In addition to cleaning it after each use, you should regularly maintain your woodturning lathe to keep it working well. By going through a series of checks and cleanings once a month, you can prevent and minimize most damage to the lathe. Begin with a few initial checks, remove dust and file the lathe where necessary to remove dust and sap, and lastly apply a light coating of microcrystalline wax to maintain the lathe's lubrication.
Step 1 - Perform Initial Checks
Check to make sure the lathe is still level and adjust as necessary. Often small adjustments are needed due to the base getting slightly disrupted while turning wood. Electrical wiring should also be closely examined to be sure the connections are adequate, there are no cuts or abrasions in the wire coatings, no corrosion is beginning to take place, and wires are not being inadvertently pinched or crimped.
Step 2 - Remove Dust and Debris
Use compressed air instead of attempting to wipe dust or debris away. The air can penetrate the small, intricate spaces within the lathe better and fully remove dust. Compressed air should be used to blow out the controller boxes and the motor, removing any fine dust which could begin to build up. Remove the tool rest banjos from the lathe and use compressed air to blow out any debris or fine saw dust which might be accumulating there as well.
Step 3 - Treat Rust and Dings
It is important that the metal of the lathe stays sharp and free from rust or damage. The tool rest should be filed with a flat bastard file to remove dings or small damages. Using fine steel wool, remove any sap or grunge from the tool rest shaft, as well. Closely examine the bedways for rust. If any is found, use fine steel wool and WD-40 to remove the spots. Fully extend the tail ram and using fine steel wool, clean any grunge from the ram arm.
Step 4 - Apply Lubrication
Since the point of the lathe is to turn wood, adequate lubrication is necessary for all the parts to move smoothly. Applying a light coating of microcrystalline wax can help minimize friction and keep the metal from scraping. After dust, debris, and rust have been removed from the lathe, apply the wax. A light coating of wax should be rubbed along the tailstock assemblies, the bedways and the undersides of the banjos so everything can slide easily.
Bearing surfaces inside the banjos need to be lubricated as well; however, they often require specialty lubricate available thorough the manufacturer or at hobby stores. Routine lubrication of the banjos is necessary to keep the action smooth and the lathe functioning properly.
Once the ram has been cleaned, it should also receive a light, dry lubricant which does not attract dust. Such a lubricant can also be found either through the manufacturer or at a hobby store.