View Full Version : Harbor Freight Lathes? (Outlet sale on 9x20)

12-09-2004, 03:24 PM
I've been in need of a lathe, and a TIG welder. I got my flyer from the local Harbor Freight in the mail. As I was looking through it I came across the 9"x20" Maroon lathe. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=45861. Its on sale for $599, used to be $799 at the outlets. I was thinking about getting it, but then I would have no money for a TIG welder.

Anyway, I have searched around here. Found some good info. But I was wondering about input on this machine. If its a good buy? Worth the cash? Save up for a TIG Welder that is taking to **** long too save up for? :evil:

12-09-2004, 03:44 PM
Hi Mike!
Having a friend with a metal lathe, AWESOME. Having a good Tig Welder in your shop, PRICELESS!
Save your dough. Get the tig.

tk :)

Kerry Pinkerton
12-09-2004, 04:10 PM
Mike, I used to have the JET version of the 9x20 lathe. There is a very active Yahoo group on 9x20 lathes and there are half a dozen or more folks who sell basically the same machine including Jet, ENCO, HF, Grizzley. As I understand, pretty much all of them are made in the same factory in China/Tawian. There is a concensus that there is some difference in quality. The more you pay the better the quality but they are basically the same.

I sold mine and bought a larger US lathe.

Allan Anderson
12-09-2004, 05:35 PM
Hi Mike,
I take it you have heard the stories about Harbor Freight machines like these? I just read a bunch of stuff about various import milling machine experiences, (and nothing about lathes. I have an Atlas lathe made in the US in the 1950's which I like.) But, many if not most people talk about disassembling their new mills to clean swarf (that's cutting chips of metal), casting sand and the like off everything and putting them together again. Most everyone seems pretty happy overall actually with their Chinese and Tiawanese mills, but I just thought I'd pass this information along. I don't mean to discourage you at all by the way, but I was a little surprized to hear people say, "Think of it as a milling machine KIT" Some assembly required.
Good luck!! I like my little lathe and am getting desperate for a mill too, so BEWARE OF MACHINE TOOL CREEP!

I'll bet there are e-mail lists on Yahoo and the like for owners of these lathes, like for the various mills. Let's see, people said Jet is best and most expensive, Grizzly has good customer service, Enco has a range of quality, and Harbor Freight is the cheapest and it shows.

I just bought a TIG but you don't want to pay what I did. I've seen big old crusty transformer TIGS cheap sometimes. Like $600. Heavy beasts, suck the juice. I didn't have space, power nor strength to carry them around.


12-09-2004, 05:54 PM
Allan, are you the guy that brought that cool little TIG to MM04?

I'm sure it was someone named Allan (or Allen or Alan), but I suck at names!

If that was yours, great little unit!!!!!!

Tim D.

12-09-2004, 05:57 PM
There are always gonna be various opinions on the Sum Flung Dung brand of tools - and of course those opinions will run the spectrum. I am FIRMLY embedded in the camp that says save your money for some "real" iron. Of ocurse there's the folks who have them and are bacsically thrilled with them or completely satisfied, but consider this - how many of those came from the position of having nothing to having something (lathe or mill wise) sure give the option of having something or nothing I too would be thrilled. HOWEVER once you use a "real" machine you just might sing a different tune. Of course there are more factors than that - like how often you'll use it - how patient are you - do you mind rebuilding a NEW machine - do you mind the price once you decide to sell it?? And MORE - where are you located - any surplus machinery available???? How patient are you for a DEAL???

When I was a little kid I was THRILLED to ride a tricycle....as I got older I was thrilled to ride a two wheeler, then a ten speed and of course eventually a car. After riding all of them I can tell you no matter how big a tricycle you could find today - nor how cheap I sure wouldn't be caught dead riding it. Same with a lathe - after running some small industrial units - you couldn't GIVE me one of those Sum Flung Dung tools.......well maybe if I had NOTHING you could :oops:

Me personally I am too cheap :shock: to throw money away - I'd rather spend MORE or wait longer and get something I was THRILLED to have - not something that would forever annoy me. Yes I have Snap-On taste and a Stanley Budget - so I buy them machine tools used and fix them up. Deals abound IF you are patient.

If all my yappin hasn't convinced you one way or another then by all means - TEST DRIVE BOTH FIRST!!!!!!! Then be your own judge. Talking with a satisfied Yugo owner is naturally gonna tell you HIS decision was right - just like I am telling you MINE was right - only YOU can decide which decision is right for YOU!

Personally if it were me I'd WAIT and save your money for a good TIG - again I'd consider used and hit the used machinery dealers - even they get some newer stuff for reasonable prices - but around here the newer TIGS sell FAST. Early bird gets the worm.

Just thinking out loud again

Jacin in Ohio

Allan Anderson
12-10-2004, 06:56 AM
Hi Tim,

Yes, I brought the inverter TIG to MM04. I should put my picture in my profile like you did--makes it easier to connect the cyber and real worlds up...

Jacin, I really appreciate your mill opinions. I read both "sides" of the issue, and I see myself in what YOU are saying. I've a Craftsman radial arm saw that was cheapish years ago. But I cuss that #*@)!!! thing a lot. . The Delta Unisaw and I are best buds though... Think I'll just go out to the shop and say Hi to it!

Kind of a guy thing to form intimate relationships with cast iron, eh?

(mulling my options as well)

12-10-2004, 04:46 PM
Thanks for all the feedback guys.

I have a friend out in Houston, I live in Georgia, who is machining parts for me, at little to no charge. However, it is taking awhile to get those parts. Like y'all say, time is money. So I have been trying to get a lathe for awhile.

I have been looking at lathes for a few months, and what I have come across is that like a few of you said, they are lathe kits. Im doing some fairly precise work for modeling, and hot rod stuff. I wouldnt mind disassembling it, and reassembling, but I do not think I could buy a busted one, and fix it. I can fix things well, but I have a little knowledge on lathes, I just can operate one.

Being that I am 16, I dont have much cash unfortunately. I do have a job, but Im in it more for the experience, rather than cash. So I have been trying to get a TIG welder for the longest time with no success, as well as a lathe. As y'all know, it totals up to about $1800.

Any suggestions of where else to look besides eBay? I check the local ad's everyday, but I dont really live in a metal working area, so good metal tools are hard to come by.

12-15-2004, 03:57 AM
When you say "pretty precise" what does that translate to in terms that are quantitative? What you will need to hold .0005 tolerence isn't what you will need to hold .001, it is best to define your "real world needs" before spending your hard earned cash. I suggest you measure out what your friend is producing and see what he is holding and determine how critical your needs are, then decide where you want to go with this "hobby/ business" factor in where you wish to be in the near future then make an "educated decision" based on your Real needs.
I believe that one of the current 9X20 import lathes will hold .001 in a home shop setting, and if you own an oil can it can last for many years. You will have to disassemble it and put it back together and you likely will replace the mongrell hardware they use to hold them together and you might wish to "lightly stone" the surfaces prior to reassembly to cut the time it takes for them to bed in. Given some reasonable attention to detail it will likely meet your actual needs for many years. As to weather to buy a TIG or a Lathe that is sort of like asking someone "should I marry a blonde or a redhead"?

07-13-2005, 06:21 PM
I also bought my HF lathe on sale, I've made countless same parts, modified other pre-manufactured parts to work better than their oem designs. I am quite pleased with the little lathe's performance, it was the first large equipment I purchased more than 3-4 years ago. As far as making the most bang for the bucks, I'd say you cannot go wrong with this lathe.

Now, I did have one problem with mine. After about 18 months of use, when I was making the second neck centering cone for my frame jig, the drive chuck just froze up and the motor couldn't turn it. Talk about bad timing, but that is exactly when things like that happen. Anyway, about two hours of disassembly, cleanup, and re-lubrication then all was well.

The problem I had reminds me of a winchester auto shotgun I bought from Wal-mart. First thing I did was disassembly and clean, inspect, relube. Then all was well. My point is, bad mouth foreign products all you want, but remember this...even todays american made products have the same problems. Personally, anywhere my dollar buys more (for the same quality) is where my money goes.


Russell Arney
07-14-2005, 06:39 PM
I tell ya, I just bought one from wholesaletool. It does what I expect for a home unit. The lathe is on a sears bench and man, it works great. I have found a great web site, Steve Beldairs, on the 9x20. He gives you some great ideas for this machine and different parts to build yourself, check it out.

07-14-2005, 09:53 PM
I bought an old fortys logan lathe made for Montgomery ward for 275 dollars. great investment.