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How to Use a Wood Lathe: Tips for Successful Wood Turning

How to Use a Wood Lathe
Written by Brent Butterworth
Last Update: May 8, 2023

A wood lathe is a tool which rotates a piece of work for an axis, to perform or get various functions done. Such as; cutting sanding, knurling, drilling, facing deformation, and turning with a piece of equipment which are fixed to the workpiece for creating asymmetrical shape in that axis.

They are used for broken furniture parts like beautiful and decorative woodwork like bowls and candlesticks; they can also be used to make toys like yoyos and tops. It comes in different sizes, which might be attached to a workbench or even in a sizeable industrial-sized machine. They, however, share essential elements.

How to Use a Wood Lathe – For A Beginner

If you have seen someone use a wood lathe and you have been trying to learn how to use the wood lathe, then you are in luck. It can be quite scary contemplating learning how to use wood lathe; one thing for sure is that it is incredibly fun to learn. We will get you acquainted with your new wood lathe soon.

How to Use a Wood Lathe

Safety First

Have you heard of the expression “safety first,” better safe than sorry? Well, there is nothing there is no way you should be in the workshop without having this in the back of your mind. Wood lathes are generally considered to be the most benign tool in the workshop.

However, they have to be treated with care and caution, the essential thing that you are advised to do is to protect your eyes and face from wood fragments that fly off when you are turning the wood. You should at least put on your goggles. We are also advising you to put on a full face protection gear to protect your face too.

Because of the fragments flying around, you should put on tight and fitted clothes instead of baggy because your clothes can quickly become caught in the device, which is the most common reason why people get injured using the loathe. “Slow and steady wins the race,” the tortoise said to the hare; use the device slow and steadily, if you are not careful, your device can easily break your chisel. Not to talk about the potential injury when the chisel is grabbed ad flung across the room.

Choose the Right Lathe

Yes, you have to do your research; for a rotating pen, little ornaments, and even small bowls, it is okay to make use of the min-wood lathe as they will fit into a workbench and are a general preference because they help people get into detail with the smaller jobs.

Choose the Right Wood Lathe

You can also use larger lathes for larger projects like a rotating bigger bowl and making furniture. You have to learn about the various parts of the machine and the functions they perform, especially the headstock, tailstock, wood lathe chuck, wood lathe rest, etc.

Select a Suitable Piece of Wood for Your Project

As a beginner, it is okay just to get started with softwood. This is easier to get through and help you master the basic technique before you get into the harder projects.

Split wood and woods with knots are the kinds of woods you want to stay away from. These kinds of woods are prone to fly apart during work and can get you injured.

Have the Right Tool

When you want to wood turn, you do not need too many elaborate types of equipment. There are mostly a few necessary tools for essential functions like gouges, chisels, parting tools, scrapers, and chisels, etc. Before starting, get these pieces of equipment listed above.

Learn to Use the Main Chisel

To get work done, you have to learn how to use the necessary implements that you have, especially the main chisel. E.g., the roughing gouge will be required as the first on new wood to pop the shape you want to get out of it.

Keep Your Chisel Sharp

Well, the chisel is the essential equipment to use. Keep them sharp. They say that a bad worker will always blame his tools. The chisels should always be kept in reasonable condition so that you can work effectively with them. There a few reasons why you have to.

It includes; blunt chisels that can catch the wood and potentially become hazardous to you the user. Sharp chisels always give the best result and will provide smooth cuts.

Turn the Lathe On, Make Sure That It Is at the Lowest Speed

This is to ensure your safety, as a learner, you want to make sure that the speed of the lathe is at its weakest because you have to finish the basics and not be too intense on the job. As a beginner, you require patience and carefulness to become accomplished.

Practice the Basic Techniques

The beginning of everything requires that you start with the basics. You should spend enough time to master the basics of the work. There are so many detailed designs that are possible for beginners, as soon as you are extra confident with a basic design then you can jump into the thick of things.

Start with Softwood

Now that you have accomplished the basics, you can do the hard jobs by using softwood only. As earlier said, they are very easier to work with and will allow you to master the basic techniques before you take on the more significant challenges.

Use Your Body Weight to Make Clean Cuts

There are secrets here, and there and one secret to making a clean and smooth cut is to use your body weight by leaning in with the elbows tight on the body. With this technique, you will be able to accomplish a cleaner cut than when you use only the hand and the arm strength.

Start with Simple Projects

When you are about starting, try these simple projects. There are unambitious projects like making a hammer handle, and the easier jobs like a small, easy bowl, with the experience that comes with time, you can then become more and more ambitious.

Take the Bark off with a Screwdriver

As you are working with the block of pure wood, some barks will be left behind. Unless you planned to leave the bark on the piece, remove the bark with the cordless screwdriver.

Why it is advised to use the screwdriver instead of the roughing gouge is, as the stock is being shaped, the chunks or fragments can fly off quickly at high speed, which is potentially hazardous.

Sand the Workpiece When You Have Finished Working

At the end of the work, you can sand the stock with your hand if you are cautious. Make sure that the lathe is off, and get the swing rest away from the workplace, then make sure that you have the suitable grits and sandpaper for the process.

Put the lathe on, and grab the paper cautiously against the wood, swing that back and forth to evenly removing wood from all parts of the workpiece.

Additional Tips

Stop the Lathe Regularly as a Beginner

As a beginner, you have to check for any cracks or stress cracks in the wood at regular intervals before you continue the work. Fragments also accumulate around the lathe. You can use calipers to figure the diameter of the workpiece through the length see that you have the desired width.

Smoothen the Finished Work

Since you started the loathe to its lowest Increase the loathe speed to smoothen the workpiece and hold the cutting tool in such a way that it does not come in contact with the wood and now moves it gradually along the length of the workpiece.

No matter if you are using a DIY homemade lathe or factory-made lathe, a slow tool movement will produce more smother and the finished cut is going to end up being a warning. When you notice too much vibration, do not use the lathe.

Smoothen the Finished Work By Using Wood Lathe

Note loose clothing and hanging ties, generally, make sure that you keep all forms of clothing away from the cutter. Before you leave the lathe, put the machine off, and make sure that it comes to a complete stop. Always observe all of the safety tips that the devices come with

At the end of the day, the summary of the topic is to master the basics of the workpiece and move up slowly and practice various techniques until they turn easy. Once you are confident you can jump into the harder jobs.

About the author

Brent Butterworth

A Professional Woodworker & Custom Furniture Builder

Brent lives in Wisconsin and is a woodworker, custom cabinetmaker, interior consultant, and a freelance writer who got the opportunity to write several magazine articles for different publications on home improvement and woodworking. He’s always amazed at the depth and breadth of woodworking all over the globe, and feels proud to be a part of this great effort. Brent has built everything one can imagine, from unique art furniture to different types of home furniture to canoes and even a sailboat.

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