A Buying Guide for Lathes on eBay

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A Buying Guide for Lathes on eBay

Lathes are machining tools used for woodworking and metalworking. These machines produce a cylindrical or rounded, wood or metal piece by rotating the wood or metal on its axis to cut, sand, drill, or knurl a shape or design. Different types of lathes are used to make pieces of all shapes and sizes, ranging from small, intricately, customised pieces to large, symmetrical forms. Lathes are used to shape pottery, candlestick holders, gun barrels, table and chair legs, woodwind instruments, and bowls. These machines are used in mass production settings, industrial workshops, and for personal DIY woodwork projects.

When buying a lathe on eBay, the shopper needs to first consider the nature of the project. Depending on the project, the lathe can either be operated using manual control or computerised numerical control (CNC). The buyer should also determine what components and tools are needed to operate the lathe. Searching for a lathe on eBay is straightforward. The buyer simply needs to know how to use keywords to search the site for related listings.

Searching for Lathes on eBay

The buyer should first determine the type and size of the project before searching for a lathe to purchase. After this initial step, the buyer can compare the different types and sizes of lathes listed on eBay. There are several easy methods to use when searching for lathes on eBay. These methods include a combination of keywords and category searches. The buyer types in a keyword such as 'lathe' into the search bar on the eBay homepage and then clicks the 'Search' button. This action directs the buyer to a page of listings for lathes. The buyer can then choose to read a specific listing or can examine the different categories that specifically list lathes for sale. Lathes may be listed in more than one category.

Conducting effective searches on eBay requires that the shopper be familiar with the different components that make a lather and the different types of lathes available on the market.

Components of a Lathe

There are different components or parts of a lathe that are essential to its operation. These basic components include the bed, headstock, spindle, tailstock, carriage, and toolpost. It is important to keep the components of a lathe clean and free of debris. All screws and knobs should be well lubricated to ensure that the lathe produces quality wood, metal, or glass pieces.

The Lathe Bed

The lathe bed, or horizontal beam, lies on a stand or it sits on the floor or a worktable. It can also be positioned vertically to allow wood or metal shavings to fall from the bed during operation. Most manual control lathes use horizontal beds. Most  computerised numerical control (CNC) lathes use vertical beds.


The headstock is located to the left of the lathe bed. It contains the rotating spindle, motor, and gears. The gears are powered by the motor. The motor may be electric, foot-powered, or computer operated.


The gears turn the spindle. The motor speeds dictate the different spindle speeds. Specific attachments such as faceplates are mounted to the spindle through a hole in the spindle. The attachments then mount the workpiece to the spindle. Different attachments are used for different projects.


The tailstock holds the specific tools used to cut and carve the various patterns and shapes into the workpiece. It is located opposite the headstock and helps support the end of the workpiece. The tailstock can be positioned and repositioned along the bed by locking and unlocking it and sliding it along the ways to a specific position on the bed. Different material lengths can be accommodated by adjusting the tailstock along the ways. A barrel holding the tools comes out of the tailstock when the position is secured.


The carriage slides along the ways on the bed. It contains specific cutting tools that move towards the rotating workpiece. As the workpiece rotates, the cutting tool cuts and shapes a particular design into the workpiece. After the cutting is completed, the carriage moves the tools away from the finished workpiece.


The toolpost is positioned and clamped on the carriage. It holds the tools such as drills and reamers that cut the pattern into the workpiece. It can be moved along the ways on the lathe bed  to secure accurate measurements. Metal lathes spin the tooling into the workpiece. Wood lathes spin the workpiece into the tooling.

Types of Lathes

There are several different types of lathes. The basic types include engine, turret, precision, production, extension, and CNC lathes. Lathe sizes range from small, portable, bench lathes that can also be mounted to a worktable to large, permanent lathes fixed to the floor. Small lathes produce smaller finished pieces such as pen cases. Large lathes produce larger finished pieces such as furniture legs. Lathes can be used in mass production, machine shops, or in a garage workshop.

Engine Lathes

An engine lathe is the most common type of lathe. It is used to create any type of wood, metal, or glass piece. This category includes wood, metal, glass, reducing, and ornamental lathes. The engine lathe can be non-mechanical, or driven by a foot treadle, mechanical, or driven by an electric motor, or controlled using a computer. For each new workpiece, an engine lathe must be reset or reconfigured to accommodate the size of the workpiece.

Metal Lathes

A metal lathe is an engine lathe that shapes a metal piece through the use of specific tools that spin and cut a particular shape into the metal workpiece. The shapes may be round, square, diamond, or triangle, depending on the desired outcome. Metal lathes require constant lubrication through the use of cutting fluid to reduce the high temperatures generated by the tooling. Manual control, metal lathes produce more customised, intricate shapes and designs. Computer-operated, metal lathes create more standardised, mass-produced shapes.

Wood Lathes

A wood lathe is an engine lathe that shapes a wood piece by spinning the wood rather than the tooling to cut a particular shape or design into the workpiece. Wood lathes use spindles and faceplates to turn the piece. Spindles produce longer, cylindrical pieces such as table legs. Faceplates produce more symmetrical, rounded pieces such as bowls. The operator also uses shearing and scraping chisels to carve patterns and designs into the workpiece while it is spinning. The chisels should be sharp and allow for a variety of shapes, cuts, and gouges, including cylinders, or flats, beads, or convex curves, and coves, or concave curves.

Glass Lathes

A glass lathe is an engine lathe that shapes a glass piece by consistently heating the glass during the production process. After the glass is heated and softened, it is slowly turned and shaped into a specific design. The glass piece is then cooled and allowed to harden.

Reducing Lathes

A reducing lathe is an engine lathe that replicates the original data from a previous production piece to create a copy. The lathe uses the same type of materials used to create the original piece to create the new piece. Coins are manufactured using this type of lathe.

Ornamental Lathes

An ornamental lathe is an engine lathe that creates highly customised, decorative patterns. They can be used to create patterns in wood or metal. These patterns are cut into the workpieces by means of either horizontal or vertical cutting tools.

Turret Lathes

A turret lathe works in conjunction with other lathes such as engine lathes. They are smaller than other lathes and produce customised pieces for special projects.

Precision Lathes

A precision lathe produces quality, finished pieces using close tolerances for precise, accurate measurements. Precision lathes use specific tooling for such applications as drilling, boring, or knurling. Most precision lathes are computer-operated lathes. It is often impossible for a manual lathe to replicate the same precision cutting as a computer-operated lathe.

Production Lathes

A production lathe is a type of lathe that is used in the the mass production of finished pieces like table legs. Large scale pieces are produced using this type of lathe. Most production lathes are also computer-operated lathes because they have the capability to rapidly produce large quantities of finished pieces within a short amount of time.

Extension Lathes

An extension lathe is a type of lathe that accommodates larger and longer materials on the bed. The bed allows a gap or extension between the headstock and tailstock to increase the length of the bed. The increased length allows the material to be rotated and precisely measured.

Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) Lathes

Advancements in computer technology have led to the creation of CNC lathes. CNC lathes produce high quality, cylindrical pieces, quickly and accurately with few errors. The operator programmes the CNC lathe to turn the piece at a high rate of speed while multiple tools within a tool turret cut into the material, while moving forward and backward, and left to right. More advanced CNC lathes use live tooling that combine lathe and mill operations within one machine. This feature increases production by saving time and money that might be spent on setting and completing the piece on a separate milling machine.

The following table illustrates the basic similarities and differences between the main types of lathes.

Lathe Type




Manual control includes non-mechanical and mechanical; computer-operated

Basic, standard lathe; subtypes include metal, wood, glass, reducing, and ornamental lathes


Manual control includes non-mechanical and mechanical; computer-operated

Small lathe; works in conjunction with engine lathes to customise smaller pieces


Manual control includes mechanical; majority are computer-operated

Produces quality pieces with close tolerances; overlaps with CNC lathes


Manual control includes mechanical; majority are computer-operated

Produces mass quantity of pieces in a short amount of time; overlaps with CNC lathes


Manual control includes non-mechanical and mechanical

Basic lathe; accommodates larger and longer material on the bed by extending the bed


Computerised numerical control

Quickly and accurately produces pieces; live tooling combines lathe and mill operations into one machine

The table above compares the operation and features of the basic types of lathes. eBay offers a wide selection of lathes, tooling, and accessories to fit any buyer's budget. Whether the project is hobby-related or related to the mass production of finished pieces, eBay offers quality lathe equipment to produce precise, accurate, wood, metal, or glass pieces.

Assessing the Item Listings

eBay offers a wide selection of different types and sizes of lathes for any project. The selection includes lathes for every type of project and budget. The different types of lathes include engine, precision, production, and CNC lathes. eBay also has listings for quality lathe components, tooling, and accessories. When reading the different product descriptions, the buyer should determine any additional items included with the lathe. The buyer should also read the seller's profile to gather feedback from previous buyers. This feedback gives a buyer some idea of how well the seller has worked with buyers in past. If the buyer has any questions for the seller, they can simply go onto the seller's profile page and click on the contact link.


A lathe is an important piece of machining equipment utilised in the woodworking and metalworking industries. Lathes are used to create large-scale and individual, wood and metal pieces, including pottery bowls, table and chair legs, spools for chair backs, and musical instruments. Proper lathe components and tooling are essential for the efficient operation of any type of lathe.

eBay offers a wide assortment of different types of lathes, lathe components, and tooling. The site's thousands of current listing offer popular, brand names and unique, and hard to find lathes that may not be found in regular machinery retails stores. eBay also offers different sizes for mass-production shops or personal, hobby projects. The eBay search platform is very easy to use. With some idea of what lathe he or she needs, a buyer simply then enters a descriptive keyword phrase into the search bar. It is then a matter of employing the various search filters to hone the search.

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