What is a Wood Lathe?

A wood lathe is used to smooth and shape wood.
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  • Written By: Shannon Kietzman
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2014
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A wood lathe is a machine used to smooth and shape wood. In addition to lathes for wood, lathes are also available for working with metal and glass. Each of these lathes are commonly used by crafters and do-it-yourselfers in order to customize and complete projects.

In order to use a wood lathe, the crafter must insert a piece of wood into a special holder called a center. This center holds the wood in place so it can be shaped using the device with a variety of handheld blades. Some types of lathes, however, are capable of holding the blade in place, so the user does not have to hold the blade. The center spins the wood rapidly as the crafter applies the blade to the surface of the wood piece.

A wood lathe can be fitted with a variety of different blades. These blades can be of different widths, angles, and shapes. The type of blade determines the way the machine will cut the wood. Some blades are wide with sharper angles and intended to cut large portions of wood away from the piece. Other blades are sharper or pointier, and are used for detailing.


A crafter may also use a wood lathe to assist with sandpapering the surface of the wood. Rather than holding the piece in hand and rubbing it repeatedly with a piece of sandpaper, the crafter can allow the machine to spin the piece as he or she holds a piece of sandpaper against it. This makes it possible to finish sanding in a much shorter period of time and is also less physically demanding on the user.

Wood lathes can be used to create a variety of objects. For crafting and general woodworking, they can create decorative spindles to be used in the creation of table and chair legs. They can also be used to make cue sticks, baseball bats, and any other wooden object that needs to be cylindrical and smooth in shape.


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