Metal lathe generally turn/spin a lot slower than a woodworking lathe,
will probably not be good for some sizes of turns that require higher
speeds. At least thats what my shop teacher BIL has told me.
Rich Andrews wrote:
It all depends on what you want to turn. Given a decent metal lathe, you should
be able to turn wood if you just make a tool rest. Of course, if you turn green
wood, you'll need to do something to protect the ways and cross-slide table from
the water, or you'll end up with a rusty mess.
I currently have both a chinese manufactured (gasp!) metal lathe and a couple of
wood lathes, and use each for their intended purpose, most of the time. My big
wood lathe has bigger bearings on a wider spread than my metal lathe, (both are
timken tapered rollers) so I do press it into service now and then on larger
diameter, simple metalworking jobs. I have a cross slide table and toolpost that
I use with the wood lathe, which has a 3hp variable speed 3-phase motor and VFD
so I can dial in the spindle speed I want. No thread cutting capabilities, but I
don't need to cut threads on things that won't fit on the real metal lathe. The
big wood lathe has a 42 inch swing to the bed, and if I really needed to go
larger I could unbolt the bed and use free standing toolrest if I was foolhardy
I have used the metal lathe for smaller wood (it has a maximum 17 inch swing over
the bed), particularly miniatures before I got a little wood lathe. It worked
just fine as long as I was using seasoned, dry wood. Turning wet wood would be
an exercise in disaster, because I can never seem to get everywhere the water
can, and the rust would be a problem. Where I live, things rust fast enough
anyway because the humidity is rarely below 60 percent. The biggest problem with
using a metal lathe as a wood lathe (besides the rust issue if you turn wet wood)
is the need to remove the tailstock and at least swing the cross slide to the far
end of the bed to make room for you to work. If you are only doing spindle work,
it might not be so bad, but as soon as you do even a shallow bowl you'll need
access from the end....
One of the best things about having the metal lathe was the ability to use it
when I built my big wood lathe. I turned the spindle to just under 2 inches
diameter at the bearings (50mm bearings are a lot less expensive than american
standard 2 inch ID bearings...) plus turned the nose and threaded it for 1 1/4
inch by 8 so standard faceplates would fit. Having the metal lathe allowed me to
get a substantial spindle for the wood lathe at a decent cost. The nearest off
the shelf unit I could get would have cost me well over $1100 for the spindle
cartridge, and I don't think I have that much in the whole lathe, including the
raw spindle stock, square and rectangular tubing, a 3hp 3-phase motor and VFD
(Variable Frequency Drive) that will run the 3-phase motor from single phase
220vac that my shop has.
Rich Andrews wrote:
Thanks for the response and your ideas have clinched it for me. I am
going to get a metal lathe as it spins almost as fast as a wood lathe and
if I need something faster, I could make a wood lathe. Since I also do
work in metric and american sizes in both metal and wood, I think I will
get a new lathe. The old lathes out there are in inches. Turning green
wood is not an issue as all of my projects reuire seasoned dry wood.
Nothing beats the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with DLT tapes.
Are you looking for a lathe you will occasionally use or one that you
will be doing a lot of turning on? I have an old atlas metal lathe
that I put into service for the occasional odd spindle. I have found
the the metal lathe bits work nicely on wood.
Rich, do you really think in such simple terms? It depends on the
usage, whether you will require wood or metal. You ask for blind
suggestions without giving us specifics. Why don't you toss a coin and
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