Lathe Height

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Forum topic by paratrooper34 posted 12-15-2015 09:15 PM 625 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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865 posts in 2371 days

12-15-2015 09:15 PM

Hi All,

Well, I finally broke down and bought a power lathe (Craftsman). As averse as I am to power tools, I have a need for some turned items and figured I would just pony up and buy one as building a spring pole or other non-powered lathe would be too far off in the future to suit my immediate needs.

I am going to build a stand for the lathe and I am not sure what height it should be at for optimum use. I put the lathe on top of my bench, which stands at 36”, and that is way too high. So 30”? I don’t know. I am 5’9” (69”) tall. Any ideas for how high the lathe should be?

Thanks in advance!

-- Mike

12 replies so far

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

483 posts in 1099 days

#1 posted 12-15-2015 09:33 PM

I don’t know if there is a standard but I like my fingers to be in line with the center line of the lathe when my upper arm is resting at my side, lower arm bent 90 degrees at the elbow and hand held straight out finger tips pointed at the lathe. I find that works well for me when using traditional turning tools. I’m not sure if you would adjust that for carbide tools or not.

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1408 days

#2 posted 12-15-2015 10:03 PM

When setting mine up research suggested having the elbow equal to the spindle centerline, same as what Richard suggests. Thats how i set it up and it works well. I would not want it lower. Possibly an inch or 2 higher, but elbow height is a good starting point and after getting experience fine tune it.

View DrDirt's profile


4135 posts in 3161 days

#3 posted 12-15-2015 11:02 PM

I shoot for e.g. with the roughing gouge to have my anchor hand right at my belt, and my forearm holding the metal at the tool rest to be ‘horizontal” to a little lower.

Suppose that woudl work out to you being able rest your elbow on the tool rest

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

View JoeinGa's profile


7361 posts in 1426 days

#4 posted 12-15-2015 11:05 PM

I started out with mine as Richard said. but figured out pretty quickly that I was getting a sore back from having to bend over while turning the inside of the bowls. So now mine is 2” or 3” higher than that.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View TheDane's profile


4932 posts in 3082 days

#5 posted 12-15-2015 11:56 PM

Rule of thumb I was told: spindle should be at your elbow height.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


2296 posts in 1828 days

#6 posted 12-16-2015 03:51 AM

And to top all those suggestions off, if you change to a bigger lathe and it is a different height you have to lower it. In my case I built a custom cabinet and bolted the lathe to it. The new lathe I have been dreaming about will require a 8” lift kit so I can reach it. (Laughing)

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View paratrooper34's profile


865 posts in 2371 days

#7 posted 12-16-2015 01:16 PM

Thanks everyone. Much appreciated.

-- Mike

View jeff's profile


974 posts in 2884 days

#8 posted 12-16-2015 03:36 PM

Originally spindle was at elbow height for me but I added 1.5” and like it much better now.Would not want to go lower.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

View jfoobar's profile


38 posts in 749 days

#9 posted 12-16-2015 10:09 PM

Yet another recommendation to at least start with the spindle at elbow height and adjust from there. I would rather have it a bit too high than a bit too low.

View bob101's profile


283 posts in 2869 days

#10 posted 12-16-2015 11:38 PM

I have mine setup so that the centres are just above my waist.

-- rob, ont,canada

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2619 posts in 2528 days

#11 posted 12-17-2015 03:02 AM

Ergonomically, the tool should be in such a position that your elbow is bent at 90°, with your upper arm vertical to the floor. That may require some adjustment based on your build, but that is how workstations for using computers are set up- everything at right angles. This keeps you body in the best position for effective and less tiring work.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7696 posts in 1799 days

#12 posted 12-17-2015 04:57 PM

I built my last lathe stand so the spindle was at elbow height but I wouldn’t have minded a it being a couple inches higher. My current lathe has a factory stand that puts it well below elbow height and many old lathes I see in pictures are lower too but I think I will build a new stand and bring it up to elbow height then maybe use blocks under it to raise it a tad more.


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