Typically, a weekend woodworker needs more than a weekend for all but the most simple of projects. Some time is spent cutting large pieces of wood into smaller pieces and then assembling them in elaborate ways. The assembling tends to involve various fasteners and glues which need a fair amount of time to set up and harden before the next stage of assembly with its glues and drying time and so on. A wood lathe changes that for all but the most serious of laminated wood turnings.
First of all, a wood lathe is the opposite in performance from that mainstay of the flat woodworker’s tool arsenal, the table saw. To use a table saw, boards are carefully squared and then the mitre gauge or the table fence is itself carefully aligned and the boards are moved through the cutting action of a rotating blade while keeping hands carefully distant. A woodworker at the lathe is more likely to install a rough piece of wood between centres and start it spinning. Using various tools held by hand the piece is brought into round and balance.
Second, wood turners tend to work with only one or two pieces of wood in a finished project. Instead of gluing up a block of wood, the woodturner is more likely to use a chain saw or other saw to quickly produce a blank piece of wood ready to be made into some kind of finished object. Glue times virtually disappear as does the wait for the real start of the project.
It should be noted that there are three exceptions to the rule of no glue time. The first is the segmented woodturner, a special class of turner who likes to make woodturning blanks of various small bits of multi coloured woods for turning into works of art, much as a quilter works with various fabrics. More time is generally spent cutting and gluing than turning. Second is the spindle turner who likes to make blanks of various woods for items such as pepper mills and pens. Most of these spend a weekend or afternoon making blanks and then having them on hand for quick turning. Third is the woodturner who uses the lathe to make parts for other projects such as legs for a table. While the legs are quickly turned, they must in turn be glued to the table top.
Third is simply the scale of most woodturnings. Generally a turning can be created, sanded and finished on the lathe in a matter of a few hours. Many turnings take much less time and of course some large or artistic pieces may take much more. However, for the hobbyist, woodworking on the lathe allows for great satisfaction in a short period of time.