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Opinion - using a metal lathe for wood turning?

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Forum topic by mathguy1981 posted 12-06-2018 04:07 PM 825 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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mathguy1981

83 posts in 106 days


12-06-2018 04:07 PM

I’m in no hurry but I’m looking for a good, used lathe. I’m interested in turning both wood, and occasionally metal. There are far, far more metal lathes (tool room lathes) out there on CL then wood lathes. I’ve watched a fair bit of youTube channels on metal working, and obviously on wood turning. Except for the cost, at 2-3x what a wood lathe would go for, and a different spindle size/chuck, I don’t see why you couldn’t turn wood AND sometimes metal on a metal lathe?

-- Two thumbs and counting


15 replies so far

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BHZ

19 posts in 1180 days


#1 posted 12-06-2018 04:17 PM

Dad did with his, I still amazed at how he was able to control the in-out, left-right hand wheels to form smooth curves.

I just welded this tool rest to use.

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mathguy1981

83 posts in 106 days


#2 posted 12-06-2018 04:18 PM

Yes, exactly, you’d just need to add a standard wook workers tool rest. That’s what I’m thinking….Looking for someone to explain why it’s a really bad idea, because the ability to do both is intriguing….

-- Two thumbs and counting

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HokieKen

7127 posts in 1340 days


#3 posted 12-06-2018 04:32 PM

The biggest downside is getting wood dust in the all the nooks and crannies. Bearings probably aren’t sealed, lots of gears in the headstock and carriage apron that are oiled and exposed. Oil+sawdust=sticky film.

The biggest problem is that metal-working lathes don’t spin fast enough. For instance, my South Bend metal lathe has a high speed of 1200 rpm. My Delta woodworking lathe has a high speed of 4000 rpm.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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MrUnix

7050 posts in 2401 days


#4 posted 12-06-2018 04:43 PM

Sure you can do it… as long as you can get the lathe to run at the speeds needed. Metal lathes use super slow speeds compared to wood lathes, and usually won’t turn fast enough unless modified to do so… for example, my South Bend 9” lathe has a top spindle speed of 630 RPM.

Also… oil, sawdust, swarf and wood chips don’t mix well.

As sort of a side-observation – just about everyone I know who has a wood/metal band saw uses it for a single material (ie: wood or metal), and rarely switch between the two. Those that do so frequently have two saws… one dedicated to each :)

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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HokieKen

7127 posts in 1340 days


#5 posted 12-06-2018 04:48 PM

And, just to add on to what Brad and I said about the speed, it’s not just a matter of putting a faster motor or changing the drive pulley to speed it up. The bearings on a metal lathe most likely aren’t going to be up to handling those kinds of speeds.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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GrantA

732 posts in 1609 days


#6 posted 12-06-2018 05:06 PM

^ditto what Brad & Kenny said
I have used my metal lathe to center drill a piece of wood because it’s accurate for that sort of thing but actual wood turning, no way. It’s a precision machine with lots of exposed oily parts to collect sawdust

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mathguy1981

83 posts in 106 days


#7 posted 12-06-2018 05:09 PM

Okay, that makes sense. I hadn’t considered the spindle speed differences.
Thanks guys! Guess I’ll have to pick my poison and get one or the other.

-- Two thumbs and counting

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HokieKen

7127 posts in 1340 days


#8 posted 12-06-2018 05:12 PM

I don’t know what you had in mind as far as turning metal but, you can turn soft metals like brass and aluminum using wood turning tools on a wood turning lathe. Of course you don’t have the precision of a metal turning lathe but just food for thought.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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GrantA

732 posts in 1609 days


#9 posted 12-06-2018 05:15 PM

Also, a bit of advice. Be prepared to invest at least a couple if not several hundred in tooling for a metal lathe, that’s assuming you get some sort of tool post with it. If you want to turn wood primarily pickup a wood lathe and have fun – the investment in money and time will be much lower. Then decide if you want to devote the space and money to a metal lathe.
With that said my metal lathe isn’t going anywhere, and I plan to upgrade to a better wood lathe than the old HF one I have now but it does work just fine

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Planeman40

1307 posts in 2963 days


#10 posted 12-06-2018 05:58 PM

As was said earlier, expect a problem of wood dust working its way into the sliding/rotating parts of the machine. This can reach a point where the sliding/rotating parts become jammed and won’t move! I can testify to this as I had to partially dismantle a metal lathe to clean it out. The carriage was locked up tight! Metal lathes have very close fitting parts with an oil film on them that adhere the wood dust and jam the workings.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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mathguy1981

83 posts in 106 days


#11 posted 12-06-2018 05:59 PM

Thanks everyone, you certainly gave me the points I was looking for to look before I leaped. I need a bigger shop, I’ve decided, LOL.

-- Two thumbs and counting

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

7127 posts in 1340 days


#12 posted 12-06-2018 06:01 PM



Thanks everyone, you certainly gave me the points I was looking for to look before I leaped. I need a bigger shop, I ve decided, LOL.

- mathguy1981

Hey, whaddaya know, me too!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

2476 posts in 2336 days


#13 posted 12-07-2018 11:30 AM

Could spend lot of time on CL looking for a wood lathe that is any good. Not sure what you want to turn but Harbor Freight’s 12” x 33” wood lathe not that expensive. Can see reviews at their site & on this one.

-- Bill

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HokieKen

7127 posts in 1340 days


#14 posted 12-07-2018 01:57 PM

I’ll recommend their midi lathe for a beginning lathe as well if you’re interested in smaller stuff like pens and tool handles and smaller bowls.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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Phil32

271 posts in 105 days


#15 posted 12-08-2018 12:05 AM

We have found that our local woodturning club often announces (by email) lathes that are being sold by members. If that fails they may resort to CL.

-- Phil Allin - Ventura, CA

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