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Thread: Mini Lathe Harbor Freight Question

  1. #21
    Boolit Master
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    thanks for the heads up on the smithy. theres an auction less than 4 hours from me im watching for a south bend that looks to be a 10x36 or 10x42 for 1/4 the price of that new probably foreign made smithy. if I can find some help loading it I just might be bidding to win. its even got the taper attachment and I think I have a collet set up for one like, somewhere.

  2. #22
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozark mike View Post
    Thats usually how it goes with lathes. Its said buy the largest one ya can afford. Besides lathes are cheap compared to all the tooling ya will need
    I second this. Expect to spend near the same amount as the lathe on tooling and accessories.

  3. #23
    Boolit Master Traffer's Avatar
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    Disparaging a mini lathe is like a Rolls Royce owner disparaging a Honda. If you only have money for an entry level unit...THEY DO WORK. AND it is only the creatively challenged wannabe's who need the biggest and most expensive units.
    I bought my HF 7X10 for $420 out the door a few years ago when they still honored 25% discounts on Central Machinery stuff. I wished I could have bought an old bigger and better unit used but after looking for over 2 years and having several deals fall through, I just broke down and got the mini.
    Glad I did. It is the perfect learning tool. Modifying and fixing it has taught me tons about turning and machinery in general. I am not afraid to "push the limits" on a $400 unit. Especially since replacement parts are cheap and easily accessible.
    So far I have changed the spindle bearings. Re- gibbed the slides. modified the tailstock to be quick lock, and changed many many parts.
    EVERY bit of that was fun and educational. There is no way I would have learned so much about machining if I had gotten ANYTHING else.
    There is a forum on Facebook called
    "7x mini lathe" where both experts and novices share and help each other. Any machinist would be surprised what they might find there. There are people who have gotten their mini lathes to run to very close tolerances and mod them to practically sit up and speak.
    It is acknowledged that they are light and limited but if you focus on what they CAN do. You might be amazed.

  4. #24
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    Excellent post Taffer, and some good points made. Much better to have something than nothing, to wait for the larger, more expensive model and perhaps never to have it. Meanwhile, a lot can be learned on a mini, and most of it will apply to the bigger lathe when you get one.

  5. #25
    Boolit Master
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    The little 7x10 lathe works. It's well suited to spin brass very fast. It was my second lathe because I didn't want to spin the bigger lathe fast enough to turn small brass parts.

    If you are a machinist then you will find everything wrong with it. If you are a mature machinist it will do many small jobs for you.
    " If you cant do it with a 308 , you dont need to do it!

  6. #26
    Boolit Buddy
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    My brother in law bought a 9x20in HF lathe a few years back. He would get mad at me when I said it was a cool toy. He would demand I acknowledge it was the equal of the lathes I ran at work (I'm a machinist). He finally came around to my point of view after he saw me running my 14x40 Enterprise lathe (which is still a lighter lathe for it's size) removing in 1 pass what would be a minimum of 4 passes on his lathe. All while running a higher chip load and getting a better surface finish.

    That said I made a few projects on that lathe before I got my own and as others have said you can do good work on them it just takes more time and the machine is less forgiving of mistakes. One trick we learned is, if you are wanting to use carbide, use sharp, high shear aluminum inserts and for cutting steel. They work far better than inserts intended for steel on smaller lathes that don't have the power or rigidity to take the surface speed, depth of cut, or chip load to make the inserts work correctly.

    OP, I have an acquaintance who is looking to sell what I believe is a Southbend 10K that is wired for 115v located a little ways south of Champaign IL. If you are interested shoot me a message.

    Example of the inserts I am talking about.
    https://latheinserts.com/CCGT-3251-I...4210002382.htm

    Insert designation breakdown
    http://www.carbidedepot.com/formulas-insert-d.htm
    quando omni flunkus moritati

  7. #27
    Boolit Master
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    "I'm a machinist" -- so you make your living doing this - rate of removal matters - high chip load matters - bigger lathes are better .......

    I'm a customer of the machinist - or at east I used to be when I ran the farm full scale - sad to say that at least half the work I have paid done by professional machinist people has been second rate to botched (I think/hope that has improved over the years as equipment has got better and cheaper) - when I needed to fix one of those badly botched engineering shop jobs I found a crotchety old hobbyist lathe man - a guy who really cared about the last cut.

    I think I would push this further and say likely most of the lathe work coming out of machine shops is not up to par for gunwork - of course these "machinists" are capable of it - but time and dollar constraints interfere ..............

    So for this old dude - hogging big deep cuts out with a tungsten insert tool means very little (I do have a machine that will do it, I have a few insert tools, and when I tangle with something the tool steel wont cut ....)

    We (some of us anyway) are doing this for FUN so time spent on a particular job dont matter so long as we get it done right - the last cut is what counts

  8. #28
    Boolit Buddy
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    I guess I should say my point wasn't that you need a big lathe but that a well designed and well made lathe is worlds better than a HF lathe. One of my most commonly used lathes at work is a 11x18 Sharp tool room lathe. It is a much more rigid and powerful machine than that HF lathe will ever be.

    As Traffer seemed to be saying and my BIL law found, most HF machine tools are more like parts kits that need finishing to function well. Usually they can be made to work well if you have the skill and time but they will always be limited by their lighter castings and design.

    There is a place for cheap import machines. It just seems many people don't realize there are other options in older industrial and repair machines with improved capability for not much more money.

    As far as your parts coming in bad from your machine shop, the shop should have made right on those parts if they weren't in tolerance. If you didn't have tolerances on your print and didn't effectively communicate what was needed, well that's rough.

    Either way I'm glad you found a crotchety old hobbyist who could make parts the way you wanted them.
    quando omni flunkus moritati

  9. #29
    Boolit Master Traffer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenton View Post
    I guess I should say my point wasn't that you need a big lathe but that a well designed and well made lathe is worlds better than a HF lathe. One of my most commonly used lathes at work is a 11x18 Sharp tool room lathe. It is a much more rigid and powerful machine than that HF lathe will ever be.

    As Traffer seemed to be saying and my BIL law found, most HF machine tools are more like parts kits that need finishing to function well. Usually they can be made to work well if you have the skill and time but they will always be limited by their lighter castings and design.

    There is a place for cheap import machines. It just seems many people don't realize there are other options in older industrial and repair machines with improved capability for not much more money.

    As far as your parts coming in bad from your machine shop, the shop should have made right on those parts if they weren't in tolerance. If you didn't have tolerances on your print and didn't effectively communicate what was needed, well that's rough.

    Either way I'm glad you found a crotchety old hobbyist who could make parts the way you wanted them.
    Ever since youtube made hobby machining popular the really good deals on old heavy machines has all but dried up. Used to be able to buy good stuff for scrap prices...About 10 years ago...but no longer. Craigslist and facebook listings are getting thin and the prices are usually way WAY up there. Otherwise I would have gotten an older machine. In fact one of the deals that I might have gotten was for an OLD 10x28. A buddy bought it for $100 and drove over 200 miles to get it. ( I would have also if I had seen the ad first) I offered him twice what he paid for it and gas money before he had it off the truck. He laughed at me. That was 3 years ago. It is still sitting on the bottom of a pile of stuff in his garage. He will never use it. But he will also never sell it to me. (God why do you give me friends like that?)

  10. #30
    Boolit Buddy
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    That annoying that your buddy is Bogarting a lathe he will never use but a least it is inside so someday in the future it maybe useful. I know of a few machines that were stored under tarps for a "couple days" five or more years ago that are boat anchors now.

    The prices for machine tools right now seem to be down from what I have seen in the past, I'm guessing due to the slow economy and people having time to clean up and sell stuff that has been sitting in their garage or out buildings. I have seen some decent lathes on craigslist for 1k-3k depending on make and condition. I actually found an almost identical copy of my lathe on Ebay for under 3k, of course it is 500 miles from me. If you are brave enough to play the industrial auction game you can find some screaming deals, but be aware of buyers premiums, rigging fees, etc.

    Of course a lot of the best deals are word of mouth, someone has a lathe they don't want anymore and will sell for a low price to someone who will use if and then they don't have to deal with people from facebook/craigslist. But you have to know someone who knows someone who knows someone to get those deals.

    They will never beat a $400 mini lathe on price especially once you factor in running electrical and making/buying a phase converter for 3 phase machines but if you can swing 3x to 5x more money you could get 10x the machine.

    And I'm not trying to be an elitist, mini lathes have their place but there are other options for those that are interested.
    Last edited by kenton; 09-15-2020 at 10:44 PM. Reason: a word
    quando omni flunkus moritati

  11. #31
    Boolit Grand Master

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    One thing thats surprising is like a truck winning a large sum of cash or a welder, Getting a lathe you will be surprised how many new friends you have LOL

  12. #32
    Boolit Master Drm50's Avatar
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    I have a big old South Bend, belt drive but I was interested in one of those small $500-700 jobs.
    Buddy of mine bought one and it’s a joke for anything serious. Might be ok for crafts if you are turning soft materials. In my neck of the woods it’s not hard to find big lathes used. Any quality small lathe or mill doesn’t last long before it’s grabbed.

  13. #33
    Boolit Master
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    I bought a returned 7x10 HF for $230 about ten years ago. It was more of less an assembled kit. I had to lap the bottom of the head stock and tail stock to get it aligned. I opened the head stock to .812 IIRC to allow a TC bull barrel to pass through.
    I found the space between the chuck and tail stock to be very short so I bought the 14" bed kit from Little Machine Shop along with a 4 jaw chuck. This made a huge difference in useable space. I also bolted the lathe to a 3' piece of 6" channel iron which helped a bit for a more rigid bed. I still have under $500 invested and although it won't take huge cuts or work well with carbide, it is capable of making a lot of accurate parts and doesn't take up a lot of space. I have use it to make barrel inserts for my Contender in 22lr, and 22KH that shoot very well. I made a chamber insert for my 256Win to use power hammer loads and a 40gr cast. I have cut 7x14" threads to make a sizer die but it requires taking very shallow cuts and now just buy 7x14 all thread. I also have a 10 x 24 atlas but the 7x14 still gets a lot of use.

  14. #34
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenton View Post

    They will never beat a $400 mini lathe on price especially once you factor in running electrical and making/buying a phase converter for 3 phase machines but if you can swing 3x to 5x more money you could get 10x the machine.
    But once you have converted to a 3P motor and VFD controller, you will be in 7th heaven! I put the original 1PH 3P motor back on my used South Bend tool room lathe after I bought an A/B phase converter VFD module. It takes 220 1P and makes it 220 3P with all the unbelievable speed control and soft start technology. Now I can get 1 RPM on the lathe with NO changing of belts! And almost FULL HP at any speed ( you loose a bit of power in the electronic conversion, but who cares). Smooth power up and down, electronic reversing, and digital speed display. No more starting & running caps to go bad or starter contacts to burn out.

    I am in tool heaven!

    You will pay from $300-450 for a good quality name-brand VFD depending on the HP rating. Well worth the investment. I already had 220 1P power available behind the lathe.

  15. #35
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbuck351 View Post
    ...I also bolted the lathe to a 3' piece of 6" channel iron which helped a bit for a more rigid bed....
    https://www.practicalmachinist.com/v...-bench-317924/

    I always wanted to make one of these for my BIL's lathe but still haven't gotten around to it. I think it would make a tremendous difference.
    quando omni flunkus moritati

  16. #36
    Boolit Master Traffer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bangerjim View Post
    But once you have converted to a 3P motor and VFD controller, you will be in 7th heaven! I put the original 1PH 3P motor back on my used South Bend tool room lathe after I bought an A/B phase converter VFD module. It takes 220 1P and makes it 220 3P with all the unbelievable speed control and soft start technology. Now I can get 1 RPM on the lathe with NO changing of belts! And almost FULL HP at any speed ( you loose a bit of power in the electronic conversion, but who cares). Smooth power up and down, electronic reversing, and digital speed display. No more starting & running caps to go bad or starter contacts to burn out.

    I am in tool heaven!

    You will pay from $300-450 for a good quality name-brand VFD depending on the HP rating. Well worth the investment. I already had 220 1P power available behind the lathe.
    Everybody has different needs. Would I like a Deckel S1? ...You betcha. But I live on a T I G H T budget with my wife. My work space is a shared living room/dining room/office in our 450 sq ft apartment. I also have a 10' x 10' storage locker that I rent across town. It has a 110 outlet but actually doing work there is pushing it. So i have a shop that consists of two 30"x16" red Harbor Freight carts that i have my lathe on one, and on the other is my reloading press. This one also has a spot for either my $50 HF bench top drill press or my HF 1" belt sander. It also has a vise mounted on it. My computer desk is my shop bench.
    So for me, having a 7x10 HF mini lathe is a blessing beyond description. I can do my R&D and prototyping of the ideas I come up with in the comfort of my home. (My health prevents me from being able to maintain a shop anyway)
    Now, I don't think my landlord (82 unit high rise apt building) They wouldn't have let me set up a gas forge in here either. hahahaha.
    There are many folks out there who think a person needs a ton of money and space to set up a little lathe operation. To those I say "look at what I do here" ...

  17. #37
    Boolit Master
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    Traffer, if I lived in a 450sq ft apt, I would consider myself very lucky if my wife allowed me to have a 7x10 HF lathe in the house. I am very familiar with the limitations of a 7x10 but I am also aware that it can do a lot more than some seem to think. Some of us just can not have the toys we want for one reason or another. I'm glad to see you are making good use of limited space and funds. Keep up the good work. Buck.

  18. #38
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenton View Post
    That annoying that your buddy is Bogarting a lathe he will never use but a least it is inside so someday in the future it maybe useful. I know of a few machines that were stored under tarps for a "couple days" five or more years ago that are boat anchors now.

    The prices for machine tools right now seem to be down from what I have seen in the past, I'm guessing due to the slow economy and people having time to clean up and sell stuff that has been sitting in their garage or out buildings. I have seen some decent lathes on craigslist for 1k-3k depending on make and condition. I actually found an almost identical copy of my lathe on Ebay for under 3k, of course it is 500 miles from me. If you are brave enough to play the industrial auction game you can find some screaming deals, but be aware of buyers premiums, rigging fees, etc.

    Of course a lot of the best deals are word of mouth, someone has a lathe they don't want anymore and will sell for a low price to someone who will use if and then they don't have to deal with people from facebook/craigslist. But you have to know someone who knows someone who knows someone to get those deals.

    They will never beat a $400 mini lathe on price especially once you factor in running electrical and making/buying a phase converter for 3 phase machines but if you can swing 3x to 5x more money you could get 10x the machine.

    And I'm not trying to be an elitist, mini lathes have their place but there are other options for those that are interested.
    Its horses for courses with all this stuff - the little lathes will do little work better, easier, and quicker than a bigger machine - but if you want to thread a barrel or profile one you need something at least half decent and some runs on the board using it.

    I'm lucky I have room to house and use anything I want (afford is a different story) and I could not stand to live anyplace where I didnt have that space - others either by choice or necessity dont have that option .

    I borrowed a tiny model maker lathe from a friend once - sat it on the counter in my gunroom - polished up a few screws and stuff with it but was seriously frustrated by what I could'nt do with it so I do get your point.

  19. #39
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I currently have 3 lathes here the little harbor freight 7 x 12. A clausing style 12 x 40. And a Nardinni 14/18 x 40.

    These are all good machines and have their uses. The little HF is great for screw heads and polishing also re working case rims and odd ball work on cases. Top speed is 2500 rpm cariable speed with high and low. I mostly use HSS cobalt in it. It does accurate work but does require more "care" to do the best. The 12 X 40 is a good machine and sees the biggest share of use normally cemented carbide or HSS cobalt in it it has aloris tool folders on it 2 hp motor it will take a decent cut or drill and tap well. Its accurate and more forgiving. Also quick change gears for threading and feeds. The 14 /18 c 40 nardinni is a heavy duty machine it will rough and finish accurately roughing passes depend on how much carbide you have on the tool . This machine has change gears digital read out and 2500 rpm upper end but with these big chucks it takes forever for them to stop at that speed and balance is iffy. This machine has a 7 1/2 hp motor It is a brute. Aloris holders ( interchange with the 12 x 40 ) it sees mostly inserts with a little cemented carbide.

    Each machine has its place and does somethings better or easier than the others. In most shops they have 3-4 small to med size lathes and a couple brutes, the brute sit most of the year and may be used 3-4 a yar while the 14" swing machines carry the work load and run almost every day. Those little Hardringe 10" machiines see alot of use as they are solid accurate and handy.

  20. #40
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Would you use a sledge hammer to drive a nail? Same concept w/ lathes about the right tool for the job. The small lathes would not exist if there wasn’t a market for them.

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