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Well written review OSU55 on HF #34706. You have me almost sold.
Both these machines seem to have good reviews. If I was only interested in turning pens then the smaller lathe would work fine probably. But I am sure that the 18" limit on turning length would eventually become a huge issue with me.
It seems that the #35444 tool set would work for me at least to start. These seem to have good reviews too.
Right now, having watched CL off and on for the last 6 months or more and finding mostly junk or over priced lathes, I am ready to make the investment. I have 20% discount slips and we are fortunate to have 2 HF stores here in town. So I get the lathe at one store for 20% off and travel a short distance across town and the tool set at store #2 for another 20% off.
Am I missing anything here? Your comments welcome.

I was looking at HF #65345 on sale for $199.99 and also #65345 and comparing the differences in the machines it seems like the (#34706) that member OSU55 reviewed is the better value. The $90. difference seems small when I compare the difference in machines. Seems like the 3/4 HP motor difference alone would make up for a lot of the price bump. Not sure if #65345 has a reverse or not. Not sure if that is even a big issue with a wood lathe.
 

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I have the #34706 and I am satisfied with it. I had never turned before so here are some thoughts… the instant variable speed capability is priceless, I am constantly adjusting it through out the work. Having to remove a plate and mess with belts after using mine would be a deal breaker big time! I have only seen a power drop at very high speed and it was barely noticeable. Otherwise it powers through fine with heavy gouging. I don't think the 18" capacity would be that limiting, just depends on what you to. Most things I have tried have been under a foot long, but replacing a broken trail shovel handle was very gratifying. My biggest caveat with my lathe is the headstock will tilt up under heavy tail stock pressure. Someone here has posted a fix for it by essentially clamping down with long all-thread and plywood. I may try it if see the need. In-short I'm happy with my lathes abilities. Good luck with your decision! Turning is a lot of fun and instantly gratifying.
 

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I have the #65345 and , while it is a good machine, seems as nice as similar machines from PennState and others, I now think the larger #34706 would have been a much better bang for the buck.
I don't like the limited power of the smaller machine especially. It might be fine for pens, but can't handle anything like a goblet or bowl without an extra stage of speed reduction.
 

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I've looked at the ones in the store and have used a friends once or twice.. not real impressed with them.. seemed pretty flimsy with lots of flex.. the situation described by woodcox above would leave me running away (headstock tilting up from too much pressure!!!). The unusual motor setup and history of motor problems also concerns me. I know lots of folks have them and they work great for what they do however, so it's at least worth a look and deciding if they would be adequate for what you intend on using it for.

Cheers,
Brad
 

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What Crank said

I started off with the HF lathe and quickly went to the PSI 10" lathe before the 12" came out. For the price get the PSI 12" with extension and you will be happy for a while. It has 1 hp with Reverse and a few other goodies.

Link

http://www.pennstateind.com/store/TCLC12WB.html

If you can find someone that has a 10% discount that would help too.
 

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Lack of power seems to be the most widespread complaint with lathe users. Unless you're planning to just do small things like pens I wouldn't bother with the 1/2 HP one. Some people like that 34706 and some don't. The speed changer seems to take a bit of understanding and maintenance for long use, though.

The one thing about HF tools to remember is that the way they keep prices down is by working out bargain deals with the Chinese manufacturers and what that seems to mean with most items is poor quality control. Thus buying from them is a crap shoot so save your receipt and use it a lot during the return period.

That lathe Crank got from Penn State looks more like it to me. One HP is probably good power for a lathe that size and you'll love yourself for getting variable speed. Those features are worth the difference in price to me. Think it over a bit more, dude.
 
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