How to Use Wood-Copy Lathes

Written by alex smith
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How to Use Wood-Copy Lathes
You can produce identical posts like these with a copy lathe. (alhambra stairs image by Albo from

Often in woodworking it is necessary to produce many identical copies of a particular shape. In the case of posts and rails this is possible using a copy lathe. You turn the first copy on the lathe by hand, then add a copy lathe to produce as many copies as you need.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood copy lathe
  • Template
  • Wood

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  1. 1

    Align the cutting tool with the follower stylus. It is essential that these two elements line up or the copies that you produce will not match the original.

  2. 2

    Mount the wood to be carved between the lathe centres. Tighten the centres so the wood can spin and be cut into without slipping free.

  3. 3

    Attach the template to the mounting brackets on the side of the lathe. The template can be a copy of the finished product, or simply a piece of wood with identical grooves and angles cut into it.

  4. 4

    Turn the crosswheel until the follower stylus lightly touches the highest point on the template. Be careful not to tighten the crosswheel too much or the stylus will not be able to slide along the template freely.

  5. 5

    Move the follower stylus and cutting blade to the left end of the carved area. Set the left hand stop so that the stylus cannot move past it. Repeat this procedure with the right hand stop. This step is essential when carving newel posts and other objects that must have a portion of the original square wood at the end.

  6. 6

    Adjust the cutting blade until it is just touching the wood.

  7. 7

    Turn on the lathe at its slowest speed.

  8. 8

    Pass the cutting blade slowly along the entire length of the wood.

  9. 9

    Extend the cutting blade 1/16 inch toward the wood and pass it slowly along the wood again.

  10. 10

    Continue extending the cutting blade 1/16-inch for each pass. Gradually the follow stylus will begin to follow more and more of the template, recreating the pattern in the spinning wood.

  11. 11

    Remove the newly carved wood from the lathe when you are finished. If you have more copies to make, do them right away rather than trying to align all of the settings again later.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear goggles and protective gloves when working with lathes.

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