Review: Homier 7x12 Mini-Lathe

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Table of Contents


If you have not already done so, please read the Disclaimer (last updated 10/18/09)


Introduction 04/05/02

I first started hearing about a 7x mini-lathe from Homier around summer of 2001. Like a summer storm rolling in, it began with a distant rumble that grew to a dramatic crescendo as it drew near.

By now quite a few members of the 7x interest group have purchased these lathes and have provided much positive feedback. I was anxious to get my hands on one so that I could do a thorough side-by-side comparison with the well established Harbor Freight 7x10 and Grizzly 7x12 lathes (I have one of each). That opportunity arose, and what you are reading here is the result of that analysis.

Since I will continually be comparing the Homier lathe to the other lathes, I will use the acroynym
TOL to refer to "The Other Lathes" throughout the review.

As a point of reference, the HF and Grizzly lathes are made by the same factory and, aside from the length of the bed and details of the power supply, are practically identical in most respects. By contrast, the Homier lathe is made by a different manufacturer and has a number of features not found on the other two lathes. Refer to the Features page for comparison with the HF 7x10, and to the Setup page for comparison with the Grizzly 7x12.

Which one is better? To find out, you'll have to read the rest of the review.

As in all my reviews, I try to present a fair and balanced view and report the not so good along with the good. But as you read the following review, keep in mind that this lathe cost $299 as of 04/02.  It's really quite remarkable that you can get a lathe anywhere near this quality for a price like that!


Receiving and Unpacking

The Homier 7x12 was delivered by UPS and left on my doorstep.  That's standard practice in my neighborhood, and I have never lost a package. This one weighed 95 lbs. and came in a plain brown outer packing box, so it's not too likely that anyone would have walked off with it.  However, I was home at the time, so I loaded it onto my little luggage cart and wheeled it into my shop in the garage.

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Opening the outer box revealed the inner box containing the lathe.  Homier obviously has been responsive to reports of damage and is now shipping the lathes with this double box method.  I'm happy to report that mine had no damage except a very minor bend in the chip tray.

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The lathe is securely padded by thick packing paper which cushions the parts inside the box.  Some owners have reported receiving the lathe with the tailstock loose in the box, but wrapped in the packing paper.  On mine, the tailstock was securely clamped to the ways, as it should be.

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The lathe is a nice-looking deep royal blue color.   Here it is on the bench just as it came from the box. The rubber feet are already attached to the lathe, whereas on the Grizzly and HF lathes, they must be mounted by the owner.

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Accessories

Inside a small carboard box can be found the accessories that come with the lathe. The outside chuck jaws and dead center, being prone to rust, are wrapped in rust deterrent oiled paper.

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Top to bottom, left to right, the accessories are:

Plastic oil bottle, handwheel handle, toolpost handle, tailstock lock handle, outside chuck jaws, dead center, cross-feed handle (3 pcs.), Hex wrenches (6 pcs.), chuck wrench, open end wrench.  A small open end wrench (10mm) neeeded to remove the chuck is not provided, so make sure you have one on hand before your lathe arrives. 

Shown below are the extra change gears.  They are made of plastic and are slightly thinner than those provided with the HF and Grizzly lathes.

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Also included is a 16 page user manual, comparable to those supplied with the HF but a little less detailed than the Grizzly manual.  A spare fuse is packed inside the plastic bag containing the user manual.

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Cleaning up the Lathe

As reported by others, I found the packing grease on the Homier lathe to be very light compared to the thick red gunk on the HF and Grizzly lathes.   This makes cleanup a much less daunting task, but I did notice a few small areas of rust, so this grease may not provide quite as much protection as the thick red stuff.   As you will see in the following pictures, the grease is pretty mild:

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To clean up, I just brushed the surfaces with kerosene and wiped them clean with a cotton rag.  A couple of passes and 45 mins. later, the lathe was looking pretty good. For comparision, here's a photo of the red grease that protects the Grizzly 7x12:

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For more information on cleanup and setup of the 7x lathes, check the setup page.

One thing to watch out for: the kerosene stripped some of the red paint in the grooves of the ways.  No big deal, but worth noting if you wish to maintain your lathe in showroom condition.  No problems were encountered with the blue paint.

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For more information on cleanup and setup of the 7x lathes, check the setup page.


Bed and Ways

One thing that impressed me right off was the quality of the ways.  They have a very fine finished appearance with crisp, ground surfaces.

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There has been a fair amount of discussion in the 7x10 group about whether the ways on the Homier (and for that matter, on the other 7x lathes) are hardened.  On expensive high-end lathes, the ways  essentially are always hardened.   This is desirable, since it helps to protect them from dings and gouges which can affect accuracy or cause binding of the carriage as it travels down the ways.

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On the end of the bed of the Homier lathe is a little label that reads "Heat Treatment".  This label has led to speculation that the ways are hardened.  However, some have interpreted this to mean merely that after casting the ways are heat-annealed to relieve stress in the casting before grinding the ways.

Now, "hardness" is hard to measure without special instruments.  For our purposes, the real question is this: "If I drop a wrench on the ways, will it leave a big dent?". So I set out -- rather unscientifically I might add -- to answer this question. Here's the result: If you whack the top of the compound with a wrench it leaves a dent. Do the same on the ways and the dent is much smaller - just a mark, really. I repeated this precision test on the other lathes and got pretty much the same result. So I think that the answer is that the ways are harder than the raw metal of the compound, but not nearly as hard as, say, the chuck jaws. I could not conclude that the ways on the Homier lathe are any harder or softer than those on the other lathes.  Now if one you readers out there could lend me a hardness tester...


Way Wipers

Another feature of this lathe not found on the others is wipers for the ways. These are attached to both sides of the saddle and serve to prevent swarf and chips from working into the gap between the saddle and ways.

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Removing one of the wipers reveals that it consists of a soft rubber wiper held in place by a thin metal cover.  Also unique are the ball-bearing sealed oil holes above the wipers on the right side. Neat feature!

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Leadscrew and Half Nut

The right end of the leadscrew is terminated by a special nut. At first I thought this might be used to take up any play in the leadscrew, but it seems to lock down leaving a fixed clearance between the face of the nut and the pillow block, so I'm not sure what purpose it serves.  Removing the nut exposes a threaded extension that may be intended for use with an optional hand crank or power feed. Well, even if it was not intended for that use, it sure might lend itself well to such a mod.

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When I removed the pillow block, I discovered that there is a ball-bearing oil port on the underside. Gravity being as it is, I decided that it made more sense for the oil port to be on the top side of the block, so I flipped it over when I reinstalled it.

The thread dial has a light finish rather than the black color found on TOL but is otherwise similar. It is used to engage the lead screw at the proper point when thread cutting.

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Cross Feed and Compound

The cross-feed and compound are similar in construction to the other 7x lathes, but here again, you will find some differences.


Dials and Handles

The cross-feed and compound dials are provided with setscrews to lock them at at a specific setting rather than the friction spring arrangement found on TOL. For convenience, I will probably replace the setscrews with little thumb screws so that I don't have to search for the proper hex key when I want to lock them down.

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This is a better setup than the friction locking arrangement,  since the friction locking ones are subject to slipping. When they slip, it can be really frustrating - especially when you are cutting threads to a specified depth and have no way to reestablish the reference point once you start cutting. For this reason, in fact, I added this feature to my 7x12 as shown below.

The chrome handles have a slightly different shape than those on TOL.  I'm holding a handle from the HF 7x10 in my hand next to the Homier handle.

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Be sure to remove the handles and dials and clean the dials, as I found a lot of grit on the back face of the dial. You may need to insert the tip of a screwdriver and twist it to gently pry off the handles.

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3-Inch 3-Jaw Chuck

The chuck appears to be identical to those on the HF and Griz lathes, judging from the planet logo and other markings.  From my experience with those lathes, I can attest that this is a fine chuck and should do just about anything you would expect from a little chuck on an inexpensive lathe.  It is not unusual for the moving parts to be somewhat stiff until it gets worn in, and this chuck was no exception.

 

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The bottom left hand photo above should give you a good idea of the true size of the chuck.  Its small, but you can supplement it with a variety of optional chucks if you need more capacity.

In the bottom right hand photo you can see that lock washers are supplied for the chuck mounting nuts. None are provided on the other 7x lathes, nor needed within my experience. They're probably a good idea, though, if you don't mind fooling with the extra hassle of getting them in place. Captive washers would be nice. 

The mounting nuts provided on this lathe are somewhat thinner than those on the other lathes and this makes them a little easier to get into position on the studs within the narrow space between the back of the chuck and the headstock.


Spindle

OK, you've all been wondering: does the spindle plate have 3 holes or 6 holes?  If you have been following this discussion on the 7x group, or have read my Versions page for the Homier lathe, you already know that the Homier spindle plate only has 3 holes.  Beginning in March, 2002, however, a few new owners reported receiving Homier lathes having the extra 3 holes needed to directly mount a 3" 4-jaw chuck. We have all been hoping that this is a permanent upgrade that can be expected on all future shipments.

Unfortunately,  mine only has 3 holes. Of course, it may still be true that lathes manufactured after a certain date have the extra holes and that I simply received one that was made before the cutoff date.  I will see if Homier can shed any light on this matter. The inset on the right below shows the 6-hole spindle plate found on the HF and Griz lathes.

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I have to say, that the quality of the surface of the spindle plate was disappointing. In stark contrast to the fine quality finish of the ways, the spindle face has a very rough finish. Adding a little more salt to this particular wound, there was considerable swarf and grit in the recesses of the spindle.

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OK, griping aside, what's the real impact? Drilling the extra holes for the 4-jaw chuck should be pretty straightforward using a hand-held drill. The swarf can be cleaned up with a brush, so has no detrimental effect other than to cause a little dissapointment with the quality. The rough surface of the spindle face can be cleaned up and trued up with a couple of fine facing cuts.  So, when all is said and done, these issues are really pretty minor. 

You have to expect some tradeoffs like this when you buy a low cost machine tool.  If you found a '57 Chevy with a little rust on it sitting in a barn somewhere, and were able to buy it for $300, you probably would not complain much about the rust. It's kinda like that.


Spindle and Chuck Runout

Spindle runout is the extent to which the spindle bore is not exactly concentric with the center of rotation. It is one of the most important factors in determining the overall accuracy of the lathe, since no cut can be made to a precision greater than the runout.

I measured the runout on the inside of the spindle bore and found it to be less than .0005; around .0002 as well as I could estimate with my dial test indicator.  This is surprisingly good for a lathe in this price range.

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Next I measured the runout near the chuck by clamping a 3/8" shank end mill in the chuck and measuring against the round surface of the shank. Initially I measured .009" runout, which is not very good.  A runout of around .003 or less is what we would like to see. 

I removed the chuck, carefully brushed the spindle and the back surface of the chuck to remove any swarf or grit, then remounted the chuck and tested again.  This time I measured the runout at just under .002" so the first reading may have been skewed by a piece of sand or grit between the chuck and spindle plate.


Tailstock

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Features of the tailstock that differ from TOL are as follows:

I was a little surprised that there were no graduations on the ram to indicate drilling depth.  This is not much of a loss, in fact, since they are difficult to read anyway on TOL.  In practice I use my little depth gage for approximate depths and a dial indicator for precise work.

One method for cutting long tapers is to turn between centers with the tailstock offset laterally. On TOL, this is awkward at best, because the lock screw is on the underside of the tailstock casting. On the Homier, the lock screws are on the rear of the tailstock - a much better arrangement. There is a little gage to help estimate the setover and reset to center, but I doubt that it would be accurate enough to be of much value in actual practice. 

I found the tailstock alignment to be quite good, right out of the box.  I mounted the dead center in the tailstock and a piece of 3/8" drill rod turned to a point in the chuck and brought the together.  As you can see in the photo, they meet up point-to-point.

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If you look carefully you can see the stop screw in the groove in the bed just below. I assume that this is to prevent you from accidentally sliding the tailstock off the end of the bed.  I routinely remove mine when its not in use to gain the extra room, so I will be removing this little guy first thing.


Mini-Lathe    Mini-Mill    Bandsaw   Grinder  Anodizing   Lapping    Links   Projects   Safety     Premium Content

Mini-lathe:  Accessories   Adjustments   Capabilities    Chucks    Dial Indicators   Features   Getting Started   Glossary     Introduction   Materials    Modifications   My Shop   Operation    Reviews    Sieg Factory    Tool Grinding    Troubleshooting   Tuning     Versions