lb bags of Concrete. That additional 160 lbs helps anchor that lathe to the ground, and keep it from dancing around the shop floor…

Just like all the other Harbor Freight machines, but it smart, get it on sale, and use the 20% off coupon. Mine was on $179.00 sale with the 20% off coupon. The price tag is well worth it. This lathe with an inexpensive chuck, and a good HSS starter chisel set can get you quickly finding turning Nirvana.

As long as you expect this to behave like the type of lathe it is, you will be VERY well pleased with the quality of this lathe. It is every bit as good as the more expensive brands, but without the higher price tag…