1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. ATTENTION FORUM MEMBERS!

    Guest, if you have not yet updated your forum bookmark to a secure log in connection, please delete your unsecure book and add the following secure bookmark: https://www.aawforum.org/community/index.php

    You can dismiss this notice by clicking the X in the upper right of the notice box.

    Dismiss Notice

Which mini lathe should I keep?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Cameron Stark, Jul 15, 2019.

?

Which lathe should I keep?

  1. Central Machinery

    1 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. Steel City

    1 vote(s)
    50.0%
  1. Cameron Stark

    Cameron Stark

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2019
    Messages:
    3
    Location (City & State):
    Arvada, Colorado
    Around 2013 I acquired two mini lathes for pen turning, one Central Machinery 10x18 mini wood lathe I bought from Harbor Freight and a Steel City I bought used from a woodshop employee in Kansas City. I'm setting up my workshop and trying to decide which one I should keep. I turned 10-15 pens on the Central Machinery, I'm not sure how used the Steel City was when I got it.

    Ideally I would sell them both and buy a Jet or Laguna midi lathe, but I can't quite afford it right now. I'm looking for advice on which one I should keep, or just get rid of them both now and put it toward a new one. I know they are both low end brands, but I'm trying to decide if one is worth keeping or not.

    I was leaning towards the Steel City since it has the variable speed setting but it doesn't seem to be lined up straight. In the photos you can see the drill bit goes into the tail stock skewed to the left/back, and on the other photo the blank holder chuck doesn't line up straight, there is a gap where it lines up on one side. Is this a problem? If so, is it fixable? The points line up on the Central Machinery lathe, is there anything else I should consider?
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Mark Wollschlager

    Mark Wollschlager

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2005
    Messages:
    390
    Location (City & State):
    Alexandria, VA
    I would trust the steel city more than the HF, in general.
    The alignment issue may be caused by a couple of things.
    I would take the tail stock off and check the underside for corrosion and general flatness.
    Also check ( I assume that you have it tightened down when you are comparing the head and tail stock alignment ) the locking mechanism to be sure that it is functioning correctly.
    The inside edge of the bed and the underside are where the tail stock rides and clamps. Check to see it it is clean.
    Check to see if the
    Does the tail stock spindle travel smoothly when cranked and do you have any lateral travel in the spindle when it is out.
    The tightening bolt should be in a groove to keep the tail stock spindle from rotating.
    On the headstock end you can to a quick check by bringing the tool rest up to the spindle as parallel as possible and just touching.
    Then hand rotate the spindle to see if it is out of round. A dial indicator would be the better way.
    The headstock spindle should have no play. and just rotate. You can loosen the drive belt and try to wiggle the spindle back and forth, up and down.
    A common problem with mini lathes is to have set screws on the pulleys get loose and potentially
    You might be able to adjust the nuts holding the spindle if there is play.
    The Inside of the morse tapers should be clean and free of galling, any crud can push the taper off center.
    Also check the chuck to make sure the insert ( if there is one ) is snug and clean as well as the threads and shoulder of the spindle. All of which can change alignment.

    I may have glossed over some fine points that others will fill in.
     
  3. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    11,344
    Location (City & State):
    Dalworthington Gardens, TX
    Home Page:
    HF actually makes some tools that are halfway decent and that mini lathe is actually pretty good especially considering its price. Also, customer reviews are very good for that lathe. However, it's the only HF lathe that I would ever consider buying. As you can easily tell, the HF and Steel City are practically twins with a lot of parts commonality. They also strongly resemble my old Jet mini lathe (except the older model lathes had a much better fit and finish on the castings). I'll bet that there is a Griz that also has a lot in common with those to lathes. I'm sure that they all came from the same manufacturer in China.

    FWIW, the fit and finish of the castings on the HF looks a little better than the SC. I would personally much prefer the step pulley fixed speed of the HF over the variable speed of the SC because the fixed speed motor can always provide full power through the drive train. The variable speed motor drive really wimps out as the speed is decreased. If you are turning pens and bottle stoppers this isn't an issue, but if you want to turn medium size bowls, the HF is the better choice by far. Also, if the HF has better alignment of spindle and tailstock quill then that is another reason to keep that lathe.

    Mark has some excellent suggestions of things to check out. The condition of the Morse taper sockets on the spindle and tailstock quill are both very important. A small amount of surface rust or minor galling can be cleaned up with a Morse taper hand reamer, but if they are in bad shape then that's a bigger problem. You might be able to get replacement parts from Jet or Grizzly.

    There is so much to learn about lathes.
     
  4. John Torchick

    John Torchick

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    2,648
    Location (City & State):
    Cleveland, Tennessee
    I bet that we would be surprised at how many lathes and other power tools are the same except for the paint job. I saw Murray-Ohio riding mowers coming down the assembly line with the grey Craftsman mowers right behind them. I have seen the same with automobiles over the years.
    If you have the room, use one for turning and use the other for polishing.
     
    Ron Grob likes this.
  5. Cameron Stark

    Cameron Stark

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2019
    Messages:
    3
    Location (City & State):
    Arvada, Colorado
    Thank you everyone for your help, I really appreciate it. I'll check out the Steel City lathe further tonight.
     
  6. John Torchick

    John Torchick

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    2,648
    Location (City & State):
    Cleveland, Tennessee
    IMG_20180203_145827645.jpg Or you could make a sanding disk for Lathe #2. Photo attached. The unit is held to the bed by a real big washer and a 3/8 hex head cap screw; washer inside with 3/8 nut. The 7/16 on the top is to remind me what wrench to use to loosen and tighten the "fence" square to the disk.
     
    Ron Grob likes this.
  7. RichColvin

    RichColvin

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    444
    Location (City & State):
    Dublin, OH
    Home Page:
    I have an unused midi lathe, & I’m thinking of dedicating it to threading. Having an extra one for such tasks is nice.
     
  8. Perry Hilbert

    Perry Hilbert

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2017
    Messages:
    301
    Location (City & State):
    Windsor, Pennsylvania
    I see a turner making things at a three day Christmas market. He turns out little Christmas trees about 18 an hour. He used a cup chuck on that HF lathe. 10x18 and he uses bass stock that gets pounded into the cup chuck with a mallet. after parting off he uses a mallet and knock out rod to push out the stubb. He has been using that HF lathe for at least five years and I do not know if the bearings/motor get replaced, but the lathe stands up to that punishment. That a turner uses an HF lathe for production work and punishes it like that says something for the HF lathe.
     
    Bill Boehme likes this.

Share This Page