Lathes - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your lathe.

Lathes

Lathes



Photos by Manufacturers; Illustration by Len Churchill
 
The swing is the largest diameter work piece a lathe can rotate. The distance between centers (DBC) is the longest work piece that can be held between the head and the tail stocks. Benchtop lathes, which can be mounted on a user-built or commerical stand, provide all the features and performance that most hobbyist woodworkers, furniture makers, and DIYers will need. An optional bed extension to increase the DBC can be added to many models. Larger stationary lathes provide more power, have greater swing and DCB capacities, longer quill travel, less vibration, and offer more accessories.
 
Benchtop Lathes
Price: $250-$1,400
Swing: 10"-14" DBC: 14"-18"
Motor: 1/3 HP-1 HP
Speed Range: 250-4,000 RPM
Spindle Thread: 1", 8 TPI
Spindle Taper: MT2
 
Stationary Lathes
Price: $2000-$7,000
Swing: 12"-24" DBC: 16"-43"
Motor: 1 HP-3 HP
Speed Range: 50-4000 RPM
Spindle Thread: 1-1/4" x 8 TPI
Spindle Taper: MT2 - MT3

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Get the Most Out of Your Lathe

Wear Eye Protection
Wood chips fly at considerable speed, and in the blink of an eye you can be left without one. Invest in good quality safety glasses (or better yet a face shield). And avoid loose clothing that could get tangled on your work.
 
Keep Tools Sharp
Purchase a bench-top grinder and sharpening jig to keep your turning tools in top condition, and spend the time to learn how to sharpen properly. It’s not complicated. Alternately, purchase tools that use replaceable disposable insert cutters.
 
Lighten Up
You can’t turn what you can’t see. Provide adequate overhead, or focused task lighting, on your work.
 
Roll, Don’t Rock
When spindle turning, rather than standing still and moving your arms, keep your arms pinned to your sides, and shift your body back and forth – you’ll find it easier to make long flowing cuts.
 
Don’t Forget the Tools
Be cautious of buying large tool sets. You may end up with tools you’ll rarely, if ever use. An alternative is to buy a tool, learn how to use it, and repeat. A good place to start is with a roughing gouge for turning a square piece of wood to round.