Setting up your own turning workshop

When setting up your first woodturning workshop there are a number of requirements to consider:


Firstly, before buying your first lathe, give plenty of thought to what you think you might want to turn, now and in the future:

Egg cups, light pulls, dolls house furniture OR Large bowls etc.

You WILL want to try bowls at some stage. I promise. :-)

Always remember, you can turn small items on a big lathe, but not the reverse.


Seek advice from experienced turners. They should have experience of all the pitfalls you could come across.

Choose a well known lathe maker. Cheap imports are cheap for one reason.

Choose a lathe with a common spindle nose thread. The larger the better.

Go for one with a Number2 Morse Taper in headstock and tailstock.

If you intend turning bowls regularly, choose a lathe with bearings that can stand the load. Although a lathe may have a ‘capacity’ for a 12” diameter bowl, the bearings will take quite a hammering with the weight of a good chuck and the bowl blank. Large adjustable bearings are preferable.

Choose a lathe where accessories are readily available, although there are a number of accessory manufacturers out there catering for most lathes.

Choose a lathe with hollow tailstock quill and hollow spindle.

A cast iron lathe is preferable to minimise vibration.

Twin bed bars help rigidity and accessory mounting.

• LATHE TYPE - Bench or stand alone.


A stand alone lathe, such as the Union Graduate.

The lathe wants to be on sound, solid floor.

The wooden floor of a shed is no good.

The biggest problem in getting a good cut or finish on your work is vibration.

Ideally the lathe wants to sit directly on to a sound concrete base.

If you already have a shed, consider cutting holes in the wooden floor, and setting some concrete pads for the lathe legs or bench to stand on.


A bench lathe is bolted to a solid, well constructed bench.

You need to build a strong bench to fix your lathe to.

Main frame 4 x 2”. Top at least 2” (50mm) thick Good quality kitchen worktop will be ideal. This bench must be level and strong enough not to vibrate, wobble etc.


To give best posture and least tiring position when standing at the lathe, the lathe spindle height wants to be the same measurement as your elbow height from the floor.


Lathe wants to be ideally in front of a window to give natural light.

Allow for plenty of movement around the lathe for you and any activities such as long hole boring. ie. Tailstock end needs to be clear. Not against a wall.


For general light source fluorescent tubes are fine. DO NOT put a tube light above the lathe. The strobe effect will make the lathe look stationary. Which is dangerous. Use an individual spotlight or anglepoise lamp to actually turn by.


A subject all of it’s own, but generally a 6” dry grinder set up with a pink, white or ruby stone will do the job. Please ask for more info regarding jigs, stone cleaning and sharpening.


Choose the best you can afford. High Speed Steel (HSS) are the best.

Learn to sharpen them properly.

One of the biggest problems, and one of the main reasons for turning problems are blunt tools.

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