A wood lathe is a useful addition to any woodworking shop. This piece of equipment lets a woodworker carve a wooden block as it rotates at high speed on a spindle. This comes in handy when making your own furniture legs, carved columns, wooden baseball bats or any other symmetrical wooden item.
Choosing the Right Wood
Inspect your wooden block to make sure there are no signs of cracking or splintering. You do not want the wood to break apart and fly off while the spindle is rotating at high speeds. If you notice the wood beginning to split while working on the lathe, turn the machine's power switch off immediately.
Mounting the Block
First, use a thick pencil or permanent marker to outline the design you wish to carve on the wooden block. Mark an X on each end of the wooden block to create a guide for mounting the block onto the lathe's spindle. Set the block in between the wood lathe's centers, aligning each exactly in the middle of your marked X. If the wood is not centered on the spindle, it will not rotate evenly and will lead to asymmetrical carving. This may be hazardous if it is severe enough to cause the wooden block to slide off the spindle and fly out of the lathe machine. Set the lathe's tool rest so that it can reach the wood when necessary, but will not touch the wood when it is not in use.
Always wear safety goggles and a face mask when operating a wood lathe. Even when the wood is perfect and no splinters break off, the act of carving creates wood chips and sawdust that can be hazardous. Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry when using a wood lathe. These loose items can easily get caught in the spindle as it rotates. If you have long hair, tie it back or wear a hat to keep it away from the lathe's spindle. When you are done using the lathe and have turned the power off, let the spindle come to a complete stop before attempting to remove the wood from the machine.
Operating the Wood Lathe
Choose a carving tool and turn on the wood lathe's power switch. There are a number of lathe tools available to allow you to precisely carve the wood. The most commonly used are the gouge, chisel and spear-shaped tools. Use the gouge to make the first rough cuts in the block of wood, then use the chisels and other fine-pointed tools to refine the shape of the wood.