View Full Version : what are the pros and cons

14th Sep 2009, 10:48 PM
Of using a metalwork lathe for turning timber:?:?

Was looking in the metalwork forum and it seems to me you get more bang for your bucks with a metal lathe than a wood lathe- AND you could possibly turn both materials.

14th Sep 2009, 10:58 PM
Other than getting shavings in every nookie and cranny probably no reason.

14th Sep 2009, 11:19 PM
With a wood lathe you will have your hands very close to the spinning material while turning and sanding. Most wood lathes are belt driven and the belts will slip if a major mishap occurs, and yes injuries do happen, but usually only a bad abrasion or a busted finger or two. Machine lathes on the other hand are gear driven and do not stop or stall when grinding into human flesh and bone. I've seen it happen and it's not a pretty sight. I will stick to my wood lathe for turning wood and my machine lathe for turning metal.


14th Sep 2009, 11:30 PM
Even the expensive ones don't have a swivel head.....:U

Not having had much experience with metal lathes I can't comment with any insight into your question. But, I do know that my brother who has taught fitting and metal turning at TAFE for many years made his own woodturning lathe... and reckon he wouldn't have bothered if he thought a metal lathe would do the job.

14th Sep 2009, 11:36 PM
Not quite sure but I thought Metal Lathes spun at a slower speed range and may not be able to get to faster speeds needed for timber....but I may stand corrected.

Ad de Crom
15th Sep 2009, 01:31 AM
Arthur it's possible to use a metal lathe for woodturning with adapting some things.Look to the website of Ken Grunke, a woodturner from wisconsin. http://www.token.crwoodturner.com/shop/

15th Sep 2009, 02:21 AM
Thanks for the quick replies fellas.

I asked this question because I dipped into the metalworking forums and there is a very interesting thread there with a lot of discussion on the most modern smaller metal lathes.

From what I see the best of them have brushless motors with infinitely variable speed up to about 3000 revs, cost is under $1000. Sound pretty good to me,

Skew ChiDAMN!!
15th Sep 2009, 04:37 AM
Having tried turning wood on a mates' metal lathe, I'd say the main considerations are... oil & water.

Dust in a metal lathes ever-present oil isn't a good combination. Nor is leaving green shavings on the bed overnight. DAMHIKT. :B

Besides that, I didn't have any problems more serious than working with an independant jaw chuck and his not having a tailspur suitable for woodturning. Both which would be easily overcome if my mate ever let me (and wood) near his lathe again. :rolleyes:

15th Sep 2009, 06:19 AM
Must admit I don't really know a lot about metal lathes. But the specs on the ones I looked at talk about #2 and #3 Morse tapers. I assume the #3 is for the head stock and the #2 is for the tailstock.

I guess that the advancement in metal lathe design has been even superior to that in woodlathes so the old heavily built, last forever jobs are no longer a proposition for many people.

My brother has a Hercus and swears blind it is better than the modern %#^%$#. Funny how he just can't do some things on it, how hard is to get parts and how it is not metric compatible.

15th Sep 2009, 09:39 AM
I have often wondered the same thing Arthur. Looking at the metal turning lathes you can see the quality in them compared to a wood turning lathe seems to be far superior and look to be very precise.

15th Sep 2009, 09:59 AM
I'm sure I've read some people over in the pen forum using metal lathes per turning pens... Maybe pens are suited to the more precise nature of the metal lathe.


15th Sep 2009, 10:02 AM
I've used metal and wood lathes quite extensively. I have also turned wood on metal lathes when stuck without a wood lathe.

The construction of a woodlathe is such that dust really doesn't affect the works whereas dust will buildup and bind the carriage and cross slides of a metal lathe.

Generally the centre line of a wood lathe is much higher above the bed on a woodlathe making the toolrest easier to use than it would be if you retro fitted a tool rest on top of a metal lathe.

The speeds of a metal lathe are too low for turning wood.

15th Sep 2009, 11:59 AM

The other day I looked up where you are staying and had the thought that it would be easier to find a metal lathe than a wood lathe.

You are about 100 miles north of the manufacturing area of Embraer Aircraft, so there would be many machine shops to serve them. If you could get a tour of used machinery shops and junk yards I bet you could find something.

Asking at active machine shops might work also. Sometimes old lathes are set in the back or out behind the shop and left to die.

You would not need the ability to turn threads and the lack of a carriage would not hurt wood turning, so you could find a lathe that would be on little use to a machine shop that might work fine for you.

Getting one home is not as big a problem as one might think. The belt driven lathes come apart easily. I took mine apart and stuffed in all in a Ford Festiva, Kia Pride in Asia.

Metal lathes are discarded sometimes because the beds become worn so the carriage drops down a few thousands of an inch as it tracks and the cut is not accurate.

Many of the older metal lathes are belt driven. I have a 10 inch swing, 28 inch between centers South Bend. The spindle thread is 2 1/4 inch X 8, tailstock MT2. It weighs 1060 pounds with cabinet. Motor is in the cabinet. It has 12 speeds between 55 and 1400 rpm. I paid so little for it I will not disclose. It has a sag worn in the cast iron bed. I bought it to make parts for my monster bowl lathe, in process.

Here is a forum and thread that deals with the type of lathe that would be suitable for wood working. You would have to join to see the photos.


Good luck on your search.

I reread the thread:

"From what I see the best of them have brushless motors with infinitely variable speed up to about 3000 revs, cost is under $1000. Sound pretty good to me,"

My thinking is toward big bowl lathes, oops. I'll leave the post, as it might help someone.

I did start wood turning on a 7 X 12 Chinese metal lathe, soon broke a belt from a catch, then a gear. Moved to a very used 12 inch swing Delta with a pot metal headstock, headstock wore loose from the bed. Now have a Hegner 175 which is holding up under 2 to 4 hours a day, 6 days a week.

15th Sep 2009, 07:43 PM
No no no no no no


15th Sep 2009, 08:18 PM
No no no no no no


In the immortal words of Pauline Hanson: "Please explain."

17th Sep 2009, 06:54 AM

This is what I had in mind for a metal lathe used for wood.

Machine Lathe (Bennington NH)

<hr> Date: 2009-09-13, 5:49PM EDT
Reply to: sale-gqwg2-1372780333@craigslist.org <sup>[Errors when replying to ads? (http://www.craigslist.org/about/help/replying_to_posts)]</sup>
This is an antique Machine Lathe made by F.E. Reed out of Worceseter Mass. All original.
It was sold by Joseph Beal and Company of Boston Mass.
It is free to anyone who wants it.

Location: Bennington NH
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

<table summary="craigslist hosted images"> <tbody><tr> <td align="center">http://images.craigslist.org/3nb3pd3l25O15Q55Rb99d92a7b6e948451d4e.jpg</td> <td align="center">http://images.craigslist.org/3kb3m53lf5O05Q75S999d9a19e16659c61d07.jpg</td> </tr> <tr> <td align="center">
</td> <td align="center">
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> And for turning pens:

"Recently acquired an older small lathe, bench top, 36" long bed, 7in. swing. I've looked it all over but cannot find and maker's name, model or numbers. It is very well made and in very good condition. I'm hoping someone will identify it. It is missing all its change gears, less the ones installed. I was told it was a F.E. Reed by the previous owner/antique dealer, but cannot find anything that supports that claim."

http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/picture.php?albumid=53&pictureid=296 Reed lathe 1

17th Sep 2009, 08:56 AM
Great machine Paul!!:2tsup::2tsup::2tsup:

Imagine the number of modern lathes tied up in that mass of metal.:D:D:rolleyes:

17th Sep 2009, 09:00 AM
Arthur yep Ornamental turners have been using machine lathes for wood turning for centuries go for it.