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How to use a Wood Lathe

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How to use a Wood Lathe

Wood turning can be a satisfying and addictive experience, it is in itself a complete unit capable of producing finished work. You can duplicate parts to repair chairs, dig into a burl to make a bowl or make your own custom candle sticks.

Wood lathes come in many sizes, from small pen lathes to huge bowl turning machines. They are designated according to the maximum diameter of material that can be swung over the bed. A lathe capable of turning an 11-inch diameter disk is referred to as an 11-inch lathe. The other dimension to be concerned with is the center to center measurement, this determines the maximum length of material that can be mounted between the headstock and tailstock.

Safe, effective use of a wood lathe requires detailed study and
knowledge of all procedures for using this tool. Read and thoroughly understand the label warnings on the lathe and in the owner/operators manual.

Always wear safety goggles or safety glasses with side shields
complying with current national standard, and a full face shield
when needed. Use a dust mask in dusty work conditions. Wear hearing protection during extended periods of operation.

Do not wear gloves, loose clothing, jewelry or any dangling objects that may catch in rotating parts or accessories. Tie back long hair.

Check the owner/operators manual for proper speed
recommendations for the intended purpose and use.

The work area must be provided with shadow free lighting, and be open and uncluttered, so that the operator moves are not hindered.

Make certain that the belt guard or cover is in place and be sure that the work piece is free but firmly mounted between centers. Check that all clamping devices (locks), such as on the tailstock and tool rest, are tight and that the work piece clears the tool rest and other machine parts before operating the tool.

Never adjust the tool rest with the lathe turned "on."

Do not run a lathe in the wrong direction. This can cause the turning tool to be thrown from your hands.

The lathe spindle must rotate so the top of the work piece turns toward you.

The clearance between the work piece and the tool rest should be only about 1/8 in.

Use only defect-free stock, without cracks, checks, knots, splits and the like. Knots, for example, can fly out and cause serious injury.

A lathe should not be altered in any way, or set up to perform any operation not covered in the owner/operators manual.

It is recommended that you rough out faceplate work piece on a band saw or with hand tools before installing them on the
lathe faceplate.

Hold turning chisels securely on the tool rest, and hold handle of chisel firmly. Always use the lowest speed when starting a new work piece.


Lathes should be operated at slow speed until the work piece is cylindrical. This helps avoid the possibility of an unbalanced piece jumping out at high speed and striking the operator.

Also be sure to remove the tool rest before you sand a work piece by hand.

Never remount a turned piece once it is removed from the faceplate.

Turn off and, if possible, unplug the lathe after use. Lock switch, if lock is available, and store the key.



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