Picking the right wood lathe can only be done by knowing exactly what you want it to do, and know what each type of lathe can do. Generally speaking, the more speeds the better. If you are turning large diameter stock or roughing out you need to use a slower speed and the smaller the diameter & as you finish the piece, the faster you can go. Some variable speed models can go from zero upwards. The bed of a lathe is important.
A wood lathe is a machine that spins a block of wood while tools are applied to the wood surface area to perform a variety of different functions such as cutting, sanding, drilling and forming shapes. As the wood block spins, tools applied create a design on the wood that has symmetry based on the axis of rotation. There are a number of wood lathe accessories to create different designs.
Your woodworking project may at some point require a woodworking lathe, which will spin the wood at a regulated speed so you can shape it with any of a variety of sharp cutting tools. Woodworking lathes are either small and sit on a table top, or large, with their own attached legs that can be fastened to the workshop floor.
The more experience you have as a wood turner, the easier it will be to choose your next lathe. To accommodate everyone from beginner to expert, I will try to keep my comments basic and yet complete. If you are an expert, please bear with me. If you are a beginner, this article may save you a lot of headaches at the school of hard knocks.
Purchasing a Wood Lathe
Woodturning is the most fluid form of woodworking and once started can be addictive. Whether you turn pens, bowls, sculpt or make legs and parts for furniture it can be very satisfying to see the material change as you engage the cutters. Capacity is the first thing you look at on a lathe; it controls what you can make and how you make it. If a lathe has a length capacity of 36” that is the longest you can turn in one piece. You can go longer but you must do it in separate sections and join them afterward.
Whenever you are thinking of purchasing a used woodturning lathe, there are several things that you should keep in mind to make sure that you are able to get the right one for your needs. It is never a good idea to go out and purchase a used lathe without any research first. It's not uncommon to find people who will attempt to sell used lathes that are not in very good condition.
I want to share some general information about lathes in order to answer questions you may not even know you have. For those of you who don't yet own a lathe, this will help guide you in a positive direction with your purchase.
How to buy a Lathe
Are you driven to turn large, green bowls or are you more intrigued with pens and small boxes? Maybe you only want a lathe for making table legs and chair parts. Perhaps you want to do a little of everything. Answers to these questions will help you choose the right lathe.
Choosing the correct wood turning lathe depends solely on the type of turning you plan on doing now and in the future.
Wood turning can be a satisfying and addictive experience, it is in itself a complete unit capable of producing finished work. You can duplicate parts to repair chairs, dig into a burl to make a bowl or make your own custom candle sticks. Wood lathes come in many sizes, from small pen lathes to huge bowl turning machines.
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