Setting up a lathe

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Forum topic by Richard Dunlap posted 08-25-2010 09:45 PM 1121 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Richard Dunlap

65 posts in 2283 days

08-25-2010 09:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question

I have never done any turning before and am going to build a base for an old Craftsman lathe I have and was wondereing what would be a good hight for the lathe. Any help would be very appreciated. Thanks.


6 replies so far

View Stonekettle's profile


135 posts in 2322 days

#1 posted 08-25-2010 09:53 PM

Depends on the type of turning you intend to do. Generally though, the best lathe height is just below the bottom of your ribcage, just above the waist. I have a number of lathes, since I’m primarily a turner. Most of them are set to this height. However, with that said, for hollow forms, I prefer the machine to be set higher, so I don’t have to bend my head so much. I have one machine set to about mid ribcage specifically for this.

Most important thing in a lathe base: make it solid. Either bolt it to the floor, or ballast it (or both). And make sure the machine is firmly bolted down. Vibration will reduce both safety and enjoyment, trust me on this.

-- Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 2626 days

#2 posted 08-25-2010 09:55 PM

It depends on how tall you are. :) Optimally for most turning, the center line of your lathe should be about the same height as your elbow. Here is an easy way: Bend your arm 90ยบ and point. Set the center line of your headstock and tailstock at the height of your finger.
Have fun turning!!

View BTKS's profile


1984 posts in 2882 days

#3 posted 08-26-2010 01:48 AM

Sounds like those above have hit it on the mark. I like elbow height.
Two excellent turning books I’ve found useful are: Woodturning, A Foundation Course (new edition) by Keith Rowley, Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, Turning Wood by Richard Raffan, Taunton Books and Videos.
Both of these books are excellent reference materials, especially for beginners.
Turning Wood’s first chapter is dedicated to set up with center height specifically pointed out.
Hope this helps,

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2492 days

#4 posted 08-26-2010 04:31 AM

I’m not particularly tall (5’ 10”) but I find that I like almost everything (work bench, router table, lathe, etc.) just a little taller than the standard height.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Richard Dunlap's profile

Richard Dunlap

65 posts in 2283 days

#5 posted 08-26-2010 05:03 PM

Thanks to all for the advise.


View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2650 days

#6 posted 08-26-2010 05:29 PM

It all depends on your height, but I agree on the just above the waist coments. I am 6’ 0” and I like my table tops / bench tops / lathe bed to be at around 38” or so off the floor. (One of the reasons I like the Ryobi BT3100 so much is the height, it is a couple of inches taller than most other table saws I have tried).

You will want to make your lathe stand as heavy, and solid as you possibly can. The added mass helps counter the effect of an out of balance blank when you start a new turning…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

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