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Wood lathe questions for those who may know

Hello all,

I have been pondering this for years and I’m almost ready to jump in finally. I have done restoration work on briar tobacco pipes and other small items. Now I’m getting into brush restoration and I’m thinking of going a bit further and making some of my own wooden brush handles or even resin handles and pens. I would also like to be able to turn pipe related things on the lathe like stems.

I know nothing of lathes but I have a limited budget and workspace. Is there a mini type lathe that can handle these types of jobs? I see a lot of mini lathes that say “bead polishing” or something similar to including “bead”, are these only for making wooden beads or could one of these work for brush handles and pipes? I guess I’m just in need of some direction and advice regarding starting out wood turning or resin turning. Where to start? Thanks.


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The very first wood lathes were foot powered. The Romans used these at the time of Christ. A cord could be tied to a springy branch in a tree above. Then the cord wrapped around the end of the workpiece and went down to a foot treadle. People still make and use these lathes. One drawback is that the direction of the spin reverses every few turns when the spring or weight returns to its position of rest, and then reverses again when the treadle is pushed down.

I have had a wood lathe for 60 years, although I use it only occasionally. Work mounts differently on it than on many lathes sold today. For a longer piece there is a spur chuck on the headstock and a pointed center on the tailstock. For turning a bowl the workpiece is glued to a wood cushion mounted on a faceplate. Sandwiching a piece of newspaper between the cushion piece and the workpiece makes breaking the glue joint at the end easy, yet the workpiece is held firmly during turning. Some small pieces can also be mounted to a screw chuck. Mounting small pieces is alway tricky. The piece needs to be held solidly enough that it does not spin off and fly across the room. A screw chuck requires a sacrificial section on the end that can provide the hole for the screw and either be plugged with a dowel on the final product, or cut off and discarded so no screw hole is visible.

Newer lathes probably have a spur chuck or a screw chuck, or a faceplate; but, also can mount a three or a four jaw chuck like a metal lathe. Those allow more possibilities for mounting small pieces, like a brush handle. A three jaw chuck will be more expensive.

People do build their own lathes from fairly common materials and with fairly common tools. Some commercially produced wood lathes cost a great deal more than is necessary for turning a few small things. You need a solid way of mounting the work and a sturdy tool rest to support the chisels. Before you buy, look around the Internet for a good design you might want to try for building your own. Years ago a company named AMT made inexpensive home woodworking machinery. You might even find one of those used.

It is good to be able to adjust the spindle speed. When the work is rough a slower speed is better. A medium speed is good for forming your object. A high speed is used for finish work. Traditionally speeds are changed by manually moving a belt on a set of multi-shieve pulleys. Some now use a constant velocity transmission adjusted with a knob. Some use an electronic variable speed control.
 
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Hello all,

I have been pondering this for years and I’m almost ready to jump in finally. I have done restoration work on briar tobacco pipes and other small items. Now I’m getting into brush restoration and I’m thinking of going a bit further and making some of my own wooden brush handles or even resin handles and pens. I would also like to be able to turn pipe related things on the lathe like stems.

I know nothing of lathes but I have a limited budget and workspace. Is there a mini type lathe that can handle these types of jobs? I see a lot of mini lathes that say “bead polishing” or something similar to including “bead”, are these only for making wooden beads or could one of these work for brush handles and pipes? I guess I’m just in need of some direction and advice regarding starting out wood turning or resin turning. Where to start? Thanks.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

If you are just planning to turn brushes and smaller items then a mini lathe would serve you well. They are inexpensive and more than enough to turn brushes, pens or what have you so long as you don't need to turn anything longer than about 12" in length.
They lack the power and space to turn larger items.
 
If you do a search on YouTube for Dogwood Handcrafts I think he has many videos up where he has turned acrylic and/ or wooden brush handles.

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That’s a super nice one! I like it but it’s out of my price range right now.


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Do you own a Dremel tool? It is possible to mount an electric drill to use as a lathe motor. Then you could use the Dremel tool with an appropriate cutter to shape the work as the drill motor turns it.
 
These are decent for a mini first lathe, have a three year warranty and variable speed.



Not sure if there is more than 1year on this one , still...

 
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I bought my first metal lathe with absolutely no knowledge of how to use it. It has been, and continues to be, a wonderful journey of learning how to use the thing. I realize that I am barely scratching the surface (pun intended) of what master machinists can do with one of these things.
Remember that metal or wood lathes need quality tooling to make quality work. Said tooling can cost more than the purchase price of the lathe. One of the benefits of buying used is often some tooling is included.
If you are buying used, and you have no knowledge or experience with a lathe, it's a good idea to have someone accompany you with that knowledge before buying, similar to taking a used car to a mechanic before you buy it.
 
I bought my first metal lathe with absolutely no knowledge of how to use it. It has been, and continues to be, a wonderful journey of learning how to use the thing. I realize that I am barely scratching the surface (pun intended) of what master machinists can do with one of these things.
Remember that metal or wood lathes need quality tooling to make quality work. Said tooling can cost more than the purchase price of the lathe. One of the benefits of buying used is often some tooling is included.
If you are buying used, and you have no knowledge or experience with a lathe, it's a good idea to have someone accompany you with that knowledge before buying, similar to taking a used car to a mechanic before you buy it.
Great info and advice. I appreciate it.


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Thanks for that. I like the dust catcher you have rigged up behind the new one!
Dust is a big concern as my shop is in my basement and since that picture was taken
I have upgraded the dust collection system for all of the stations in the shop.
There is a lot more than having a Lathe that goes into turning anything .
 
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