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Looking for first lathe

2020 Views 31 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  JollyGreen67
So I posted a WTB here on LJ. I have really got the itch to try my hand at turning (I am a little frightened of the "vortex").

What I would really like to turn is bowls (at least 12" if not bigger), however would still like the ability to turn a table leg or Christmas ornament if I feel like it. This is just a hobby for me.

So I have been trying to look around at CL to see if there is anything worthwhile and the ones I have found are either small or way over priced (in Harrisburg PA).

This brings me to the famous HF model 34706. I have seen mixed reviews but a lot of people swear by this lathe as a HF gem and for about $250, it's really easy on the wallet just in case I either don't like turning (doubt it) or would like to sell it and upgrade later (more likely).

The only real concern I have is the slowest speed (600rpm) for a beginner at bowl turning. I have a band saw that I can turn blanks with so I should be able to get them pretty darn round. Would a 12" round blank spinning at 600rpm be to fast? Has anyone actually ever tried turning anything bigger with the head rotated (given that it was round to start?

I would most likely get their $50 set of HSS tools plus a bowl gouge. Maybe a jaw chuck unless I can get by with the face plate for a while.

Any help would really be appreciated. I would love to get turning sooner than later.
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The set of mid sized HF lathe tools are not that bad. The little set, and the largest set, not so much.

As far as their lathes, I own the little one, and one day snapped off the tool rest. And no, I cannot slow it down far enough. 600 rpm is kind of fast.

My main lathe, which I don't use anywhere near enough, (much to the pain of my gallery manager), is my Powermatic 3250. Bought it in 2002. Great machine… turned a lot of bowls on that lathe.
I wonder if there would be a way to slow it down. I saw a you tube video where someone added an addition detent to a Jet 1236 which is exactly the same. I only think he said it brought it down a little. Could a smaller pulley on one end achieve the same thing?
I have the lathe and have been impressed with it. I have a review of it on LJ's. I haven't tried any bowls, but from the chart below 600 rpm @ 12" is a little fast for finishing, much less roughing. I have checked the labeled speeds on the lathe with a tach and they are fairly close. Also, while I don't have experience with it, most everyone says NOT to use spindle gouges for bowls, and all of the HF tools are spindle gouges. I have the HF set with maroon handles and the tools are well worth the price. Try Benjamin's best or Hurricane Tools for bowl gouges and roughing gouges.

You can't get much smaller than the drive pulley is at low speed. There is a little room, but not enough to drop to 200 rpm or so. The lathe could probably be used out to 6-7" without a problem. Others may have experience with going larger.

There are some websites describing modifying this lathe, and others, to use a variable speed DC motor and drive (some use treadmill motors/controllers) to get lower speeds as well as reverse. A possible future project for me.

Here is a lathe cutting speed chart I made from info garnered in an internet research session. The surface cutting speed is the control, and diameter and rpm determine surface speed.

Font Number Parallel Pattern Event


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If you think you will like it, chances are you will. HF lathes are cheap for a reason, 600 is pretty fast for an out of balance bowl blank especially on a light lathe. Have you looked for used lathes?
Harbor Freight's #34706 lathe uses a Reeves drive … you can't just swap out pulleys. 600rpm is way too fast for anything bigger than a 5" or 6" bowl.
My "normal" speed range is 500 for sanding, and 1800 for a balanced bowl blank. . So, it's just what you are comfortable with.
Wow. That seems faster than most people set it at.

I have been looking on CL but the closest I've found is a jet 1236 (basically same thing) for $750 which is ridiculous. Just can't find a good used lathe within an hour or so of me. Guess I will have to wait for now. Kind of stinks when you want to get turning.
1800 rpm is after I make sure the blank is stable/balanced. If it is not balanced, I start advancing the speed very slowly to a reasonable level to where it just starts to be uncomfortable, then back it off. This might be 500 or even 1000, depends on how much the blank is not balanced. For some lathes the speed change is not doable while running, unless it has a variable speed controller.
What about using an electronic speed controller on the lathe to slow it down below 600 rpm.

Maybe something like this: Router Speed Control
I read that you can't use one of those on induction motors. Wish I could. Can't find a worthwhile used lathe for the life of me.
So a jet 1236 just came up for sale on CL near me. He is asking $450. I know this is the same darn thing as the HF lathe. Is it worth the money for the different paint?
Update. I went to the local AAW club here in Harrisburg. What a really nice bunch of people. Just so happened that a nice fellow there has a barely used Jet 1236 (the white one) that he would sell for $350 which includes a headstock adapter for a nova chuck and extra faceplate. There may be a couple of other little extras but that's aobut it.

I guess my question is, I can get the HF 34706 for $250 after taxes. Would the Jet be worth the extra $100? I'm thinking in terms of the motor and resell value. I'm sure I'll want a bigger lathe latter but this might be a good starter. Plus if I can sell it for about what I bought it for, then all would be great.

I have looked for bigger lathes and unless the Nova 1624 goes on sale for $899 any time soon, I think I am stuck with a smaller version fo the time being.
I guess my question is, I can get the HF 34706 for $250 after taxes. Would the Jet be worth the extra $100?
Why does the guy want to sell his Jet?

I think I would go for the Jet. There are a lot of people that have had good success with the HF lathe, but the fact that the HF lathe 'looks exactly like the Jet' (I have read that many times in these forums) doesn't mean the quality is on the same par.

Offer him $300 in cash and see what he does.
He is selling the Jet because he got a Nova 1624 (I would love one).

I was thinking of offering him $300 and see where we go from there. Just need to make sure that if I buy chucks and other stuff, that they will be compatible with an upgrade later on.

BTW, if you can't tell by now I hate making purchase because I really want to make sure I'm getting the right thing.
BTW, if you can t tell by now I hate making purchase because I really want to make sure I m getting the right thing.
You ain't alone on that … there are a lot of us that beat every decision to death!
I just joined this forum a few minutes ago and saw your post and thought I would throw my 2 cents in if it will help. I just got started turning about three months ago. Came across a HF lathe with a set of 5 chisels for $80 at a yard sale and I couldn't pass it up. That being said though I am already at the point now that I am looking to upgrade to something of better quality just a few months into it as a hobby. Coming from a newby turner with a HF lathe, I would spend the extra $100 on the Jet. A few weeks in I tried to push it to see just how big a bowl I could turn. I am sure it has a lot to do with my inexperience but I wouldn't even try to turn a 12" bowl on that lathe after seeing how it handled larger pieces.
Was the lathe you bought the clone of the jet (HF model 34706) or another one.

I know people say that the slowest speed is to fast for out of balance bowl blanks but with my grizzly 17" bandsaw, I should be able to get the blanks very close to round. The manual says the slowest speed is 550, so I would assume with the mod that I could get it down to around 450. Should that be slow enough for a balanced blank?

Also, I found a turning equation on a number of turning sights and it says: diameter x rpm = between 6000 & 9000.

That would mean that 12" x 500rpm = 6000, which at the low end of that. Anyone else ever use this?
I'll probably get flak for this but - I ignore all those speed charts that tell you what speed the lathe is as compared to the diameter of the object being turned. When I was a "newbie" turner receiving lessons, I started out at a slow speed. After about three weeks I started increasing the speed, upon recommendation from my instructor, and found out that the tools cut smoother. At slow speed the tool will snag on items such as - knots, bark, voids, etc. At a high speed the tool will glide over these items without "snagging", while at the same time be cutting a smooth surface. I was receiving instructions one day from Jimmy Clews in a workshop at our local woodturners meeting, and was turning at 1800rpm indicated. He wondered why I was turning at this speed. And I told him, this is what I am comfortable with. Then I found out he turns at @ 2500! Now, I got to admit, that's a lot of whizzy izzy! Especially when turning a winged bowl, which is what we were doing.

I would NOT recommend to a newbie to turn up the lathe, unless you have an instructor with you at all times. Or, until you have at least 6-8 months of daily turning experience, and then only up the speed a little at a time.

Remember: Safety, safety, safety. Turn at a speed your are comfortable with. Wear a face shield and dust mask at all times. Keep the tools sharp.
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Mine was the #67690 model. It has a higher minimum speed, but I slow it down while i am turning bigger stuff. I don't know exactly how much but the v-belt that came on it was wore out and I put it on when I turn bigger stuff. The old belt slips a lot so it has a noticeably lower rpm when I am turning. I know that is not a great solution but it works.
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