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Spindle height for a sit down lathe? Ray

Joined
Jul 24, 2008
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I agree about asking Brent. I do know that when I change from standing to sitting things change significently. Spindle heigth becomes an issue with much more pressure on the shoulder when seated. So when you need both a hip and shoulder replacement it's a bugger.
 
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Apr 21, 2021
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Have you looked at the Turning with Physical Limitations pages on the AAW website? There's some useful information there:


There are also a few posts on the Woodturning Health and Safety forum that might be worth a look:


In reality the answer to this is the same for any turner - it depends on you and what you turn. But elbow height is a good starting point.

You don't say whether your question is regarding a lathe for just yourself, or if it's intended to be used by others.

My lathe is adjustable in height and can be adjusted between my seated elbow height, and that of a tall standing student.

For my use I vary the height a bit depending on what I am turning i.e. whether I want to get really close with my knees under the bed, or whether I need to sit a back a little and have the more ideal spindle at elbow height for larger projects.
 
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Dec 30, 2014
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Port Orchard, Washington
Have you looked at the Turning with Physical Limitations pages on the AAW website? There's some useful information there:


There are also a few posts on the Woodturning Health and Safety forum that might be worth a look:


In reality the answer to this is the same for any turner - it depends on you and what you turn. But elbow height is a good starting point.

You don't say whether your question is regarding a lathe for just yourself, or if it's intended to be used by others.

My lathe is adjustable in height and can be adjusted between my seated elbow height, and that of a tall standing student.

For my use I vary the height a bit depending on what I am turning i.e. whether I want to get really close with my knees under the bed, or whether I need to sit a back a little and have the more ideal spindle at elbow height for larger projects.
Our club has purchased a Universal stand for future training, The intent is to have the sit down lathe available for those who need it or wish to try it out. It will not be set for one particular person but available to all who feel the need to use it/try it out. That is why I am questioning a nominal spindle height. I think I can lower the height by 3-4 inches by using the tilt function just not sure where to start. Thanks for the references. I will check them out.
Ray
 
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Apr 21, 2021
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Ray
The height my spindle is set to at present is 34", but I have been doing smaller things lately where I benefited from getting closer (knees under the bed). As I said previously, for larger projects I would lower that by a few inches to get closer to my seated elbow height. That said, I am a full time wheelchair user. If the people using your lathe predominantly use a regular chair, you could adjust that rather than the lathe. With the lathe set low and the bed tilted watch out for proximity of knees and larger work pieces. If I can help further feel free to email me. Chris
 
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Aug 5, 2021
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Duluth, MN
I turn sitting down. What I do and how I do it has evolved over time. As a stating point spindle height even with your elbow while seated is a good goal. I’ve tried using a stool. Have settled on a pneumatically adjustable rolling office chair, seems to be the best solution for now. Seated turning has required some adaptive changes in tool presentation. Additionally given the relationship of the lathe to my face have caused me to always wear a face shield and safety glasses. I would be willing to correspond about this if you want.
 

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Joined
Dec 30, 2014
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Location
Port Orchard, Washington
That is a serious safety concern that I did not consider even though I wear safety glasses and a face shield in my shop. We will have to have those on hand for the trainees..
Got the Universal stand assembled and have a Jet 1221 mounted on it . 43" spindle height in the straight up position. when tilted the full 30 degrees 39 3/4". I simulated turning sitting down using a folding chair and my knees were hitting the lathe support board. I think it may still be an inch or 2 too high. The problem is that stand requires a complete disassembly/reassembly to change the height. We assumed (we know what THAT does for you) that the stand would be an easy toolless conversion to standing/sitting. It can be adjusted for any size/position but once set it is not easily changed. I guess we will have to see what happens. Going to be a while with this covid. Appreciate the replies.
Ray
 
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Jul 10, 2017
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Windermere, British Columbia
George Brandt (above) , Robust and Oneway, would be all good resources. I do know when you phone Oneway you can speak with owners and they are very friendly and knowledgeable. I also have seen from posts, Robust is the same.
 

hockenbery

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www.hockenberywoodturning.com
Any information on the nominal spindle height for a sit down lathe.
you will get some ranges from Robust and ONEWAY.
In the end the height needs to suit you for the chair you are using.

I have worked a little with 2 local wheelchair turners, a turner who used a motorized scooter,
and i helped set up a symposium demo lathe for a wheelchair turner.

two of them just wanted a standard height lathe and had developed techniques that worked for them with the spindle at shoulder level.

One liked the center 4-5“ above his seated waist level - this guy had several chairs one he used for sports was too low for him to use in turning as it made the center too high.

another turner liked the lathe center a little below his shoulders Sort of arm pit level.

experiment with different heights heights. The height you use now look about midway between the armpit height and the 4-5” above the waist.
 
Joined
Nov 21, 2008
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Location
Greenwood, SC
I have recently transitioned to seated turning. I use a Robust Scout lathe on the Robust Universal stand. I have the stand set all the way down so the spindle height comes to 37 1/2”. My old lab chair with good “roller blade” type wheels puts my elbow height at about 31”. Works well for me, but did take some getting used to more free-hand gouge use.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2014
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Location
Colorado
I'm a seated turner. Wish I would have seen this post earlier. Happy to answer any questions. I have a Robust American Beauty and a Laguna 18/36. Both work quite well for the seated turner. And yes, Brent is a great resource. I worked with him when ordering my AB. My spindle is at about the same level as my lower chest. I try to maintain similar spindle height to the standing turner, to avoid excessive shoulder strain.
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2020
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Location
Huntington, VT
I'm a seated turner. Wish I would have seen this post earlier. Happy to answer any questions. I have a Robust American Beauty and a Laguna 18/36. Both work quite well for the seated turner. And yes, Brent is a great resource. I worked with him when ordering my AB. My spindle is at about the same level as my lower chest. I try to maintain similar spindle height to the standing turner, to avoid excessive shoulder strain.
Todd, how do you get the spindle height where you want it? Are your lathes modified for a lower spindle height or do you have a high seat (or do you have a tall upper body)? What do you use for a seat?
I turn sitting down. What I do and how I do it has evolved over time. As a stating point spindle height even with your elbow while seated is a good goal. I’ve tried using a stool. Have settled on a pneumatically adjustable rolling office chair, seems to be the best solution for now. Seated turning has required some adaptive changes in tool presentation. Additionally given the relationship of the lathe to my face have caused me to always wear a face shield and safety glasses. I would be willing to correspond about this if you want.
George, the same question to you. Did you modify your Powermatic stand height?

I am in an indefinite period of non-weightbearing on one foot and have found a hands-free crutch ahab stump which is quite useful but not comfortable for my knee for more than an hour or so at a time. My lathe (General 260-20) has a fixed spindle height of 45". I am going to knock together some small boxes to support a 7" h. x 30" x 60" deck that will put my elbows at spindle height while seated on a 30"high stool. If that works I will either make a wide bench that I can slide side to side on or get a wheeled 30" high seat. I could get a 36" high drafting stool but that seems precarious and hard to climb up on. Any comments on that idea? Do you guys have problems maneuvering on casters through shavings?
 
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