Choosing A Wood Lathe: Make Sure The Tool Fits The Shop



Wood lathes are generally substantial tools that are going to be part of a general woodworking shop. As such, some consideration needs to be given to ensure that they fit the shop well. At least three areas need to be looked at, namely the type of the shop, the size of the workshop and the wood turner concerned.
Woodworking shops come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and characters. Either form the beginning or over time they develop a personality depending on the work that is done in them. As wood turning either develops in them or is introduced, they ten to fit three large groups. One is the furniture shop, another an all purpose wood shop, and finally the dedicated wood turning center.
For the furniture shop, a wood lathe will likely be used to turn both small items such as specialty door knobs and larger items such as table legs. A typical lathe for this shop would be one that can turn a twelve inch diameter spindle up to thirty eight inches long. It needs to be remembered that small items such as those door knobs can be turned on a large lathe but a large item can not be turned on a small lathe. The capacity to make a sturdy bench for the lathe is inherent in a furniture shop and it can be produced to hold a lot of the tools and accessories needed for turning wood.
The all purpose wood shop will likely want a similar lathe to the furniture shop but may want it to be able to turn larger pieces. Many of today's lathes allow for the head stock to swing and handle large pieces for outboard face plate work. If this is desired, it is a good idea to get a lathe that will have a minimum speed of four hundred revolutions per minute or even lower to reduce vibration.
The dedicated wood turning center will need at least the second type of lathe and may be better served with a family of lathes that allow for various work to be going on at various times. One lathe may be dedicated to spindle work while another without ways is designed for face plate work alone. Still another mini lathe may be available for small work at high speeds.
With these considerations comes the need for the lathe or lathes to fit the shop. Not only does a larger lathe require more floor space for its footprint, it also needs a fair amount of room around it for the wood turner to move in safety while turning. It will also need to fit itself around the other tools to give a good feel to the shop work flow.
Finally, every wood turner will develop his or her own style and desire of wood turning  While the first lathe will seldom truly reflect this except by chance, the second and subsequent lathes can be chosen to make the preferred choices in wood turning more enjoyable and perhaps safer as well.
Wood lathes are tools that tend to be a part of the woodworking shop for a long time and due consideration should be given to their purchase. It is an opportunity for reflection on our craft and in itself can be an enjoyable part of the process.
Darrell Felt mate is a juries wood turner whose web site, Around the Woods, contains detailed information about wood turning for the novice or experienced turner as well as a collection of turnings for your viewing pleasure. You too can learn to turn wood, here is the place to start
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