A woodworking lathe is a very specialized piece of woodworking machinery, however they can be highly rewarding if you get started correctly. Although there are many different types of woodworking lathes available they all operate in similar ways. Woodworking by hand is undoubtedly the most natural form of woodworking, and when started can often be very addictive.
The lathe works on the same basic principles as a table saw, with the exception of the spindle, which rotates around a axis. The spindle acts as the workpiece, while the blade, or tailstock, rotates around the vertical axis of the machine. The tailstock is pivotal to the operation of the machine tool as it holds the workpiece in position when the spindle is in operation. It can also be referred to as the chuck or sprocket. The work which is performed with the lathe can be described as being in plane, either across the blade or the axis of the machine tool.
There are several different types of lathes which are used for ornamental turning, the first of which being the CNC lathe. A CNC lathe functions much like an automatic machine shop in that it allows a production of high quality items from start to finish, including the provision of finer details. CNC lathes are used for turning, milling, planing, cutting, drilling and other precision machining operations. In order to perform these tasks a lathe needs to have the appropriate spindle, sprocket, cam, guides and so on.
There are two basic types of woodturning, the first being the horizontal movement which is commonly known as a clockwise or counterclockwise movement. The other is the vertical movement, with the lathe head clockwise or counterclockwise movement. Spindle, sprocket and cam are the three main components that are involved in the turning process. There are usually six to eight heads on each spindle and these are further divided into single, double and triple stands.
One of the simplest forms of woodturning is the bedside style of woodturning, in which the lathe is turned directly on to a workbench. Some other forms of bedside lathes include the CNC portable lathes, which provide a great deal of flexibility when operating in small areas. These portable devices have the ability to perform on both vertical and horizontal positions. The type of bedside lathe which you choose depends upon the type of turn you intend to do. While CNC machines allow a great degree of control, they do tend to be more expensive than other types of woodturning lathes.
The spindle and the chuck which are required to turn it are the other two important parts of a lathe unit. The chuck is responsible for holding the workpiece in position while the spindle is moved around to form the work. Most lathes will have three basic types of spindles, including flat, round and octagonal.
Cross slide or chain drive lathes have a sliding plate along the inside of the spindle with teeth, so that the slide does not pass through the chuck at all. The chain drive allows the workpiece to be moved in several directions at the same time, and the sliding plate and the chain drive are generally located in the same area as the chuck. The working pieces of the workpiece can also be moved by hand, but if the lathe is of a larger scale, this is much less difficult to manage. Cross-cutters are another feature of the various types of woodturning lathes available, which allow the user to cut a cross shaped piece of wood.
Woodworking lathes of the early century had a lot of the machine tools characteristic of them today. Although the lathe was generally used for small projects, they were often used for building ships, buildings and monuments. Even though there were many improvements made to these type of lathes, the lathe still remained an important part of the wood working trades for a long time to come. The lathe that is now commonly owned is much more likely to be used for fine woodworking than the earlier machines were.