What Is a Lathe? What You Need to Know

In the United States, there are nearly 950,000 carpenters.

Carpenters are skilled laborers who make good money, and part of their job is understanding woodworking equipment. One of the most important pieces of equipment for carpenters or anyone else wanting to work wood is a lathe. You may ask yourself, what is a lathe?

Let’s take a look at what lathes are, and how they can help you work wood.

What Is a Lathe?

A lathe is a device that removes wood by using a cutting edge and spinning force. There are different types of lathes, but modern lathes are most often motorized devices that spin the wood at high speed. When a cutting edge contacts the spinning wood, it removes the wood layer by layer.

If you ever wondered what is a lathe, or what is a lathe used for, the answer is a lot of different tasks. You can shape wood, plane it, even add decoration with a lathe. As you gain experience using the lathe, the horizons of your woodworking ability will grow.

Only Wood?

The answer here is no, lathes shape more than just wood. Often lathes help shape resin and metals into shape so they can be used for both functional and artistic pursuits.

What Is a Lathe Used For?

Because it is so easy to shape wood using a lathe, the lathe is often used in pursuits where form and function go hand in hand. Making guitars, for instance, requires expert lathe skills. The very shape of the body that is constructed can change the way the instrument sounds.

A lathe is also used in boat manufacturing, cabinet construction, and various other tasks. Anytime you need to shape a piece of wood by removing wood, the lathe is the best tool for the job. Anytime you need sharp, controlled work such as fine etching, channel grooves, or holes the lathe can be your best friend.

If you want to learn more about the purpose of a lathe, you can find a lot of resources online and by checking with local carpenters. If you know of anyone who is working with wood, whether it’s a guitar luthier, boat builder, finish carpenter, or anything else, they will be able to point you in the right direction.


As long as you treat your lathe well, you can expect it will last for a long time. In fact, there are lathes still being used that were first built before their current users were born. Make sure that the belts and machinery and all other lathe parts are well lubricated and clear of dust and debris.

Your Lathe

If you decide to get into woodworking, or you already are and just want a new tool, a lathe is an excellent addition to any workshop. Make sure you research which kind of lathe will serve you best.

If this article has been helpful in helping to answer the question, what is a lathe, please take a moment and check out our website.

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