Get a Smart Start in WoodturningComments (0)
A full-sized lathe requires a fair amount of floor space and can cost as much as $8,000. For your first lathe, think small. A mini lathe like the $400 Rikon model shown here is surprisingly versatile. You can use this lathe to turn anything from tiny pen blanks and ornaments to 12"-dia. bowls and 16"-long spindles. The 1⁄2-hp motor delivers plenty of power, and the reliable step-pulley system (shown in the photo) provides six speed options (from 430 rpm to 3900 rpm). Electronic variable-speed control is available on other mini lathes for faster speed changes, but it typically increases the price by $200 or so.
Five key tools and a chuckYou may be tempted to buy a set of six or eight turning tools. I did that when I started turning. But experience taught me that the five tools featured here can handle just about any turning project I tackle. Try these five first, then add to your tool selection as needed. You’ll also want a 4-jaw chuck like the one shown at bottom right, to give you versatile gripping capability for different turning projects.
shaper. Though tricky to use at first, a skew will soon become your go-to tool
for shaping beads, cutting thin grooves, or making fine finishing cuts.
Spindle specialist. You’ll need a spindle roughing gouge to
take a long spindle blank from square to round. Get one that’s at least
3⁄4" wide; bigger is better here. This tool is only for spindle work. It
isn’t safe to use for shaping bowls because the gouge could break where the
shank enters the handle.
cuter. With its narrow blade and sharp point, a parting tool can easily make
deep cuts to cut a turning free or establish a target turning diameter. You can
also use the sharpened sides of the tool for shaping details on spindles. A
diamond-shaped parting tool won’t easily get stuck in its kerf, but a tool
that’s rectangular in cross-section will work fine, too. An 1⁄8"- wide
parting tool is your best bet.
Workhorse tools. A 1⁄2" spindle gouge and a 1⁄2 "
bowl gouge will be the tools you rely on for many shaping operations. Although they
look similar, they aren’t interchangeable. Their flutes are shaped differently
and the cutting ends are ground with different bevel angles. To make them cut,
rub the bevel on the wood, then pivot the handle to bring the cutting edge into
the wood for controlled cutting action. Use the spindle gouge to shape beads
and coves. The bowl gouge shapes both the outside and inside of bowls and tall
gripper. The jaws on a scroll chuck adjust with a pair of rods or a geared
wrench and are self-centering. This enables you to grab a spindle blank or
tenon while keeping the workpiece on-axis. The chuck will also expand against a
circular recess, making it ideal for bowl turning.
Take your turning to the next level with two key accessoriesThere’s no shortage of specialty tools and accessories for turning, and a turner’s favorite accessories usually depend on the type and scale of work being done. But you can’t go wrong with the two accessories mentioned here. Get these first.
Flexible support. This Oneway Wolverine grinding jig is a
favorite among turners because its adjustable support and tool-holding features
make it easy to sharpen a variety of turning tools.
More woodturning infoFor my money, the smartest thing a beginning turner can do is join the American Association of Woodturners as well as a local woodturning club. A year’s membership in AAW costs $60 and gives you access to the most comprehensive store of woodturning instruction and advice available anywhere. The AAW offers members Getting Started in Woodturning, a book featuring practical projects and expert advice on safety, tools, and techniques. It costs $18.95. As a member, you can also access the AAW Video Library, an ever growing roster of informative videos. For more information, go to www.woodturner.org.
New or used?
Websites like Ebay and Craigslist almost always have plenty of used turning tools, lathes, and accessories for sale. Ebay is also a good source of wood for turning. But it’s risky to buy tools or machinery sightunseen.
Here’s my advice for playing it safe:
- Comparison-shop. Check sites like woodcraft.com or woodturnerscatalog.com to familiarize yourself with reputable tool brands and current prices.
- Look for new tools. “Vintage” tools may be made of carbon steel, which cuts very well but needs frequent sharpening. Old tools may be rusty. Worse, they may have unseen damage that would make them dangerous to use.
- Avoid sets. Buy only the tools you really need, one at a time.
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