Micro wood lathes are specialty lathes used in various building hobbies and crafts. Generally equipped with an electric motor, the small footprint of the lathe allows it to be set up almost anywhere an electrical outlet is available. The micro wood lathe allows the craftsperson to create items that would be next to impossible on a full size floor lathe or smaller tabletop version.
The micro wood lathe has made making small objects easier than hand carving them. Dollhouse makers use the micro lathe to fashion bowls, plates, stairway spindles and other items to decorate their homes. Model railroad enthusiasts use the lathe to create road sign stands, tanks and pieces of scenery around their tracks. Fishermen use the lathe to create tiny fishing lures and model boat builders use it for everything from rails to spars. Jewelry designers can use the micro lathe to create tiny wooden beads for their creations.
A micro wood lathe functions in the same way as any wood lathe. The piece of wood to be turned is centered between the headstock and tailstock and the user then turns the piece into the desired object. Many crafters also use the spinning motion to evenly paint or finish the item instead of attempting to hold it by hand for the process.
A micro wood lathe is small and portable. The common length of the machine is around 15 to 16 inches. Most micro wood lathes weigh less than 8 pounds making it easy to move to a new location or store away when not in use. Most hold wood pieces to be turned approximately 9 inches long and 2 to 4 inches in diameter.
The micro wood lathe requires special tools to turn the object desired. Specialty gouges for the lathe have been designed and are sold, often, where the lathe is purchased. Unlike full size lathes, the variety of gouges and other woodturning tooling is limited because of their size. Also, the work piece itself has to be sized appropriately before use to be sure it will fit into the lathe properly.
A micro wood lathe is often confused with a mini-lathe or a pen lathe. The mini-lathe, like the specialty pen lathe, is larger and heavier than the micro and often has difficulty turning miniature objects such as dollhouse bowls.
As with all lathes and the use of sharp tooling, the user must always be aware of what they are doing. As the wood spins quickly on the lathe, a slip with the gouge could result in a ruined piece or a severe cut to the user.