Flutterby™! : Harbor Freight experience

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Harbor Freight experience

2010-01-10 01:40:07.955946+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

So the other day I was talking with a friend about how busy life was, and mentioned that I was building a CNC router. He said "why not buy a milling machine?". I allowed as how I was interested in larger throws and such, but he happened to have a smaller mill that he'd just replaced that he was looking to get rid of or less than it was going to cost me to finish up the router, and it was already done. 12" throws in X and Y, which is big enough for the project that's first up.

It's a "Central Machinery" mill, which is basically the Harbor Freight house brand, which means that I'm in for a lot of tuning and tweaking. But I'm planning on fitting my own steppers to the thing anyway, and I'd be in for a lot of tuning and tweaking anyway if I built my own.

However, I don't yet have a vise for the thing, or any bits. I looked online, and some of that inventory looked promising, so this morning I went up to Harbor Freight for the first time. The clamping kit and any milling bits are online only items, but I saw a drill press extension table, which is something I've been needing to build, and the price was about what I expected to pay for the materials, so I figured "how badly can they screw that up?"

If I figure it as raw materials it was an okay deal for a couple of pieces of melamine coated MDF, and some T-track, handles and clamps, and it got me an extension table with a half-hour or so of tuning. But, yeah, I had to remove almost every screw and clean out several of their cuts to make it usable. Turns out you don't get what you don't pay for. Who knew?

In other things, I met up with Chris at Little House on the Trailer this morning, he came up because he was interested in the Sing panels that they've used in some of their buildings. We hung out there, got in to a conversation about intentional community, in which Polcum Springs was mentioned and then, because Chris had recently asked about Festool rental, I made him come back and we took some oak that I'd found on the side of the road and turned it into what we hope will soon be a bar top for his digs. That piece is currently clamped up (yay! I finally have enough clamps!) and drying in the shop.

[ related topics: Machinery Community Real Estate Woodworking Festool ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-01-10 22:08:50.966437+00 by: m

Dan, it looks nice. A good complement to your other tools from what I recall that you have mentioned. Every tool needs tuning -- some more than others.

I have been thinking about something similar, a small milling machine and a lathe. But I am starting to run out of room for stationary tools. My next item will be a replacement dust collector. The tech has improved quite a bit since I bought mine some 10 years ago. I have to wait until the snow melts to move one in.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-01-10 04:36:45.98461+00 by: TheSHAD0W

I've gotten some items at Harbor Freight. On occasion I've been pleasantly surprised, but yeah, most of what they sell is crap. I don't recommend getting anything mission-critical from them.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-01-10 03:39:03.090592+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've got a hold-down kit, a decent vise, and a couple of collets and bits and parallel bars and other accessories on order.

I'll probably need to get a set of boring bars and a holder for it, and I can see that I'm going to want a lathe, but not 'til I get my shop built.

I do need to get some steppers up and running, there are a number of things it'd be handy to cut on this that'd me much easier with CNC rather than "crank X once, crank Y twice, crank X once, crank Y once...".

And I'm also seeing that on one previous job, if I'd but known we'd have bought one of these and a few tools and some taps and it would have paid for itself in the first plate we had milled.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-01-10 03:04:31.509209+00 by: meuon

Congrats! Looks very very familiar. I bought mine used from friend Jason of Evil Robots Inc with a lot of accessories and some mods. You bought the base to a kit that gets better with accessories and some tuning up. It and the lathe paid for itself in two projects. I need to get them set back up and practice more.