Harbor Freight - 65345 (Rating: 4)

I have owned a Powermatic 3520B for quite a few years, with a Stronghold chuck and a fair amount of extra tools. One thing I kept noticing, it just wasn't that good for small things. Hard to move around those big tool rests, and I just could not get myself to pay somebody $78 for a six inch tool rest. Plus, I hated to take off the Stronghold every time I wanted to do something smaller.

Since I had an empty small bench right next to it, I started looking into a small lathe, one I could do things like small chime strikers, guitar knobs, etc. After looking at a number of models, I decided to pop for the HF 65345. It was $194, and with a 20% coupon, $155 before tax. Not bad.

The lathe setup was very easy. Simply put in the tailstock live center, clean off a little grease, set the speed and go. One thing I did check right off the bat - as soon as I got it home, I put in the spur center and the tailstock live center and moved them together to see if they were true - they were - point on.

As usual, I think the motor will be slightly undersized, but I didn't buy this to do 8" bowls on. I bought it for smaller projects, along with the middle of the road HF lathe tools so I could leave a set under it. All in all, a pretty good setup for about $200 with tax, lathe and tools together.

What I like about it:
1. Fairly quiet, and passed the nickel test, no problems.
2. Easy to move tailstock and tool rest.
3. Nice headstock hand wheel.
4. Didn't even have to bolt it down. (At least not yet)
5. Motor seems to be a little stronger than I initially thought.
6. Enough room underneath it to store a few tools on the same bench while working.
7. Nice speed belt, looks to be a urethane multi-ribbed belt.

What I don't like about it:
1. For sure, the biggest thing is the speed change. What a PITA. With the upper door on the backside, it makes it almost impossible to change without climbing over the thing. Thinking about leaving off the doors completely, if I thought the belt could take the dust and chips. And the lower one is kind of buried up in the casting. Small hands here!
2. Two inch tailstock movement. Almost a waste. And the tightening of the tailstock shaft is awkward, at least with the lever again on the backside.
3. No chuck that I know of currently sold by Harbor Freight fits the 1X8TPI threads on the headstock. I recently purchased a Grizzly H7605 1X8TPI four jaw reversible I am waiting on, $70 shipped. You need a chuck if you want to do anything serious. Spur chucks have their place, but nothing like a real chuck.

Overall, this lathe is a great addition to anyone who wants to get into smaller lathed items for not a lot of money. I know it is slightly cheaper made than the Rockler, Jet, etc., but it runs smooth, has five speeds from 750 up to 3200, and when you remember you can add on a set of those medium sized HF lathe tools, (with another 20% coupon), for around $36, that package is a great starter package, under $200. Add a decent face shield and you are ready to go!

The only reason I knocked it down a star is due to the speed change. I thought about a speed controller, but short of a VSD, you usually lose too much torque with those cheapo controllers, and torque is a biggee on lathe motors.

If you are in the market for a lathe, you could do worse for a small, beginner unit.