First time using a wood lathe

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Forum topic by sandhill posted 08-30-2010 09:45 PM 2328 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2128 posts in 3346 days

08-30-2010 09:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question lathe turning

I traded an item I had listed on “Craigs List” (An Awning) for a 40” Wood Lathe (No Base) but with 4 jaw chuck, carving tools and a few calibers. The guy wanted 175 dollars and even though my item was listed for 650 dollars it has not sold in 2 years so I thought why not! I just hope he don’t back out.
Problem is I never used a Wood Lathe, Can any one list the things I should beware of safety wise or haw to start? Like how do you mount the wood in the chuck? Do I use a “dog” as you would on a metal lathe? Just anything you can think of I should know before starting. I am a little intimidated by a chunk spinning at a few hundred RPM and sticking a tool into it.
Thanks y’all

11 replies so far

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2654 days

#1 posted 08-30-2010 10:18 PM

Not to discourage you from starting up with a lathe, but if you haven’t done the deal yet, STAY AWAY FROM THAT MODEL! Those things go on sale at Harbor Freight for around $100.00, and the chuck isn’t all that great either. Harbor Freight DOES sell a nice cast iron decent size lathe cheap, the #34706, I own one and love it… You can get them on sale with a couple for about $180.00. That stamped steel one you are looking at will likely make you HATE wood turning…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2420 days

#2 posted 09-01-2010 02:19 AM

Generally, you will be using a spur center in the headstock. You unscrew the plate on the spindle and you will find a tapered hole underneath. The spur chuck is just a center point with 2 or more teeth around the edge. You squeeze the wood between that and another center mounted in the tailstock. It will preferably be a live center. That means it has bearings that allow it to spin with the workpiece. The 4-jaw chuck is useful but learn to turn first. It can bite.

It would not be my first choice for a lathe but it will do fine. It is not pretty but lathes can pretty low tech and still work fine. If you really like turning, you can move up to something nicer: more rigid, better attachments, more capacity and better power system. If you just turn an occasional piece, it will do the job just fine. Love the one you are with ;)

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 2911 days

#3 posted 09-01-2010 02:25 AM

You need to get to a class. There is a LOT to learn about lathes, chucks, tools, etc.

One of the most important things to know and learn is KEEP YOUR TOOLS SCARY SHARP. This will make turning and your life a whole lot easier.

There are videos online at YouTube that will help you get started.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 2948 days

#4 posted 09-01-2010 04:31 AM

I am a woodworking dvd – video freak because I can watch and learn as I play them over and over again. I can honestly say I have watched some dvd’s 50 times and each time I notice something new or refresh what I thought I remembered from the last watching of it. There are many dvd’s on wood turning and of the ones I have at present the Richard Raffan ones are best. Classes are super but are one shot, dvd’s well…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3346 days

#5 posted 09-01-2010 06:43 AM I came across this guy and he has sparked my interest, can’t wait to get started

View William's profile


9906 posts in 2264 days

#6 posted 09-03-2010 07:35 PM

I agree with bdhost. I had that exact lathe, and if it wasn’t for my full face sheild, they’d probably still be picking wood out of my face. That particular lathe is DANGEROUS.
Woodturning is a lot of fun though. If you want to do it, get a halfway decent lathe though. I’m not saying break the bank. I’ve looked at the other one dbhost mentioned and it looks like a pretty good lathe. If I hadn’t already bought another one, I’d probably be getting that one.
I bought a lathe off Craiglist. It is chinese made, but much better than that one pictured that I originally bought from Harbor Freight.


View Riz's profile


41 posts in 2253 days

#7 posted 09-03-2010 08:02 PM

I own that lathe bought it for a hundred bucks brand new. If you can afford it buy a better one. The speeds are to fast in my opinion to rough out anything larger than maybe 8 inches. Which to me means i will never be able turn anything larger than 8”? Unless of course you know a thing or two about building machinery, and your willing to spend time and put the money into it. If I did it over again I would have bought a different machine. When I am done with it I’m hoping it will be more useable.
- 1 horse dc motor from surplus center is pretty cheap $40 bucks maybe
- Variable speed drive not so cheap $150 at least
- Heavy bench to bolt it down to, homemade but need lumber
- Concrete in the tubes, and possibly other places (for vibration dampening, and weight)
At this point it is just a plan. Haven’t done anything yet played around with it mostly, turned a Billy club out of a piece of firewood. Fiancé liked it and took it haven’t seen it since.

-- Paul "Riz" Erie, PA "Share your wisdom, it is the way to achieve immortality"

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3346 days

#8 posted 09-03-2010 08:16 PM

Thanks everyone I will go with what everyone said and stay away from it. Thanks again

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 2692 days

#9 posted 09-03-2010 08:26 PM

Classes, classes…books…dvds….are good places to start but most of all SAFETY. Never turn without safety glasses and a full face shield. You should also have good dust control…a DC with a collector at the lathe, and a good dust mask. There are excellent full face shields with dust control by Trend, 3M and Triton. Get one that is comfortable and you will use. I would also recommend a good apron or smock to keep the shavings from being flung into clothes or skin.

David Elsworth’s book on turning is excellent for beginners and there are tons of books and cds…make sure you get one geared to beginners. Take a look at the American Association of Woodturners online and see if there is a local turning club in your area…that is a great resource for learning…most turners are more than happy to help a beginner. A lot of the local woodworking stores have classes and demos on turning….I recommend to most that they start with pens or smaller projects that give instant gratification…and help establish basic skills. The folks at a demo or club can evaluate your lathe and equipment and suggest improvements that will make turning fun rather then a frustration.

The cost of the lathe is superficial to the cost of chisels, chucks, centers, and safety equipment….these items typically will cost you more than the lathe….if you turn pens, you will need the proper mandrel and pen kits. Basic starter kits are available for most of these items….but doing some research will save you some money and from purchasing junk you don’t need or won’t use.

Chucking, as you questioned, can be done a myriad of ways – tenons, inside dovetails, screw on plates, between centers…etc etc…that is usually one of the first basic skills and safety items to consider…there are many more and though alot of this can be self taught…the easiest is to find someone with experience that can help you.

I would agree with the folks above. If you are really interested in learning to turn…get a feel for it with a good lathe…and then if you like it get yourself a lathe you are satisfied with….getting a lathe without knowing what you are getting can end up hurting you or ruining the experience. Too many times I have seen folks buy lathes without any idea of what they want and then end up getting frustrated and quit….take your time…enjoy the experience….I have been turning for many years and I truly enjoy it….Lots of folks have called it the crack of woodworking because it is so enjoyable…and so addictive…but that is when it is done correctly and safely.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3346 days

#10 posted 09-03-2010 10:20 PM

I am passing on this Lathe but maybe something else will come along.
Thanks for all the good advice.

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3346 days

#11 posted 09-04-2010 05:12 PM

Well the guy with the Lathe called and left a message that he wanted to drop of the lathe I am calling him back to say I don’t want it. I go a Jet 22/44 Drum saner 3hp instead I guess wood turning goes to the back of the list this time.

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