Wood Lathe Buying Guide

When buying a wood lathe, there are a series of questions that cross one’s mind. The overarching goal is to buy the best lathe that the market offers while minding the suitability of the equipment. 

Sometimes, you can be tempted to buy a lathe that you can afford without checking its compatibility with your preferred convenience. If you end up employing this strategy, then you will acquire pocket-friendly equipment that will disappoint you when using it. 

Thus, you need to have ample information that will enable you to buy the best wood lathe that aligns with your needs. 

One of the questions that you need to ask before making a purchase is whether you are a beginner or an experienced woodmaster. If you are a beginner, then you have a long way to go before finding the best wood lathe. While the Internet is awash with information regarding how to choose the best lathe, you can opt to get guidance from an experienced woodmaster. 

On the other hand, if you are experienced in using a wood lathe, then you might be looking for more convenient equipment that is superior to what you have used in the past. You might be looking for more durability, speed, power usage, and other aspects that prove a lathe more efficient than others. 

Given a ton of brands that are in the market, you might also be wondering about the best brand to buy. Some brands may look alike, but there is one aspect that makes one brand stand out from the rest. 

You should note that each wood lathe that the market offers has its unique features. Even though some may have similar attributes, the potential of a lathe to meet your needs stands as the determining factor of your choice. 

What else do you need to know about wood lathes?

Best Wood Lathe for Beginners

The knowledge about what to look for in a good wood lathe will help you to make an informed choice. Such information will help you align the features of a lathe with your needs. 

So, what do you look for in a wood lathe?

Completeness

It is difficult for a beginner to purchase a wood lathe without understanding its composition. If a beginner makes such a move, then they will end up with incomplete equipment that will either compel them to buy the missing components or make an extra trip to the purchase point. 

Either way, it is costly to buy an incomplete lathe. 

Thus, you should understand that a lathe consists of a headstock, spindle, bed, tool rest, lock knob, and tailstock, among other features. 

A solid base

Your choice of a lathe should feature a strong base. The base should be made of cast iron, making it heavy to avoid vibrations. If your wood vibrates when turning it, you might get injured, and the end product will be below-grade. 

Measures

Even though the size of the lathe depends on your needs, you should consider the length between the two ends of the lathe and the length of the swing. 

The length of the two ends determines the length of the stock that your lathe can turn. On the other hand, the length of the swing determines the diameter of the stock that you can turn using your lathe. 

Motor specs

The typical motor specs of a wood lathe are between 1/8 HP and 3 HP. The specs determine the size of the stock that you can turn. Additionally, the speed is adjustable from 400 to over 3000 RPM. 

Tailstock and headstock

The headstock of your selected lathe should have a standard thread. The thread can accommodate several accessories and even an upgrade. The tailstock centers the spindle and keeps the rotation even. It should secure the stock firmly.

Lastly, your tailstock and headstock should have Morse tapers to facilitate any adjustments of the lathe. 

Tool rest and power switch

The tool rest should resist vibration. It should also be adjustable vertically, and it should lock in position firmly. On the other hand, you should access the power switch easily. 

Wood Lathe Machine

As a beginner, you might think that a wood lathe has only uses that you already know about. However, having complete information on the several types of functions of a lathe can help you explore your woodwork further. 

Thus, the information can help you avoid getting stuck to one style of using the equipment. 

It becomes more fun to understand that you can use a wood lathe in more than one way. You end up having future milestones in your quest to maximize the use of your lathe. Additionally, you achieve a better position to address the ever-changing customer tastes and preferences. 

What are some of the things that you can make using a wood lathe?

Kitchenware

Use your lathe to make kitchenware that is superior to the ceramic and metallic ware. Wooden utensils are less breakable and do not rust. Thus, use your lathe to make spatulas, spoons, forks, bowls, goblets, and cutting boards, among other types of kitchenware. 

Beauty accessories

Did you know that you can make bangles, rings, and other beauty accessories using your wood lathe? Such knowledge depicts that your lathe is not limited to making huge structures that require intense woodwork. You can make effortless pieces using your lathe and become industrious in a creative way. 

Lidded boxes

How about making jewelry, kitchen, and storage boxes using your lathe? The boxes do not need to have a cornered interior, as they can also be round. Also, the lidded boxes can be multipurpose. Making a lid for the boxes secures the contents that you will put inside these boxes. 

Sportswear

Carve baseball bats, table tennis bats, lawn tennis rackets, and hockey sticks using your lathe. You will end up supporting health through promoting sports. You can also customize the sportswear by inscribing flowers or names on the items using your lathe. 

Baby stuff

Make shakers, rattles, jingles, and other baby stuff using your wood lathe. Not only will the products make the baby happy, but they are also safe to use due to their smooth surface. 

However, do not use oil or rough-grained wood to make the baby stuff. The said elements can compromise the safety of the babies.  

Toothpick Holders

Having a wooden toothpick holder complements the wooden toothpicks that it will host. The market for toothpicks is endless, meaning that your market for their holders will also be bottomless. So, make customized holders that will appeal to the eye of potential buyers.   

Wood Lathe Tips and Tricks

If you want to maximize the usage of your wood lathe, then you should master the tips and tricks of using it. Sometimes a small task can end up being quite demanding when you do not have the right skills of using the lathe. However, you end up spending less time on a task when you know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it while using a lathe.

What tips and tricks do you need to know?

Prioritize safety

Wood lathes are some of the least dangerous woodworking tools. However, you should practice caution since any oversight can result in grievous harm. Thus, you should observe safety practices, such as wearing protective gear and tight clothing. 

Also, be careful when using your tools. A sudden jab of a chisel can rip it out of your hand, causing an injury. 

Use the right lathe

Always use the right length between the two ends of a lathe. The move helps in holding the stock rigidly. Additionally, have an understanding of the different functions of a lathe. Any mishandling can result in damage to the product or bodily harm. 

Workshop ambience

Always ensure that your workplace has adequate light to improve visibility. You can opt for a portable light that you can move around to give a better view of the work details. 

Use the right tools

Always use the right set of elaborate tools. Also, you should use each tool correctly. For example, do not use gorging tools as scrapers. 

The tools should also have the right quality. If you buy sub-standard tools, then they will keep on breaking, and they are likely to cause bodily harm or damage the end products.

Use sharp chisels

Blunt chisels make a woodwork task not only difficult but also low-grade. Sharp chisels cut through the wood finely while blunt chisels get stuck in the wood. 

Learn the basics

As a beginner, get to know the basic woodturning profiles. You cannot manage to hack the complex and advanced profiles without applying the basic ones. Also, you will find woodturning difficult when starting with the advanced profiles. 

So, begin with the basic profiles as a gateway to mastering the complex ones. 

Begin with softwood

Softwood is quite accommodative for beginners. It allows you to master the basics necessary for working with the hardwood. 

However, always practice caution to ensure that you do not use stocks with loose knots and split wood. Such can fly apart and injure you. 

Woodturning Lathe

A woodturning lathe is not just the name of the equipment. It also denotes the functionality of the lathe. In other words, it turns wood. However, you need to ensure that it is set in a manner that optimizes its operation. Thus, you need to know how to set it up.

Power

Before you initiate the setting up process, confirm that the power is off. Setting up a running lathe can result in injuries. Therefore, always ensure that the power switch is off. If possible, ensure that the power cable is not plugged in. 

This move will ensure that you are setting a static lathe that has a less probability of causing an injury. 

Tools

Ensure that you have all the tools that you need during the process of turning the wood. The positional holding should host the tools.

Check the condition of the tools

Ensure that you have the correct bits of the tools. Also, check whether the tools are sharp. Checking the condition of tools ensures that your woodturning process runs smoothly and safely. 

Also, you should use high-speed steel tools. Such tools are more durable than the ones made from carbon steel. The latter tools have a tendency of getting blunt after a short period of use, causing inconveniences during the turning process. 

Cutting angle

As a beginner, always cut your wood at a 90-degree angle. Over time, you will master the art of using other angles when cutting your wood. 

Position of the stock

The stock should rest above the headstock’s spindle but inside the spur center. However, turning the wheel of the spindle gives you the position of the stock. Also, the stock should hold firmly. A loose stock can rip off and cause bodily harm.

Position of the tool rest

The tool rest should align with the line of the stock. Also, the distance between the stock and the bit should be ¾ inch.

Turning the lathe on

After the completion of the discussed set up, you can now turn your lathe on. You can opt to start at a low speed and then increase accordingly. The future determinant of speed is the type of wood that you are cutting. If the wood is soft, then you can use a high-speed setting. However, very hardwoods require you to use a low speed. 

Remember, you will be using your hands to chisel the wood. Thus, you should manage to contain the resistance that arises from turning when you are making an incision using a chisel. 

Remember

If you are unsure about the style that you intend to use, you can opt to use a spare stock for practice. The move will enable you to gather confidence regarding the profile that you want to use. 

Large Wood Lathe

For industrial purposes, large wood lathes (full-size wood lathes) come in handy. The lathes are ideal for intense woodturning using large stocks. If you are planning to run a serious woodturning business, then you require a full-size lathe. 

The full-size lathes are quite heavy. Given that they handle large chunks of wood, their weight should match with the weight of the wood. If you use large stocks on mini-lathes, you will not only damage the lathe but also pose a risk to your safety. 

The large motors of the full-size lathes enable them to make big products. The lathes require large working space because of their size and the size of the chunks of wood they turn. The full-size lathes have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the mini and midi lathes. 

Advantages

The full-size lathe can accommodate the making of large products. Their big spindle and swing can allow you to turn close to 300lbs of wood. 

The full lathes are also more stable than others. They give you security and stability when you are turning large chunks of wood. The fact that the full lathes are heavier than the rest makes them more stable. 

The materials that construct full lathes are more durable than the ones that make the rest of the lathes. The full lathe consumes a lot of cast iron to make, thus increasing its durability. Consequently, the full lathes are more expensive than the midi and mini lathes. 

The full lathes also feature powerful and bigger motors than the rest of the lathes. Their power enables you to handle big projects and achieve better results more efficiently. 

Disadvantages

The cost of full-size lathes is higher than the cost of the other lathes. The full lathes have extra or improved features that make them expensive. The fact that it takes more time to build a full-size lathe also contributes to its high price. 

It is also difficult to control the full-size lathe. You rely on the settings to turn the wood taking more time to set the lathe. Thus, you can take a lot of time on one project. 

The full lathes are also heavy and large, making them inappropriate for domestic use. Additionally, their size makes them less portable. Thus, they are more static than the midi and mini lathes. 

The Best Full-Sized Wood Lathe

If you are hunting for a full-sized wood lathe, then you should expect to spend hundreds of dollars. Thus, you should ensure that your money goes into a full-size lathe that will give you value over time. To achieve the objective, you should consider the following checks when shopping for the lathe:

Design

Due to the expected high intensity of vibrations, you should opt for a full-size lathe made from cast iron. The material is heavy, and it helps to keep your wood in place during the turning process. 

Also, the height of your full lathe should match the height of your elbows. Thus, the equipment should not have a very high or very low height. 

Motor speed

Most full lathes on the market have a 300 and 5000 RPM motor speed. Thus, lathes with high speed are superior to lathes with low speed in terms of power. A high speed enables a high number of spins within a short time. 

Headstock

A full-size stock should feature a headstock that has a high rotating capability. The headstock should also be distant from the bed base. The distance gives you ample room to access your tool rest. 

Tailstock

The tailstock of your full-size lathe should pin the stock fast to the pin. The action makes it possible to keep the stick in position at all times when it is rotating. Thus, you will end up with a quality product given that the stock did not shift when rotating.

The tool rest

Ensure that your full-size lathe features two tool rests. Given the size of the end product, you will need to move far from each end of the lathe. Thus, you need a tool rest from each end of the lathe. 

Additionally, the tool rests should be in an accessible position. Keeping them too low or too high will create an inconvenience because you will need to stoop or stretch to access the tools. 

A table showing different sizes of full-size wood lathes

FeaturesJet JWL-1440VSKGrizzly Industrial GO462Jet JWL-1015
HeadstockSliding (270, 180, 120, 90, 60, 30, and 0 degrees)Unfasten to desired angle24 orientations
BaseCast ironCast ironCast iron
Speed400-3000RPMUp to 2400 rpm500 to 3975 RPM
TailstockIt has an anti-rotation keyNo anti-rotation key 
Bed mounts3SwingingExtensive bed
Reverse rotationnoneNoneNone
full-size wood lathes

Conclusion 

Woodturning comes easy to people that select ideal wood lathes that align with their needs. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or a master in woodturning, the choice of a lathe determines the quality of your outcomes. 

For this reason, you need to have ample information that helps in making the ideal choice of lathe and getting value for your money. 

As a beginner, you need to have a full understanding of the functionality of a wood lathe. Such information will help you identify a wood lathe that matches your needs. Without the information, you will just go for a popular brand that does not yield to your expectations. 

Thus, you are required to understand what to look for in a wood lathe as a beginner.

You also need to understand that a wood lathe can make a ton of products. Such knowledge allows you to optimize the use of your lathe and maximizes your returns in the future. The information also makes it easy for you to become more creative and venture into unpopular industries. 

Employing the best practices when using a wood lathe enables you to be safe at all times. Thus, you need to understand the tips on how to set up the lathe and how to run it efficiently. Wearing protective gear and tight clothes are some of the tips on maintaining safety when using a wood lathe. Also, keeping your chisels sharp and at an accessible position also contributes to safety when using a wood lathe.

Lastly, you need the right wood lathe for the right purpose. You can opt to use mini and midi lathes for light duties and the full-size lathe for heavy-duty tasks.

Now that you are fully aware of how to select and use a wood lathe, it is time to set off and buy one.