Welcome to Hardpan.com

Hello, and welcome to hardpan.com

Here you will find information on Photography (DIY, Infrared, Custom Setting, Tips, etc), and home shop stuff (how-to information and DIY customization from my shop).

I will also be sharing occasional images I have captured.  Many of my images are for sale on PaintedLightStudio.com and you can find more on my flickr page.

How to Make Color Infrared Images with a Digital Camera

This is a description of how I capture and adjust infrared images using a digital camera. I know there are other ways to accomplish this, and I know many people adjust images differently to suit their taste. I am providing this as a simple tutorial on the basics of how to get a better color than the red image that will come from your camera, or without  having to save as a black & white image.

Note: you can easily take infrared images hand held with a camera that has been converted to only take infrared photographs.  If you decide to spend a lot of time shooting infrared, you can purchase a camera that has had the conversion (removal of the infrared blocking filter in front of the sensor), or you can send a camera in to have the conversion done.  Many places will do the conversion for less than $300.
The following information will help you do it for much less. An infrared filter can be purchased for less than $40 and used with your existing equipment.


What is infrared?

Infrared is a light that is beyond the normal light range that we can see with our eyes.  The wavelength is longer than visible light, and as such we will need a filter to block the visible light and allow the infrared light to reach the camera sensor. Sometimes it may be called “near infrared” to differentiate from the “far infrared” spectrum that is used for thermal imaging.


What you will need to take a digital infrared image…

Pentax K100d DSLR and Hoya Infrared Filter

A Digital Camera that allows a strong infrared signal to reach the sensor – For my infrared shots shown here I used an older model Pentax K100d.

An Infrared filter (attaches to any lens) – For my infrared shots I am using a Hoya R72 screw on filter.

A lens that will work for infrared (some lenses will have a hot spot, or an area that will just show up as a bright spot instead of the image you are trying to capture.  This happens because of the coating on the lens that was designed for visible light.   You may have to search the internet to find a lens that will work with your particular camera) – For my infrared shots, I use the standard kit lens (Pentax 18-55mmm)

Software to convert your image – I am using Photoshop CS5 in this tutorial. You may use any software that will allow you to swap the red & green channel.  If you don’t already have software I highly recommend trying Adobe CC Photography Plan.  For a monthly fee of less than $10 you can get Photoshop and Lightroom, and you can cancel if you are no longer using them.  It is far cheaper than purchasing a full version of both programs and you never have to buy the upgrades.

A sturdy place to set your camera or a tripod – Using a filter to block the visible light will require longer exposure times to capture an image. A tripod or a sturdy base to hold your camera will be necessary for almost any infrared image taken this way.


Choosing a camera:

All digital cameras are sensitive to infrared light. Because the infrared light can be a problem for image quality on normal, visible light photos, camera manufacturers place a filter in front of the sensor to block infrared light. Some cameras have weaker filters than others, and the weaker the built in infrared filter, the easier it is to get a good infrared image. Newer cameras have much stronger filters built in than older cameras. The stronger the filter is, the longer the exposure necessary for good results.

I use an older Pentax K100d to take infrared images. My newer Pentax K-r has a much stronger filter in place, and I have not been able to
get a satisfactory infrared image even after exposing for several minutes.

You can test your current camera to see if it will work for infrared images by taking a picture of a television remote. Simply take an image of the remote as you are pressing a button (Point the remote at the camera and press on a button). If you can see light was emitted from the remote (a bright spot), then you know infrared will pass through the built in filter on your camera. This doesn’t guarantee a great image, but it does mean you have a camera that will work with this tutorial.


Choosing a filter for your camera

A filter to block the visible light (or most of it), and allow infrared to pass to the camera is the key to taking infrared shots. I am using a filter from Hoya (R72).You can get different filters to allow more or less visible light to pass through, and the number of the filter is an indication of where the cutoff will be in the light spectrum.Wavelengths for photography will basically be between 700 and 900 nm. The Hoya filter I am using has a cutoff at 720 nm.
(Note: the Hoya R72 has been replaced by the RM-72 filter. The RM-72 will work the same for this tutorial, but the older R72 filters can still be found.  Other brands will work, however the inexpensive imported filters will rarely work as well.  I have tried several off brand filters and they just made a red colored image instead of blocking the visible light channel.   I chose the Hoya filter based on so many good reviews, and it is built well enough to last a lifetime.)

The filter will come with threads to attach to your lens, so you will need to know the largest size lens you will be using to pick the correct size.
You may want to purchase a larger ring size, and use step rings to fit smaller lens sizes so you can use it on multiple lenses. The only problem
with buying a larger filter is the price will be much higher for larger glass.

Filters for infrared photography are very dark, as they are designed to block visible light. You will not be able to see through the filter.It will appear black, or possibly very dark red if held up to a light source. Because of this, you will need to compose your shot and then add the filter
when you are ready to take a photo.

Tip: If you have a lens hood, use it.  Adding a filter to the front of any lens adds a possibility of flare, ghosting, and reduced contrast.


Setting up to take an infrared photograph

The first step in taking an infrared photograph is choosing a subject that will work in a different light.Bright and direct sun will help to amplify infrared on your subject, and because of this, shots taken in the middle of the day will yield incredible results. Most photographers prefer to capture visible light images during early morning or late evening times to optimize light, color, and shadows. Infrared can be a way to break free from the normal shooting times, and take advantage of light that would seem overly harsh for a normal photograph.


Tip:
Contrast between living plants, animals, and hard surfaces or water will add to an infrared image, because of the way the longer wavelength light is absorbed.

After you decide what to take a picture of, you will need to setup your tripod, and camera.A tripod will be needed because a very slow shutter speed is needed to capture enough light as it passes through the filters. Even in the middle of a sunny day, we will need exposures that may be 2 seconds or longer.A hand held image at those speeds will surely be a blurry mess. You do not need to purchase a tripod if you have a good  surface to set your camera where it will not move.   Placing your camera on a large rock, bench, or ledge will work in many situations as a makeshift tripod. I have even braced against a car for some of my shots. As long as you can keep the camera from moving for a few seconds to take the photograph, you should be fine.

Because you will not be able to see through the filter, you need to compose your shot without the filter installed on your camera. After you have your shot lined up, you can thread the filter onto your lens and take the shot.


Camera Mode

I set the camera to manual mode to take infrared images. In order to adjust the time required for the light to pass through the filters, manual changes need to be easily adjusted. Manual mode allows the aperture, and the shutter speed to be changed quickly.

If your camera allows a choice of RAW images instead of JPG, do it!
RAW will allow you to make far more adjustments to your images, and it will make setting the white balance easier if you don’t get it correct in camera.Trying to adjust a JPG to get the right colors will be much more difficult.


White Balance in Camera

I will start by taking a shot to set the white balance. If your camera allows adjustments for a custom white balance, I recommend you do it. There should be instructions on how to set the white balance in your manual. A custom white balance will make it much easier to adjust you images later. To setup a custom white balance I find it is best to aim the camera at something that will expose brightly, such as grass or trees. After the white balance is adjusted your images will have much less red cast, and will start to look closer to normal – please note they will never be  completely normal color with just a white balance adjustment so don’t panic if they are not what you expect.


Time to shoot

I set the aperture to f/8 – f/11 for most landscape shots. This will allow everything in the image to be in focus, and if my focus is slightly off because of the filter I will still have a usable image. You can try to use a larger aperture, but with infrared it becomes very difficult to focus correctly as the aperture increases.

Note: your camera may be able to focus automatically with the filter installed, but for most landscape shots I recommend focusing manually.
Simply turn off the auto focus on your camera, and focus on or near infinity. Every lens is different for infrared, and older lenses have a red
mark on the focus scale to show where it will focus for infrared. You may find that you will need to adjust your focus point a small amount when shooting in infrared. You can either remember how much adjustment you will have to make, or mark your lens after you have found the sweet spot for infrared.

For most mid day shots I will start with a 2 second exposure test shot. This has been a good exposure for my camera in many attempts, but your camera may need much more or much less time to get a good image. After I take a shot I will view the image on the camera to see if the exposure was correct. A histogram is a very easy way to tell if you have exposed correctly. If your camera has a built in histogram, I highly recommend
using it to make adjustments. I will then change the shutter speed if needed to allow a longer or shorter exposure for my next shot.I continue to check each image until I am sure I have a good shot with correct exposure and focus… then I shoot one more just to be safe.

Tip: Because we are dealing with a very dark filter that is blocking visible light, there is a chance for stray light to enter the camera through the
view finder.  Covering the view finder during shooting will help prevent some problems such as flare, ghosting, bright spots, overexposure, and lack of contrast in your images.  If you use a mirrorless camera you shouldn’t have this issue, and you probably won’t need to cover any part of the camera to block stray light.


Adjusting the Image

To adjust the colors so we can have blue skies instead of orange or red, we will need to swap the red and blue colors. This can be done very easily in Adobe Photoshop. If you do not have Photoshop, try using the software that came with your camera.   Many photo editing programs have the ability to adjust the color channels.   Please note, Photoshop Elements is missing the ability to swap color channels in most versions. Newer versions may include this ability; however I have not used any version newer than Elements 8.

Open your image in Photoshop.

Below is an image directly from my camera:

Infrared Image of Courthouse

 

Click on Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer

With the Red Channel Mixer open,Change the value for Red (from 100 to 0), and the value for Blue (from 0 to 100).

Photoshop Color Mixer

Next – Change the Output Channel from Red to Blue

With the Blue Channel Mixer open,Change the value for Red (from 0 to 100), and the value for Blue (from 100 to 0).

Photoshop Color Mixer - Blue Channel

Then click on OK.

This should change your image from a red/orange color to a blue shade.

Below is my image after swapping the red and blue channels:

Lafayette County Wisconsin Courthouse - Infrared with color swap

Normally I then use:

Image > Auto Tone

Image > Auto Contrast

Image > Auto Color

After these auto corrections are done, I will make final adjustments using curves, adjust contrast, and sharpen my image. If the image is adjusted the way you want, save it as a JPG to share or print and you are done.

Compare the Infrared image above to an image of the same scene taken normally as shown below:

Lafayette County Wisconsin Courthouse on an Autumn Day


Here is a different scene taken with a normal camera:

Tenney Park Bridge

And here is an infrared version of the same place:

Tenney Park Bridge - False Color Infrared


And here are some more examples of infrared photos that I have taken using this method:

Old Barn Infrared

Bloody Lake - Infrared

Monroe Arts Center - Infrared

Country Fields and Sky - Infrared

I hope this helps you understand how easy it can be to capture and process your own infrared color images.


This article is a re-post.  It was originally posted on February 27, 2012.

The INFRARED Machine – IR Converted Olympus E-PL2

I have been shooting a lot of digital infrared images using a Hoya R72 filter on my Olympus E-PL5, and I have been very happy with most of the results.  As I have been accumulating images and working on a processing system I keep wanting to capture more.  The biggest issue that I have encountered is the need for a tripod due to long exposure times, and blurring in images due to wind caused motion of grass and trees.  I have often thought of upgrading to an infrared converted camera so I could do so much more.

I have searched the internet forums for the different conversion services for months and I finally decided it was time to settle on one.  I sent my old Olympus E-PL2 to Kolari Vision on September 24th and I received it back ,fully converted to 665nm infrared,  on October 10th (actually 11th since I had to go pick it up at the post office – signature delivery).    The conversion was quick, the camera was returned in perfect condition (no dust spots under the new filter as some other places seem to have problems with), and the in body stabilization still works perfectly.

OLYMPUS E-PL2 DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS E-PL2 DIGITAL CAMERA – Converted to 665nm Infrared spectrum

I am thrilled to have this finally added to my photographic toolbox!   I had a chance to use it this last weekend, and shooting hand held infrared is so much fun!  I wish I had done this earlier in the year, as so many leaves have fallen from our trees already, but I will make sure it gets used often.

The biggest differences in the converted camera are speed in image capture, and much less noise in the images than when trying to shoot with a filter.  The camera is small enough to still fit in with my other micro four thirds gear and I won’t need to drag the tripod along as often.

Many of my infrared images can be seen in my flickr set: Infrared   and are available for purchase on  www.paintedlightstudio.com

Thank you Kolari Vision!


Please note:  This is a re-posted article.  This site is being rebuilt due to a major catastrophic collapse.  The original article was posted October 16, 2013.

Lowepro Passport Sling – The Ultimate Lightweight Camera Bag

Note:  this is a re-post from March 20, 2013.  The site was destroyed so I had to add it back here.  I have been using this bag for over 2 years now, and I still love it!


 

I have been playing with an Olympus E-PL2.   It looks like it will make a great light weight alternative to my Pentax equipment when I am traveling light, or need a smaller kit to carry on a bicycle.  Of course I now needed a smaller bag to haul it in.  (I love it when a new bag is “needed”).

I decided that Lowepro has been so good at filling my other bag needs in the past, so I started looking at their offerings.  I found the Passport Sling should fit the need, so I ordered one from Amazon.  It arrived today!  Very cool!

This should fit my needs perfectly.  There is room enough for my camera, a couple lenses, and some small accessories, plus it has an overflow zipper to become a larger bag when needed.  I will be dragging it around with me for a while to test the comfort, and durability.  It is so much lighter than my other bag with the APS-C gear.

I did take a shot of it before it gets filled with the micro 4/3 hardware…

Lowepro Passport Sling Bag
Lowepro Passport Sling – my M43 bag

Now I can’t wait for some decent weather to get here so I can take it on a nice long walk…

Daylight Saving

We are only a few days into the time change for the year, and it feels like the light has been stripped from my day…

The only good thing that comes with the earlier darkness is the beautiful night sky.  I shot this one last night in the driveway – before I even had dinner.

Andromeda galaxy shot from my driveway on a dark autumn evening.  This is the only benefit I see from changing the clocks back... earlier night sky viewing.     5 images (300mm - 30 seconds each) on an iOptron SkyTracker stacked in DeepSkyStacker to reduce noise.
Andromeda galaxy shot from my driveway on a dark autumn evening. This is the only benefit I see from changing the clocks back… earlier night sky viewing. 5 images (300mm – 30 seconds each) on an iOptron SkyTracker stacked in DeepSkyStacker to reduce noise.

**Note To Photographers – Don’t forget to change the clock in your cameras! **

DIY Pentax IR Lightning Activated Trigger Version 3

This is a description of how I made my updated (version 3) infrared lightning activated trigger for a Pentax Digital SLR camera.

IMGP7397-2
The majority of this lightning activated trigger is similar to the information on my earlier version (located here)

The biggest change from the previous version is the addition of buttons to adjust the light sensitivity that activates the trigger.  As with my previous version, I built this for my Pentax camera that does not have a remote shutter trigger connection, so I needed to trigger the camera using an infrared (IR) signal. (Plus, I like to tinker with stuff & Arduino is fun to play with)    I have borrowed information from a couple sources on the internet to create the infrared signal, and the programming: there are links to any information that I have used in the following instructions.
Arduino – The brain inside the machine
arduino
The heart of this trigger is based on an Arduino board.  You can expand the code on it for far more trigger applications in the future (high speed photography) as well.  The program that Arduino runs on is open source and can be found here.  There is a great group of people sharing information in the Arduino forums, as well as a ton of information for other Arduino based controllers all over the internet.  The program can be written using Windows, Mac OS X or Linux and is easily sent to the board using a USB cable.
Here is the basic setup showing the wiring from the Arduino board to both the input (I am using a photo transistor but you could use a photoresistor as well) and output (I am using an Infrared LED).

If you are using the photo transistor from the link on my page (or an equivalent) for the light sensor, you will need to wire it backwards from a standard LED.  The shorter leg should connect to positive (+5v), and the longer leg should connect to 2 resistors that lead to: 1 (10k) to Ground & 1(100k) to senor pin 2.   You can change the value of the resistors to adjust the sensitivity as needed.  The original work, that lead me to build this, used 10k as the resistance for both connections to ground and pin 2.  Upping the resistance to pin 2 has increased the sensitivity for me.

For the output,  I use an LED as a test as well.  You may have to use a smaller resistor on the IR LED to get a stronger output signal if it isn’t working.  Just make sure to use at least enough resistance to keep from blowing the LED.  For the output IR LED I used the longer leg to +, and the shorter leg to a resistor then to ground.

MKLTv3
The code I used to activate the shutter is based on information I found on two web pages:

The input code is based on information from Maurice Ribble who makes the CameraAxe (a wonderful camera trigger for anyone who has a wired connection for the shutter trigger, and would rather purchase a complete trigger mechanism).  The page I found that contained his early lightning trigger using Arduino is here.

For the output code, I needed to find someone with the IR signal information. I found a great site made by Sebastian Setz that contained IR signal code for several different camera brands. That site is here.

I took parts from both and combined them to make my Pentax version.

 

Code for Pentax.pde

/*******************************************
    *
    * Name.......: PentaxIRControl Lightning Activated Trigger
    * Description: A Lightning Activated Trigger to control Pentax cameras
    * via infrared (IR) wireless remote.
    * Author.....: Marc Kohlbauer
    * Version....: 3.0
    * Date.......: 2012-03-19
    * Project....: http://www.hardpan.com/category/arduino/
    * Contact....: marc@hardpan.com  
    * License....: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
    * Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    * Keywords...: Arduino, library, camera, infrared, control,
    * Pentax, lightning, trigger, wireless, IR, sensor, adjustable
    * History....: 201-03-24 V1.0 - Pentax IR Control
    *
    ********************************************/
#define SHUTTER_PIN 9 //set the pin for ir signal to camera
#define LIGHTNING_TRIGGER_ANALOG_PIN 2 //set pin for sensor
#include <PentaxIRControl.h>

Pentax kr(9); //rename ir signal pin to Pentax for program

int lightningVal; //reading from sensor
int switchPin = 2; // reduce sensitivity switch is connected to pin 2
int buttonState; // variable to hold the button state
int val; // variable for reading the pin status
int switch2Pin = 3; // increase sensitivity switch is connected to pin 3
int button2State; // variable to hold the button state

int val2; //variable for reading the pin status
int TRIGGER_THRESHOLD = 20; // base sensor adjustment after reset or power up

void setup()
{
pinMode(switchPin, INPUT); //set the switch pin as input
pinMode(switch2Pin, INPUT); //set the switch pin as input
pinMode(SHUTTER_PIN, OUTPUT); //set the ir pin as output
digitalWrite(SHUTTER_PIN, LOW); //set the initial state of camera pin as off
buttonState = digitalRead(switchPin); // read the initial state of reduce sensitivity button
button2State = digitalRead(switch2Pin); // read the initial state of increase sensitivity button
lightningVal = analogRead(LIGHTNING_TRIGGER_ANALOG_PIN); //read the initial state of light sensor
}

void loop()
{
val = digitalRead(switchPin); // read input value and store it in val
val2 = digitalRead(switch2Pin); // read input value and store it in val2

if (val != buttonState) { // the decrease sensitivity button state has changed!
if (val == LOW) { // check if the decrease sensitivity button is pressed
TRIGGER_THRESHOLD=TRIGGER_THRESHOLD+2; // increment the decrease sensitivity variable for every time button is pushed
if (TRIGGER_THRESHOLD>150) TRIGGER_THRESHOLD=150; // Set the maximum sensitivity value

}
}
buttonState = val; // save the new state in our variable

if (val2 != button2State) { // the increase sensitivity button state has changed!
if (val2 == LOW) { // check if the increase sensitivity button is pressed

TRIGGER_THRESHOLD–; // increment the increase sensitivity variable – one for every button push

if (TRIGGER_THRESHOLDint cmd;
int newLightningVal = analogRead(LIGHTNING_TRIGGER_ANALOG_PIN); //read the light sensor value
if ((newLightningVal – lightningVal) > TRIGGER_THRESHOLD) //trigger if change is bigger than value
kr.shutterNow(); //activate the camera
delay(500);
}
lightningVal = newLightningVal;
}

end of code

 

The entire code I am using (base shown above) is here.  It will work for any Pentax DSLR not just the K-r.  All Pentax DSLR cameras use the same IR signal. You could also use this code and the information on the pages above to make an IR trigger for other brands of cameras. Please feel free to use and modify my code if it will work for you.

To use this code for your Pentax camera you will need to extract the PentaxLTv3.zip file and place the folder named PentaxLTv3 in the Libraries folder in your Arduino folder.

Building this on a breadboard is very easy. It isn’t much more work to solder the parts together and put it in a case that you can take with you.   I was able to do this in an afternoon. If you can’t solder, find a friend that has some experience or practice until you are able to work with small components like these. Most of these parts are not expensive, but if you overheat them you will end up buying more replacement parts and it isn’t fun waiting for more parts to arrive.

I built mine into a small box, and I used standard 3.5mm headphone plugs and cables on the sensors to make it easy to store and carry.

pentaxltparts

All of the parts I used in this version are as follows

 

  • (1) Arduino Board (Duemilanove) – source< or Ebay for much less ($20 or less)
  • (1) photo transistor – source (less than $1.00 each)
  • (1) 9V Battery Connector – source (less than $1.00 each)
  • (1) 9V Battery for power when not connected to USB cable source ($2.00 each)
  • (1) Blank PCB Circuit Board for Shield, and Input and Output Connections (Cut to size needed) – source ($5 is enough for several triggers)
  • (1) On/Off Switch – source (around $1 each)
  • (1) LED to show Power On/Off Status – source (less than $1.00 for several)
  • (1) IR LED to transmit to camera – source ($0.19 each)
  • (3) Push Buttons – source (several for $1.00)
  • (2) 3.5mm (1/8″) Stereo Headphone Jacks for Sensor Connections – source (less than $1.50 each)
  • (X) Cables for Sensors (2.5mm to 3.5mm) source ($2.00 each) – You can use wires from old 1/8″ stereo headphones if available.
  • (1) Header to connect inputs/puts to Arduino Board – source (less than $1.00 each) – Break off as many pins as needed
  • (1) Project Box – source (less than $5.00 each)
  • (X) Resistors – source source source source (around $0.10 each – buy them in bunches)
  • (X) Wire (20 or 22 gauge wire – stranded wire for connecting to sensor plugs, solid core or stranded wire for attaching to board as jumpers) – source ($5.00 for enough to make several boards)
  • (X) Breadboard for Mockup – source

 

Note: I used Velcro (hook & loop tape) to install the Arduino board into the project box. You will need to remove the Arduino board from the box to update and adjust the programming.

 

Here are some photos of the build:

 

A few header pins will need to be customized to fit into a standard PC board.  A simple bend made with a needle nose pliers will make them fit easily.  I have a couple pictures of the bent pins here:

bentpinview

pcbonbentpins

 

The completed shield soldered up, and ready to hook up to the stereo input/output jacks:

(Top View)

PentaxLTv3Top

 

(Bottom View)

PentaxLTv3Bottom

 

A closeup of the stereo jacks

inputs_ready_for _wires

inputs_outer_view

(held in with hot melt glue) & power switch

inputs_glue

 

And the completed shield and Arduino board in the case:

PentaxLTv3assembeld

 

For the optical sensor I cut some pieces of black plexiglass and used some super glue to build a small box.

opticalsensorpartsoptical_solder

 

I used epoxy to glue a small piece of aluminum to the bottom so the sensor can be mounted into the camera’s flash shoe.

optical_solder_front

I put the sensor inside, and filled the extra space with a hot glue gun

optical_back


And an example of why I built this trigger:

5985425543_2961d02c98_o

 

You can also use your lightning activated trigger for some shots of water droplets, or to shoot objects splashing into liquid!

IMGP7999

The setup for shooting water drops is easy, and you can find it here.

 

 

*********************************************************************************
Philip Nielsen contacted me by email with some questions regarding the IR frequency on my previous version. He was helping a friend build a similar trigger using a Cypress MCU, and he was going to program the coding for the Pentax IR signal. Using a wireless remote for Pentax cameras he was able to determine the correct sequence for his trigger signal. He sent the following image and timing sequence to share with anyone who may have similar questions.

 

TEK00001

Pentax IR Signal Timing Sequence (ms = millisecond = a thousandth of a second)
3 ms OFF
(7) pulses (1 ms ON then 1ms Off Seven times)
A Big Thank You to Philip for sharing this!

How I customized my Harbor Freight 34706 Lathe

Harbor Freight 34706 Lathe Conversion

*Let me start by saying I don’t have any recommendations for anyone making alterations on their own equipment. I am posting this to show what I changed and some of the possibilities that are within reach of someone with a medium understanding of mechanical alterations, tools, electricity, and safety. If you decide to adjust your own equipment, please be careful. Understand that any alterations to tools from factory specifications can cause injury or death. If you make changes, think about how much more stress you may be adding to the factory parts and how it will be used. *

———-Remember – Safety First!———-

The machine

34706I originally purchased a Harbor Freight Lathe (model # 34706) with a discount coupon that kept the total price under $200. This lathe is an easy way to find out if you like turning without spending a fortune, however as with most things related to turning, you will probably be drawn into what is commonly regarded as “the vortex”, and will find too much enjoyment using a lathe to work on other projects.   You can also find this lathe under the brand Central Machinery from other outlets.

The stock 34706 lathe is one of those “gems” at Harbor Freight.

The specifications are as follows:

  • 12” Swing (6” from bed to spindle center)
  • 33-3/8” length capacity between centers
  • Variable speed: 600-2400 RPM – Reeves Drive Pulley System
  • Pivoting headstock for larger capacity turning

Included with the base lathe are a sheet metal stand, a cast iron tool rest, a drive center, a 6” cast disc to mount larger pieces, and some Allen wrenches. Shipping weight is listed as 184 pounds, but I had no problem getting the box into my truck with my wife’s help.

I spent many hours with this machine, and it was a great entry into turning. I turned spindles to repair broke chair parts and stair railings for friends. I turned small flower bud vases from scraps.

I turned bottle stoppers from kits that I bought online. I turned small plates and bowls with the head stock in the standard position without trouble. Then I started to want slower speeds to turn larger bowls.

 

The Decisions

I really wanted a much larger lathe with complete variable speed, but I also knew those options were way out of my price range.I would spend hours looking online at all the possibilities to replace the motor or pulleys to adjust what I had. I finally figured the cheapest and easiest way to do this was to find a DC motor so I could adjust the speed on a potentiometer (speed dial) and have infinite choices. I have seen many conversions online that use motors pulled from treadmills to accomplish this so I started my search. I found a 1.5 hp 90Volt DC motor (I spent less than $100 on eBay) that would do the job nicely, as well as a KBIC-125 controller board (I found a used one for less than $30 on eBay). I also found a few other pieces online that would be needed to complete the conversion:

  • A set of matched pulleys that would give me a few different speed ranges.
  • A set of bearings and a shaft to mount the middle set of pulleys
  • A pulley to drive to the lathe
  • 2 standard v belts (size based on the mounting location and distance to motor)

hflathe02

hflathe16

hflathe03

 

I had to have a new way to mount the motor under the stand instead of the stock mount that would get in the way when turning larger stock. To make sure the lathe would be stable enough to handle the larger motor I decided a heavy-duty upgrade for the base was required. I wanted more weight and a larger footprint. I built the base from standard 2 x 4 lumber and plywood. I glued each part as well as screwed it together with strong wood screws (don’t use drywall screws for anything other than drywall!). When factoring the size to make the lathe I also decided to raise the body of the lathe off of the surface to make cleaning out the shavings and dust much easier. I made the new bed height a little higher than the stock stand to bring the lathe to an easier working height for my comfort.

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Once the stand was built I mounted the lathe on a set of hard wooden riser blocks (I used some Cumaru that was left over from a deck job). I removed the stock motor and mount along with the shroud that covers the belt/pulleys.

I used plywood to make a new shroud that extends an additional 14” to the back of the base. This new shroud is the mounting location for a 5/8” pulley shaft mounted on bearings that holds 2 pulleys. One pulley is belted directly to the Reeves pulley on the lathe head and the other pulley is a step pulley that is belted to the motor directly underneath.

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The motor is mounted on a hinged piece of ¼” aluminum scrap that I had in the shop. Plywood would work just as well, but I figured the aluminum could help dissipate some of the heat that may be generated by the larger motor.
I also mounted a knob to lock the motor plate in place to keep tension on the belt. I don’t really think this was needed, but I had the parts lying in a drawer so I used them.

Bigger Swing = Bigger Bowls

I also added a riser blocks to the head and tailstock of the lathe to make the swing 15-1/2”. I used hard maple for the risers, but I intended to replace them with steel or aluminum after I knew exactly how tall I wanted. The maple blocks have worked so well now for the last few years that I haven’t replaced them with metal. I may eventually make that swap, but I won’t bother unless I notice signs of failure in the wood blocks.

I had to unbolt the head and use longer bolts to connect the riser block. My local Ace Hardware carries the bolts that were needed. I locked the head into position when I lifted it. I do not have the ability to swivel the head anymore because of the mount that I used for new motor, but I really never felt safe with the head in any other position than the standard mounting position. To mount the belt from the head to the pulley in the new shroud I adjusted the Reeves pulley on the head to its widest setting then slipped the belt on and adjusted the front speed control handle until it tightened up the slack. I haven’t adjusted that pulley since I installed the belt (3 years + ago).

I cut the riser blocks from the same piece of maple to keep the height and density matching.

The tailstock required a few additional changes:

  • The riser block needed to have mortises cut into
  • the top to mount the factory part tightly
  • I had to find a long threaded nut and a new bolt to extend the height of the factory locking hardware.
  • I also turned a wooden handle for the locking bar to make it easier to use

I made some very small adjustment to the mounting so my alignment would match the head stock. Sanding is easier than adding more wood, so I made sure to double check my measurements often.

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Banjo

One other major change that I made after adding the riser blocks was to find a replacement banjo. I checked around until I found a parts supplier for Delta lathes. The banjo I am using came from a larger Delta lathe. I think the price was about $50 at the time, but I imagine it would require a little more hunting today to find a deal like that.

In the pictures below you can see the difference between the Delta banjo (grey) and the stock banjo (black)

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Chisels

Recently I decided that a change was needed to arrange my many chisels within reach of the lathe.I used some scrap pieces of walnut to create a nice stand that is very easy to use.

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I used an old pump I salvaged from a very old window air conditioner for a vacuum chucking system. I added the pump to the bottom storage area in the lathe base and plumbed a hose to the head end of the lathe.

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Hand Wheel

The 34706 doesn’t come with a hand wheel for spinning the shaft for inspection or for sanding with the power off. I occasionally use one for small items that aren’t easy to rotate by hand during finishing. I made a simple hand wheel from 2 pieces of 3/4″ plywood glued together. I just drilled a hole in the middle and tapped it for 1″ x 8 tpi threads. I just spin it onto the head when needed.

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We’re Back!… and rebuilding from scratch

Well… Arvixe.com is a complete waste of hosting space. I originally switched to them based on so many recommendations due to their wonderful customer support (laugh). Last week I was brute force ambushed and the hackers got in, started sending spam email, and I was powerless to stop it due to Arvixe.com switching servers and not updating me for ftp connections. I have waited long enough for them to reply to my open ticket! I give up! Time to move on!

I hope to start putting the pieces back together here soon, but for the time being there won’t be much to see. The Arduino pages were getting a lot of traffic and I will try to get them restored first if I can figure out where I saved all that backup information.

Please bear with me as I try to get this started…again

-Marc