The metal lathe I purchased used was in good condition, but there were a couple things that needed attention; one was cleanup, and the other was belts.
I focused first on cleanup. I took the various slides and screws apart, cleaned them off with mineral spirits, re-lubed, and re-assembled.
That was a nice task to take on, because it introduced me to the various parts of the lathe and gave me a better feel for its construction, capabilities, and limitations.
The next issue was that of the drive belts. My lathe came with one belt, but needs three in order to have full range of speeds.
The manual listed their sizes: 0-710, 0-800, and 0-900. Great! So I did a search online for belts of this size, and found… links to the manual for my lathe!
That’s right: Harbor Freight had managed to use belts on this lathe that no longer exist in reality.
Just in case this was a fluke, and the internet was defective, I went to the local auto-parts store and showed them the sizes to see if they could find something similar, and they could not.
I called Harbor Freight technical support, and spent a long time waiting while they verbally scratched their heads, and then they came up with the answer: 710, 800, and 900 were the size of the belts in millimeters! (that may have been obvious to you metric readers, but I live in America, the God-Blessed land where measurements are based on thumbs, grains of wheat, and historical monarchs’ feet (hey, you started it, England))
So I converted millimeters to inches and ordered three v-belts from my favorite supplier (locally based so they ship very quickly), and tried to put them on my lathe.
Not one of them fit.
I could almost get the smallest one on, but it was so tight I nearly lost fingers in the process. All three pulleys are in fixed positions, so I couldn’t shift them to loosen or tighten the belts.
Oh well, I thought, at least I know what sizes to order next, so I bought two more larger belts (I decided that I would only buy two, and continue using the old belt as well).
Failure! These belts were also too small!
I had now accumulated $30 worth of belts without successfully equipping my lathe.
After this, I took a different approach. V-link belts are a favorite for woodworking equipment because they don’t have as much memory as a standard solid rubber belt, and so lead to less vibration and smoother cuts.
I have one of these belts on my table saw, and while I haven’t seen an appreciable improvement in the quality of my cuts, I like the belt because I can adjust its length fairly easily.
These belts tend to be expensive. $7-9 per foot, or $30-40 for a 5-foot loop.
I found mine at Harbor Freight. It’s a name-brand product, so it’s still not cheap, but $25 for a 5-foot loop and then a 20%-off coupon means it’s $20 and a lot cheaper than anywhere else, and I could use the 5-feet plus a few extra links from my table saw to make both the belts I needed.
After picking up a belt on my lunch break, I spent 10 minutes tweaking the length of the belts and getting them fitted.
They fit. The pulleys turn. The Lathe cuts. Done.
Why don’t I always try the obvious solution first?