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Thread: Proper lathe height

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Racine, WI

    Proper lathe height

    I have a sense that either I am too short or my lathe is too high for comfortable turning. I'm planning on building a platform and looking for suggestions as to the proper relationship between, say, elbow and spindle. Any thoughts?
    Retirement is not what it's cracked up to be. It's better.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Wayland, MA
    Conventional wisdom is to hold your arm at your side, bend your elbow to 90 degrees and then measure the distance from the floor to your elbow. If you stand on a thick anti-fatigue mat be sure to include that height as well. This should give you a starting point for the spindle height. It may or may not work, depending on your body proportions, so be prepared to experiment to fine tune. Sometimes a height that initially feels uncomfortable may work out better for issues like back pain in the longer run, so try a height for a few days working before reaching a conclusion about it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Kapolei Hawaii
    If you were to google that question, there would be an array of opinions of "proper" lathe height. I would say Roger is right as a starting place. Some pro turners advocate a higher spindle height, and I would agree if you primarily turn spindles. This is primarily to bring the work closer to you. Bowls would require elbow height or close to it. At any rate, I would think elbow height or higher as Roger said is a good start. Lower could cause back troubles, if you have to bend down to turn "comfortably". Just my $0.02.

  4. #4
    If there is any way you can lower your lathe, that would be preferable to building a platform. I know many do this, but it is a trip hazard getting both on and off.
    "Only a rich man can afford cheap tools, as he needs to buy them again and again"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    McDonough, GA (near Atlanta)
    If you build a platform, be sure to build it wide and deep enough. I have seen several platforms which forced the turner to periodically step off the platform to either start or finish a cut.

  6. Don't build one until you've turned some stuff as only then will you have a feel for where your feet end up in progress. Also consider a foot comfort pad as it is a standing job. I have several pads i move around my shop mostly they stay in certain spots near lathe or workbenches.

  7. #7
    If you turn lots of large bowls and the like a lathe may be too high for the conventional height. If you turn lots of small spindle work, conventional height may be too low. there is a natural tendency to crowd the lathe for small spindle work and bend over the work. The neck doesn't hurt as much if the work is a couple inches higher.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Hie thee to a turners' club that has an armory of lathes so you can try them out. Bring your tools and wood to the party. Do you wear corrective lenses? Be sure you're wearing them while you play. I like my lathe a little higher than the norm. I use readers (even in my safety glasses). I find the little extra height keeps my neck comfortable and without kinks!
    Dean Thomas

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Lummi Island, WA
    I turn mostly bowls , platters and larger pieces. For me, a slightly lower height than 'standard' seems to work best. I do find myself experimenting with different heights - having a lathe with adjustable legs (Robust AB) helps a lot. Pretty easy to adjust the legs to try different heights. Built a new shop when we moved a few years ago and after installing the lathe and shoring up the floor joists with timbers found that it just wasn't quite right. Don't know if it was the wood floor (previous shop had been on a slab, this one is joists on a foundation) or just getting old, but it seemed too high. Been able to putter around with lots of different heights until I found my new sweet spot.

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