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Wood Lathes

Wood Lathes

How to Select a Wood Lathe

Finding the perfect wood lathe for your project can be a serious investment. There are so many factors that you might consider. After all, whether you are experienced or just getting started with wood turning you want to be sure to get the best your money can buy.

Want to know what to consider before you buy a lathe? Here at Circle Saw we take pride in helping you make that decision. We have everything you need from a mini lathe to a full-size model capable of turning huge spindles and bowls. 

First, think about the kind of projects you plan to do. How big will your projects be and what kind of wood will you be using? The size of your project and how dense your wood is will affect your choice of lathe


How fast you can cut the wood you are turning will impact how well your project turns out. If you are working with heavy wood and the motor is too small then your lathe may start to chatter. Worse yet, your wood and your project might be damaged.


If you are just getting started turning wood the highest speed you will need is typically 2,000rpm. A lot of machines have variable speed which suits beginners very well. Experienced woodworkers often choose different lathes based on the size and speed of the motor to be certain that they have exactly the right tool for whatever project they are working on.

For bowl turning you want one that will get under 500 R.P.M.’s


Do you need a large, floor lathe or will a mini-lathe do the job? That depends, of course on how big and how many projects you are planning. Floor machines are necessary for large projects and more powerful. But, they also take up a lot more space. If you expect to do smaller projects then a table-top mini lathe will do the trick.


The last thing a wood turner wants or needs is their equipment wobbling or chattering. Even if you are working on relatively small projects on a mini-lathe you still want it to be stable and secure. If you are considering a floor model make certain that it is rugged and won’t shift when you are working it the hardest.


According to The Society of Manufacturing Engineers, capacity is defined as:

The capacity of a lathe is expressed in two dimensions. The maximum part diameter, or "swing," and the maximum part length, or "distance between centers."

Why does capacity matter? Because certain projects will require longer or thicker pieces of wood. When you purchase your lathe be sure to consider whether the distances between centers and the swing are sufficient for your project.

Additional Factors:

While these are some of the most important factors to consider you should also think about weight, vibration, how easy it is to use and price. Purchasing your first or fifth lathe requires thought and analysis. 

Do you have more questions about the best wood lathe for you?  Come by our store in Houston if you can or just use the questions box on the right and Bill, the tool guy, will get back to you. If you want to chat during business hours you can call 866-439-8054 and ask for Bill or Alan. We’re here to help.