The Content Of The Article:


Modern machines used to turn wood are very close - in principle and in appearance - to the traditional carpentry and cabinetmaking process. (Non-contractual photo, does not necessarily reflect the drawing)

The essential improvement is in the electric motor drive while the old towers were driven by a pedal system. Many manufacturers offer drills in drill adaptation for machining small and medium parts. The shop towers are equipped with an independent motor.
A lathe with wood allows to realize all the cylindrical parts, molded or not:

  • table legs, chair, bed,
  • Ornamental columns of buffet.

It is also the turn that one shapes hollow objects:
  • salad bowls,
  • bowls,
  • cups.

The work on the tour requires some experience but, fairly quickly, an amateur accustomed to woodworking can succeed in quite complex decorative pieces.

Characteristics of the wood lathe

The motor must be able to turn quickly so that the notching of the wood is correct. The maximum speed is 3,000 rpm and even 4,000 rpm on some devices.
The power of the engine is of the order of 1 or 1.5 hp. Parts rotating between two points, it is necessary to take into account the maximum distance between them. This distance, on independent towers, varies between 0.80 m and 1.20 m. The height of the tips above the turning bench determines the maximum diameter of the turned pieces. This height ranges from 16 cm (diameter 32 cm) to 20 cm (diameter 40 cm).
The machine comprises two points, or dolls, to fix and drive the parts. The training doll has claws that penetrate into the end of the room. The rotating point, or counter-point, slides on the turning bench and is immobilized by a manual screw. The transmission of the motor shaft to the drive doll is done by belt. 3- or 4-speed machines have a 3- or 4-stage pulley.
The change of speed is done by the passage of the belt on different bearings. The most advanced lathes have a speed variator that adjusts the pace depending on the diameter of the parts worked. The smaller the diameter of the pieces, the higher the speed.
During the turning, the tools (gouges, scissors or chisels) are supported on a support also serving as hand support. This piece slides along the bench and can be blocked by manual screw. The height of the tool stand is adjustable. For routine work, use a tool holder or hand rest, 25 cm wide.
The wood lathe must be very stable. It is usually marketed with a sturdy metal base, sometimes incorporating storage shelves. There are also lighter wood towers, to be fixed on a bench.

Anatomy and holding of the lathe

Anatomy and holding of the lathe


The training doll can receive different equipment. The tip with 3 or 4 claws is used for routine work. When one turns "in the air" for the realization of a hollowed bowl, for example, one works only on a single point. The piece is then fixed on a screwdriver (pigtail). We can also use a mandrel with 3 concentric jaws to fix the base of the parts without damaging it, or a bare plate pierced with threaded holes on which the part is screwed.
Small objects (eggcups) are turned in the air using a cup mandrel.
Many models may receive a piercing assembly comprising:

  • a centering pin that attaches to the drive doll,
  • a drilling bezel mounted in place of the tailstock,
  • a wick of great length.

This device is useful for piercing turned parts over their entire length
(the lamp stands in particular).
Long pieces and small diameter are hard to turn because they
break easily. The telescope is mounted on the bench; It has adjustable wooden wrenches that keep the workpiece rotating. set of turning tools including roughing and finishing gouges, planes (oblique scissors), chisels and straight scissors.


The lathe is a little dangerous machine if the safety instructions are respected. Disconnect the machine before mounting or dismantling a part. Never run it empty. Do not wear loose clothing and in case of long hair, it is best to keep them picked up and covered.

On the same topic

  • Questions answers
    • Where to find a wood lathe in drill adaptation?
  • DIY tips
    • Wood and wood-based panels
    • Tutorial: how to use a wood lathe

This may interest you

Video Instruction: The Infamous Mini Lathe!