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How to use a Lathe

For cutting, shaping and shearing wood, a lathe can't be beat. Lathes are used to create cylinders and round furniture legs and also to cut designs with a variety of different chisels.

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lathes used to create cylinders and round legs
  • Time

    30 Minutes

  • Price Range

    $1 - $50

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Prepare the Stock

Lathes are used to create cylinders and round furniture legs and also to cut designs with a variety of chisels. For safety's sake, always wear a face shield when using a lathe. There are two methods of turning wood on a lathe: face-plate turning and spindle turning. Spindle turning is used to create furniture spindles as well as craft items such as pens and candlesticks, and the grain of the wood moves parallel to the axis of rotation. The first step of the process is to cut a cross in the end of the stock with a band saw (Image 1). Mount the stock onto the head and tail pieces of the lathe (Image 2). Clamp the tail stock and tighten with the hand wheel.

Step 2: Clamp the Hand Wheel

Once the stock is in place, clamp the hand wheel in place to keep the stock stationary. Rotate the stock to check the clearance. (The rotation should not interfere with any other parts of the lathe.) Secure the face shield.

Step 3: Smooth the Stock

Turn the lathe on and smooth the stock with a tool of your choice. Make sure the bevel of the tool rubs against the wood: that's how the depth of the cut is controlled. Once the stock reaches the desired shape and size, use sandpaper to smooth the surface.

smooth the stock

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