Harbor Freight 5 Speed Bend Top Wood Lathe

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Forum topic by justinwdemoss posted 06-26-2010 01:47 AM 7636 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 3867 days

06-26-2010 01:47 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe harbor freight 5 speed jet pen turning pen bowls

After having taken a pen turning class at the local woodworking shop, I am in the market for a small lathe to turn pens, short spindles, and smaller bowls. I work full-time (as a teacher, not a woodworker) and have three small girls, so I don’t have the time or the shape to warrant the purchase of something large. At the woodworking shop, we used Jet mini lathes and they were great, but they have a price tag. I know that HF is not the best, but I am a light duty home-shop owner. I have the HF 3hp dust collector and have it centrally installed. Since I run it less than 6 hours a week, it handles my needs very well. I expect that the lathe will also get the same kind of light duty. The Jet lathe is a little over $400, while HF has a very similar model in their store for $199 and I have a 20% off coupon, making it around $160.

Does anyone have any experience with this machine? or advice?


-- Justin in Loveland, OH

11 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5190 days

#1 posted 06-26-2010 02:35 AM

I looked up this lathe on the HF website, and it appears to be the exact same lathe Rockler sells under the name “Excelsior”. I bought one a while back, and I’ve been very satisfied with it. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the Jet mini lathe is basically the same lathe, made by the same company in China.

I say “go for it”! But be prepared for two things:

1. Turning is addictive.
2. The lathe itself is the smallest part of the investment. You will soon be spending a lot of money on turning tools, chucks, etc.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View RZH's profile


73 posts in 4081 days

#2 posted 06-26-2010 03:03 AM

I agree with Charlie. Do a little research on the internet and you can save a lot of money making you own turning tools.

-- Ron

View wrenchhead's profile


234 posts in 4135 days

#3 posted 06-26-2010 03:29 AM

I have the lathe you are looking at.It is a clone of the Jet lathe and I love mine. I use it a lot and I have not had any problems.

-- I could quit if I wanted

View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 3867 days

#4 posted 06-27-2010 11:21 PM

Thanks for the help. My wife reminded me that my August birthday is around the corner and this might be something for her to get me. I think I will go with the HF. Clones are OK in my book as I am not planning to turn this into my career and everything is a budget job.

-- Justin in Loveland, OH

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3932 days

#5 posted 06-27-2010 11:40 PM

I have a HF 34706, 10 speed, that I bought used. I like it. I build custom fishing rods and use it for shaping grips and turning reel seats. Will probably do more things with it, like baseball bats for the grandkids, and other stuff.
RZH, thanks for the tip. I could make my own tools and turn my own handles.

View mike5753's profile


23 posts in 3853 days

#6 posted 08-12-2010 01:47 AM

I saw your post about the lathe from HF. Did you buy it if so any feedback. I am looking at it and also have the 20% discount coupon.



-- Mike, Illinois,

View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 3867 days

#7 posted 08-12-2010 01:35 PM


Got caught up in a couple of other projects. When I checked at the local HF in June the lathe was on sale for $180 and the 20% off coupon could be added to it. Of course, I wasn’t ready at that time. I checked the price two days ago and the sale price is off. It is back to $219. I have plenty of things to keep me busy, so for now I am going to watch the lathe and wait for it to go on sale again. If you see it drop in price, shoot me a post.

Justin in Loveland

-- Justin in Loveland, OH

View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 3867 days

#8 posted 11-11-2010 03:37 PM

5 Speed lathe back on sale at HF! about $160 with 20% off coupon. I have it on my Christmas list, but alway need a Delta T2 fence system so it may get put off again.

Justin in Loveland

-- Justin in Loveland, OH

View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 3867 days

#9 posted 03-06-2011 07:26 PM


It took a long time, but Santa shoved one of these in my stocking at Christmas. About two weeks ago, I finally had time to set it up and get the supplies to turn some pens. Charlie, you were right the lathe was a great price on sale and using 20% off coupon. Then I turned around and bought a face shield, pen turning starter set, finish, sand paper, micro grit, pen parts, a few blanks, more pen parts, more pen parts….. you get the idea. I am having a blast!

My next question for anyone with this lathe or the excelsior or Jet that it seems to be cloned from, what chuck would you recommend. i need one that is easy to use and safe.


-- Justin in Loveland, OH

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3942 days

#10 posted 03-06-2011 08:23 PM

I also have one of those lathes. It’s also the same as one of the Penn State Ind. lathes. I got my extension bed from Penn State.

I was planning to get a Penn State chuck, but I just noticed Woodcraft has a very similar one on sale for $75.00. The Penn State comes with free extra jaws, but also shipping costs; I have a local Woodcraft store.

I got a drill chuck that fits the lathe’s tailstock from Harbor Freight for $8.00. This is useful for drilling the center of parts held in the headstock.

Enjoy your new addiction.

View jobott's profile


27 posts in 4333 days

#11 posted 03-06-2011 08:32 PM

HI Justin, While I don’t have this particular lathe, The type of chuck you use is dependent only on the thread of your motor spindle. If you have a 1 inch thread for example, then you need a chuck that comes with a 1 inch insert and so on. Some chucks are sold without the insert and you buy the insert you need for your particular lathe separately. Woodcraft has a basic chuck on sale right now for $75 and you can choose the size for your lathe. I use a Nova chuck for my full size and mini lathe and bought the inserts needed for each one. Check out the different type of chucks as well. A scroll chuck uses a key of some type to open and close the jaws, whereas the basic chuck uses 2 bars moved in opposite directions for that. Both work well, its just a matter of ease of operation. One other thing to keep in mind is the weight of the chuck. On a mini lathe you should use a lighter weight chuck as the power of the mini lathe will not support a more massive chuck for larger turnings. Good luck and have fun.

-- Joe B

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