It is no secret that woodturning is an expensive hobby. Woodturners like to joke that buying your lathe is the cheapest part of woodturning! All the wood lathe accessories, tools, and wood really start to add up after a while.
I have certainly purchased my fair share of woodturning accessories over the years that found a somewhat permanent place on the shelf gathering dust.
I’ll let you know what mistakes I have made and what woodturning tools and accessories I would consider essential.
My Favorite Wood Lathe Accessories
1. 4-Jaw Chuck
4 Jaw chucks are probably the most useful wood lathe accessory for anyone who is looking to step up their woodturning game. Combine these jaws with the number of different jaw options available and you’ll be able to chuck almost anything to the lathe.
I love the standard dovetail jaws for turning bowls, platters and for mounting salt and pepper shaker blanks for drilling the bottoms out.
A set of 1/2″ narrow jaws are also a great addition for holding smaller items like pen blanks or gripping narrow mortises or tenons.
And lastly, for finishing the bottoms or large bowls or platters, a set of cole jaws makes the job extremely easy.
2. Sandpaper Pack
Woodturning sandpaper packs are a great addition for hanging above the lathe. Finishing small items, especially spindle turnings at high speed, will quickly burn through a lot of sandpaper. So the ability to quickly tear off small pieces and keep them organized is a godsend.
Klingspor’s sandpaper bargain boxes are another great option for picking up a ton of really high-quality sandpaper for use on the lathe. I keep one of these boxes handy and every few months will take an hour to cut up strips for use on the wood lathe.
3. Negative Rake Scraper
When it comes to woodturning tools I’d say I spent 99% of the time with a bowl gouge in my hand. I bought my first lathe used and it came with a whole collection of assorted tools. In that set were a lot of “specialty” type tools that, while they may have sounded like a good idea, don’t really do a job better than my gouge can do.
The one exception I have found to that rule has been the negative rake scraper. Unfortunately, this was not a tool that came with the lathe and I had to spend my hard earned money on it. But it has been totally worth it.
The negative rake scraper is perfect for finishing cuts and leaves an amazingly smooth surface. It has saved me a ton of time sanding since I have started using it regularly.
Note that if you pick one up that this is a tool that needs to be sharpened very regularly. I will used it to make one pass on a piece and then sharpen it before using it again.
Carter and Sons, the makers of some of my favorite woodturning tools, has a great page on using and sharpening the negative rake scraper.
4. Lathe Light
I have written about these lights before in our shop lighting post but the usefulness of these lights bears repeating. I keep one of these magnetic base lights on my bandsaw and another on the lathe.
This light comes with a magnetic base that is incredibly strong. No amount of vibration has moved my lights even an inch yet.
The super bright LED head is perfect for adding some extra light when turning the inside of bowls and vessels. It is also great during sanding as scratch and swirl marks show up instantly when this light is cast over the piece I’m working on.
5. Drill Chuck
Having a drill chuck for the lathe has turned it into a far more versatile machine for the shop. Since I work out of a tiny shop, I don’t have a ton of room for extra tools. That means going without a drill press.
With a drill chuck, I can turn my lathe into a defacto drill press when needed as I can chuck a piece into my 4-jaw chuck and put the drill chuck into the tailstock.
It is also great for boring out wood in deeper pieces. This is a great way to mark the depth before getting started turning.
I also use it with a spindle sander head in the headstock to sand inside curves on some of my Etsy products.
Its really a useful wood lathe accessory to have around!
6. Live Center Set
I spent a not insignificant amount of my woodturning career using just a 60-degree pointed live center. Now don’t get me wrong, it worked just fine, but using a pointed live center always leaves a decent sized dimple in the end of your piece. It also isn’t referencing a ton of surface area so if you have a catch while turning it can knock the piece out of center. Don’t ask me how I know that…
A couple of years ago I upgraded to one of these live center sets and have fallen in love with the ring centers. These leave a far smaller mark on the end of the piece and tend to hold it much more securely.
I still use the pointed live center for small spindle turnings but I love that I have the option now of switching between them.
7. Dust Hood
Dust collection on the lathe was always a bit of a slapdash effort for me. I would drag the hose over from the dust collector. Bungee it to the side of the lathe and try to get it pointed just write to collect the dust.
All along I really should have just picked up a dust hood and run a dedicated flexible hose to the collector. These things work great to collect both chips and dust coming off the lathe so cleanup is a snap.
I always underestimate just how much dust I’m producing on the lathe until it’s too late so having a dedicated setup has been a game-changer.
These hoods come in a number of different sizes so they can easily be fit to your workspace and lathe size.
8. Drive Center
This drive center is another one of those products where I used one version for a very long time before I realized there was a better option. For years I used a classic drive center with a fixed pin in the middle and the 4 wings to hold the piece.
It worked fine but left a very deep mark on the end of the piece. That style drive center is actually still my go to for wet wood as it has a ton of hold power but it isn’t great for most of the work I do now on the lathe.
This Robert Sorby drive center has a spring loaded center pin and much smaller teeth that give plenty of gripping power yet leave a very small indent in the wood.
My only quibble with it is the set screw that holds in the pin tends to back itself out at times. I’ve had to spend more than a few minutes digging through a pile of shavings to find it more than once.
Despite that it is still my favorite drive center to use on the lathe.
9. Curved Tool Rest
I have tried a decent number of tool rests over the years and really the only two I like are the long straight tool rest and the curved interior. That is it.
Everyone once in a while I’ll use the short straight rest out of necessity but I usually find them to be too short to be of much use.
This post has a great shape and I have found I can use it on both the inside and outside of bowls quite easily. Its 12-inch length makes it great for reaching the inside bottom of bowls without having to contort your tools like you might if using a straight tool rest.
10. Thickness Calipers
Judging the wall thickness of a bowl is something that, despite years of learning otherwise, I always overestimate my ability to do by eye or hand. Way way too many times have I thought I had an even thickness only to break out the calipers at the very end and realize I was nowhere close.
If you’re a new woodturner then here’s a tip. Keeping an even wall thickness on your bowls is important both when turning them green and during the final turning. As a bowl dries, if the wall thickness is uneven, it can lead to cracking as the different parts of the bowl will dry at different rates.
These calipers are a super quick way to check your wall thickness and are large enough to fit inside of most bowls and vessels.
11. Digital Micrometer
If you do a lot of repeatable work on the lathe where a precise thickness is key then these calipers are a great addition. I turn a lot of lids for my Etsy shop and am always getting custom orders so being able to set these calipers to an exact size is key.
They are also great for projects with fitted lids, rings, or measuring the depth while boring out pieces.
12. Paste Wax
Paste wax is another one of those things that I have sitting on a shelf sitting right next to the lathe yet I always wait way too long to use it on the lathe bed.
If you’ve never done it, apply some wax to your lathe bed every so often and it will make an absolutely massive difference on how easy it is to move your tailstock and tool rest around. They will absolutely glide across the bed and make it easier to make precise adjustments rather than have to really push them around.
Final Thoughts on My Favorite Wood Lathe Accessories
I hope you can upgrade your tool and lathe accessory arsenal a bit with some of these suggestions. I use all of these tools very frequently and honestly would have a hard time doing any turning without them.
Luckily, almost all of these woodturning accessories are fairly cheap aside from the 4-jaw chuck so it shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg to upgrade your woodturning game.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.