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Lathe 101

What can it do?! - Inspiration

  • Bowl

  • Mini-bowl

  • Pen

  • Magic Wand

  • Spinning top

  • Chess Pieces

  • Candle holde

Parts of the Lathe

  • Bed - the base of the machine

  • Headstock – has motor that turns the spindle

  • The face plate, spur centre, or chuck attaches to the spindle and secures your piece

  • Tailstock - with moveable quill

  • A live centre (it turns freely) can attach to the quil and secure material in compression

  • A drill bit can be attached to the quil to drill through the centre if the material is secured with only one end

  • Tool Rest - to rest lathe tools on

  • Tool Rest is attached to the Banjo, which slides on the bed all very adjustable.


Safety Considerations

  • The most dangerous injuries from a Lathe are:

    • Material chipping off and hitting your eyes

    • Being sucked into the rotating material - potentially deadly

  • Be aware of anything or anyone in the rotational path, in front and behind

  • Keep hands away from cutting/drilling/turning mechanisms

  • ALWAYS unplug a tool before servicing it

  • Material should reach full speed before cutting

  • Ensure participants turn tool off before passing off to next person

  • Lathe tools can catch which usually pulls them further into the material

Machine Setup

  • Securing Material

    • Spur Centre and Live Center

      • Material is in compression

      • Mark centres in both end and saw an X in one end

    • Faceplate

      • Material is held on one end by screws through the faceplate

      • The bottom section of material is “sacrificied”

      • Always use use high quality steel or stainless screws to mount material to screw plate

    • Chuck

      • Material is clamped in the chuck

      • A chuck will have a maximum diameter

  • Speed Setting

    • The material should pass by the tool at the same speed

      • Small diameter piece - high speed

      • Large diameter piece - slow speed  

      • As the material gets thinner, the speed should increase

      • You can use math to find the RPM range:
        Take 6’000 for the minimum speed and 9’000 for the maximum speed divided by the diameter in inches.
        Ex. for a 6” bowl, the range will be 1’000 - 1’500 rpm

    • General guidelines:

      • Go slow if your material is weak

      • Roughing passes should be done slower than the lower RPM suggested

      • Finishing passes are done faster

      • With new material, start as slow as possible then ramp it up so it doesn’t self destruct

  • Tool Rest

    • A little below the centre

    • Place as close to the material without it touching

    • Test to make sure the material clears the tool rest

    • Never adjust the tool rest when the material is rotating

Lathe Tools

  • Spindle Roughing Gouge

    • Good for turning from block to round or rounded decorative cuts

    • Tilt opening of cutting edge in direction of cut

    • Keep it close to the tool rest because it’s not extremely strong (on the desktop lathes, it’s not a problem)

  • Skew Chisel

    • Good for leaving a fine finish or sharp decorative cuts

    • Ride the bevel sideways across the material to quickly make a fine finish

    • Always keep the cutting edge vertical even when coming in at an angle

    • Tool can catch easily - demonstrate a catch

      • Cut using the bottom 1/3 of the cutting edge (mark it with a felt)

      • Cutting with the higher end has risk of catching

  • Parting Tool

    • For making 90 degree carves and/or parting the material from the stock

  • Other tools not covered today

    • Bowl Gouge

      • Same cutting edge as the Spindle Roughing Gouge but it’s stronger

      • Can be used further from the tool rest ( ie. on the inside of a bowl )

    • Scrapers

      • Cust using the burr by pulling against the piece

      • Safer than other tools because if there’s a catch the tool is pushed off the material


  • Holding the Lathe Tool

    • Tool always on the tool rest

    • Back hand holds the tool tight while the front hand guides it

    • Front hand position:

      • Wrap a fist around the tool, resting ar pinky and the bottom of the fist on the tool rest - Good for roughing cuts

      • Hold index finger under the tool and pushing parallel against the tool rest with the thumb on top of the tool pointed forwards - Good for finer cuts

      • Note: your fist / finger resting on the tool rest can feel minute changes

  • Watch the back edge of the material for how the cuts are going

  • When turning from block to round, rest tool on top of material to check the progress - if the tool jumps, it is not yet round

  • Ride the Bevel ( of the lathe tool cutting edge )

    • Place the bevel of the cutting edge on the material - you can rest the tool here and it won’t cut

    • To cut, life up the tail - lots of control

    • Even while cutting, all lathe tools rest on the bevel ( except for scrapers )

  • Parting Material

  1. Lower the speed a little

  2. Using the Parting Tool, cut through most of the material first by the tailstock then by the headstock

  3. Rest your left arm on the headstock and hold the left hand underneath ready to catch the material

  4. Using your right hand and the parting tool, finish cutting through the material and the catch it

  5. Turn off the lathe

Types of Cuts

  • Decorative Cuts

    • Beads

    • Coves

    • V-Cuts

Basic Workflow

  1. Setup blanks

  2. Mark centers, on both sides centre punch and on head stock end, saw slits for the spurs

  3. Turn a block round

  4. Mark out transitions

  5. Cut details

  6. Sand

  7. Oil/ wax

  8. Part it from the stalk

  9. Sand the ends

  10. Stain the ends