Woodturning Lathe Issues


The wood lathe is a complicate piece of equipment and problems and issues will arise when using one. Being prepared for these problem will keep them from growing.



Troubleshooting a Mini Lathe

A mini lathe is a great tool to have if you have limited room, but would like to pursue a woodworking hobby such as lathe turning. As with any other kind of power tool, the lathe can stop working at any time due to problems with the machine, and you may find yourself unable to turn the lathe back on in the usual manner. You need to find the source of these issues so that you can continue using your wood lathe. Finding out what is wrong with your lathe requires some basic investigation into the possible causes.


How to Test a Lathe

Here are three simple tests to run on candidate lathes before choosing which one to buy. Install a pointed live center on the tailstock and another point on the headstock, then run the two together and see if the points meet...meeting point to point is good. Then, turn the lathe on, and at low speed, note any wobble while viewing the headstock's spur point...wobble is bad. While you're at it, move the tail stock up and down the length of the lathe several times, locking it in place at the point to point head/tailstock position each time...do the points meet every time; or in other words, does the tailstock have left to right slop? If so (a cheap lathe characteristic), you're going to have problems if you switch your piece from a spindle hold to a chuck hold. I've noted more than a 1/16" left/right slop in the tailstock on many lathes.


Aligning Lathe Centers

While this alignment problem will undoubtedly seem like a simple problem to veteran turners, we can cure this problem easily in most cases and perhaps eliminate a common bump in the learning process at the same time.  Being able to swivel and reposition the headstock is a common and handy feature on many lathes. However, this capability includes a minor liability in the form a small but necessary amount of play in the locking mechanism that allows this movement of the headstock. That little bit of play, when extended out to the point on the drive spur can result in a small but important miss-alignment of the drive center points.


Hints & Tips for Using a Lathe

The following are a few hints and tips culled from one hundred and fifty years of "How to Use a Lathe" books. It’s worth remembering that an apprenticeship in turning lasted for seven years - and whilst the rudiments of the craft can indeed be picked up within a few months, experience is all. This is not a comprehensive list of either safety precautions or working practices - further reading is advisable.


Lathe Parts

Having changed over the years, the names given to various parts of the lathe are still not completely standardized. No doubt when the government has finished organizing every other aspect of our lives it will appoint a highly-paid commission to look into the matter and make "recommendations".  If you would like to buy a book or CD to extend your knowledge of lathes - and how to operate them - look on the home page and here.  Illustrations of the parts discussed can be found by following the various hyperlinks and also at the bottom of this page.


Some Thoughts On Choosing Your Lathe


There's always some apprehension when trying to figure out what is "right for you" when on the excursion for finding woodturning equipment. Hughie has some insights in this article to hopefully point you in the right direction unless of course, it points you in a dozen new directions. This is a bit hard when you first start out, but look around for an experienced turner/s for advice. Join a local club or Guild or for that matter do it online as there are many turning forums around these days. Most of us see some turned objects or watch a demo sometime and think “I could do that” and off we go.


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