Wood Lathe vs. Metal Lathe: What Are the Key Differences?

Any craftsman worth their salt in the 21st century is undoubtedly familiar with wood lathes and metal lathes alike.

A hardened cutting tool like this is what you will exactly need to polish metal or wood pieces into an elegant object. Having these lathe machines at hand essentially means that your workplace contains some of the most powerful mechanically controlled tools in the market.

Combine that with hardened cutting tool presses or a rotating mounting surface, and completing projects will start feeling effortless.

However, it's essential to know the difference between a wood lathe and a metal lathe to make the best use of these cutting tools.

Our wood lathe vs. metal lathe article will thoroughly introduce you to the two devices and help you identify the main differences between them.

Table of Contents

What Is a Wood Lathe?

A wood lathe is a highly versatile carpentry tool. Not only does it function as a freehand cutting tool, but some models also work with a detachable power motor, and it becomes a computer-controlled machine too.

Although it specializes in treating wood, it functions just as well as any other lathe machine.

You won't be able to use it on more critical materials like metal workpieces, but it's excellent for crafting a wooden workpiece. This wood machine can easily make furniture components by utilizing a pulley system.

What Is a Wood Lathe

A wood lathe machine functions primarily by rotating cut wood while cutting, sanding, and treating it in multiple ways. Wooden workpieces get accurate finesse because wood lathes continue to work on the wooden piece from all angles.

Its cutting process is versatile and relatively simple, making it a popular choice among artisans. Its diverse application is what makes it a powerful machine.

What Is a Metal Lathe?

Metal lathes are the counterpart of wood lathes that are catered for all forms of steel and metal. You can use it easily to make a wide variety of metallic items, from tool rest to military weapons, with ease.

A metal lathe tends to be significantly powerful as it requires a lot of strength to make metal machines. Furthermore, it almost always involves metal lathes support while performing metalworking applications as harder materials require more power.

What Is a Metal Lathe

Common metals like steel, iron, and aluminum can easily be crafted when using metal lathes, and it drills them to any size with utmost precision.

It's best to find a metal lathe with a spindle so that it can turn metals into machines quickly and can hold workpieces in place to avoid mishaps. Its high speed function makes it perfect for cutting wood and metal alike.

Wood Lathe vs. Metal Lathe

If you're a newcomer in the world of craftsmanship and are wondering which sort of cutting tool might serve you ideally, then you will need to differentiate between wood lathes and metal lathes.

Wood Lathe vs Metal Lathe

Below is a comparative analysis that pits both lathe machines against each other based on different factors.


If it isn't obvious, the main difference between a wood lathe and a metal lathe is in the type of material it is used for. For starters, a wood lathe is only ideal for purchase if you plan to make wooden workpieces strictly.

A wood lathe is a perfect pick for carpenters who want to make furniture. Accuracy and efficiency are guarantees when using wood lathes for this purpose.

Wood Lathe vs Metal Lathe

On the other hand, a metal lathe is more diverse in terms of compatibility. It can work with iron and wood alike. You can use it for performing metalworking applications and create magnificent wood pieces simultaneously. If you're someone who wants to be a part of the manufacturing industry and require a bit of everything in your crafting tools, the metal lathes are the way to go.


Among the two lathes, wood lathes are the only ones that can be analog in nature. This predicament is because wood is relatively soft, and hand strength is enough for carving it.

It uses a pulley system like all other alternatives to help the tool treat the wood easily. The analog mechanism makes moving it on the right and left sides at any moment simple.

Unlike the wood lathe, the respective applications of the metal lathe mean the machine will require to be fully motorized. It also follows the same basic structure as wood lathes, except for powerful motors.

Wood Lathe vs Metal Lathe

Metal lathes can shred through metal pieces, hard materials, and wooden workpieces because of it. Therefore, exercising caution is heavily advised when using it, and it's best to wear protective glasses.

Speed Settings

In terms of speed, the wood lathes are a bit slow in comparison to metal lathes. Most models of the wood lathe will require physical exertion for it to pick up speed.

Therefore, although it has less power, you can use it to achieve different speeds, granting you customizability when using it. Thus, you can work wooden workpieces on it at a pace that best suits your attention and capabilities.

Wood Lathe

On the other hand, the metal lathe is all about high speed. If a single glimpse can't give you enough ideas, it will at least tell you that the difference between wood lathes and metal lathes lies in their intensity.

The blinding intensity of the metal lathe makes cutting up a metal piece and making a metal workpiece easier than ever!


Accuracy and intensity are the hallmarks of a wood lathe. It needs to be agile enough to support wooden workpieces with ease. Therefore, many carpenters prefer to combine it with a tool rest to access and use it properly.

Thus, the wood lathe cuts back on power and sharpness to provide you with more room to properly treat it and turn it into a piece of elegant furniture on a project.

Metal Lathe

Contrary to the wood lathe, a metal lathe prefers strength and efficiency in its performance. It needs to have enough power to turn metal into a shining object with finesse. Furthermore, it needs to be sharp and steady to prevent any mishaps from occurring accidentally.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you use a metal lathe for wood?

A metal lathe is perfectly compatible for use on wood. It has enough strength to chip it, cut it, and sand it. This lathe is perfectly universal when it comes to making both metal workpieces and wooden ones alike.

2. Can you turn wood on a metal lathe?

A metal lathe can smoothly turn woods like its wooden counterpart. However, you will need to be more careful when using it.

Its unparalleled velocity and strength make it more difficult to manage wood when making critical joints. Thus, it's vital to maneuver the spindle very carefully when using the lathe.


Differentiating between a metal lathe and a wood one can be confusing because of its eerily similar characteristics.

However, now that you have gone through our comparative wood lathe vs. metal lathe analysis, you now have a more thorough idea of which tool will fit your needs the best.

Now you won't have to spend hours at a time standing on the aisles of a hardware store wondering which model will be worth the purchase anymore!

Leave a Comment