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How Do I Choose the Best CNC Woodworking Lathe?

Jordan Weagly
Jordan Weagly

Choosing the best CNC woodworking lathe can be challenging, but there are a few key characteristics to consider before making a purchase. All decisions should be based first on what the lathe will have to do. If it is going to make architectural columns, for instance, the lathe will probably be different from one designed to make railings. Keeping this purpose in mind throughout the selection process will help when trying to choose the best CNC woodworking lathe. Beyond this, the capacity, power source, design, controls, standard features and accessories are important factors.

The capacity of a CNC woodworking lathe should fit with project goals. It is important to consider the maximum turning radius of circular, square and uneven work pieces for a given lathe. Most machines have a range of capacities, and the purpose of the machine should determine which capacities are necessary. The minimum and maximum distance between centers is another important factor, as is maximum work piece weight.


A CNC woodworking lathe must have a strong enough motor to spin a piece of wood at variable speeds. The best lathes do not usually wobble or struggle at low or high speeds, even with off-balance work pieces. The type of power being supplied to the motor is another important factor, since many CNC woodworking tools run on either single- or three-phase power. Motor size and type also can affect the overall CNC woodworking lathe design.

When using a CNC woodworking lathe, it is often important to leave adequate room around the machine. The best lathe will fit into the shop, allowing plenty of room for dust collection, access to controls and other necessary maneuvering. Additionally, the headstock and the tailstock should be able to easily support the potential work pieces. Woodworking tools often have a number of standard features, and the manner in which these features are implemented can help when choosing the best CNC woodworking lathe.

Standard features include control interface and design software, safety guards, dust management, centering tools, and the blade. Choosing the best CNC woodworking lathe often requires sifting through a number of features, some more useful than others. Generally, the control interface and design software should be easy to use and well-integrated to the machine’s operation. Safety guards, dust management and centering tools should be effective and easy to maintain. The best type of blade should be chosen based on the potential projects and type of wood being turned.

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