If you have any interest in woodworking or metalworking, you must have come across the machine called lathe.
You need to place your workpiece in a rotating position such that the stationary workpiece can work through it and create your desired shape out of it.
The two most popular types of lathes are wood lathe and metal lathe. To help you decide which one will be best for you, we will compare them against each other! So let’s see who wins the battle of wood lathe vs metal lathe.
What is Wood Lathe?
Wood lathes are machines that help woodworkers to chop up workpieces by turning them against a sharp stationary cutting tool. The power tool of your preference applies itself to a rotating workpiece here. It can make your job easier by transforming the raw chunk or plank of wood into any geometric shape.
Advantages of Wood Lathe
It can be intimidating for an amateur to carve out a piece of wood. However, working with a wood lathe is not that difficult! Its working principle is quite simple and even beginners can get familiar with its parts quickly. As a result, woodworkers of all expertise levels find it easy to use.
Compared to most other kinds of lathe machines, this is one of the most lightweight options you can find. That is why woodworkers use it as a portable cutting tool. Along with the standard wood lathes, there are also many simpler and smaller versions which will be even easier for you to carry around.
Wood lathes are among the more affordable woodworking tools available in the market. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get one of them and start your carving adventures! Even only a couple of hundred bucks can be enough for investing in an entry-level wood lathe.
Disadvantages of Wood Lathe
● Limited Materials
As you may have guessed from the name, a wood lathe cannot be used on a diverse range of materials. It is ideal for working with wood and sometimes even plastic. However, its compatibility range never goes beyond these two. So if you have been thinking of extending your skills, wood lathes may not be the best idea.
● Low Precision
These tools do not provide high precision for your woodworking projects. You will not be able to take accurate measurements for the shapes or structures built with a wood lathe. To solve these issues, you may use a jigsaw or similar component to make the perfect circle or angle.
What is Metal Lathe?
Metal lathes are the machines that aim at shaping a raw workpiece made of metal or similar hard material. A rotating tool made for cutting or drilling helps them in these jobs by working on the metal chunk. This type of lathes can further be divided into many categories including tool room, CNC, bench and brake.
Advantages of Metal Lathe
● Powerful Structures
They are extremely powerful machine tools, capable of constructing equally powerful structures. Being meant for metalworking, it is no surprise that these lathes can endure shaping up very rigid elements without much struggle. You will enjoy seeing them aggressively push through and deform hard metal workpieces.
● Versatile Materials
With one metal lathe, you can shape up many materials including steel, aluminum, brass, copper and even wood! However, the wood to be used with metal lathes need to be a little hard. Any fragile material will not last long on these lathes since they were made to work on tough substances.
● Impressive Precision
If precision plays a vital role in your upcoming projects, you should definitely consider metal lathes for the part. With its parameters measured to a tee, you can build a perfect cylinder, cone or sphere! Therefore, your desired metal structure will come to fruition with flawless design elements.
Disadvantages of Metal Lathe
● Workshop Bound
These devices are pretty huge and heavyweight. So you will not be able to move it back and forth, or around workshop areas. You must specify which space the metal lathe will be placed since that is where it will remain for at least a few months.
Metal lathes are considered to be industry-grade mechanical tools. They are built with complex structures and operate with a complicated mechanism that requires sophisticated design and implementation. That is why they come at a much higher price point than other lathes.
Comparing Metal Lathe Vs Wood Lathe
Wood lathes are mostly used for building simple objects and decorative pieces. Some of the common structures made with wood lathes include photo frames, bowls, vases and spindles. Metal lathes, on the other hand, are meant for heavy-duty high-end construction which requires sturdiness and precision.
● Supported Materials
While wood lathes can only work with wooden pieces and plastics, metal lathes show a much wider variety. You can use the latter to create many impressive shapes out of materials like brass, copper, steel, aluminum and wood.
So if you want to include multiple materials in a project, metal lathes would be the safer bet.
A metal lathe is nearly impossible to transport from one room to the other. Each of them weighs about a ton at the minimum since they are usually quite heavy-duty. Comparatively, wood lathes are very lightweight and can come in even smaller versions which are easily portable.
Metalworking is definitely more time-consuming than woodworking. As a result, metal lathes take more time to carve up a workpiece than wood lathes. The former produces a slower RPM or revolutions per minute. So if you don’t like tight project deadlines, wood lathes would be a better idea.
Wood lathes are pretty simple in structure. You can even make one at home yourself by getting the necessary items. The same cannot be said about metal lathes that require sophisticated design, materials and implementation. For all these reasons, metal lathes cost a lot more than wood lathes.
Bottom Line – Which One is For You?
As the name suggests, wood lathes are suitable to work with mainly wood. They are affordable, portable, fast and simple to use.
On the other hand, metal lathes can work with many materials and generate more power. They are heavier and costlier. However, they are used for precision oriented and heavy duty jobs.
Comparing wood lathe vs metal lathe, we can conclude that the former is for beginner-level workers while the latter is ideal for industry-standard professionals. You can pick the one whose strengths are more beneficial for your projects.