A woodlathe is a tool which turns a piece of wood so you can shape it using a chisel. The woodlathe is used to create a specific shape. This shaping process is achieved by holding a chisel against the toolrest.Nowadays almost every woodlathe is mechanically driven by a drive belt.

The speed at which the work piece turns is regulated by switching the drive belt to different pulleys. Some woodlathes have electronic speed regulation. In the old days it was common to use a flat – often leather – belt to drive the lathe; even longer ago foot-powered lathes were used.

The more costly lathes have a frequency regulator to set the lathe’s speed by varying the speed of the motor itself. Usually this principle is used in combination with a 3 phase motor. As for metal lathes, wood lathes are using CNC and CAD-CAM more and more often. In these cases the chisel is no longer manually held against the tool rest, but controlled by the lathe itself. In some cases a router is used instead of a chisel.

A useful attachment for the woodlathe is a steady rest. This is a tool which is mounted on the bed of the lathe. A steady rest allows round objects to maintain level by using three small wheels which keep the turning object centered and prevent it from bending and wobbling whilst turning, thus also preventing unwanted ridges.

When turning a heavy object it is necessary to also have a heavier woodlathe to compensate for the inherent imbalance in practically every piece of wood. Hardly any piece wood is exactly round to start with or has even density throughout. The best material to compensate for such imbalance is cast-iron, which is heavy and has good stabilising qualities.

Instead of the common three claw chuck, used on metallathes, woodlathes have a special four claw chuck providing more grip on the work piece. The claw chucks used on metallathes are not safe for a woodlathe because of its smaller contact areas. The smaller contact areas would deform the wooden object too easily.

Nearly all the wood I work with I retrieve locally. People who want to remove a tree will call me and I’ll go there to cut it down and use it to work on. In some cases I buy wood for specific projects.