Harbor Freight Wood Lathe Review: How Good Are They?

Harbour fright wood lathes are made by central machinery.

They are great for BEGINNERS as they come at a really affordable price.

For you don’t want to spend too much money on the lathe at the beginning of your woodturning career.

But what about the features?

Yes, we are gonna cover them too.

In fact, I am gonna write a complete review of their best product: Harbor Freight Lathe 34706.

Without further ado, let’s get to the key features.

Harbor Freight Lathe 34706

Key Features It Partakes

Headstock

The headstock includes a ¾ HP TEFC motor. It’s not very powerful, but should be good enough for beginners.

An interesting feature of this wood lathe is that the headstock pivots and you can lock it into different positions. As a result, you can perform larger turnings that won’t fit between the centers. 

There’s an ISSUE:

When you unlock the headstock and rotate it and then put it back; the drive center and live center no longer line up.

To fix this, You will have to lock down the headstock…..bring up the tail center and beat this thing until they line up.

Bed

The bed is nice and pretty solid.

It won’t wear down quickly.

Tool Rest

The tool rest is anything but impressive.

Users have criticized the tool rest a lot. For after a few uses it eats the entire edge off the tool rest.

That can be a massive PROBLEM as you want to run the tool in a smooth fluid motion. If it hits even the tiniest of scratches, then it will catch.

Moreover, you might have to replace the locking levers as the original one tends to strip out.

The lathe comes with a banjo extension. It is used to reach out to the workpiece when your headstock is turned.

But in my opinion, it’s pretty useless. For the thing slips all over the place, especially when you are cutting into an out-of-balance bowl blank.

Tailstock

Tailstock manages to eject the revolving center properly, without making use of the knock-out-bar.

The revolving center of this wood lathe isn’t 60°. Thus, you’d need a separate one to carry out penturning.

The thing that irritates customers most is its INABILITY to remain clamped. No matter how much you tighten up the tailstock, it won’t lock down.

It can be a real pain in the ass.

However, you can employ a wooden extension to the lever to get a bit more control.

Speed

It comes with a variable speed motor which has a range of 600-2400 RPM.

That means the slowest it can go is 600 RPM, which is way too fast for an off-balance 12-inch bowl.

Hence, you will experience difficulty while turning bowls and large workpieces.

Moreover, some customers have complained about its highest turning speed. According to them, when it is set to the highest speed, the belt keeps touching the cast iron frame.

If operated at the highest speed for a long period, then it can result in a broken belt.

Capacity

The wood lathe bed has a 12-inch swing.  And the length between the centers is large enough to accommodate bowls and large wood pieces.

Sound

Although I won’t call it a quiet machine, its noise level is moderate compared to the other lathes.

However, if the sound still bothers you, then you can wear ear protection while operating the machine.

The Stand

The stand of this wood lathe is flimsy.

But you can beef it up with a few pieces of plywood to give it more stability.

Pros

  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Includes long and solid bed
  • Has a large capacity
  • Headstock can be rotated

Cons

  • The extension arm is unstable
  • Tailstock can’t remain clamped
  • Tool rest loses its edge quickly
  • Speed is too high for larger pieces of wood

Some Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I make bowls with the lathe?

Yes, you can. It is fully capable of turning bowls. However, I’d suggest that you don’t go beyond 9 inches diameter.

2. How can I get an adjustment wheel on the tailstock of the machine?

These lathes are manufactured in China. Jet imports similar wood lathes. Hence, you can get the parts from them.

3. Can this lathe be used without the stand? I’d like to clamp it to the workbench.

Yes, you can attach it to the bench. It is clamped to the stand with bolts; hence you should easily be able to bolt it to the workbench. 

Conclusion

To be honest, Harbour fright wood lathes aren’t suitable for most of the turners.

However, if you are a beginner, then I wouldn’t recommend against buying the machines.

But you need to realize that you might need to replace a few parts of it when you own it.

Don’t forget to let me know about your decision in the comments section.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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