Down in the Machine Shop


Harbor Freight 9x20 Lathe

Harbor Freight 36" shear

Smithy 1220XL Mill - Drill - Lathe

I bought this and all of the accessories shown for $800 back in 2006.

Accessories that come with the mill


Optional Smithy 1220XL Accessories - They don't come with the Smithy, but were purchased by the fellow I bought the Smithy from.....

  Mill Bits

  A    B


3 Jaw Chuck and spare jaws

Internal Boring Tool


Cut Off Tool


Lathe Centers

Tailstock Extender

Live Center

Couple of Chucks, 5-20mm and 1-13mm, and their Chuck Keys


Dial Indicator

5C Mill Collets - 3/16, 1/4, 9/32, 3/8, 1/2, 7/16, 5/8, 27/64, 13/32, 3/4, 7/8, 1"


Misc Allen Wrenches

Lathe Dogs

Knurling Tool

Various Cutting Bits



One of the Ball End Mill Bits, and one of the many Reamers

Pix of the Z Readout and the X/Y Readout


  F     G


Harbor Freight Parts Cabinets

Most of the tools and accessories for the two machines fit into these all metal cabinets from Harbor Freight ($39), I have one over each machine.

Harbor Freight Tool Grinder

Got this grinder on sale for around $125.  An industrial tool company on the southwest side of town, MSC, sells the EXACT same model for $220 on sale.  Where would you rather buy it???


Comparison Shopping
As you may have noticed, I have a lot of Harbor Freight tools in my collection.  If you have an unlimited budget, buying better quality tools may be a valid option for you, but for right now, most of the cheaper stuff will do quite nicely, especially since I only use mine on an occasional basis, not day in and day out.  However, if we look around, and do a little comparison shopping, there are competitors that offer the exact same thing (or a real close copy) for a whole lot more.  So why pay more??? For instance, let's take some of the other stuff I have in my basement:


Here's a case where the two items are close, but not quite the same, albeit, both from China.  The one on the left is out of an MSC sales flyer, the one on the right out of a Harbor Freight sales flyer.  I've used the HF one now for about 3 months, works fine.... I'd give it an 8 out of 10.  On the left is MSC, on the right is Harbor Freight..... gee, what a coincidence, they both can use the initials CP!  Which one would you prefer to buy?  At seven bucks a pop, you can buy six of them and still not pay what you did for the from MSC!


On the left is HF, on the right is MSC.... I know the one from HF doesn't have the light (the newer ones do, this is about 8 years old), but one that does is only about four bucks more.... still a big difference, less than half..... I give the one from HF an 8 out of 10.


Although not identical, the 2 1/2 vise from HF is less than half price, and I doubt the quality of the one from MSC is any better, as I'm pretty sure that import = China.  Before HF opened here 2 or 3 years ago, I needed a vise like the one pictured in the HF add, and could only find it at Lowe's, for around 20 bucks.   So, you see, I'm glad we have a Harbor Freight in town.


Where do I get my hand tools I rely on day in and day out.  Sears make good tools for the most part, although I'm not too keen on some of their screwdrivers and pliers sets, even some of the more expensive ones.  In one of the "electronics" pliers kit I got from Sears, the side cutters can't cut lacing cord (a heavy duty waxed flat nylon string) without taking several cuts at it. 

If I really need quality, I would go to Snap-On.  For electrical tools, I like Klein, especially their line pliers.... I still have a pair I got 35 years ago as a electrician's helper!  You will pay more for the quality, tho.  The only problem I have with Snap-On, is the honoring of their lifetime warranty.  When I worked in the Light Rail shops, the Snap-On guy would visit once a week.  There were some special tools only they offered.  There was one fellow there who had one of their $8,000 tool boxes, filled with Snap-On tools.  Impressive.  But if you weren't a good customer like Fred, the S-O rep would really make you work hard to get a replacement.  With Sears, all you have to do is bring in the tool, and they will replace it, even if the tool is 40 years old!  Now that's backing your product!!

And speaking of quality, there's no substitute for precision tools made by people like Starret if your working around the mill or lathe.  Yes, I do have some where the accuracy counts.

Stanley tools are OK for occasional home use.  The nice thing about them is the fact that they offer a lot of specialty tools, and are widely available from stores like Ace hardware.

I'd like to thank Jim Southern. and Steve P. for all the help they have given me in gaining more knowledge of the wonderful world of machining, they are both long time veterans of working in machine shops!

Parts Storage

This cabinet (and another one just like it) was acquired from one of the local Radio Shacks that recently closed.  They were going for 200 bucks, which may seem like a lot of money, but the cabinets are well made and have ball bearing slides.  They had an unwritten policy that if you bought the parts out of the drawers, they would give you the cabinet for $100.  Being the fool I am, I couldn't resist the deal.  An hour and a half and 12 feet (the length of the register tape) later, I was done.  But being the first one in the area to do that, they offered me the second cabinet to me for $50.... needless to say, I took them up on the deal.  I bought a couple of movers dollies from Harbor freight (on sale - $15), and cut them down to fit the cabinet.  I just started putting parts into them.... I decided to straighten out the boxes and cans full of screws laying around first.

NEW 8/29/2006
Last changed: 23 Sep 2016