How to True Up a Wood Lathe


Lathes have been the backbone of many woodworking shops and craft centers ever since the first human-powered wheel lathes were used to assist craftsmen in creating intricate designs from square and rectangular blocks of wood stock. The wood lathe produces cuts that can only be created by turning an object and cutting from the outside circumference of the spinning stock block of wood inward. When a wood lathe is out of alignment, there are steps to take to true up the lathe. Use the machine to tell you where it is running off center, and fix the problem by maintaining a corrected placement of the lathe chuck in relation to the headstock center, when secured to the spindle.

Step 1

Measure how much your spindle may be running out of true by using a dial indicator to measure the farthest and nearest points of a rough cut piece of wood stock as it spins on a lathe that has a spindle that is not true. Once this extra material has been cut away, the piece will run in a true rotation to the position it has in the chuck in relation to the headstock death center. It is because of this fact that many lathes that run out of true do not affect the parts they create because the finished piece falls outside of the off center parameters.

Step 2

Realign a wood lathe's spindle position as it relates to the headstock death center by measuring the proper angle of the headstock center which is 60 percent in relation to the spindle. By using the headstock as your measuring guide to the spindle, you can mark the place where the headstock center is located, and the location of the chuck as it sits on the spindle. By making these measurements and adjustments and making marks for future reference, you can have a wood lathe that turns true for every project again and again. This procedure was created to be used when pieces would be removed and reworked at a later time.

Step 3

Scribe the spindle and chuck with a mark that will line up whenever the chuck is reattached to the spindle. Using a small Dremel tool or steel marker, etch a line for the location of both the death center on the headstock AND the place where the chuck sits on the spindle. These measurements will give you a way to take any lathe that is running out of true, back to being true and able to do repetitive cuttings on the same piece, even after it has been removed and reinserted into the wood lathe that has been corrected.

Tips and Warnings

  • When removing a chuck from a lathe spindle, it is common for the machine operator to get injured from the sudden release of the chuck, which causes a jerk reaction. Always wear protective gear and always stay alert.

Things You'll Need

  • Lathe
  • Dial indicator
  • Wood stock
  • Cutting tool (chisel)
  • Permanent marker
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About this Author

Ezmeralda Lee is a published writer living in Upstate New York. She has been writing for more than 15 years and has experience with subjects such as business, management, computer programming, technology, horses and real estate, She has expertise in computers, home and garden, law and literature. Lee holds a B.A. in English from Binghamton University.

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