Woodturning Tips

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What is Woodturning?


Woodturning is the art of turning wood on a lathe at high speed in order to achieve different desired looks by using a series of cutting knifes. The anatomy of a wood lathe is as follows:

  • The motor turns the lathe that can be adjusted for RPM's to achieve the speed needed for the timber being turned
  • The toolrest is an adjustable piece that is parallel to the timber being turned and is where the cutting knives are placed firmly to make contact with the wood. It is important when working the knife along the toolrest it remains firmly against the rest.
  • All woodturning tools are made with a bevel to produce the cutting edge. This bevel must be in contact with the timber at all times while the tool is cutting, giving support to the cutting edge and controlling the depth of cut.
  • The cutting edge, which is in contact with the work, must be in line with the point of contact with the tool on the toolrest to gain adequate support. This ensures that the tool cannot be twisted, or rotated, by the force of the timber against the tool.
  • The spindle on the lathe is mounted in bearings in the headstock and rotated by the motor.
  • The headstock is mounted on the lathe bed, which is the support which keeps all of the components of the lathe aligned.
  • The tailstock supports the end of the timber and can be adjusted to fit the different sizes of temper being turned. The tailstock also can have a sliding barrel, that can be moved in and out by a turning wheel, giving fine positional control and enabling end-loading to be applied to the timber.
  • The toolrest saddle - sometimes also known as a 'banjo' because of the shape of this part on earlier lathes - is moved into position so that the tool can be rested on the toolrest and reach the timber.

How do I stay safe?

Woodturning And Lathe Safety

As with all power tools, safety is number one. Here are a few common-sense tips on staying safe when working with this particular piece of equipment:

  1. Beware of loose clothing, long hair, dangling jewelry and any other object or part of your anatomy which could get caught up in the moving parts.
  2. Be sure that the lathe and other power tools are properly guarded and that the guards are securely in place.
  3. Never attempt to change the speed of the lathe, or to adjust any part of the timber while the lathe is still in motion, even if it is 'only' freewheeling to a stop.
  4. Always be sure that all items such as chuck keys, tommy bars etc. are removed before the lathe is started.
  5. Stand to one side when you start the lathe so that if any loose bark flies during work you're out of the line of fire.
  6. When mounting a new timber, rotate the job through 360 degrees by hand, then start the lathe at its slowest speed to allow you to check that everything is secure. Only when you have done this test is it safe to set the lathe to the normal turning speed.
  7. Check the lathe speed before switching the lathe on to avoid the risk of starting it while it is set to run at too high a speed.
  8. Always read the instructions. When you understand them fully, only then start to use the machinery.

What else is out there?

Woodturning Addition

There are many project kits from bottle stoppers to perfume bottle kits. And there are great companies that sell the starter kits to help you get started. The array of knives and custom tools for woodturning and lathes are just as many. Just remember, take care of your tools and they will take care of you. Happy Turning!

What are dial calipers?

Dial Calipers

Dial calipers are a must have in the shop. You can use them to confirm dimensions and if you truly want a flush wood to metal fit, using calipers is a must since each part and bushing has a +/- 0.002 tolerance. The graduations are 0.001 each. Giving you a resolution of 0.0005 or better. These calipers can measure up to 6" in length. They can measure ID, OD, and depth. The cost is around $22.00.

What kind of woods can I use on a lathe?

Woodturning Woods

Here is quick list of hard and soft woods used in woodturning.

Hard Woods

White Oak
Hard Maple

Soft Woods

Red Pine
Pond Pine
Red Spruce
White Fir
Eastern Hemlock
Jack Pine

What are some other pieces of equipment needed?

Work Hoding Equipment

Wood timber can be held in place in many ways. But the most common - especially for 'spindle work' such as chair legs - is when the work is held between a driving center mounted in the headstock spindle and a rotating center mounted in the tailstock barrel. For flat work, a faceplate is used and attached to the wood with screws, before the faceplate itself is mounted onto the headstock spindle.

What are pen kits?

Wood Pen Kits

Wood pen kits are beautiful projects for any lathe turner. Wooden pen blanks are turned on a lathe and come in many different styles and colors, not to mention all the variety of woods. The pen mechanism and tubes are included in most kits. The pens are made by the use of a cutter head and pilot bit, the cutter bit about ¾" in size and they run around $15.00. The set is referred to as a pen mill.

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