Woodturning is a very interesting branch of woodworking that is quite popular among woodworkers. In order to get started in this field, one must have a good quality and sturdy wood lathe and a couple of other woodturning tools like chisels, gouges and parting tools. With these equipments, you can certainly go a long way in this field. If you have made up your mind to pursue woodturning, you must first concentrate on getting a good wood lathe. The number of choices you will find when you search for an ideal lathe can be quite bewildering. They come in various shapes and sizes, specifications and prices, so it can be quite confusing to choose one. However, the task can be made easier if you know the factors you need to take into account before you buy one.
So, here is our lowdown on what constitutes a quality wood lathe.
We hope this article will help you in choosing the right wood lathe for your work.
– A Sturdy Base:
For a wood lathe to produce good quality turned objects, it must have a solid foundation. And in order to have a solid foundation, it must have a sturdy bed. By bed of a lathe, we mean the main horizontal bean across the base of the lathe. It is typically made of cast iron. The reason it should be heavy is because it will minimize the vibration when the wood is spinning on the motor. Vibration, even in the slightest degree is not good and can make turning wood not only difficult but also unsafe. The heavier the base of the lathe will be the easier it will be to turn it.
– The Lathe Measures:
Depending on the work you want to carry out on the wood lathe, there are two specific capacity measures that you have to consider. One is the maximum length between the two ends and the other is the swing. The distance between the two centers determines the maximum length of stock that you can turn on the lathe and swing determines the highest diameter you can turn on it. If you plan to turn small objects like pen, a mini lathe will do. Such wood lathes are quite affordable and can be mounted on a work bench. If you travel and need to carry your lathe with you or you need to site down while turning, buying such lathes definitely makes sense. But, if you plan to turn table legs or other such large objects then you definitely need to consider buying a larger one.
There are some medium size lathes that come with extendable bed. It seems to be quite handy if you turn a number of sizes of spindles. However, it is better to invest in a full sized lathe because no matter how solid it is built, a wood lathe with a continuous bed will always be better in controlling vibrations than the ones that come with extendable bed. Another factor that you need to consider is the lathe height. As a rule, you should always ensure that the lathe spindle is the same height as your elbows while working. When the spindle is too low, you might have to suffer from back ache as you would be stooping to carry out turning jobs. In case, the spindle is too high, you might have problems in maintaining proper alignment of tools with the tool rest.
– The Motor Specifications:
The next crucial factor that you have to keep in mind is the motor. Typically, the motor range of lathes lies between 1/8 HP to 3 HP; the larger the motor the larger piece one will be able to turn. Many also come with variable speed control and can give one a speed that can range between 400 to 3000 RPM or more.
– The Headstock and Tailstock:
The headstock spindle of a wood lathe is threaded and is designed for a number of accessories like chucks, etc. You need to ensure that the thread you have on it is a standard one. This will ensure that your threaded accessories will be useful to you even if upgrade your lathe. The tailstock is actually a rotating pin at the other end of the lathe and its role is to keep the spindle centered and rotating evening. It is very important to ensure that the tail stock locks securely in any position along the bed as it will help you in carrying out all types of turning jobs you do. It is also essential that the wood lathe you buy come equipped with Morse tapers in both headstock and tailstock. This can make your lathe very versatile and it will ensure that you do not remain restricted to the original manufacturer’s setting and can install centers and a range of other tools.
– Tool Rest:
Another important factor to consider when buying a wood lathe is the tool rest. When turning it is important to rest the tool against the tool rest. It should be able to offer some vertical adjustment to the turner and when set it must get locked into a position. Generally, the rest should be about 10 inches long and must be made of cast iron to minimize vibration. A loose tool rest can be dangerous for woodturning, so make sure that this aspect of a wood lathe is not overlooked.
– Power Switch:
Many people do not bother so much about the placement of power switch. However, it is very important to have a power switch that is easily accessible. This will ensure that you can easily turn it off when needed.
Above all you must choose a wood lathe that is just right for your needs. If you are an occasional woodturning and are pursuing it as a hobby, a basic model should suffice. However, if you are taking to turning wood at a professional level, then you must buy a quality wood lathe with all the essential features.