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A wood lathe is a hand held tool that is used in the craft of wood turning, hence the name wood turning lathe. Using this tool you can create a number of impressive projects varying in sizes and shapes.
A wood turning lathe is essentially a machine that can transorm a piece of wood into any desired shape. The tools on this machine shape the wood as it spins.
There are a few different wood turning lathe machines on the market so we have gathered our top picks and also provided a little buyers guide below, with some tips and advice on purchasing the best machine.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to continue reading, then we have selected our top pick for you below.
In a hurry? This is our winner!
Best Wood Turning Lathes – Comparison Table
Best Wood Turning Lathes – Reviews
Best Wood Turning Lathes – Buyer’s Guide
Before purchasing a wood turning lathe you want to ensure that you buy the right one for you. Understanding the machine and how it works can sometimes seem daunting and difficult to understand, particularly for those who are new to this. It’s important to choose the machine that you feel is going to be better suited to your needs.
This is the first thing that we would recommend you to consider. Bigger machines are a lot more versatile, giving you greater variety in what you can create. As well as creating larger wooden projects you can also create smaller ones too. However, this does not apply to small machines; whilst they are great for creating more minimal crafts they aren’t as capable of creating larger pieces.
You will want to choose a lathe that comes with all of the essentials in regards to quality. You will need to ensure that your machine has a good quality head stock, a smooth surface bed, generous screw heads to lock the tool rest and tail stock ram. Also good paintwork and unsharpened edges.
Ideally your lathe should sound quiet, of course when it is on and in use it will make slightly more noise. On your machine, there should be a motor located below the spindle that comes with a lock. This should prevent the weight of the motor from bouncing and vibrating helping to keep the noise levels to a minimum.
A good lathe should have a decent amount of different speeds. The lower speeds tend to be the most important but high speeds can also be good for wood that isn’t too big. However, once you have familiarized yourself with your machine you are likely to find that you will become a lot more accustomed to the speeds and will be able to find the best ones to work with. Many machines come with variable speed settings too.
The heavier the lathe machine the more effective it is likely to be. This is because when working with unbalanced pieces of work a heavier machine is likely to be more powerful in keeping it in place and stopping the machine from spinning a lot. The surface that you keep the machine on will also need to be sturdy too as this provides it with extra stability.
Bench or Floor mounted
There are different varieties of wood turning lathes available. You can choose between a bench mounted lathe which is an ideal option for those who do this as a hobby as you can easily select the height that you want your lathe to be at, saving you from having to bend and move lots. Ideal for those larger jobs. However for professional wood-turners it would be advisable to invest in a floor mounted lathe as this makes it more stable and heavy duty. Some will also come with legs with storage underneath whilst others do not so you may need to build the legs additionally.
The Bed of the Machine
The bed is technically where all parts of the machine come together. Typically the bed is made from materials such as aluminium, wood, steel or cast iron. This can differ between machines. The greater the mass of the bed, the lower the amount of vibrations when it is being used.
The projects you intend to make may also determine the size of the bed that you need. On one end of the bed you will find the headlock that stays firmly in its place and on the other end there is the tail-stock which slides along the bed to accommodate the length of the project you are making. Larger pieces of wood will require larger beds.
Don’t be fooled by those high price tags as there are cheaper machines available that are just as effective in how they perform. Of course, how much you spend on your machine is completely up to personal choice. If this is a professional occupation then you may choose to invest in a more expensive machine. However, if you are pursuing a hobby and don’t want to spend lots on a machine then do not be put off by price tags because there are plenty of budget friendly machines available too.
There are many other factors to consider too, we have just gone into detail in some of the main ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it easy to get started using a wood turning lathe if you are a beginner?
Yes, it isn’t difficult to get into wood turning and using a lathe machine. If this is something that you are trying for the first time, it is recommended that you start off small and simple. You don’t need a heavy duty lathe machine when you are first getting into wood turning. You can simply start off small and work your way up. Ensure that you are confident with how your machine works before you get started.
Are there many parts to a wood turning lathe?
The answer is yes, there are many parts to a wood turning lathe and we would advise that you check the quality and functions of these parts before making your purchase. On this machine you will find a headstock, spindle, tool rest, tail-stock, a bed and a motor and there are many other smaller parts within these parts too.
Can you get different sized wood turning lathes?
Yes there are different sized wood turning lathes available, we have included some mini ones above, which are ideal and compact for keeping in places with limited amounts of room. You can also get full sized lathes which of course take up a little more room but are great for projects on a larger scale. The size of the bed may also differ depending on the one that you purchase as some may be bigger than others and better at holding those larger pieces of wood in place.
What can you make using a wood turning lathe?
There’s an impressive list of the great things that you can make with this machine. Some may be for a hobby and others may be for more professional products. Here are some of the exciting things that you can make using your lathe. Bangles, bowls, goblets, wooden spoons, bottle stoppers. The list goes on but these are great projects to start with if you are attempting wood turning for the first time.