Author Topic: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe  (Read 17758 times)

Offline ferretface

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Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« on: November 17, 2007, 09:08:32 AM »
I bought my "Central Machinery" 3in1 mill/drill/lathe from Harbor Freight about four years ago. It's a model/part # 44142. I've used it mostly for hobby gunsmithing.

Here's a pic from Harbor Freight's site -

Harbor Freight 3-IN-1 METALWORKING MULTIPURPOSE MACHINE WITH MICRO FEED



http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=44142

ITEM 44142-0VGA  $1499.99


Here's some of the pros and cons that I've found:

Pros:  :)

- It's cheaper than a Smithy
- Uses standard R8 collets in mill quill
- Easily disassembleable
- Uncomplicated
- 20" AR-15 barrels fit easily
- Adaptable to most US tooling
- Good assortment of gearing (including Metric conversion gear)
- Two separate identical motors
- Fits on standard 30" x 60" US metal desk

Cons:   :(

- Cheap Chinese materials
- Cheaply made/wound motors
- Screws not long enough throughout
- "3/4 HP" motors overheat easily
- Belts slip fairly easily
- No quill stop on drill/mill head
- Takes a while to change gearing - not a quick change gearbox
- Gearing specs are different in printed manual vs plates on machine
- Not a lot of cross feed = about 7 inches
- No brake or lock on quill
- Truck delivery only - better have a dock or forklift or pickup yourself
- Needs to be propped up higher than feet allow - 4" to 6" more


Breakdowns/problems:   :'(

Both motors failed within about 6 weeks (at different times). A motor shop diagnosed it as incorrect point gap in the capacitor start pointsets. (I'm not an electrician; that's the best I could understand it). One cap burned out due to this. Motor guy told me the Chinese motors were very cheaply made - thick armature wire with few windings vs a good motor with thin wire and many windings. (However, Baldor makes a comparable 3/4 HP motor that can be made to fit). My quill drawbar broke in a couple months, right at the weld. I made up a new one, fitted with a barn-job extension to clear a "snout" on the fan belt guard (which has now been removed, so I can take apart all those nuts on the drawbar). The screw that holds the tailstock threaded nut in position sheared off; I installed a longer/stronger one. The T-slots are a non-standard size; either buy Harbor Freight Chinese hold-down set or modify US T-nuts. There is a lot of slop in the cross/length feeds, and it's non-adjustable. The increments on the dials are not true; there is as much as .013" mismatch in one revolution of the quill feed handle. (It reads ".04" per increment, but the increments actually average .037"). The mill head has limited space available unless you remove the lathe chuck (I don't). The lathe uses 30 weight oil for the bearings, and it leaks steadily. Deck plate on the cross feed is not hardened; it gouges easily when changing vise, toolposts, angle plates, etc.



Modifications:   ::)

US capacitor installed on lathe motor - wouldn't fit in holder, so it just hangs down. Fan guard quill stack removed. Quill stop fabricated and installed. Quill wrench fabricated - there is no way to hold the quill from rotating while tightening/loosening mill collets. I used 2x4's to lift up the base; there's no clearance for your hands on the feed wheel/threading lever/lock. "Snout" on fan guard removed.



All in all, it is worth the price, as long as you are aware that it requires frequent repair/maintenance. The biggest drawback to me is the lack of a quick change gearbox. I've owned a Bridgeport 2J mill and a South Bend 14 1/2" x 60" engine lathe, both with quick change gearboxes, and it is worth upgrading to a Smithy just for that aspect. The dials are not reliable, a magnetic base dial indicator is a must for precision work. The machine has strange graduations per revolution; tailstock is .125" (1/8") per rev, but quill crank is .120" per rev.


Here's some pics of my setup:

Mounted on metal desk



Motor with US capacitor



Lathe gearbox



Extra supplied gearing for lathe gearbox



Repaired tailstock (new screw not visible)



Extended drawbar, and fan guard w/snout removed



Quill dial with wildly incorrect increment marking



Fabricated quillstop




Here's what I plan to upgrade to (hopefully, next year) - a Smithy. With a *quick change* gearbox!!!   ;D

Smithy Granite Max



http://www.smithy.com/product_home.php?cid=1&scid=21&pid=1009

Granite 1340 MAX  $4,099.00  Code: GN-1340 MX


I really should have saved up and bought one of these initially...   :P


Offline kcstott

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2007, 07:30:56 AM »

Granite 1340 MAX  $4,099.00  Code: GN-1340 MX[/b]

I really should have saved up and bought one of these initially...   :P



No I disagree. You should have looked long and hard on ebay and got a used fullsize Bridgeport mill for $1500 give or take and then got a used Southbend lathe For around the same.

Pros
Better machines even after sixty years of hard use.
Parts are American and easy to find.
Big heavy duty machines that are commercial grade can make anything you can lift on the table, or put in the chuck

Cons
Machines may need work minor to major but IMO well worth the effort.
Mills are typicaly 3 phase but if you buy a variable frequency drive 220V single phase in 220V 3 phase out it's a simple fix
Machine are big and heavy and depending on how your garage is laid out it may or may not be the best choice
Parts are availible but buying from the factory is expensive you must search the net for deals.
Once your friends find out what you have, you will have and endless suppy of cherity work.

Either way fix up the machine you have then down the road sell it for what you paid for it and buy a machine that will last.

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2007, 08:56:12 AM »
You are correct; the Bridgeport 2J and South Bend 14 1/2" x 60" would be ideal. In fact, those are what I sold to pay off hospital/doctor's bills.  :'(  (Along with my Harley, JPR Wildcat [Jaguar clone], two dozen weapons of various kinds, and reloading equipment).

But the house I live in now does not have an attached garage; I do my work in the unheated basement. I'm in Western New York; it's Winter six months of the year. getting a Bridgeport downstairs is impossible; the South Bend might make it...without a motor...and disassembled...200 amp service is possible [100 for house; other 100 for machines]; but my 60+ year old house would need a bunch of re-wiring...and then re-plastering...   :P

As for friends, relatives, etc being a source of income...that is a rapidly diminishing group, I'm sorry to say...   :(

Offline kcstott

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2007, 10:50:06 AM »
See I knew there was a reason youwent the way you did.
Suck that you had to sell off your stuff to get the bills paid, I've been there. It sucks but it's also life

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2008, 06:51:44 AM »
Update:

Well, I've had another part go bad...luckily, it was an easy fix...   ;)

In this pic, you can see the two handles for the quill rack-and-pinion control. The black knob in the center is a "lock" for the rack. The chrome crank handle is a micrometer control for the quill rack. It only engages when the lock is used (which also locks out the two-handle control).



The knob is a push/pull affair, with a pin inside it which controls the engagement of the lock. The pin came loose and jammed the lock. The micrometer crank was all I could use; the quick (like a drill quill) control was locked out. It happened in the middle of a milling operation, of course.   ::)

I took it apart and found that the pin was supposed to be an interference fit; nothing else held it in place. It had come loose with use, and slid out and jammed. I pushed it back in and staked the ends of the hole to hold it in. This has worked so far, but if it happens again, I'll put a roll pin in the quill instead of the solid pin.   ;D
 

Offline BrianH

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2008, 03:56:44 PM »
If you really want an all-in-one you might want to consider a Shoptask.

http://www.shoptask.com/

The way they tell it every all-in-one on the market is just one of their older designs. 

Offline akraven

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2008, 06:54:53 PM »
Thanks for all the info from your experience with this machine. I have one on order and apprecaite your experiences. While I agree that it would be nice to have a full sized mill and lathe sometimes money and space just don't allow it. I have seen some amzing things made on these machines. Thanks again. akraven

Offline LockGessner

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2008, 05:21:43 PM »
I would look into grizzly machinerys line of tooling.. there American made and from what ive heard there pretty nice to..

Lock Gessner

Offline goober

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2008, 05:34:37 PM »
I would look into grizzly machinerys line of tooling.. there American made and from what ive heard there pretty nice to..

Lock Gessner
Most of the small & mini mills & lathes sold by Grizzly are made in China just like the HF ones. There are several companies (HF, Grizzly, Homier, Cummins, Enco) that all sell basically the same Chicom machines with different paint and other mostly cosmetic differences.
heatware username: goober

Offline LockGessner

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2008, 06:46:39 PM »
I would look into grizzly machinerys line of tooling.. there American made and from what ive heard there pretty nice to..

Lock Gessner
Most of the small & mini mills & lathes sold by Grizzly are made in China just like the HF ones. There are several companies (HF, Grizzly, Homier, Cummins, Enco) that all sell basically the same Chicom machines with different paint and other mostly cosmetic differences.

I stand corrected... my apologies... ive only heard about these machines never researched myself.

Lock Gessner

Offline goober

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2008, 12:34:04 AM »
I would look into grizzly machinerys line of tooling.. there American made and from what ive heard there pretty nice to..

Lock Gessner
Most of the small & mini mills & lathes sold by Grizzly are made in China just like the HF ones. There are several companies (HF, Grizzly, Homier, Cummins, Enco) that all sell basically the same Chicom machines with different paint and other mostly cosmetic differences.

I stand corrected... my apologies... ive only heard about these machines never researched myself.

Lock Gessner
hey, no worries  :D it is kind of weird how many "brands" there are that are all really just the same product!
but some folks do prefer Grizzly over HF, often b/c their customer service and support is better.
heatware username: goober

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2008, 07:02:27 AM »
Latest update...of course, this wouldn't be an update unless something went wrong...   :P

Here's a pic of the "instrument panel", such as it is...The white circle on top is an "On" indicator light (panel is getting electricity); the green circle is the "On" button for all power; the red circle is an emergency stop button; the bottom switch is the lathe power control.



The bulb in the white indicator light burned out. Everything still works; there's just no easy way to tell if the machine has live power.

So I pop out the bulb, and look at it. No number, of course.   ::)  So I take out my multimeter and check the socket voltage. DC scale, only have 2.5, 50, and 250 v scales for DC. On the 50v scale, it shows ~7v. OK, down to RatShack ["You've got questions, we've got blank stares!"] and pick up a couple 6.3v bayonet socket instrument bulbs. Plug one in, hit the power, and BLAM! Flash of light and a burned out bulb.

So I pop off the panel and look for a short...



No short. (The original bulb is on the top there). In fact, not much of anything...uh, there's no stepdown transformer...WTF??? A 110v AC bayonet socket bulb???   :o  So I set my multimeter to AC, plug the leads in the socket...110v...

Yep. No one has them. A local electrical supply store offered to order me a box of 10. I should be able to pick them up Monday. 

In the meantime, I had sent an email to Harbor Freight. The bulb is not listed in the parts list, just the complete socket...for $4.85...So I ordered one. Can't hurt to have a spare...   ;)

********************************************************

I had also had a slight problem with oil leaking out of the lathe gearbox. There's a leveleye under the spindle/chuck (you can see it in the lower left of the pic), but the fill hole is way around the back of the gearbox, hard to get at and difficult to pour oil into. So I finally plumbed up a fill spout. While checking the various areas of the gearbox, I found several loose screws for access covers and tightened them up. The leak seems to have stopped now, but I'll leave the filler spout on.



The whole machine needs tightening up; the ways have worn in somewhat and the whole machine feels loose...The shims for tightening the ways ["gibs?"] are pretty crude and are an "all or nothing" proposition...It's either too tight or too loose...   >:(

But it's still cranking out parts for various weapons...   ;)



Update: The bulbs came in. 110v, bayonet socket. Sylvania SY120MB Mini Lamp, cost = $2.64 each...   :o

The indicator light works fine now.   :)
« Last Edit: September 09, 2008, 06:13:51 PM by ferretface »

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2008, 01:55:46 PM »
More...

As detailed in this thread, I had another lathe motor capacitor burn out...right before a holiday weekend...   >:(

So no work got done for 6 days (they had to order the capacitor)...   :'(

So I'll be ordering an American motor for the lathe section sometime this week...

I revised my plans on buying a Smithy, after a friend described some of the shortcomings of that make to me...   :o

For now, it'll be upgrading this machine...
« Last Edit: October 15, 2008, 01:57:41 PM by ferretface »

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2008, 04:47:30 PM »
Well, another day, another problem...    :-\

This time it's a ball bearing failure...

The table for the lathe/mill has a long buttress threaded screw that goes through a threaded boss on the bottom of the table...there is a thrust bearing on each side of the boss, on the screw...a 3-piece ball bearing, consisting of two races and one caged ball bearing...there is no protection, it's open...

I don't know exactly what caused it, but a ball seized in the race while milling...maybe a chip, maybe just too much weight on the table (I had a rotary indexing head mounted + a tailstock w/dead center)...

I was able to finish the milling (I ruined one of Kevin's lowers, but that's another story ::))...but when I took the cross-feed screw apart, I could see that the cage was worn and one ball jammed between where it should be and another ball...

The thrust bearing (there are two) is 15mm x 28mm x 9mm...I can't find anything that matches, except a 15mm x 32mm x 9mm deep groove radial ball bearing...there's room for the extra diameter, if I bore out the spacer where the dial rides...

It should work, since there isn't any real thrust against the bearing...axially or radially...About $7 each from MSC...

...And the reason I ordered them is because although Harbor Freight tells me they are available for only $3.65 ea, it'll take 6-8 weeks to get them from China...   :o

So they're all on order, and I'm currently using the crossfeed with one less bearing ball...very carefully...   :P

Offline falcon66

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2008, 02:38:50 PM »
Note to self, cross Harbor Freight 3in1 off list.

Sorry to hear all your problems brother, but thank you for sharing. I have kicked the tires on one of those,  but was leaning toward a Grizzly mill/drill. You just pushed me over the edge.

Offline ChiefScientist

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2008, 09:15:44 PM »
Hi guys - I'm new here and just starting my first gun smithing projects.

I have two HF44142 systems.  The first was great.  Worked fine, didn't leak, all things worked, and pretty tight.  But as luck would have it, I gave it to a friend when we started to work on a joint project and I bought a new one.   The second has problems.  It leaks and both motors burned out in days.   I just decided to install 1HP VFD's and made some adapters out of cast iron weights.  I finished them with the last smoke of the last motor.  Now it is a 220V single phase variable  speed machine and works well, but still leaks a bit.  No real bother though.  The first one is still running great.   

I take way to deep cuts because I'm always in a rush. 

All I'm saying - and I won't debate it anymore - don't be scared of the machine if you can fix things and can stand some project interruptions. It's well worth the money and well supported on the web.  They sell LOTS of these.

I'll be starting my first gun build soon and THANK YOU for the great posts.

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2008, 06:14:59 AM »
- don't be scared of the machine if you can fix things and can stand some project interruptions. It's well worth the money and well supported on the web.

I agree; it is worth the money. And so far, nothing has gone wrong that isn't fixable. (My radial bearings came in).

I'm a little confused by what you mean - "well supported on the web"...Can you elaborate on that???

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2008, 10:13:54 AM »
Note to self, cross Harbor Freight 3in1 off list...I...was leaning toward a Grizzly mill/drill. You just pushed me over the edge.

Sorry you feel that way. As someone noted above, Grizzly isn't that much better. I bought this in Jan 2004. The problems aren't insurmountable, and the price is commensurate. I owned a Bridgeport for over 10 years; they have their problems, too. "Ya pays yer money an' ya takes yer chances"...   :)

Anyway...The bearings came in from Harbor/China...Took about three weeks...They actually look better than the ones in the lathe...



I've still been using it with the one race missing one bearing...Works OK that way...

In the meantime, I started hearing a strange thumping noise while using the mill...Took the belt guard off; didn't see anything...Couldn't figure out what it was...Finally noticed something white on one of the belts through the inspection window while milling...Took the belt cover off, pulled the belts around, and noticed this...   :o





Strangely, the other belt is still good. They're Metric, of course, and nobody stocks Metric sizes (9mm x 800mm and 9mm x 860mm), so I bought a 3/8" x 33" [3L330] to replace the disintegrating belt. There's been a run on V-belts due to heavy snow (snowblowers, they say), so I'll get a spare 3L350 as a backup for the other belt later on.

New belt works fine. Back to milling!!!  ;D

Offline j_blankenship

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2008, 12:44:34 PM »
My 2 cents...

Don't buy a Shoptask. Bad experiences myself and the worst customer service I've ever experienced anywhere in my life. They are built on those Chinese base machines, repainted with their additional girder work that is not as successful as they like to pretend (poor design and execution). The larger inudstrial Smithy's are considerably better built from what I've seen (in garages of friends just a few doors apart from each other) even though the base to these are also built in China, it seems just that the Smithy group has mandated better construction and thicker castings, more bearings, etc.

I agree with most, if you can make it happen get the Bridgeport or clone.

FWIW,
John B

Offline ferretface

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Re: Harbor Freight 3-in-1 Mill/Drill/Lathe
« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2008, 04:37:24 PM »
I had the intention of buying a Smithy this Spring, but a fellow ARFCOM member had one and warned me that the spindle speeds are not controlled by pulleys & belts, but by some kind of vari-ac (motor speed controller)...I don't like that...   >:(