Getting Started in Woodturning

woodturning is easy to learn and fast to do. so, what's keeping you from taking it up? probably one of these three common roadblocks.

By Woodworker's Journal Staff

Woodturning might just be the perfect baby-boomer woodworking niche. It's fun and relatively easy, doesn't take a bunch of room, and you don't need a big pile of money to get started. And fiere is the kicker: you can turn a project, from start to finish (you know, the kind you wipe on) in an evening! Even more complex turning projects don't take as long to make as a big piece of furniture does. Think of it as "instant gratification" woodworking.

We here at Woodworker's Journal know that there are many woodworkers who are interested in woodturn-ing, but they have yet more likely, moves) to begin turning. While there are probably lots of good reasons why yon may not be ready to jump into the turning orbit just yet, don't let the "big three" roadblocks keep you from joining the ranks of satisfied woodturners.

Three Major Stoppers

At its heart, woodturning is very simple. You really only need three major components to do remarkable work: something to spin the wood — a lathe; something to cut the wood — gouges of sufficient quality for the task; and here is perhaps the biggest stopper for some folks ... something to sharpen those curved gouges — a super-easy sharpening system.

Start out with a benchtop lathe. It will cost you less than a full-size machine while providing a very capable lathe for general turning. This JET JWL-1220, for example, will allow you to turn a vessel up to 12" in diameter. It sells for around $450

This five-piece turning set from Crown comes pre-sharpened, so they're ready to use right out of the box. it is a very serviceable group of tools that will get a beginner turning in no time and allow your skills and craft to grow. Rockier Woodworking and Hardware sells the five-piece set for around $190

On these pages, you will find our recommendations for simple solutions to meet those three basic turning needs. There are, of course, many other high quality options for these components. But the three we suggest here will get you across the turning threshold at a minimum of out-of-pocket expense and with the opportunity to grow your skills and the scope of your turning challenges.

The WorkSharp™ WS3000 is one of the easiest systems we've found to sharpen those tricky curved-edge gouges. It also does a great job with fiat surfaces. Keep it close to your lathe so you can sharpen as you turn, just like the pros do it.

There is a Season: Turn, Turn, Turn!

As with any shop upgrade, you can approach it in a variety of ways — buy new, buy used, try out your buddy's lathe to get the feel of turning ... it's up to you. But if you are going to start turning wood, you need a lathe, and it doesn't have to be a big one. The JET JWL-1220 Wood Lathe, for example, is a mini lathe with a 3/4 HP motor and 12" capacity. That means you can turn bowls and other objects up to 12" in diameter. Small lathes are great for turning pens, spindles, duck calls, bowls, flat turning — all the stuff you can do on a big lathe, just in smaller scale. You can buy it new for about $450. If you fall in love with woodturning, it will likely not be the last lathe you buy. But you will probably keep the mini lathe around the shop anyway, even if you step up to a full-size lathe later on.

The WorkSharp™ WS3000 is one of the easiest systems we've found to sharpen those tricky curved-edge gouges. It also does a great job with fiat surfaces. Keep it close to your lathe so you can sharpen as you turn, just like the pros do it.

It is easier to gauge how the sharpening process is going ¡f you can see it happening. That's the concept behind the slotted-wheel feature on the Worksharp™ WS3000 Sharpening System, Beginning sharpeners often find this system especially useful when it comes to sharpening curved-edge tools like spindle and bowl gouges.

It is easier to gauge how the sharpening process is going ¡f you can see it happening. That's the concept behind the slotted-wheel feature on the Worksharp™ WS3000 Sharpening System, Beginning sharpeners often find this system especially useful when it comes to sharpening curved-edge tools like spindle and bowl gouges.

The Cutting Edge

Now that you have your wood spinning, you'll need something to change its shape. The Crown Five-piece Turning Set (item 27754) from Rockier is a good choice if you are starting out. It contains full-sized roughing, spindle and bowl gouges, as well as a skew and a scraper — really all the cutting tools you need to get into woodturning in a big way. The steel is of very good quality and the handles are sufficient; they could be longer, but at around $190 for the set, this is a very good deal. An added bonus is that the tools come properly ground and well honed. Not only can you start turning with them right out of the box, but you also get a good idea of what a sharp turning edge looks and feels like.

As you progress in woodturning, this is one collection of tools that will likely grow. While the variety of different turning tools is not endless, it is vast, and turners seem to develop strong preferences regarding grind, gouge shape, handle length ... you name it. But you've got to start somewhere, and this set is just right to get you up and running.

Honing in on a Sharp Too)

Even if your turning tools are sharp right out of the box, sooner 01* later they will get dull — all cutting tools do. Then you have to shapen them. The challenge with sharpening turning tools is that many of them are not a simple flat edge (like a bench chisel or a plane iron). Bowl, spindle and roughing gouges are curved. Sharpening those curved edges has long been one of the roadblocks for folks looking to become woodturners. And while it is not impossible to learn to sharpen those edges on traditional grind-ing-wheel style systems, they can be tricky for beginners. The main reason is that on a grinding wheel system, the edge you are sharpening is turned down, where it's harder to see. For that reason we recommend the Worksharp™ WS3000 Sharpening System for start-up turners. It is an abrasive-paper based system as opposed to a grind

Saving face: don't forget the face shield!

ing wheel type system. By using the see-through slotted wheel you can actually view the surface you are grinding (see photos, previous page). This function allows immediate visual feedback and enhanced control as you sharpen a gouge. If you "black out" the grinding surface before you start, using a black marker, you can see the metal revealed as you lightly grind the surface. When the black is all gone, your gouge is sharp and ready to take back to the lathe. It's that simple.

If you turn a lot of wood, you are going to need to get good at sharpening your cutting tools. Turners sharpen their tools all the time. In fact, many experienced turners keep their sharpening systems right next to the lathe. Often they don't even turn off the lathe as they turn to the grinder and put a new edge on their tools. One obstacle that new turners often put in front of themselves is that they over-think the sharpening component of turning. 'Ihey are concerned about not getting the tools sharp enough, or maybe too sharp. Do they need to raise a "wire edge" on their tools that they've read about? The quandaries go on. Perhaps that's because, as Ian Kirby is fond of pointing out, sharpening is not woodworking ... it is metalworking. So it's logical why we woodworkers are a bit uncomfortable with the task. The curious thing is that when you talk to experienced turners, they don't get worked up about sharpening. It's something they just have to do. Priced at $250, the WS3000 is a user-friendly system that can get a newbie to that "no big deal" sharpening mindset quickly, which is a good goal. Remember, the less time you spend sharpening, the more time you'll spend turning.

Knock Down the Roadblocks and Have Fun!

Getting started in woodturning is easier than it seems. Once you get past the three roadblocks identified here, you will be spinning stock and making shavings in no time. As with any new skill, it is always good to learn the basics and understand the safety concerns. One great thing about turning is that it is a forgiving hobby and lends itself well to trial-and-error learning at no great expense. The most important thing to keep in mind is the advice offered by our turning expert, Betty Scarpino: "Don't forget to have some fun!"

ompared to the entire continuum of woodworking power tools, lathes (and by extension, woodturning) are generally considered fairly safe. With that said, one important piece of safety equipment every woodturner should own is a face shield. While it may seem too obvious to mention, the goal is to protect not only your eyes, but also the rest of your face from flying chips, chunks and even entire bowls that may come loose from the lathe from time to time. Shields come in a wide range of cost and quality. The basic shield, shown on the bcnch above, is sold by Rockier Woodworking and Hardware for around $24. On the other end of the spectrum is the Trend' Airshield Pro, a top-of-the line, power-ventilated and padded face protection system, that sells for around $400 (see inset photo above). Whichever face shield you buy, don't take chances with safety. Wear it whenever you are working at the lathe.

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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