Wood vs. Metal: The Ultimate Battle of the Lathes

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Lathe Machines are the need of the hour. Time and again, it has proved its worth and efficiency with respect to structure precision and mass-scale production. Various industries have been using these machines for speedy output and neat specimens.

For those who are unaware, lathe machines are ones that help laborers, artisans, mechanics, and engineers to create daily necessary objects for us. These machines come in different arrangements and types as they cater to different tasks.

In simple words, lathe machines help the user to get rid of the excess from a workpiece while it is hoisted on the machine’s rotatory axis and the cutting tool operates on it. Additionally, these machines enable the user to get the desired shape, size, precision, and design on their structures.

From a generic point of view, lathes serve multiple purposes, especially in the sphere of wood and metal works. In this article, I shall give you a brief and clear idea about wood lathe machines and metal lathe machines, and also how they are different from each other.

If you are a woodworker or you deal with metal sheets, or even if you are distantly confused between the application of these two machines, this article will be helpful to you.


Wood Lathe Machines are generally used by wood crafters. Such lathes help the crafter shape, smooth, and cut wood with a minute and clear detailing. These lathes are also used by ones who love to work on do-it-yourself projects.

Let’s talk about its mechanics. There is a holder to it, called the center, where the wooden log is inserted. This part holds the wooden piece in place while the user operates on it using handled blades. Certain lathes come with features offering to hold the blades in the right positions so that the user does not have to do it manually.

The machine enables the center to rotate the wooden piece rapidly while the blades continue to cut on it. There are various types of blades in use. Some have sharper edges, while others are blunt. The one with a sharper edge and wider angles help chop the wooden blocks while the ones with narrower angles help in detail.

Hope it is clear that blades for cutting tools are available in different shapes, angles, and sizes. Each one has its own function and its variety defines the mechanism applied to the wooden piece.


Other than the usual and generic process of cutting wood, the crafter can use it for sandpapering the wooden piece, as well. It is quite a grueling task for the worker to manually sandpaper the wooden piece. Instead, one can position it in the center and rotate it. While doing so the operator can hold sandpaper against the workpiece. In this way, manual labor and the time taken get reduced. Moreover, the wooden piece gets a smooth texture without much hassle.

One significant contribution of lathe machines is to produce round, and cylindrical objects. Wood lathe machines, therefore, help in crafting spindle-shaped legs for tables and chairs, and other parts for furniture. It allows generation baseball bats and any such cylindrical structures with much ease. 

Let’s find out how many types of wood lathes are available and how useful they are.   


Wood Lathe Machines deal in grinding, drilling, boring holes, reaming, turning, knurling, and many more functions. Such machines are also equipped with various aspects that help in producing complete round or cylindrical products.

With the increasing demand for production and the accelerating specifications and complexity in designs, wood lathe machines are optimized for better use and performance. In order to cater to the need for new trends, various wood lathe machines are prepped with different functions and characteristics.

The seven types of wood lathe machines are as follows.

Centre Wood Lathe Machine

It is one of the most popular wood lathe machines in use today. Earlier, lathe machines were in control of the belt which controlled and maintained the speed of the tool. But center wood lathe machines have gearboxes.

This makes things easier. Gears in a machine quickly regulate the speed of the main shaft. It prevents any undesirable accidents of high speeds or frictions, which was otherwise a constant problem for belt-transmitted lathe machines. Since the main shaft is posited horizontally, it is also called a horizontal lathe machine. Another variety comes in the notched bed surfaces. Then, it is called a notched lathe machine.

Bench  Wood Lathe Machine

This is another type of wood lathe machine which can be installed on a table. Such type is also called Bench Wood Lathe Machine. Structurally, it is very similar to a central wood lathe but functionally it is different.

They are best used for the production of precision measuring tools, and instruments. It is one of the material-reducing machines that transform or reduce objects and gives new form and shape to desired objects. These machines are well-suited for beginners, hobbyists, or artisans who have small workshops.

Vertical Wood Lathe Machine

This type of wood lathe machine has its axis vertically installed. It has a horizontal bed, and the workpiece is placed on a rotating bed. Such lathes are designed to be placed on tables or benchtops for easy operation and movement. These lathes have several working features that enable the user to accomplish multiple tasks.

Generally, Vertical Wood Lathe Machines are used to perform various milling activities like crosscutting, perching, sliding, and many more. Another major advantage of this type of lathe is its clockwise and anticlockwise mobility. This helps in smooth completion without any mechanical intervention at the start of the task. It helps the user in obtaining intricate angular cuts and precision.

Turret Wood Lathe Machine

Turret Wood Lathe comes with a hexagonal turret. This hexagonal turret replaces the tailstock of an ordinary lathe. It is unique given its turrets that come with different cutting tools. These tools are interchangeable which prevents the user from manually changing them, unlike conventional lathes.

It is generally used to produce intricate and complex designed products. Manufacturing complicated products can be easily dealt with with this machine. The finished products will be exact and the entire process would require a few semi-skilled laborers for the machine is automatic and does not need much manual interference.

Automatic Wood Lathe Machine

This is another important type of lathe for the woodworking industry. Automatic Wood Lathe Machines are very much similar to standard lathe machines with only one difference. These types of machines are automatic in nature. Simply put, the automated machine would operate, retract the cutting tool and feed, and move on to the next workpiece. Everything will be completed without the worker being much perturbed. It is well suited for mass production and objects that have smaller diameters. It is one of the most sought-after products.

CNC Wood Lathe Machine

CNC or Computer Numeric Controlled Wood Lathe Machine is the ultimate example of a modern lathe machine that is best known for its high speed, accuracy, and clear precision. They are capable of performing basic machining operations such as drilling, milling, and many more. This machine is electronically controlled and comes with sophisticated equipment.

It is able to carry out complex tooling processes without any manual intervention. Needless to say, CNC Wood Lathe is one of the primary preferences of industries big and small. Another major contribution of this machine is the reduction of labor costs yet high production efficiency and increased quality rate.

Copying Wood Lathe Machines

Such types of lathes are also called imitation lathe machines. This is because it follows a template and accordingly produces objects on a mass scale. Simply put, Copy Wood Lathe Machines replicates a template or shape to produce the same object repetitively.

This is mostly used to produce irregular or unsymmetrical objects which, otherwise, would have been impossible to produce without fault manually. For that purpose, a template is made which the lathe follows to produce similar objects. This enhances mass scale and the products come out flawless. Such a feature has been found useful by many artisans and therefore is often configured in modern lathe machines.     

It has already been discussed that lathe machines are equally used in the wood and metal industry. In the above section, I have given you a brief note on Wood Lathe Machines. To make things clear, let me present you with another brief account of Metal Lathe Machines.


Metal lathes or Metalworking lathes have revolutionized the machining industry. It has made work easier as the lathes deal with heavy materials. Previously designed for the purpose of metal products, after the advent of plastics, it is applied to various other materials that cater to varied industrial needs. Just like any other lathes, metalworking lathes drill, grind, ream, bore, and do many other tasks. It is also used to remove redundant materials from the workpiece as it is hoisted on the rotating axis. 

As the name suggests, Metal lathes are specifically designed for metals. It fulfills the purpose of knurling, turning, sanding, and many more to produce objects that are round, cylindrical, and conical. Just as in woodworking lathes, metalworking lathes are also used to deform and transform objects. Hence it is mostly found in metal manufacturing industries. This is because metals and alloys being harder than wood can only be manipulated into the desired shape by a lathe.

These machines too have different varieties that serve the purpose of different industries. Not only do they deal in a variety of alloys and metals like aluminum, copper, iron, steel, and many more, but they also operate differently with respect to the nature of the metals.

There is the Centre Metal Lathe Machine that mainly features a dual head design. This is where the workpiece is situated between the holder while the heads move towards it. This type is used for centering the pieces.

Next in line comes the Toolroom Metal Lathe Machine. It is an optimized version of the center metal lathe with various other features incorporated. It offers a higher level of precision, accuracy, and speed. It is capable of completing tasks without much mechanical intervention.

Another important type is the Turret Metal Lathe Machine. Just as the one used for woodworking, the turret metal lathe has a hexagonal turret that enables replicating objects for mass scale. Also, it often comes with 2 axes and interchangeable cutting tools. It is one of the swiftest machinery with higher production efficiency.

Now that accounts of both types of lathes are presented, it is time to understand the differences which separate them. 


  • One of the basic differences is in their applications. While Woodworking Lathes are applied on wooden workpieces, Metalworking Lathes are used on metal workpieces. 
  • Concerning their applications, woodworking lathes are capable of doing various tasks and the user gets complete satisfaction. But, such lathes have limitations when it comes to their rotatory power. Speaking explicitly, these lathes will only work on wood and not on heavy materials like metals.
  • Whereas, whereas metal lathes are highly flexible. It not only works on metals but also on timber woods. 
  • From the monetary front, metal lathes cost higher than wood lathes given the former’s flexibility in materials. It is advisable if you are working on wood only, then invest in woodworking lathes only.
  • Woodworking lathes are light in weight; you can place them on a tabletop and work with them. In the case of metal lathes, you will be needing quite a space to work on for the machines are heavier.
  • Wood lathes do not need much experience from the user. Beginners are often advised to work using wood lathes. But metal lathes surely require skilled operators.
  • With respect to accuracy, metal working lathes are mostly reliable. This is because it is heavily dependent upon electronic programming and does not require much human intervention. Whereas, woodworking lathes ask for concentration while working. There always are chances of mistakes.
  • When it comes to possible harm, both wood and metalworking lathes are harmful. But metal lathes are more hazardous than wood. This is because the rotatory power of metal lathes is more than that of wood lathes. Adding to that, the noise produced and the use of raw and hard metals can cause serious damage to human health.


By the end of the article, you must have understood the basic idea of wood and metal lathes and also how they differ from each other. The difference might be slim, but it is always advisable that you choose your tools carefully. Lathe machines have proved their worth throughout centuries and people all over the world trust their efficacy. If you are someone who still does not use lathe machines while working with wood or metal pieces, it is time for you to reconsider.

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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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