Adjusting the Speeds on a Bench Lathe

What You'll Need
Variable speed wood lathe
RPM meter
Speed adjustment dial

There are two types of bench lathe: fixed speed and adjustable speed units. Variable speed lathes have a dial adjustment on them that controls the lathe's RPM to give the operator better control over the work as it spins.

Step 1 - Set the Starting Speed

Start work on the lowest speed setting to prevent injury and so you can better see what is happening with the piece being worked. You can adjust the speed depending on the piece of material that you are working. For example, you can better manage an odd-shaped piece at low speed to prevent snagging on odd ends.

Step 2 - Speed Adjustments While Spinning

You can adjust the bench lathe speed while working the piece by backing off your tool rest, and then turning the speed dial to a faster rotation. It is a good idea to shut the lathe down and double check that the piece is properly secured before turning the speed up.

Side pressure can cause the piece to become loose, which can be dangerous. This can be useful once an odd-shaped piece begins to even out and become more manageable. Take any cutting pressure off while adjusting the speed to prevent injury from the knife getting caught or snagged.