Wood lathes are used to turn wood and shape it. Turning a block of wood into a sculpted table leg or a perfect cylinder are two such uses of wood lathes. But using a wood lathe is not something you can do right on the first try, just as shaping clay on a potter’s wheel isn’t something you pick up overnight. We’re going to discuss how to use a lathe step by step. We’ll also provide information on the wood lathe for beginners.
Step By Step Guide On How To Use A Wood Lathe
The Steps to Take Before You Use Your Wood Lathe
Before we talk about how to use a wood lathe, let’s talk about what you need to have and know before you start woodworking projects.
Have the Right Safety Equipment
When you’re working with a wood lathe, you’re generating wood dust and flying wood chips. You need to have the right safety equipment available and know how to use it before you use the wood lathe. Another You should wear protective goggles with side shields because no one wants a wood chip embedded in their eye.
You need to wear gloves to protect from splinters. Wear a respirator mask, so that you don’t inhale wood dust. Hearing protection is recommended due to the noise level.
Get the Right Type of Lathe
A workman’s abilities are limited by the quality of their tools. A master craftsman can create good art with mediocre tools, but everyone else will fall short. For beginners, you need good wood lathe. What does good wood lathe need? You can choose the best lathe for under 1000 $.
A Solid Foundation
Every good lathe needs a good foundation. This may be a solid workbench or a solid foundation with stable legs on a freestanding wood lathe. The horizontal main beam should be heavy enough to prevent the vibrations of the motor from affecting the wood you’re trying to shape. This means you can’t afford to get a cheap, lightweight lathe that shakes.
The lathe height should end up at elbow height when you’re working with the lathe. It is not ergonomic to lean over to work with a low spindle.
The Right Size
Another factor to consider is the wood lathe projects you want to do. There are mini-lathes that can turn very small lathes and full-sized lathes that can shape long pieces of wood. Choose a wood lathe that will hold the wood pieces that you expect to work with on a regular basis.
If you’re going to be doing a variety of wood lathe projects, you might want to get a midi-lathe that lets you extend the bed. Then you can turn anything from a pen to a table leg. If you want to spin bowls and spindles, a lathe with a faceplate and drive center you can swap out is a plus.
A Strong Enough Motor
Wood lathe motors could have anywhere from one-eighth horsepower to three horsepower. Most woodworkers want a variable speed motor with the option to adjust the rotations per minute. A more powerful motor is required to turn larger pieces. Furthermore, you want to know that the wood lathe motor can generate a consistent speed; this is necessary to ensure high-quality work.
A Tool Rest
Lathes should have a tool rest. In fact, you shouldn’t buy one that lacks this critical safety feature. You should always rest the tool on the tool rest. There is no way you can safely free-hand the cut on the lathe. Any lathe you choose should have a solidly locked tool rest and allow you to adjust the tool’s location. If you will be working with bowls or large spindles, then you should look for a lathe with two or three tool rests.
Learn How to Use a Wood Lathe Safety
Before we talk about how to use the wood lathe, let’s address the safe woodworking practices necessary to use a wood lathe safely.
A Word about Safety Gear
We’ve already mentioned the need for safety goggles and gloves. Always put on the safety gear before you start working. And don’t let anyone enter the work area without that safety gear. Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in the rotating parts. Tuck in your shirt. Pull back your hair. Consider taking off your wedding ring or watch, if they aren’t covered by work gloves.
Don’t Use Bad Wood
Don’t put bad wood pieces on a wood lathe. For example, you shouldn’t try to use a wood lathe with stock that has splits, knots, or cracks. Beginners should start with softwoods like southern yellow pine, lodgepole pine, or balsam fir. Pick pieces that have straight grain.
Use the Tool Rest
Use the tool rest. And set it as close as possible to the stock. Set it just high enough to cut into the wood a little above the center of the workpiece that’s turning. The tool rest can be removed when you’re sanding or polishing the wood.
Use appropriate tools to hold emery paper and sandpaper wherever possible. Ideally, these are used in conjunction with the tool rest. If you must use your hands, hold it in a way that won’t let the paper catch and tangle around the stock.
Use Good Tools
Use sharp, well-maintained woodworking tools like chisels and gouges. This reduces the risk that the tool “jumps” and hits you or otherwise goes flying. And don’t try to sharpen your woodworking tools with the lathe; that requires a grinder or a sander. Only use tools that are designed for work with a wood lathe. You should know how to sharpen wood lathe tool.
Secure the Wood Before Wood-Working
The wood piece should be securely held in place by the faceplate or the centers. If it isn’t secure, it can go flying.
You should run it at a speed that is appropriate for the job. This reduces the risk that you lose control of the tool and are injured. Running the lathe at a reasonable speed also reduces the risk of mistakes. For example, you should use a slower speed and moderate cut depth when roughing the piece. This limits the creation of flying splinters. If you aren’t sure what the right speed is, go slow, start working, and if you feel secure, speed it up a little.
Follow Standard Lock-Out Tag-Out Procedures
Like all machinery, the wood lathe should not be left running unattended. Turn it off when not in use. Never make changes to the tooling setup while the equipment is running, either.
Know the Particulars about Your Wood Lathe
Read the manual, so that you know the specifics about your new wood lathe. For example, only the manual will tell you the safety mechanisms built into the wood lathe. This may be an emergency release or shut-off button. Or there may be protective guards that must be in place before you can turn it on.
Now we can talk about how to use your wood lathe.
How to Use Your Wood Lathe
Step 1: Set It Up
If you want to know how to use a wood lathe, know that the first step is setting it up. The lathe should be powered off. Get the right tools for the job. This is a good time to check the tools and sharpen them if necessary.
Step 2: Set Up the Stock.
The stock is the piece of wood you’re working on. Place the stock in the lathe, and ensure that it is secured. It needs to be tight, because you don’t want it to go flying, much less hit you.
The stock should be above the spindle of the headstock or inside of the spur center. The tailstock wheel can help you position it.
Step 3: Test It.
Free spin the workpiece by hand. This means that you verify that it spins freely. If there isn’t sufficient space for it to turn 360 degrees, you’ll need to adjust the location of the tools or the stocks.
Step 4: Set Up the Tools.
Set the tool rest position. The tool rest itself should be parallel or in line with the stock, with the tool angled down toward the stock. The best angle for cutting the wood is 90 degrees, though some projects with a wood lathe require a different position. There should be half an inch or more between the tip of the tool and the end of the lathe.
Ideally, you should practice holding the tool against the tool rest. Make sure you’re comfortable with its height. If it is too high or low, it is hard to control the tool, and that’s a safety hazard.
Step 5: Turn On the Lathe
Turn on the lathe. Use the lowest speed possible. This is especially true for beginners. As you learn how to use the lathe properly, you can set the speed based on the type of wood that you’re cutting.
The tool may vibrate as the wood starts to turn because it is cutting into the wood. This is why you need to have the wood secured and be wearing safety gear before you turn anything on.
You’re now cutting wood.
Step 6: Work with the Wood
Slowly move the tool down into the workpiece. For example, you can rotate the chisel until it is touching and then cutting into the workpiece. Don’t move too quickly, or you could lose control. Or you might break the tool. Get it into proper position before you start cutting into the rest of the wood workpiece.
You can now cut off pieces of wood and shape it. You may find that you need a different tool. Always turn off the wood lathe before you replace a bowl gouge with a spindle gouge.
A hollowing tool can be used to create hollow forms in bowls. Beginner wood lathe users probably don’t need to worry about how to use a parting tool. We’d recommend using sandpaper instead of a skew chisel for trimming and finishing when you’re just starting out.
Watch the wood and the shavings. You want to cut small wood chips, not large ones. For example, they should be a quarter inch in length or less. Larger means that you’re cutting too much at once, and you could get hit by woodchucks throw into the air. You’re also at greater risk of breaking the tool if it hits a hard lump.
Move the cutting edge in parallel with the spinning stock. Go slow, because control is the key to quality at this point. Remove a consistent amount of material as you go along the length of the piece. Once you make a pass, stop.
You should know how to turn wood because it will help you to do better shape safely
Step 7: Shut It Down.
Turn off the lathe to check your progress. This ensures that the wood lathe isn’t running without you paying attention to it. Inspect for stress cracks or loose knots. If these are evident, stop and discard the piece. If there is debris on the workpiece, clear it. Don’t let that debris accumulate on the lathe bed, either.
You can decide to adjust the tool height or speed before you start it back up. This is also a good time to sharpen tools or swap them out. If everything is fine, turn it back on and make your next pass.
Step 8: Finish It
After you remove most of the material, you’ll generally want to smooth out the workpiece. One option is increasing the lathe speed and using a chisel just above the workpiece. Another option is breaking out the sanding paper. You can use the lathe to hold the sanding paper, or you can do the sanding by hand.
When you’re done working with the wood, turn everything off. This is where lock-out tag-out procedures ensure that others don’t turn on the lathe or alter your settings. This is generally done with lathe keys; removing these from the lathe prevents most lathes from operating.
Then take the lathe key and put it somewhere out of reach. Then curious kids can’t turn it on and play with it.
How Can You Make It Easier to Work with Wood?
Turning a thick piece of wood into a narrow cylinder takes a lot of time. You can save a lot of time by squaring the stock. For example, cut a 2×4 into a 2×2. You’re essentially turning the thick cylinder into a square that’s closer to the desired final dimensions.
You could bevel or chamfer the square corners to create an octagonal piece. Do all of this on a piece of wood already cut to the desired length or just a little longer than that, so that you don’t waste time shaping an extra six inches of wood.
Beginners should work with short stocks and softer woods. This is easier to cut, and that allows you to get practice shaping the wood as quickly as possible. Longer pieces of wood take more time and are harder to get right.
Have calipers to check the diameter of the stock along the length. It isn’t uncommon for beginners to keep cutting until they’ve removed too much material.