Knowing the Common Lathe Parts Knowing the Common Lathe Parts

Using a wood lathe can be tricky and dangerous but understanding lathe parts will help you produce quality projects in complete safety. From the machine’s motor to chisels used for cutting, each part of a wood lathe plays an important role in producing great woodwork. As a beginning woodworking, getting to know your wood lathe will turn each new project into a great learning experience, thus allowing you to create more intricate designs.


For right-handed woodworkers, this is the machine casing on the left side as you stand facing the machine. Larger than the tailstock at the other end of the wood lathe, the headstock houses the machine that turns your project. Aside from turning your lathe on and off, you should have little to do with your headstock. If you do encounter mechanical problems, such as uneven turning speeds or abnormal noises, you can remove the headstock to check your lathe’s drive belts. Regular maintenance will require you to remove the headstock cover to make sure the motor is kept clean of wood debris using compressed air.


The spindle is the part that connects your project to the headstock that actually turns your wood. There will be a chuck (similar to a drill) as a part of the spindle, allowing you to attach material using a faceplate. To keep your lathe functioning at its best, your spindle needs to be able to turn freely in the headstock casing. Make sure your spindle is always clean of wood chips and sawdust. Turing the spindle by hand before starting your project will give you a good indication if it is ready to work properly.


Screw your material onto the faceplate to be able to attach it to the spindle using the chuck. Choose a faceplate that is the right size for the project you are turning. The larger the project the lager the faceplate you will need to keep your wood stable while it is turning. When attaching the faceplate and planning your project, make sure to leave enough room so your cutting tool won’t touch the faceplate.

Turning Area

Also known as the lathe’s bed, this is the open area between the headstock and the tailstock. Before starting a project, make sure that there will be enough clearance in the turning area for your wood to turn safely. Periodically stop your project so you can clean the turning area, using a shop-vac and brush to clean away debris that could pose a safety hazard.


At the opposite end from the headstock, the tailstock also has a spindle to help stabilize your project as it turns. Stabilizing both ends of your project is important to help stop the wood from warping as it turns. The tailstock will be both adjustable and removable, allowing you to anchor projects of different lengths or to use the tool rest to hollow out bowls.

Tool Rest

This sturdy metal bar can be moved from one end of the lathe bed to the other, locking in place at the position where you will be working. Use the tool rest to support your cutting tools, allowing you to make more precise and even cuts in the wood. You can swing your tool rest into the tailstock position if you need to hollow out a bowl or bore into your project.

Cutting Tools

Although not a part of the lathe machine, a good set of cutting tools is important for creating professional projects on your lathe. Lathe tools are chisels that have been shaped to allow for either rounded or sharp cuts into the wood. Keeping your cutting tools sharp will allow you to be precise when turning wood, giving you a cleaner finished product.

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