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Can a wood lathe be used for metal?

Do you know that certain metals can be worked on successfully using a wood lathe? Lathes are designed for very specific purposes which could basically be for either metalwork or woodturning. This has forced many people to question whether a wood lathe can be used for metalwork or not. Answering this question is hugely relative and a careful look at the build of both lathes will solve the puzzle.

There is a clear difference between a wooden and a mental lathe both in speed and functionality. While the wood lathe is designed specifically for woodworking applications, the metal lathe works effectively for metal work. The wooden lathes are produced not only cut but sand, face and turn wood pieces. This function is performed by technically placing rotating wooden pieces to a carefully station machine.

Wooden lathes may not be effective or safe when used on harder metal but it isn’t entirely impossible. They are smaller in sizes,  capacity and speed – which is basically controlled by a pulley system. This lathe aren’t as powerful as an average metal lathe but they are designed to primarily work on wooden pieces of any kind.

The machine designed for metal works is metalworking lathe, manufactured specifically for metal turnings and metal worker. It is used alongside hardened cutting device steadily fixed around a rotating mounting surface. After which the metal to be worked on is placed on the lathe, the cutting device presses against it to create desired craft.

Metals to be worked on using the metal lathe must be stiffly held and properly supported to ensure it doesn’t shake. Does metal turnings on wooden lathes pose any life threats? Does it come with certain hazards that may be damaging?

Are wooden lathes suitable for metalworks?

 Metals are relatively hard materials and metal lathes are manufactured to perform metal working applications easily. One cannot absolutely say whether or not wooden lathes can perform metal task but some metals are not too hard. Non ferrous metals with less weight and iron content can be worked on easily using the wooden lathes. Metal materials like aluminium, zinc, brass, and others can be deformed and easily turned using a wooden lathe.

Since a good number of ferrous metal materials can be turned using a wooden lathe, our answer is in affirmative. That, YES, wooden lathes can be used in turning metal work pieces, although relatively. This is ‘relative’ because not all metal are harder and  CANNOT be worked on easily using a wooden work piece. As such,  metal lathes remains powerful enough and aggressive to turn and deform metal workpiece such as iron and steel.

Non ferrous metal may be workable on wooden lathes but it is not entirely easy.  The turner needs hold the tool firmly in order to cut steel or other metals an this may be difficult. Cutting metal with wooden lathe may be slow as the metal will resist cut thereby causing chatter.  Nevertheless , one needs to understand that metal lathes have the operational capacity to work on woods.

Is it risky to turn metals on wooden lathes?

While turning metals on wooden lathes, vibrations occur making metalwork surface rough and undesirable and sometimes leading to total damage.  Working freehand, accuracy is harder to achieve. Turning both hard and non-ferrous metal on the wooden lathe isn’t just difficult but very risky too. The chatter caused by metal turnings on wooden lathes is very risky and also difficult to avoid. Preventing chatter may require a strongly and firmly built lathe with an extremely good bearing.

An attempt to turn corners off some square stock during interrupted cuts may be difficult since it isn’t easy to control cutting tools. Metal turnings on wooden lathe sometimes are very exhausting, especially with steel metals since the tool must be held firmly. To prevent chatters via the help of pivot pins one has to hold fast the tool rest to lever it for work.  A rigid workpiece reduces chatters to a very large extent. If you are looking to purchase a lathe check out our article on the best wood lathes under 2000 dollars.


Safety when turning metal on a wood lathe

Freehand metal turning using a wooden lathe is risky, therefore, wood and metalworkers must prioritize their safety. Making workpieces secured enough in the lathe becomes even more important. When chunks of metals fly off the lathe,  it tends to be riskier and even more threatening than wood lumps. The eyes remain the most threatened part of the body during this task and protecting them should be of importance.

Both wooden and metal swarfs are painful, sharp and very hot and could be very dangerous. Wooden chips may be very unpleasant to the skin; swarf from metals are riskier and may serious burns and even cuts. Any attempt to clear metal swarfs while the machine is still running is a deathtrap and should be avoided. Without care, metal workers may get their fingers dragged in by long metal strands.

Needle-like chips can be produced while turning metals and they can be very harmful to the body like splinters. Hand gloves aren’t advisable too as it tends to be risky for use around certain machines – lathe inclusive. Since these gloves can be dragged into the machine,  gloves made of thin ‘rubber’ becomes safer. Turners may sustain injuries from thrown back files from the chunk jaw.

Some cutting tools can be clenched and broken in the machine during dig-ins and this could cause injury. Tools without proper handles should be avoided so as to avoid being pierced and injured by the tang.

The Bottom line.

Metals can be turned on wooden lathes and these metals but this activity may require special attention. Turning ferrous metals on wood lathe come with several risks that must be prevented aforetime. It is advisable to turn metals on metal lathes and woods on wooden lathes as machines were built to suit such distinct purposes. Both metal and wooden lathes aren’t built with similar speed capacity and functioning stands and switching functions may be risky.