Doing my homework paid off for one thing.
Yes, the stand is a cheesy POS but it is functional. Before it gets attached to the saw frame it flops around like a fish out of water every time you touch it.
There are only four little screws and nuts holding the whole thing together at the tray, in the middle.
The next item I noticed,
The instructions suck ass.
There ain’t no gettin’ around that.
They give you part numbers for the fasteners in the diagrams but don’t label anything in the little plastic bags all the shit comes in so you better damn well pay close attention to what you are doing.
The instructions also skip over several steps and it looks to me like they are very out dated as in I think they have actually upgraded a few things on the saw since they were printed.
I’m thinking of the belt guard attachment instructions in particular but I also found a few other instances that if you were a dumbass with no mechanical skills you would be there half the day figuring shit out. It doesn’t tell you that you have to take the pulleys off first to install it for one thing even though it is painfully obvious the second you try to get the guard near them.
Other than fighting a few things because a helper is actually called for in the instructions, it actually went pretty quick other than a couple of items.
The helper is mainly to be there when you have to muscle the saw assembly out of the styrofoam and the box and then pick the heavy piece up to mount it on the stand.
Another instance where doing the homework and watching a bunch of the hundred or so Youtubes available helps immensely.
First off, you don’t even try to pick the thing up, you cut the box, rip the styrofoam away in big chunks and then roll it over so you can attach the stand.
Then even a skinny old bastard with a fucked up back like myself can tip it up and over alone and get it stood up.
The very first thing I did after getting everything tightened up was to pull the cover off the gear box to see if it was in decent shape inside. This is a critical step with these things according to everything I read and watched.
Very wise advice it turns out.
That there is a WHAT THE FUCK moment.
Cheap Chinese grease and what I ascertained to be straight 30 weight oil.
It took quite a while actually to get all that mess cleaned out.
The reason you want to look inside there is to see if the machining on the worm gear is fucked up. I watched one video where if the guy hadn’t of checked his, the brass gear would have gotten chewed to shit right off the get go. It didn’t even spin by hand it was so bad.
This one wasn’t real bad but the problem is that they leave a real sharp lip at the edge of the worm gear and it would just cut the piss out of the brass gear and keep doing it until it was completely ruined. You can see where I took a little needle file to mine and got rid of that sharp edge. It wasn’t horrible but it was there in a couple of spots.
There were also a couple of places where the worm gear either got dinged or it had some bad casting spots in it that were causing it to not be a smooth transition as it rotated up the threads.
Very important that those two gears mesh smoothly.
After I cleaned it out I filled it with real gear oil too.
Then I spun it several times checking for tight spots then sealed it back up. That part should be good to go now.
Then the aforementioned pulleys’ belt and guard.
Then I messed around seeing how the sheet metal table fit when it is in the vertical position and where the locking system is and how it works to keep the thing from falling back down. I didn’t bother taking any pictures of that.
I set the spring tension on the drop and then went about checking the vise jaws for being square against the blade.
This is where I found a pretty major shortcoming in my opinion. There is nothing to indicate when the back jaw is at 90 degrees from the blade nor is there anything like a detente or locking mechanism to use as a default position.
I had to get a little square out, loosen both jaws, set the back jaw then bring the traveling jaw up to it and set that too.
I did see one video where a guy fixed that problem by using a protractor and drilling two holes in the deck. One at 90 and one at 45 degrees. Then he used a pin to keep them locked in place in whichever he needed.
I’ll be looking into something like that. At the very least I am going to make sure the thing is dead nuts on at 90 and then scribe a line to use as a reference point in the deck.
After getting it all set up, it was time to test it out.
Right now I have the belt set at the slowest speed which is what the destructions recommend for stainless and other harder steels.
I had a piece of 1X 1/8 stainless flat bar laying around from the radiator mount fiasco on the Sprite a couple of years ago and threw it in the jaws.
My first impression? The thing is really quiet except for one very annoying issue.
The handle that folds down to pick one end up to move it rests against the sheet metal stand and rattles and vibrates like a sonofabitch. I wrapped a few turns of electrical tape around it where it rests and that helped a bunch but I am going to have to glue a rubber bumper on it to shut that the hell up.
Other than that it is amazingly quiet.
It’s also slow.
Part of that is the belt position, another contributing factor was that when it was almost finally done cutting through the flat bar, it seemed to just quit cutting at all. I had the spring tension too tight trying to err on the side of caution. After backing it off a whole bunch it started working like it was supposed to.
What did the finished product look like?
I’ll let you be the judge.
So, am I happy with it?
Oh HELL yes.
I wish I would have bought this thing five fucking years ago when I first started wanting one.
Is it worth the money?
If you can get this thing for under two hundred bucks brand new it is an absolute steal.
Would I recommend buying one?
I think you should have bought one five years ago too.
Even with the shortcomings, virtually everyone who comes here and reads this blog is well ahead of the curve when it comes to all things mechanical and should have no problem getting one together and then using the shit out of it.
Is it all that and a bag of chips?
Of course it has it’s shortcomings. These are made in China and sold under the same brand name as that fucking POS Mini Lathe I have. However, these get sold in much higher quantities and it appears they are quite a bit more attentive to the quality of this particular item.
It is a basic starter saw for home owners and hobbyists yet when properly set up will cut metal off at the end to within twenty thousandths of an inch thick.
There isn’t any provision for a drip lube system and there isn’t anything fancy on them.
It cuts metal, period.
It is a set it and forget it machine, it shuts off when it is done with the cut. It is small enough to find a home in almost anyone’s shop or garage and it is quiet.
There is plenty of room for upgrades, starting with the stand.
Blades are plentiful and there are many options, including multiple vendors.
If you bother to check the actual customer reviews on the Harbor Freight site you will see they are almost all positive and there are over 400 reviews.
There are hundreds of Youtubes about these things.
I think you should get one and I am kicking myself for not getting one years ago.
With the proper care and maintenance, this saw should fairly easily outlast me.
Now I just have to go kick a hole in the wall of crap out in the garage and find a home for it so I can get the Sprite back in under cover.
I still have a bunch of tools and things to put away and I need to find the surface of my work bench again ASAP.