Confusing "lath" with "lathe" is very easy, as they are spelled so similarly. In fact, it can even happen due to an accidental sliding of your fingers over your keyboard while typing. And if you're not familiar with these terms, because they are not even usual English words, well that makes it even more important that you know the difference in their meanings in order to prevent misspellings in your texts and confusions for your audience.
Below we are going to provide you all the information you need in order to clearly distinguish "lath" from "lathe" after understanding how each noun is defined and in which domain or context you can use them correctly.
Lath vs. Lathe
Both "lath" and "lathe" are commonly used in the construction industry. They are both related to materials, to wood more exactly.
The fact that their definitions are also close, due to their relation with wood and construction materials, is an additional element that creates confusion and ease of misspelling them. But one is the actual piece of material, used in various forms, while the latter is the machine used at working that material.
When do we use "lath"?
You should use "lath" when referring to the thin, narrow and flat strip of wood used for any construction purpose. The material is generally combined with other strips to form latticework, supports for slates, backing for plasters etc.
Example: Take that lath and use it for the latticework. - "lath" is a thin and narrow strip of wood which is flat and used in constructions to create other structures.
When do we use "lathe"?
Unlike "lath", which is simply wooden material, "lathe" defines the actual machine used at working lath, wood, metal and other materials. A "lathe" holds the materials in a fixed position and rotates it around an axis, usually an horizontal one, against a cutting tool, in order to shape it.
Example: Once the lathe is repaired, I'll be able to shape these wooden strips in the most sophisticated models. - "lathe" is the machine used at working the materials, not the actual material.
"Lath" and "lathe" can also be used as verbs, not only as nouns, but that happens very rarely and when it does, the meanings of the words are sourced exactly in the meanings of the nouns. So "lath" refers to covering a line with laths, whereas "lathe" refers to the action of cutting materials using a "lathe".
The best way to remember which is which, is using a short trick that works. The materials used in constructions are, obviously, smaller and simpler than a complex machine. Therefore, a "lath" is smaller than a "lathe", just as "lath" is shorter than "lathe" when spelling them. An even shorter way to remember the difference between them is that "lath" is worked using a "lathe". Eventually, no matter what method you use, it's important that you distinguish these words in order to use them correctly even though they are technical, not so usual English words.