Yes, you can do woodturning on a metal lathe. However, you will need a few things before you’re ready to start:
- A lathe chuck designed for woodturning
- A faceplate
- A set of turning tools
- A slow speed setting
- A dust collection system
I’ll go over the purpose of each one.
Lathes Chucks Designed for Woodturning
The chuck that you use for metalworking will likely be too fast and have too much torque for woodturning.
You’ll want to use a chuck designed for woodturning, which has a lower maximum speed and torque rating.
That said, it’s possible to use a lathe chuck designed for metalworking for woodturning, but you will need to keep the speed very low, and you’ll need to be very careful not to apply too much pressure.
A faceplate is the alternative to a chuck for mounting wood onto a lathe. The difference is that a chuck clamps down onto the wood, whereas a faceplate screws onto the wood.
A faceplate is ideal for when you’re doing a hollowing operation, because you can get right inside the piece without any interference from the chuck itself.
A Set of Turning Tools
You’ll need some turning tools that are specifically designed for woodturning. That means, you can’t use tools designed for metalworking. The reason for this is that wood is softer and more resistant to heat than metal is.
So, even low speed metalworking tools will burn the wood, because they’re designed for metal which doesn’t burn.
A Slow Speed Setting
Remember, metal lathes are designed to turn at a much higher speed than wood lathes are. This means that you’ll need to turn the speed right down to avoid burning the wood.
How slow you can go depends on how low your lathe’s minimum speed is, but typically you’ll want to set it to around 500–1000 RPM.
A Dust Collection System
The main difference between metalworking and woodturning is that woodturning creates a lot more dust.
You’ll need to have a dust collection system in place to avoid getting covered in dust. You can achieve this by positioning a dust extractor with a funnel above the lathe. A shop vac is a good choice for this.
You’ll want to point the funnel down at an angle, so that it can catch as much dust as possible.