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12 Steps: How to Use a Wood Lathe

A tool doing wonders in modern world with its simplicity yet comprehensiveness is a Wood lathe. From decorative wood projects to candlesticks, jars, furniture and toys like yoyo, a wood lathe has a wide range of use.

Even their size varies from a small workbench model to large-sized industrial heavyweight machines.

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The best wood lathe works in the same way as I have mentioned in this guide. Give a read and find out how to use it.

THINGS YOU WILL NEED

  • Wood stock
  • Lathe
  • Safety equipment
  • Turning tools
  • Sand paper

STEP 1: SELECT A WOOD LATHE

If you are opting for a small project, a small bench-top lathe is ideal for it. Small projects are like top of yo-yos, ink pens etc. However, larger lathes are for spindles, which further find application in furniture designing.

You can select a lathe based on following specifications:

  • Bed length – horizontal distance or the radius between centers; it is the maximum length for the stock to turn.
  • Swing – rotation of largest diameter
  • Horsepower – power available at the shaft of the lathe motor, which determines the capacity of the lathe
  • RPMS – revolutions per minute; it determines the speed of the lathe. Low speed lathe works on odd shaped stock whereas high-speed lathe results in a fine and smooth finish.
  • Weight and composition – Heavier machines are rugged, however, difficult to move.

STEP 2: CHOOSE A LATHE OPERATION

Now decide pre-hand what operation you want to perform with the lathe. It can be as simple as turning a piece of wood of any shape into a cylindrical shape. The first step involves spindle formation.

STEP 3: SELECT THE LATHE TOOL

Chisels are the tools that you can use with the lathe. They offer a solid grip and a good cutting angle with all care to the ergonomics. The common wood chisels are not so suitable for this purpose.

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Others are as follows:

  • Gouges – shaped chisels for cutting
    • Bowl gouge
    • Knurling gouge

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  • Scrapers
    • Curved or flat
    • For wood removal from different shapes
    • For roughing out a surfacehow-to-use-a-wood-lathe-8

 

  • Parting tools
    • Vee-tipped for cuttinghow-to-use-a-wood-lathe-9
  • Spoon cutters
    • Spoon-shaped

STEP 4: READ USER MANUAL

Before you start using the lathe, give the manual a good read so that you know what type of lathe you are dealing with. Always refer back to the manual in case of any query. Even my blog is available for any assistance, but the first thing you keep in arm’s reach is the manual. So read it to know the specifications and capacities of the lathe tool.

STEP 5: SELECT A SUITABLE PIECE OF WOOD

If you are a beginner, start with softwood like

  • Balsam fir
  • Lodge-pole pine
  • Southern yellow pine

No matter what shape of wood piece you are starting with, rip it to a square shape, i.e. 3×3 etc. Now, by cutting or chamfering the edges, you can make it octagonal. Thus, there will be lesser amount of wood left for removal now.

Cut your wood stock to a length that you can easily manage.

STEP 6: POSITION THE STOCK BETWEEN CENTER OF THE TOOL

With the help of the hand crank, fix the tailstock in position, which, in turn, pushes the wood stock above the headstock spindle and into the spur center.

Tighten the clamps so that the wood piece is in place and doesn’t fly off during work. Remove the lathe keys from the machine before starting.
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STEP 7: POSITION THE TOOL REST CORRECTLY

The tool rest is in a position, parallel to the wood length. Provide sufficient distance between tool and the work piece, so that when it rotates, it doesn’t hit the tool rest at all. A best approximation is 3/4 of an inch.

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STEP 8: CHECK BY A FREE SPIN

Before you actually start the tool, rotate the work piece manually to see if it hits the tool rest or not. If it doesn’t, you are good to go. Otherwise, provide sufficient clearance for safe operation.

STEP 9: STEPS IN START-UP

Position your body with your elbows tucked in for better control of the tool. Use a roughing gouge chisel. Turn the lathe on a minimal speed Practice your grip on the cutting edge with an almost stationary tool. Don’t pull in or push out too quickly or else it will jam the machine. Move in slowly and steadily in a direction perpendicular to the wood piece.

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As the cutting edge moves on the wood, it offers resistance and you feel it. However, the lathe makes the wood chip away. Keep the size of these chippings down to 1/4 of an inch or less.

 

STEP 10: MOVE THE CUTTING EDGE ACCORDINGLY

When the lathe is turning and wood pieces are chipping off, make sure they fly away from your body. Thus, position the cutting edge in a parallel fashion to the rotation of the wood. As you push in the tool, make sure to cut off equal wood chips from all directions. As you continue, you will see the wood piece will start to appear rounder and rounder.

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STEP 11: FINAL TOUCHES

Stop for a minute or so to check your work so far. Clear away the sandy debris from the bottom of the lathe i.e. the lathe bed. Also, check for any stress cracks in the work piece. If you want to know its diameter, use a pair of calipers. This will help you determine how far you are from your desired diameter.

You can now increase the lathe speed to smooth the final piece. Here the slow movement of cutting tool over the wood surface will result in finer cut.

STEP 12: PRODUCT IS READY

Turn off the lathe. When it has completely stopped, pick up the cylindrical piece and use a suitable sandpaper to smooth it out by steadily rubbing it on the piece. Your product is ready.

WARNING

  1. In case of excessive vibrations, turn off the lathe immediately.
  2. Keep the loose clothes or ropes etc., away from this spinning tool to avoid accidents.
  3. When you have finished the work, don’t move the machine until it is completely stationary.
  4. Wear a full body apron and breathing mask and protection goggles while working, in order to avoid dust.
  5. Read the instructions and precautions on the manual carefully before operating the tool.
  6. Do not operate it near inflammable liquids.

CONCLUSION

I hope you found this blog useful. This is how a best wood lathe works. Don’t forget to share and leave your reviews.

Image source: wikiHow.com

Image source: craftsman.com

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