Ancient Egyptian turners used to lathe wood with primitive instruments created from items in their workstations. Thankfully, the Industrial Revolution motorized lathing, and contemporary innovations transformed them into high tech tools that precluded the need for skill.
Your choice of wood lathe will determine the quality of your results, the speed at which you work, and the pleasure you take from the task. A clear vision of what you hope to achieve and how you plan to achieve it will narrow your choices down to a more manageable number of options.
-1. How enthusiastic are you?
Lathing is an addictive hobby, and keen turners will be highly prolific. This will wear down the edge of the tool, so longevity is imperative. The tool is typically made from carbon steel, powdered metal or high speed steel. The latter is the hardest, and needs less frequent sharpening, whilst carbon steel is prone to fast erosion. Powdered metal falls neatly between these two extremes, providing a middle ground for the amateur.
-2. How Ambitious are You?
a) Whether you envision yourself as a creator of chess sets or coffee tables will determine the size of your tool. Beginners have a steeper learning curve when they create smaller items initially. Pen lathes are appropriate in this case, and carry the added benefit of a lower price. Floor lathes give you the torque you need for a larger project. The micro-lathing used to create miniature items needs a specialist wood lathe that is small and portable.
b) The size of your woodworking studio will limit the size of your machine. Floor lathes with four horsepower are demanding on space whilst pen lathes steal only a foot’s worth of room, and can be used on any counter top.
c) Swing tells you the diameter capacity of your tool. A mini-turning lathe is best for smaller items. Fourteen inches is a standard diameter for spindle work, but gargantuan 20 inch swing capacities are available for the truly motivated.
-3. How Skilled Are You?
Some wood lathes can zip through table legs at lightning speed, and others are sluggish enough to cope with more intricate work. Usually they have an optional range of speed settings. Beginners will cope best with a snail-paced woodworking lathe, but a tool with a wide range of speeds caters for every stage of your lathing education. Small items need to be turned at 400 rpm, and the maximum speed that can be achieved without causing fast erosion of the edge is 2000 rpm. Pro turners who need to work in a hurry prefer top of the range lathes with high speeds of 5000 rpm.
-4. Are You A Perfectionist?
- A handwheel is an attachment that lets you manually turn the spindle. This lets you examine your work carefully for areas that are insufficiently polished.
- The angle of the skew chisel also controls how finely you can work. The normal angle is less than 80 degrees, but turners who enjoy versatility and accuracy choose a finer angle. This widens the range of grooves and spindle work tasks your lathe can achieve.
- A full swivel head can achieve versatility that is only as limited as your imagination
Most turners want super-powered lathes that can handle all speeds and turning tasks, but these come at a hefty expense. To save pennies, tailor your tool to your working preferences. Woodworking shops will let you test drive your tool before you buy it. Wood lathe reviews help you to find the attachments and accessories needed to make your dreams come true.