Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Choosing A Wood Lathe: Accessories Can Make All The Difference

   Buying a wood lathe is different than purchasing almost any other stationary power tool. Most come ready to use right out of the box or with only a bit of assembly such as mounting the enclosed blade. Wood lathes generally come without cutting tools of any kind. All that come with the lathe are a faceplate and a couple of centers for mounting wood. However, tools and accessories are readily available and are either needed for turning or will add tremendously to the enjoyment. Still, it is necessary to make sure the desired accessories fit your lathe as it is definitely not a one size fits all proposition.
   A good beginner's set of tools will meet most of the needs of beginning and intermediate spindle turners. Generally a bowl gouge or an Oland tool must be purchased or made for spindle turning. Ensure that the tools are high speed steel and have comfortable handles. While a small set of tools makes it hard to turn large objects and a big set makes it hard to turn small ones, a medium sized set with shafts about seven inches long are commonly used for all sorts of sizes of turnings.
   The typical shop grinder is easily turned into a sharpening station with a couple of aluminium oxide wheels and a sharpening jig. While some experienced turners disdain the sharpening jigs, others love them and they make life much nicer for beginners.
   Accessories will include more centers and faceplates as well as various chucks and gadgets. Manufacturers have long ago noticed the buying power of wood turners and the near addiction to acquiring tools expressed by many. It is necessary to know some things about your lathe before buying.
   Generally accessories will attach to the headstock or tailstock. Headstocks come in a variety of sizes expressed in terms of their diameter and screw size expressed as teeth per inch or tpi. Common sizes for beginner length are one inch diameter by eight teeth per inch and three quarter inch diameter by sixteen teeth per inch. Accessories are easily available for both but may not be for some other sizes. In the UK metric sizes may be more prevalent.
   Tailstocks and headstocks will generally be bored through and then tapered, usually to a standard called the Morse taper. This will generally be a number one or number two Morse taper expressed as #1 or #2. The two are not interchangable but most accessories will be available in either size. These have been the industry standard for some time. Number three Morse tapers have been used on metal lathes for a long time and are being found more often on some of the larger wood lathes for sale.
   It should be noted that having a set of accessories that meet the accepted industry standards allow them to be moved on to new lathes. A good place to start is a beginner lathe with a one inch by eight tooth per inch headstock and number two Morse tapers in the headstock and tailstock. Such standards can have a woodturner looking at the after market accessories for a long time to come.