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What is the wood lathe for?

The woodworking lathe is a machine able to activate the rotation of a piece of wood at a variable speed through a pulley system.

During this rotation process, a sharp tool (chisel, gouge, chisel) is pushed against the wood to eliminate excess material, thus shaping the piece. This, for the sole processing of the side part, can be fixed at the ends between a point and a tailstock (the so-called longitudinal or bar machining).

Vice versa, it can be mounted on the lathe so as to work both the side and the free end (in this case we speak of transversal or slab processing, ie with the piece supported by a single end).

The combination of the way the operator handles the tool, the speeds of the lathe and the rapid creation of very elaborate shapes give the machined pieces a unique charm.

Lathe processing is also the only way to make certain curved or particular-looking objects in a practical way.

What can you do with a wood lathe?

The wood lathe mainly allows two types of processing: longitudinal and transverse.

Longitudinal processing is capable of producing substantially cylindrical shaped articles, with profiles of the most varied shapes (elements for railings, table and chair legs, bars, stair pillars, handles for many types of tools, etc.).

The transversal processing instead serves to produce objects with a round shape, such as plates, bowls, basins, lamp bases, cups, egg cups, vases and so on.

With a professional wood lathe, as well as making any type of wooden product, you can perform what in the industry is called "metal printing", or the creation of hollow shapes (jugs, vases, etc.) or flaring, starting from round and flat plates or from semi-finished objects of soft metal, such as brass or copper.

If you plan to try your hand at this type of work, you will need to get yourself a lathe equipped with a blunt tip, since it will not only cut, but only push. This is why this machine is also called a "forming lathe".

Types of wood lathe

The lathe is formed by a pallet on which its fundamental elements are installed: the turret with motor and drag fork, the turret with the tailstock and the tool rest.

A professional wood lathe therefore consists of a base (supported for example on a work bench), but it can also be equipped with its own legs.

An electric motor is installed on the base which, thanks to a system of interchangeable pulleys, allows the movement of the spindle (headstock).

On the spindle is then inserted a dragging fork, formed by a sort of trident which, sticking in the wood, allows the piece to rotate. Also on the spindle it is possible to mount a plate (called a dial) which is used for cross-turning.

The base also has two sliding structures:

the tool rest, very useful for supporting chisels and gouges;
the tailstock, which serves to hold and support the piece, but allows it to rotate.
The tailstock in turn is formed by a slightly rounded end which has the function of retaining the terminal part of the piece during the longitudinal working process.

However, there are different types of wood lathe. Let's see together the most common ones:

  • Wood lathe with column drill: it has a vertical structure, very similar to that of a common drill and is often used by DIY enthusiasts.
  • Wood lathe with variator: it is a professional lathe equipped with both electronic speed variator and distance. The speed variator is particularly useful because it allows to change the rotation speed gradually.
  • Wood lathe with turret: it is a type of lathe similar to that used for metal turning and is also equipped with a copier.
  • Wood lathe with rotating head: it is the ideal tool for those who want to do a bit of everything with wood and can even mount a copier. This lathe is intended for small joinery, since with just one machine you can have all the processing functions available. This type of lathe is chosen by hobbyists for its good qualities of strength and stability.
  • Wood lathe with spindle: it represents the model of traditional lathe that allows the processing of the material by hand (it is not equipped with a copier);
  • Wood lathe with copier: it is a lathe that works with a counter-shape where the guide slides and allows to work the tool (among the models most used by carpentry professionals).

How much can a wood lathe cost?

On the market there are essentially two types of lathes for wood: bench and stationary.

The bench lathes are the cheapest and obviously less stable than the stationary ones. The latter, on the other hand, are the most expensive and are perfect for any work, even the most complicated.

Therefore, as with many other machines, even wood lathe can have a very variable cost based on the models chosen and the intended uses, professional or hobby.

If we talk about a useful equipment for do-it-yourself, the prices are around 200 euros or a little more, costs that are further reduced by turning to the used market.

In the case of professional wood lathes, however, the situation changes considerably. For the smaller ones, over the counter, you may be able to find good deals even for less than 300 euros but, if your intention is to buy a machine for your company, the amount to invest could be considerable.

In this case, in fact, we talk about figures that can vary from a few thousand euros up to touching much higher quotas. But let's say that, for a good professional lathe, the amount to spend varies from 600 euros to thousands of euros for the most reliable brands and models.


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