These 11 Things When Buying a Wood Lathe

Turning the Tables: Don’t Miss These 11 Tips When Shopping for a Wood Lathe!

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Hello there, are you looking to buy a wood lathe? This guide will provide you with the best info to start from. For many people, creating things from scratch has become a hobby. Small artefacts are made, some of them as gifts, while others make them for personal use.

However, they all share a passion for making things with their own two hands. It keeps them occupied and is a fantastic stress reliever. I have seen that woodworking is highly well-liked across the United States. The wood lathe is one of the most often used woodworking tools, despite the presence of all others.

Before you consider purchasing a wood lathe for your workshop, whether it is brand-new from a garage sale or any other used item, let me first provide you with this buying guide.

Understanding the Working of a Wood Lathe

A small motor, a headstock, and a tailstock are the main components of an electrical machine called a wood lathe. The purpose of the headstock and tailstock is to keep your piece of wood firmly in position while the chisel carves it. Even though wood lathes are very straightforward, you must know their variations to select the best one for your needs or projects.

You can make a wide variety of products using a wood lathe. However, you must plan and understand how you will use yours. Before spending money on a wood lathe, here are some significant variables to consider.

Before purchasing any wood lathe, you should consider these three key questions.

Q1. What endeavor are you hoping to turn in?

A wood lathe can be used for numerous turning operations. The list includes pens, bowls, platters, decorations, chess pieces, lidded boxes, coffee mugs, tool handles, and more. You can experiment with just about any notion, after all.

You can attend a club meeting or join a guild to test out a few projects and choose what appeals to you best, giving you a place to begin. It is time to set the budget if you have any expertise and already know what you want to go toward.

Q2. How much is the budget?

Always remember that you would not require a lathe as your final tool. The purpose of the lathe is to provide you with space and allow you to rotate the workpiece at a rate that suits you. It resembles the car’s engine more. You do not just turn on the automobile and hope it will drive you where you are going.

Therefore, regardless of the project, you will need to gather wood, purchase accessories, and purchase wood-turning tools to aid in mounting and turning on the lathe.

So, the combination of the budget should be:

The Woods,

Rotating Tools (chisels, gouges)

Grinding Machines

A Jaw Chuck

Extraction of Dust



You might have unrestricted access to the woods, but that would not always be the case. So, keep an eye out for scoring forests as you move about.

Q3. After purchasing, can the wood lathe be expandable?

It is time to fill in the final blank after determining the budget: whether there is room for me to expand on the lathe. When purchasing a new wood lathe, we frequently overlook this.

But consider what you would do if you wanted to create something even more significant. How would you like to improve your turning ability? What other projects can you take on when you have the knowledge and resources? That is a lot trickier prediction to make, I know.

This brings up the budget once more. I recommend buying the best you can afford out of the biggest you can fit into your workstation, as with many other tools and equipment. Even if you do not want to turn bowls, get the largest lathe possible. You will enjoy yourself one day.

Small things can be turned on a large lathe, but not the other way around, so your investment will last longer. Before purchasing a wood lathe, let us look at the features you should consider.

11 Things to Consider Before Buying a Wood Lathe

Some features, such as a swiveling headstock (for turning bowls larger than the typical swing distance above the bedways) or possibly a reverse gear, may be helpful as your talents advance. Let’s look at the crucial elements you should consider when purchasing a wood lathe.

What kind of project are you planning to start?

You must first understand your project because some wood lathes may be ideal for it while others may not be as suitable. Having said that, there isn’t a single type of wood lathe that works for all applications.

If you want to make any small products, a desktop wood lathe can be your ideal option. For instance, a tabletop wood lathe can be used to create little objects like small bowls and wooden pens.

A wood lathe might not be powerful enough for you to create larger-sized products. You will need to purchase a steel or cast-iron lathe in this situation.

They can handle more significant chunks of wood required for larger-sized things.

What’s the Size of the Lathe?

The more space a wood lathe has, the more valuable it is because, once you have one, you’ll begin to think of new things to make. It would be best if you didn’t continually upgrade when you could have made a single, more significant purchase. Small ones cannot create giant ones, yet large ones can still create small ones. Therefore, investing in a larger wood lathe will give you a greater financial return.

There are three alternatives available on the market for the total size of the wood lathe, which will define the size of your project.

 Full-Size Lathe

The standard professional full-size wood lathe is the first, enabling you to reach the highest point. Any project can be mounted, including massive bowls, platters, substantial furniture legs, imbalanced wood chunks, etc.

Small Sized Lathe 

Unless you want the additional swing capacity of a full-size lathe, a high-quality midi lathe can be a practical choice. However, you may safely turn bowls between 12 and 14 inches in diameter using these lathes because they have respectable horsepower and appropriate torque while operating at lower rpm. 

Mini Sized Lathe

Mini wood lathes have centers that are 12 to 14 inches apart and an 8-inch swing over the bed. A modest benchtop unit will suffice if the endeavor entails tiny objects like pens, pots, and candlesticks. However, you must upgrade to a larger size if the situation calls for it and you want to go high.

How Effective is the Motor?

Check the horsepower that your lathe’s motor can produce. One of the most important elements is this because it powers your wood lathe. See if it would be sufficient by checking the power demand.

HP of at least 3/4 is the recommended level to use.

The span of a Swing

Okay, so what size of wood can you place on the lathe? What kind of capacity will your wood lathe have? That depends upon the diameter of the space between the headstock and tailstock ends and the measurement of the bed swing.

If you need to place the tool rest precisely below the logs, you might also want to consider the swing over the tool rest. I will address that eventually.

Assess your workstation.

Wood lathes are massive machinery that can take up a lot of room. Fortunately, because they are all measured in inches, it is quite simple to determine the size that would fit in your room. Measure it first to ensure you purchase the appropriate size for your space area. After that, you can continue.

The Make


Keep in mind that vibration is the most frequent issue that woodturners encounter. So make sure your lathe has the weight it needs to be stable while you work. It cannot manage the unbalanced logs without the correct weight. In addition, I have witnessed lathes vibrate even without any load on them. The more weight the lathe has, the more imbalanced wood it can handle.


Cast iron is the material that is most frequently used in wood lathes. Most lathes are composed of cast iron because of their excellent vibration absorption capabilities. Additionally, beds made of steel or stainless steel with cast iron legs are standard. Vibration dampening is substantially more effective on these lathes.

Size of Spindle Thread

Standard one-inch, eight TPI, jet midi-color thread.

The headstock spindle thread size must be understood. Your spindle will be more rigid for the more important job if it has a larger diameter. Additionally, you must be aware of the spindle’s thread size to purchase accurate chucks and faceplates from aftermarkets.

The diameter and the number of threads per inch determine the spindle thread size. 1″ x 8 TPI is the most typical thread measurement. The less typical sizes, on the other hand, are 34″ x 10 TPI, 1″ x 10 TPI, 1″ x 12 TPI, etc.

You may want to avoid purchasing a used lathe with a spindle that is less than 1 inch since it will be difficult to use.

Spindle Bore 

“The entire spindle of a black wood lathe”

The spindle has a hole that extends through it. It will influence what kind of vacuum chuck adapter you can buy and what size knockout bar you can use to remove the centers.

Direct drive lathes don’t have a spindle bore. Although you can still use this, it makes life more challenging when knocking out the centers.

Speed and Drive system

Belt-driven: To vary the speed on a wood lathe using an AC motor, you must switch the belt to different pulleys. Instead of “variable speed lathes,” they are referred to as “speed lathes.”

Electronic Variable Speed wood lathes, also known as variable or EVS, include a DC motor with a switch or knob to vary the speed, eliminating the need for manual belt changes.

You can change the speed using variable speed without stopping the lathe. It has significant advantages. When it comes to turning bowls, this is the modern wood lathe’s most practical feature.

Reeves Drive: These are factors, but the turners have differing viewpoints. However, reeves drives need additional upkeep and frequent belt replacements. With the headstock, you may adjust the pulleys for various speeds by pulling a lever.

There are lathes with digital variable reluctance or VFD drives. It helps keep the speed constant while losing almost no power.

A wood lathe with a VFD, or variable frequency drive, enables the use of a 3-phase motor on a 1-phase power source, which is also seen. This is for turning at a low speed while generating excellent torque.

Headstock Characteristics

Reverse Switch: Having a reverse switch is an additional benefit. Sanding is somewhat of a must when working with a bowl to give the surface of the workpiece the final polish.

Spindle Indexing and Lock: The spindle can be locked in different locations to make any pattern or flutes. The majority of common lathes in use today have an indexing option. Additionally, you may lock the spindle and take anything that feels too tight out.

Sliding or rotating headstocks are yet another fantastic feature for outboard turning.

With a DRO, you can observe how quickly you turn the wood lathe (digital readout meter). Although not necessary, having one is a good idea.

Increased access around the back of a mounted workpiece is made possible by the extended spindle column.

When using a remote control to stop an emergency machine, it can be risky to reach around a spinning log. However, you can accomplish it with a remote control stop while keeping a safe distance.

When the lathe is off, you can turn the spindle using the handwheel.

Belt to door: To make speed changes more practical, the pulley door needs to be user-friendly.

Excellent Tailstock

The spindle is kept centered and turning consistently by the tailstock, a rotating pin on the headstock’s opposite end. You should have the greatest amount of flexibility in the turning types since the tailstock should lock firmly in place in any location along the bed.

The tailstock provides a steady rotation, which holds and spins the longer workpiece tightly to prevent it from flying off the bed. It is, therefore, a support feature. It can slide and be moved in both directions concerning the headstock.

The quill, however, is the part of the tailstock that is most important. It slides in and out to provide the assistance you require and aid you while drilling and boring. See how far and how smoothly your quill can fly. Ensure that it has a self-ejecting feature as well.

Apart from these 11 considerations, it would be best to take safety precautions.

Do not disregard your safety. You’ll need to get a face mask to protect your face and your eyes. You shouldn’t dismiss the fact that such projects pose a serious risk to your face. Tiny particles of mud and wood fly everywhere as these tasks are performed. Although they could land anywhere on your body, your face should, at the very least, be shielded. You’ll be happy you did if you invest in a full-face shield.


We can make beautiful products thanks to wood lathes, which are essential pieces of machinery. You may make table legs or salad bowls with a wood lathe. But since all of the information shared with you in this post is crucial, you must pay close attention to it.

Remember to put your equipment following the instructions in your installation manual; it must be stable and balanced for good results.

I want to emphasize once more how important it is to plan your budget for the lathe itself and any additional tools and accessories you could require to get started. A chuck and some jaws for it, for instance, could be used to sharpen gouges, and the list goes on. Always get a larger lathe—at the very least, a mid-sized one—than you anticipate ever using. A huge lathe can turn little objects, but a small lathe cannot be used to turn large objects. Usually, when someone starts with a tiny lathe, they quickly outgrow it and bemoan their short-sightedness.

If you are unsure of your preference for turning, choose anything that fits your budget. Join a group or guild to spend time using other people’s machines. You’ll become aware of your preferences and desires.

That’s all I have to say, and I sincerely hope my shopping guide will be useful.


  1. What kinds of lathes are there?

There are many kinds of lathe machines on the market; a few are described below.

Speed Lathe: This type of lathe gets its name because the spindle revolves extremely fast. These are employed in creating heavy-duty parts for centering, woodturning, metal spinning, polishing, etc.

The most common type of lathe is the engine or center lathe. It can be used for turning, grooving, threading, knurling, and end faces. Tools can be cut on engine lathes both laterally and longitudinally.

Machine with capstan and turret lathes: Capstan and turret lathes can perform a wide range of tasks. These are employed when high-volume production is necessary.

These are incredibly easy to use and don’t call for much expertise.

Toolroom lathe machine. A smaller bed is put atop this machine’s engine lathe-like design for more accuracy and precision.

Machine for bench turning—Bench turning is a minor operation. It is utilized for minor works because it provides accuracy. Similar to other large lathe machines, it has attachments.

Computers are used to control the functioning of the CNC lathe machine. It is utilized for high-volume output that is quick and precise. These are the most cutting-edge lathes on the market right now.

  • What elements affect lathe pricing?

The following factors should be taken into account while buying a lathe.

Size: The size of the machine significantly affects the machine’s cost. Cheaper than larger ones are smaller ones.

More operations might be performed, which would increase its price.

Production—A lathe’s price will be directly impacted by how much it can produce.

These aspects are very important when a person or business contemplates using a lathe machine. Making good decisions is made easier with this knowledge.

  • What are the various applications of lathe equipment?

Also called the “mother of all machining tools,” the lathe can be used for  Drilling, grooving, recessing, forming, boring, shaping, knurling, cutting, turning, sanding, deformation, chamfering, and tapping. 

These are just a few of the various operations they can do. Working with a lathe requires extreme precision. As a result, they are the tools of choice for cutting and shaping metal and wood.

  • What names do the various woodturning styles go by?

Face turning, and spindle turning are the two types of woodturning.

When you turn a faceplate, the wood grain is 90 degrees off the lathe’s axis. Faceplate turning is an excellent example of turning a bowl or plate.

When the wood grain is parallel to the lathe bed, this is known as spindle turning. Spindle turning can be seen clearly in the leg of a chair or a vase.

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Hi, my name is Charles Winn, A DIY enthusiast, Mechanical Engineer. I was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. I am also a father of two troublemaker kids, a terrible photographer, and I love to play chess.

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