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Can You Use A Metal Lathe For Woodturning? – [The Truth]

can you use metal lathe for woodturning

Having a metal lathe in your workshop can be overwhelming due to its sheer size. Then again, the utility you get from the machine is so much rewarding, and It makes you want to create something new every day.

Can You Use A Metal Lathe For Woodturning? In all fairness, a metal lathe is perfectly competent enough for woodturning, let alone the usual metal shaping. No matter your requirement, it can do drilling, sanding, grinding, scraping just like a wood lathe.

The most significant advantage of using a metal lathe is steady precision. Along with the power delivery, the machine has an adjustable tool-post and wheel-based sliding apparatus.

These give you the best possible proximity, even better from a manual wood lathe.

If you aim to make repeatable wooden products, the control mechanism provides the option to recreate accurate results each time you use the lathe.

What is a metal lathe?

Since the advancement of metalworking, the lathe has been the most prominent turning tool in the manufacturing industry. It is highly likely that any metal parts you see before you came from a metal lathe machine.

Primarily, a metal lathe is a versatile piece of machinery capable of shaping metal workpieces. It uses high grade cutting bits on a rotating object, removing unwanted parts and giving it an excellent finish.  A few work examples are as follows: bolts, O-rings, custom tubes, pins etc.

In metalworking, it’s common to see a range of uses around the metal lathe. From making machine parts to custom tools, it can do a fine job given its precise cutting nature.

Besides, professionals also use this machine to manufacture sensitive musical instruments.

Metal vs. Wood lathe – What’s the difference?

The general operational procedure of a lathe involves turning your workpiece and cutting it from the side with bits.

While this is true for most lathe machines, it won’t be hard to find yourself in many varieties that serve different purposes.

However, lathe at its core can either be for metalwork or woodwork. The metal lathe is usually the strongest one and comes with tons of features. On the other hand, a wood lathe comes in a small form factor and packs decent power to form wood pieces.

As you slowly go deeper, you will realize it’s not just portability or power that draws the line between these two machines.

There are other factors in play that will force your hand to choose one over another. So, What are those differences, you may ask?

Metal Lathe Details

  • A metal lathe can perform the drill, cut, grind on strong materials like aluminum and other steel forms. For that reason, the machine incorporates a powerful rotary system to keep up with the material removal.
  • Being so powerful also comes with the disadvantage of weight. It’s only natural that the machine will have a top-tier motor and pulley implication.
  • Housing those big and heavy components will require a lot of space as well. Hence the gigantic size.
  • From the operation’s perspective, the working range is quite extensive. Besides, the machine features Carbide lathe tools, which tend to be more resilient for deforming metal as well as wood from any angle.
  • Due to high manufacturing costs and working scope, the price of these machines rests on the more expensive side.

Wood Lathe Details

  • The wood version of the lathe machine is mainly for turning woods. All the internal components and features showcase that particular work principle.
  • As woods are not that tough, you won’t need heavy components. It helps a lot with weight reduction and makes the contraption more manageable in size.
  • You can easily sand, cut, and drill on your wooden workpiece with widely available Woodturning tools.
  • The price is also reasonable given the low-cost construction and portable size. As you can see, the metal lathe has more scope with metal and wood in the same working environment.
  • Alternatively, if you need a compact machine for your project, a mini wood lathe has all you need at an affordable price.

Can You Use A Wood Lathe For Metal?

Imagine you are working on a project, and you need to make a few adjustments to a metal object. Fortunately, you do have a wood lathe in your shop, and you are thinking if it’s a good idea to use metal in a wood lathe.

Well, you are not that far off with the idea. You can technically use softer metal like brass and aluminum in the wood lathe.

But don’t get your hopes up just yet, because it might not be as pretty as it would be on the metal lathe.

A wood lathe is indeed a capable machine for wood shaping. Nevertheless, it has its limit of favoring only wooden objects. The Primary reason for this goes to the underpowered rotary mechanism. Again, it’s not that wood lathe has bad components, it’s just not powerful enough for metal.

A word of caution, do not push hard to achieve perfection as it could hurt your machine in the process. Apart from that, weird noises, abnormal vibration will also accompany you while working on a metal workpiece.

Remember to take precautions like wearing safety glasses, setting debris collectors, using appropriate chuck, and cutting tools. Most importantly, have patience as it may take time to reach your level of finish.

Can you use a metal lathe chuck on the wood lathe?

Wood Lathe has many chuck selections for woodworking, whether you are turning pen or other workpieces.

But, the thing with woodchuck is they are way thin for metal and cannot dead-center an object. Plus, it’s way easy to slip up the workpiece on account of smaller jaws.

At this point, if you are looking to get done some metalworking, you can use a metal chuck on your wood lathe. Most wood lathe spindles will easily receive metal chuck without making any drastic modification to headstock or tailstock.

Make sure you use the keys to tighten the chuck on the spindle properly so it won’t become loose during speed operation.

Can You Use Woodturning Tools For Metal Turning?

Woodturning tools or cutting bits are the essential tools for deforming wood pieces.

No matter if you are trying to chip off a section or carving a grove, you need the proper bits as there are many. Chisels, scrappers, partings, and gouges are just a few of them.

Using woodturning tools for metal turning, it’s not a great idea to do so. First of all, wood lathe bits are way softer than high-speed metal turning tools. Your attempt to use a chisel on metal will only result in chatter and uneven curving. Plus, the effort will mess up the sharpness of the tool.

So, if you need to work on a metal piece, remember to use the certified high-speed metal bits.