FAQ: best wood lathe

In effect, you can turn pretty much any type of wood which is one of the main attractions of a lathe. Pressure-treated wood should be treated with caution, though. Also, some tropical woods – rosewood in particular – irritate some people so be careful if you have allergies or sensitivities. Other than that, all woods are fair game.

If you want no more movement once you’ve turned your wood, work with it dry. With a box, for example, the last you want is for the lid to shrink once you’re done. With bowls, on the other hand, you can use wet wood then set it aside for a considerable length of time for fine turning later. Wet wood, of course, will be softer and easier to work with.

When you are setting up your wood, get going with a lower speed. If you find the lathe starts wobbling, drop down a speed. Once you’ve got your wood centered, you can ramp things up. If you are working with timber containing any kind of defect, work even more slowly and carefully or you risk the wood cracking.

After unboxing, set-up is pretty straightforward. Pop in the live center and spur center. Ensure they meet in the middle. This is absolutely essential if you plan on undertaking spindle turning. Lubricate the bed to ensure everything slides smoothly. With desktop lathes, bolt them down so everything is completely secure.

The principal difference is the capacity. With smaller lathes, you’ll be limited to turning up to about 10 inches in diameter. Invest in a bigger lathe and you’ll be able to turn much larger diameter bowls. Bigger lathes also come with longer beds although with some small lathes you can buy extensions for occasional projects like turning a baseball bat, something you’re highly unlikely to do on a regular basis. The other key difference is stability. The bigger the machine, the more stable it will be and the larger workpieces you’ll be able to handle with it.

The most common cause of a vibrating lathe is wood that’s off-center. Stop your lathe and re-center the wood or shave some material off and try again.

If you’re just starting out, wood splintering is a common blight. It’s usually caused by turning at lower than recommended speeds. Dull tools can also be responsible for splintering so make sure they’re honed fully

This is almost always caused by insufficient lubrication. If everything is nicely oiled, check the seals. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer.

The tools you’ll start off with are the cutters, primarily chisels and gouges. Scrapers come out to play for finishing work and for leveling surfaces already worked over with a gouge.

If you follow all basic precautions, accidents with lathes are not exactly commonplace. If you wear all necessary safety equipment and work carefully, there’s little chance of coming to grief unlike with some power tools like a table saw.

best wood lathe: Looking for more information?

Interested to learn more in-depth details about selecting the right tool for your needs? Read our Informational Buyer Guide and Frequently Asked Questions sections on this topic for more details.