Good lighting is essential for lathe work. I really don’t think you can have too much. But general overhead lighting doesn’t cut it because you constantly need to train full, bright light on small details. I also use light to see the shape of my turnings not looking at the object itself, but using a shadow cast on a surface just behind the lathe. So close-up lighting for your lathe needs to be adjustable – and the more adjustable the better. I’m fond of reasonably inexpensive articulating arm lamps that are spring-tensioned. I use them around my lathe and on my bench.
Here in the Popular Woodworking Magazine shop I recently rigged up a fixture that mounts on our small Oneway lathe; it was amazingly easy to make, is quick to attach or remove and has multiple holes in which the lamp base can be placed for best positioning up and down the length of the lathe bed. On our lathe, there are metal brackets on top of the base behind the bed. The brackets are there to hold the machine’s control switches on one end or the other. I simply used the brackets to hold the fixture. How? On the bottom of a planed, squared 2×4, I cut a slot (using the table saw) that matches the thickness of the steel bracket. So the fixture just pops on and off. And here’s a little tip about the holes for the lamp base – drill them all the way through so the shavings from your tunings fall through rather than fill up the hole.
While there are many types of lathes out there and they all don’t have brackets or tabs like these, there are surely other simple ways of attaching a lamp holder like this. For example, aluminum or steel angle iron could be bolted to your lathe stand. You could also bolt the lamp holder directly to you lathe stand – but removing it would not be as handy.
Want to learn turning fundamentals? Shop our online store for the DVD “Turning Basics for Furniture Makers.” You might also like a book we’ve reprinted called “Elementary Turning” that walks you through more than 50 short lessons to build your skills.