Harbor Freight 8×12 wood lathe unboxing and initial impression

I’ve been wanting a lathe for a while and all it took was for my family to leave me alone. Well, that, and for the lathe to be on clearance at Harbor Freight.

Now that I’ve used the lathe for a few weeks I’m impressed. It works well, is more solid than I expected (which isn’t saying much), and it let me get into wood turning very inexpensively. Like I said in the video, the tool rest lock is a bit flimsy. I’m expecting to rip it off at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. No big loss if it happens, now that I know I enjoy wood turning I’d be OK with upgrading at some point. That being said I have nothing else to compare it to, but if I needed to drop $300 on a mini lathe I wouldn’t have given it a shot.

As for the $20 chisels, they’re better than I expected for $20. You get 8 chisels that somewhat hold an edge for almost nothing. You’ll need to give them a really good sharpening out of the box and you’ll need to touch them up often when working. In just a few weeks I’ve made a lot of pens, bottle stoppers, handles, etc. and if you keep them sharp they work well. The great thing is I was able to try 8 different chisels, decide what I really like, and upgrade them one or two chisels at a time.

If you’re interested in this lathe or chisels, the part #’s are below.

8 in. x 12 in. 1/3 HP Benchtop Wood Lathe: Item #95607
Wood Lathe Turning Tool Kit 8 Pc: Item #62674

Making An Inexpensive Illuminated Channel Letter Sign

When planning a casino theme surprise for a friend I decided to make a sign. I’ve been wanting to try channel letters for a while and used this as an opportunity to give them a shot. No casino sign would be complete without an over abundance of flash, so I decided to go with gold glitter and lights to give it the gaudy style we were looking for.

Materials used:

  • 1/2″ MDF for the letters
  • More 1/2″ MDF (or an old Idea table top) for background
  • Aluminum flashing for channel letters
  • Battery powered string lights (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • Metallic spray paint
  • Glitter
  • CA glue (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • Craft glue (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • 3/4″ scrap wood to make spacers for back
  • 1 1/4″ wood screws
  • Picture hangers

Tools used:

  • Jig Saw (and saw that can cut curves will do)
  • Utility knife to cut flashing
  • Metal straight edge
  • Brad nailer
  • Drill & drill bits
  • Router

I started by making the background from an old MDF Ikea table top. Next I cut the circle into an oval using a jig saw and then routed a chamfered edge on it. After sealing the edges with wood glue I sanded everything smooth. Once that was done I doused it with craft glue and gold glitter then sealed it all with spray on polyurethane.

For the letters, I cut them from 1/2″ MDF and drilled the holes for the lights. Next I spray painted them metallic silver. From there I cut the aluminum flashing into 1 1/2″ strips using a utility knife and began to bend it around the letters. To attach the flashing I used CA glue.

To assemble the sign I layed out the letters on the background and glued them in place. Once I had the letters glued I used brad nails to permanently attach them in place. Next I used a hand drill to drill the light holes through the background. Now it’s time to flip the sign over and push the lights through the holes. To keep the sign off the wires and bake room for the batter pack I screwed a pair of 3/4″ wood scraps to the back of the sign and attached a picture hanger.

How we made a 100lb steel and concrete RC Truck display

So this project ended up clogging the garage for 2 weeks as we reworked the design a few times.  We initially started out with the idea to make a shelf to display Damon’s RC truck to a steel and concrete behemoth.  All said and done he now has a display that comes in around 100lbs and he LOVES it.  When my wife asked why we were making it out of concrete instead of foam it was an easy answer…because it’s cool.  Checkout the below video to see how we did it.


To complete this project we used:

  • almost an entire 80lb bag of concrete
  • 1/2 of a bed frame
  • black pipe and caps for the legs
  • Melamine to make the form
  • a pile of rocks from the yard
  • primer & paint for the frame
  • Thompsons waterseal for the concrete

And to put it all together we used:

  • a grinder with cutting wheels and flap disc
  • miter saw with abrasive blade
  • mig welder
  • Bucket to mix concrete
  • trowel to move concrete around