Woodturning on a Metal Lathe (They’re Actually Pretty Good)
Woodturning on a metal lathe
Most people don’t know this, but you can actually do woodturning on a metal lathe.
“But how?” you ask. “Aren’t they too fast for wood?”
Well, yes, they are too fast, but if you slow them down, then you can. When I say “slow them down,” I mean really slow. Usually around 500 RPM is a good speed.
The problem is, that’s slower than most metal lathes can go. You’ll need to have a lathe that has a low enough speed range.
The reason why you can’t use high speeds on wood is because it’ll either burn the piece, or, if you’re using a high speed steel tool, it’ll tear it up something fierce. You’ll want to use carbide tools for this, as they don’t have the tendency to tear up the wood at high speeds.
The only other thing you’ll need to watch out for is the torque. If your lathe has a lot of torque, then you’ll need to be more careful when it comes to using the carbide tools, because they’ll grab the piece more easily. In general, go for a smaller carbide tool.
What’s the advantage of turning on a metal lathe?
The main advantage of turning on a metal lathe is that you can do faceplate turning. That is, you can work on the front and the back of a piece at the same time, which makes your work much easier. The reason why you can do this is because metal lathes have a spindle bore that allows you to thread rods through them.
This means that you can do more advanced projects that require you to have a rod through the piece. For example, you can make a lamp, or you can make a piece that’s supposed to be suspended. The possibilities are endless.
What’s the disadvantage of turning on a metal lathe?
The main disadvantage of turning on a metal lathe is that you can’t do spindle turning. That is, you can’t do any turning that requires the piece to be mounted in a metal collet chuck.
That’s because metal lathes don’t have collet chucks. They only have three-jaw and four-jaw chucks, which are used for holding metal stock.
What would I need to get started with woodturning on a metal lathe?
The first thing you’ll need to get is a low speed metal lathe. The speed range is the most important thing to look out for. You’ll want one that goes down to 500 RPM, or at least 600 RPM at the lowest.
The second thing you’ll need to get is a carbide turning tool. You’ll want to get a smaller one with a round nose, as the flat nose ones aren’t useful for woodturning. Carbide turning tools are a bit expensive, but they last a long time.
While you’re at it, you might as well get a carbide parting tool. This makes parting off the piece much easier than using a regular parting tool, because you don’t have to worry about the tool tearing up the piece.