Work height for lathe?

Discussion in 'Newbie' started by John Torchick, Mar 8, 2013.

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  1. John Torchick

    John Torchick

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    I just received my new Rikon today.:D I was considering using the base only from my old HF 34706 lathe but not sure if it will be too high. What is the rule-of-thumb for work height? Thanks!
     
  2. John Lawson

    John Lawson

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    The rule of thumb is the center height should be at the height of your elbow with your arm bent. Then adjust from there. Many people like the center a little lower for bowls and higher for spindles.
     
  3. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Flexed elbow's a place to start. With the natural slant on the palm and the average handle length, it allows a comfortable cut at centerline. Convex work cuts above center by a bit to prevent catches, while hollowing bowls seems fine with the tool cutting center or below, so it won't accidentally hook wood as the interior diameter decreases. I have mine at the level of the antecubital fossa - the elbow pit, if you will, rather than the end of the ulna. Where you define the elbow, don't know.

    Pretty much depends on how you work. Would like to remind you that the lathe elevates a lot easier by inserting blocks under the mounts or the legs, than it lowers by trimming down below. Start low!
     
  4. John Torchick

    John Torchick

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    Big words but I get your drift. Thanks. I'll do some checking on dimensions for the elbow, tool height, base height and decide.
     
  5. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    John,
    The most important height is one in which you work with good posture.
    Back straight not bent over. Or on tip toes.

    Simple starting point: Stand erect grab your right shoulder with your right hand the bottom of your Elbow is now well defined.

    If you do mostly spindles a little lower may be you choice if you work mostly on the top of the spindles as many spindle turners do.

    If you do mostly hollowing with an arm brace handle you would want the lathe Higher.

    Have fun,
    Al
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  6. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    What if I can't grab my right shoulder with my right hand? :D And ... what if I am a southpaw?

    MM's suggestion leaves no ambiguity, but I also agree that is just a starting point. Posture and comfort are also very important and can cause the ideal height to vary from one individual to another even if their initial anatomical measurements are the same.

    Fortunately, I am still reasonably flexible so I have turned from spindle heights ranging from about a foot off the floor (my mini lathe on the floor when I didn't have a table) up to a Powermatic 3520 with the legs on six inch risers (lathe belonging to a very tall friend). It does help to have a good kneeling pad if turning at ground level or be limber enough to sit cross legged (I could but then I would never be able to get up on my own if I sat there for a while).
     
  7. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    The medic calls it by the anatomical name. Anyway, two-two and a half above the lowest part of the joint when flexed is a good start. Latin lovers will note it as the ditch before the cubit measure. Get some use out of those four years of academics.

    When you shake hands with the tool handle, you'll find a natural angle to the palm/wrist. Don't use a height that causes you to take an unnatural angle on the wrist for bowl work, where you might be digging hard.
     
  8. dbonertz

    dbonertz

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    John,

    Some good suggestions thus far except the start low. You'll probably be like most and eventually turn hollow forms, bowls, bottle stoppers and etc. To me start a little higher. It is much easier to build a platform and move it than move the lathe up and down. If your like most you will be standing on a concrete floor which after awhile is hard on the feet, knees and back even with a pad of some sort. A platform built from 2 x 3's or 2 x 4's and 1/2" osb is so much easier on the joints especially with a pad (make large enough for comfort but it does not have to be 4' x 8'). I found for me a 2 x 3 platform is the perfect adjustment for the heights I need. If you want to get really fancy you can even ramp it so you don't step off an edge, which you won't do because of muscle memory after you use the platform for a short bit. Have fun with the new toy.

    Dale
     
  9. John Torchick

    John Torchick

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    I measured with the lathe mounted on the old HF base. It is a bit high but I can build a platform or ramp to stand on. Then I can adjust to whatever I'm turning. Thanks to all for your advice. I'm always impressed by the willingness of the forum members to help.
    BTW, I have a house payment coming up.:p
     
  10. john lucas

    john lucas

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    John I like mine an inch or so above the elbow height. That lets my back be straight and relaxed for the style turning that I do.
     
  11. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I forgot to mention one other idea. I have my Jet mini sitting on a Harbor Freight hydraulic cart. It is a rock solid and well made tool that has turned to be far more useful than I ever imagined. In addition to that, the height can be adjusted to suit almost any woodturner.
     
  12. JRutten

    JRutten

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    Remember to plan for a nice anti-fatigue mat. That will take about 3/4 of an inch or more and you will thank yourself in the long run.
     
  13. John Torchick

    John Torchick

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    JRutten, that is a good idea. Concrete gets to be harder than diamond after a while.;)
     
  14. odie

    odie

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    The anti-fatigue mat is an absolute necessity, IMO.......:D

    It should be understood that the best working height for a lathe spindle is a working range, and not an exact number. MM's formula fits my bent elbow to my spindle height, and it works for me. However, we are all individuals, with individual turning styles and bodies. The best spindle height for one person may not be the best for another person of the exact same height.

    Like most things, start with the generally accepted thinking.......then adjust to your individual requirements. By not understanding the individualistic application to the generalized theory, and how it applies, only assures a greater margin of error for any one person........

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2013
  15. KellyDunn

    KellyDunn

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    My back is trash. Any bending and it flat hurts. My spindle is nipple high. I use wood platforms for when I am doing spindle work or when doing hollow form insides. I also have rubber mats. My shoulders complain a bit but I tell them calm down compared to my back. As a full time turner standing straight is what I have to do. It does take a bit of getting used to having the work in your face. But if your lathe is low to start with? My wood platforms only have outside support so I get a bit of bounce while standing in the center. The doc who worked on my back in 89 was the one who told me to raise my lathe and use platforms. He said he worked on me for more than five hours. He said he uses platforms when needed but his number one thing was to be comfortable. I thought it sound advise.
     
  16. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    back issues too


    I have back issues too. I think my surgeons have put a couple kids through college off of my back and I saw some world cruise brochures last time I was in their office. Anyway, for me trying to hollow a deep small vessel like a goblet the spindle just above the bottom of the elbow had my back bent substantially, not good!

    I will be raising my lathe and will give some thought to making it easily height adjustable according to the task. I think I will set up to primarily hollow outboard too, get the tailstock and bench out the way. Yesterday I climbed up on the bench to work! Two hundred and thirty or forty pounds of meat, bones, and flab adds substantial dampening to a work bench. :D

    Hu
     

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