View Full Version : Harbor Freight 12x36 lathe

10-09-2002, 04:21 PM
I know some of you are already saying NO...

Aside from that: our local store just moved to a larger building so they have more of their larger equipment on the floor now, including - the 12x36 gearhead.

I looked at it and everything was surprising smooth moving for a floor model (but it was just put out) plus it just went on sale for $1699 and includes a steady rest, follower, 6" 3-jaw, 7" 4-jaw, 10" faceplate, 8" backplate and 4-way tool post. Runs on 220, 1-phase I'm not sure what else it comes with. Judging by the rest of this kind of machinery it probably has an imperial leadscrew and metric cross-slide threads.

I live in an area that is 'old iron' poor. I currently am using the tiny 7x12 so this would be a huge step up for me and I'm currently changing the 7x12 to CNC.

SO... I would looove to have a southbend but I haven't seen any within 800 miles. I do light homeshop work, nothing commercial and have been happy with the 7x12 for what it does. I would like to swing larger pieces.

Any opinions on this lathe? I already know you get what you pay for, etc.. Anyone have one of these from HF, enco, MSC, etc...

10-09-2002, 04:43 PM
I have this very lathe and like it very much. (And I spent $100 more!) Everything seems to work very well. It does everything I'd like it to do. But, be aware that I am a novice.

Also, I have a very nice used machinery place near me and have used that place for every other piece of equipment I've purchased since. I can get more for the money when I spend on used equipment. But again, I'm very happy with my HF!

I forgot to tell you, these this are so heavy that shipping is EXTREEMLY expensive. HF will ship free! That can save you over $1000. Good luck on what ever you decide!

[This message has been edited by tonydacrow (edited 10-09-2002).]

10-09-2002, 11:59 PM
I have the Enco version - gear head gap bed lathe. Bought it new and have had it for almost 2 years. I have had many problems with mine (fiber gear stripped when a shaft locked up, fiber gear stripped when a pin came out and locked up the lead screw, would not cut a decent looking thread - had chatter look to it) and now the control switch has malfunctioned. I have a friend that has a lathe identical to mine and has not had a minute’s problem out of it so I guess you can say I'm just unlucky. I have worked on numerous "bugs" in the last couple of years and know the lathe inside and out so I don't consider it a total waste of my time. If you do buy this particular lathe the first thing I would do is change out the tool post with an "Aloris" type. I bought a Phase II BXA with the tool holder set and then made extra tool posts on the mill. The next thing you will want to change out is the drive belt. Order the 5/8" Powertwist belt from Grizzly ($20) - it makes all the difference in the world.
After working on and leveling the lathe I will have to admit it will cut very precise. I have posted in Third Hand for some help on the switch and you can read about that problem there. Email me if I can help in any way or answer any questions.
Don't want to sound too negative about the lathe but I will have to say it’s a 50/50 gamble.
Just my opinion.

10-10-2002, 12:10 AM
What ever you get take the time to set it up properly and clean out the crappy oil it came with. Use a good R & O Gear & Bearing oil in your headstock of the proper viscosity.

Good luck and have fun - be safe!

10-10-2002, 01:02 AM
Thanks for the response guys. I was hoping to hear from someone who actually owned one. I did do some searching on the net and turned up more positives than negatives on asian lathes of this size.

Tony: Glad to hear you've had good luck with yours. Thanks

Gator: I know what you mean. I heard a lot of horror stories on the 7x12's before I bought mine, but I got lucky aparently. Haven't broke anything and it only took a little tuneup.
I do think that the asians don't think to hard when it comes to mounting/positioning the electronics on these. Come on, use a bit of common sense and we wouldn't have half the problems.

And Thrud says: set it up right from day one. One thing I have learned from the 7x12 is that you go over every part on one of these before ever using it. Trust nothing. So much could happen/shift during shipping.

I did read on one site that the ways on the 12x36 were hardened and that both the leadscrew and crosslide were imperial. Can anyone back this up?

10-12-2002, 01:26 AM

I do have this same lathe...going on 7 years now. Have a SB of similar size also.

There has been two minor issues. One is the bores in the gears aren't always on center and it causes a rum rum rum type noise, the other is the cam lock spindle and chucks have to be clocked just right, or the cams (when tightened) will slip right on past the tight spot...kinda feels similar to a stripped thread.

The good news is that there is a replacement iron gear available for the plastic one inside the end cover. Bout $10 each. Also, the other good news is, if set up properly it is very accurate, believe it or not. Good repeatability. Also comes with a gear set for cutting metric threads. Flame hardened bed (ways?).

Would I buy it again? Yes. Do I like buying the oriental stuff? No.

Keep it oiled. Mine is a good light/medium duty lathe. Good Luck!

10-12-2002, 01:37 AM
BRUNNENG: Go for it! I have had good luck with HF tools and with a store close to you I think that even if you have problems you will get satisfactory help because you are standing in front of them and not on a phone. I live close to Grizzly and I get wonderful help from them so that is what I buy. WALT WARREN

10-12-2002, 01:58 AM
Just a follow up on 1erful's Harbor Freight service statement...I bought a DA sander via HF mail order and I thought it had failed. When I went to return it at my local walk in store, they would not take a return on a mail ordered tool and stated they were two different entities. Just a thought, that the walk in stores will usually match a mail order price, and if you buy it through the brick and mortar store you will also have the option of returning it there without having to pay for return shipping.

10-12-2002, 09:59 AM
I have a similar 12x36 gear head made in Taiwan. The place I bought it from actually sets it up for you. I saw the thing made chips before we bought it. Which is kinda nice but not always necessary. I would take the time to set it up, level it etc, like others have said.

The main thing I would like to add, is check the belt on the motor. Mine seemed to be lumpy and made the pulleys hot. The tension was right. The belt was cheap. I created a slight vibe in the machine. I got a "quality" belt, and it runs cooler. Seems to run a tad smoother.


10-12-2002, 11:56 PM
I got mine for $1950 with stand and 8% sales
tax, FOB my Ranger. A good engine lift
(that had to be disassembled itself to get it through the door into the basement) made
mounting the lathe fairly easy. I used ENCO
machine mounts to level, a 4' level showed the floor sloped down about 3/8" over the
length of the lathe. Machine mounts make leveling the bed and stands a piece of cake. At $2 each, well worth it. Main problem with mine has been a leak in the Y axis gearbox. Mine also does not appear to have any plastic gears. The chuck is stiff, probably needs to be taken down and cleaned. The D1-4 cam was also stiff initially but now releases easily and the chuck just slides off. Look into the HF or Phase II QC toolposts, they are well worth it. There was no oil in the main gearbox when I checked, so far no grit either. In my ignorance it took me about
90minutes to figure out the turn on sequence.
Mobil DTE Lite ($40/5gal, look under oil in
the yellow pages and call the distributor) is
one oil usable in the gearbox. Quality is
astonishing for the price. The wheat to chaff ratio at HF is pretty low but the 12-36
is a very nice HSM machine. Also taking store delivery saves $150-250 shipping charges. Steve

[This message has been edited by sch (edited 10-12-2002).]

10-13-2002, 05:41 PM
Thanks guys, this makes me feel better about what I've been reading on the net in general. It jives with what you've been saying.

Luckily I have a shop building and not a basement to contend with. I've also been eyeing the 2-ton shop boom (engine) hoist which is also on sale for $159 (norm $259-249). I'll also pick up a Starrett machinist level from MSC for leveling.

It's always the extra's that add up: quality level, hoist, 220v drop added to shop, etc...

10-14-2002, 12:46 AM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by brunneng:
[Luckily I have a shop building and not a basement to contend with. I've also been eyeing the 2-ton shop boom (engine) hoist which is also on sale for $159 (norm $259-249). If you have a SamsClub near by take a look at their version of this shop boom lift. It is built of noticeably heavier gauge tubing stock than the HF boom. Price is competitive for the quality: $220 +/-. They have been on display at the local Sam's for the past two years. The one I borrowed is similar to the Sams and would lift the lathe only if the boom extension was no further than the foot extensions. Even then I had to put two short lengths of RR track on the outrigger end of the boom opposite the lifting end for balance. Weight not the problem but balance. Steve

10-14-2002, 04:32 PM
I have the Sam's Club hoist and it works great. Used it on car, tractor, and airplane engines. Durable, hasn't rusted, and if you have to walk away for a while doesn't leak down and change position. It has been on sale for $199 (maybe a year ago).

10-22-2002, 02:33 PM
Hello all, new member here!
I have had one of these lathes for a couple years. I would like to get more accuracy from it. The problem is the 3 jaw has quite a bit of run out (don't remember exactly how much). The spindle seems to run true. I recently moved and will be setting up in a new shop hopefully soon. What would be a good recomendation for a replacement 3 jaw for this unit?

Cliff Lawson
10-22-2002, 04:22 PM
I have one of these Tiwaneese and it works fine.

Yesterday I had delivery of a harbor Freight tool and it was damaged in shipping or who knows where.

No questions, they immediately are shipping a replacement part, free.

So, question the warranty at that store. Mail order works great, but slow.

10-22-2002, 05:07 PM
I have some HF equipment and have been pleased with the stuff. I am a novie in the area of being a machiist, but have done jewelry, custom knife making and other related things.
My local HF store is really good to me, if I get a price on the website that is lower than the store price, they give me the web price.
Remember to look at the boxes closely, if it says 160 or some number like that, they mean KILOGRAMS not pounds.
My HF's stores manager will drop things off at my house if it's too heavy for me. Then I write a letter to HF and tell them what a great store it is and that the manager is customer oriented.


10-22-2002, 06:22 PM
The one I bought was the floor model in the local store for $1,100. The catch is they sold it as is, plus I have owned it for about 2 years so any warantee would be up. Could go back to HF for a chuck but thought I would upgrade to something better is I was spending more money.

10-22-2002, 10:19 PM
Harbor frieght store in Jacksonville fla explained why they are separate from catalouge. Catalouge store avoids state sales taxes. Keep them apart and you save on taxes.

Friend bought, for his business, a Harbor freight 12" lathe (local store) is well pleased with it. It was intended to hold shafts for welding and make some metric threads. He was disappointed in how he had to keep the half nuts engaged for metric. We solved the problem but it is too time consuming. The HF lathe has now been elevated to replacing a 10" South Bend (which is now holding shafts for welding etc.).