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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I recently got a new house and I finally have a garage. I'm already hard at work converting it to a workshop, and I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

I am COMPLETELY new to any kind of lathe work, but I've always been interested in making wood and metal rings. I'm assuming that I will need 2 lathes, 1 for metal and 1 for wood? If so, can anyone suggest a wood lathe for a beginner like me? I've been looking online but there are so many options and I really don't understand a lot of the terminology. I also have no idea on what extra part/tools the lathes will need, so that's something else I would love to have advice on if you can provide it?

Thanks in advance,

26,324 Posts
If you don't mind a lot of cleaning you could use a metal lathe to turn wood. It's just that a metal lathe is used with oil a lot and would collect dust and chips made by turning wood.

If you are just wanting to turn rings you might just get a mini lathe. A mini lathe could just be stored away when you are not using it. If though you think you might like to make furniture once in a while you better get a full size lathe. It's difficult to recommend a lathe. A lathe is a piece of equipment you can spend a couple hundred dollars on or a couple thousand. The only thing I can say is turning large bowls or table legs weight is important. The heavier the lathe the less vibration you get.

Ancient Termite
898 Posts
Get a used lathe! Find about the cheapest one that you can find.

In six months, take a step backward and look at your situation. Have you been sucked into the turning vortex and purchased a sharpening system as well as a gaggle chisels or gouges?

If the answer is yes, proceed with caution and buy the lathe of your dreams. You have become a turner.

If the answer is meh, proceed with caution and buy what you need for the project at hand and as you need the tools.

If the answer is no, go inside and open a can of beer.

where's my table saw?
27,860 Posts
wood lathe VS metal lathe .....

While I consider myself primarily a woodworker, I own 2 metal lathes and an old Craftsman wood lathe which is not assembled. Depending on my projects, such as tool fabrication or auto restoration, I use the metal lathes. I have no interest in turning bowls or spindles.
Those who get into turning wood, really can get hooked by it. Find out where your interests lie and buy a mid sized, mid range priced machine. They don't really wear out, so not a lot of concerns buying used ... except for drive systems and motor HP and power requirements. You can always upgrade if and when the need arises. :wink:

2,267 Posts
If you go with a metal turning lathe, you would be better off buying a used American made lathe, but make sure it is a good company that built it. Also try to check to see if there are parts available for them. Even though some companies have gone under there are companies that still make parts for them. Parts for discontinued Taiwanese or Chinese machines are made out of "unobtainium" or no longer available

Three phase can also be a problem, but there are now inverter drives that go up to 7 1/2 hp so you can use single phase to create three phase or you can build your own phase converter

Also make sure your flooring will withstand the weight, my 20x60 Axleson weighs about 9000 LBS, it is a superb lathe though

3,330 Posts
I just bought a used Delta 46-460 lathe for less than 1/3 of what it would have cost to buy a new one (same model) online. It came with the Delta stand and extensions. So far, I am pleased with it, but I have had it a very short time. I am still learning to use it.

Whether you buy a new or used lathe, be prepared for a significant investment in support tools for that lathe, which may add up to more than the lathe itself:

* Gouges, scrapers, and other cutting tools:
At the recommendation of an experienced friend, I bought the Robert Sorby 6 piece turning tool set, plus one rounded square scraper:


* Sharpener for the gouges:
I have flat diamond plates for sharpening chisels and hand plane blades, but they are not suitable for the round turning tools like the gouges. The Tormek sharpener is the gold standard, but it is very expensive. The same friend recommended the Grizzly 10 inch grinder:


I have seen several other sharpening systems. They are all probably good. Don't use an ordinary high speed grinder, or you may damage the steel in your expensive tools by overheating them.

* Centers, chucks, etc.:
You will need some accessories to hold the wood on your lathe. Hopefully your lathe came with some basic parts for turning. My used lathe came with a basic center that you hammer into the head side of the wood spindle, plus a couple of live centers for the tail. It did not come with a chuck or faceplate or pen turning mandrels, etc. I bought this Nova chuck so I could do face turning. I chose it because it came with several accessory jaws, plus a handy case to store them (and keep the parts from getting lost):


I plan to use it for turning bowls, knobs, and more.

I also bought what I need to make pens. My friend advised me to buy the adjustable mandrel, to avoid having to add bushings and shims for shorter pieces:


* Consumables:
- - Wood to turn (start with scrap for practice). I used the table saw to cut some small boards into 3/4 x 3/4 x 5 inch blanks for pens. They don't have pretty grain patterns, but they are good for practice. I also cut some scrap SPF 2x4 lumber into 2x2 square 12 inch lengths to practice coves, beads, v's, etc.
- - Pen kits (?) and other gift items (I bought a seam ripper kit for sewing, to make for my spouse)
- - CA glue (super glue) for pen kits - may also be used for pen finishes. I bought thin (for gluing the tubes inside the wood), plus "flexible" and medium for pen finishing.
- - Sandpaper strips for lathes
- - Other finishes (my friend suggested a bottle of Hut Crystal Coat).

* Resources for learning:
- - I have been reading the latest edition of a terrific book, "Woodturning: A Foundation Course" by Keith Rowley. It came with the Robert Sorby six piece gouge set. I highly recommend this book, which is available from many sources. The book is typically British (dry and plainspoken), but it is well organized and written. The book includes a DVD, where the author demonstrates techniques. The DVD is okay, not great. I bring the book out to the lathe as a reference when I do the practice exercises.

(P.S. I don't know whether all versions of the Robert Sorby six piece lathe set include the book, but you can buy it separately.)

- - YouTube "university" :)
- - Public library
- - Woodworking clubs
- - Classes, etc.
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