Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lathe Upgrade: Metal Gear Transmission

Although the Harbor Freight mini-lathe is reasonably well built, I did find the plastic gear transmission to be less than strong enough.

The dust of shredded gears...
The broken gears, note the missing tooth on the small gear, and the crack running through the large gear.

I will add here that although I did wind up breaking the gears, I did a lot of reading online, and there were plenty of people who have owned the lathe for many years and never had any issue with the plastic gears.  I opted to get the more expensive metal gears knowing that I planned on turning some other harder metals (such as titanium) and I am awfully impatient and will wind up making deeper cuts than I should...

Metal Transmission Gear Set from Little Machine Shop
In any case, I decided to bite the bullet and get the metal transmission gears from Little Machine Shop.

Although installing the gears does require extensive disassembly of the lathe (the motor has to be loosened from its mounts to get access to the headstock bolts, the electronics has to be removed. the chuck and spindle must also be removed, etc...)  it was not difficult, only time consuming.  I removed the shafts with a lead hammer to avoid marring them, and was able to not lose the Jesus clips holding them on (is there anything more satisfying than that?).

I also loaded up the new metal gears and the change gears with a good grease.  At some point I want to add a pair of Zerk fittings to the top of the headstock so that I can squirt in more grease whenever the mood strikes me.

The new metal gear transmission is much smoother (funny how when a gear has all of its teeth it runs better...), but it is noticeably louder.  I am very pleased with the upgrade.  Although many people may never need to replace their gears, I am the type that gets bored too easily to avoid biting off a bigger chip than I can cut, so I know the metal gears will be well worth it in the long run.

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