Height

Lathes are a bit like clothes - they have to 'fit' the turner to get the best out of them. A lathe has a fixed height and you probably don't even think about it. However, it can make an enormous difference to your ability to turn. If it is too low then you have to stoop over the lathe, too high, and you don't have the manoeuvrability or power behind the tool. These problems can be solved by either raising the height of the lathe, or increasing your height, which is easy enough.

It's simple enough to find out the ideal lathe centre height for you. Take one of your spindle turning tools, such as the spindle roughing gouge, turn your back on the lathe, then pretend to rough down a spindle in what you feel is a comfortable position. Remain In that position and measure the height (or better still, get someone else to), from the ground to the tool, about 1 in (25mm) from the cutting edge. This should be the tool rest height, which is close enough to the lathe spindle height that you will need for spindle turning.

Bolow right Roughing a spindle, controlling the gouge with my left hand.

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But I have foursd that I need a different lathe height for bowl turning than foi spindle turning. Do the same exercise again, this time with the deep-fluted gouge, and pretend to turn the outside of a bowl. This is more of a 'power cut", with the tool positioned to deliver the power; in my case the measurement was 3in (75mm) lower. I have different lathes for spindle and bowl turning, but if you use the same lathe for both, set the lathe up to its highest position, then use duckboards to raise and lower yourself (or anyone else using the lathe). This will help you achieve optimum working height. A little bit of latitude in height won't matter too much as the height of the tool rest can be fine-tuned for any given tool. In total. I raised my Graduate bowl-turning lathe by 6in (152mm) and my Graduate spindle-turning lathe by 8in (203mm).

Tool rest height

Ad|ustmg the tool rest height will set the presentation angle for particular tools and determine just how comfortable it is to use. Too high and it will be tight; too low and you can hardly reach the handle. Fcr most tools, a comfortable working angle is between the horizontal and 30' below. The scraper is an exception as it is used above the horizontal to achieve a trailing cut.

Too high Correct Too tow

Effect of tool rest height on tool position to make a cut Shallow-fluted gouge

Too high Correct Too tow

Above Comfortdbte height and stance for tool sharpening on the top of the Tormek wetstone grinder.

Above A dynamic stance for tool sharpening, standing to the side of the high-speed grinder.

Right Comlortabic height and stance for tool sharpening on the Sotby belt sharpening system.

Above A dynamic stance for tool sharpening, standing to the side of the high-speed grinder.

Tool sharpening equipment

The height of the tool sharpening equipment will also need adjusting. High-speed grinders are generally called bench grinders, but a bench is the last place to put one because it would be far too low for effective and comfortable use. Again, the way to find the optimum working height is to pretend to sharpen a tool, then measure the height of the tool from the ground, about 1 in (25mm) from the end. This will be the grinder axis height, or the height of the platform on the Sorby belt sharpening system. In my case, this is 4in (102mm) higher than the spindle turning lathe axis height of 42in (1067mm).

If you use a wetstone grinder then follow the same procedure. You are likely to be working on the top of the wheel so that the water runs back onto the wheel. Hold the tool in a comfortable position and pretend to sharpen. Measure the height of the tool tip to give you the tool rest height (or the height of the top of the wheel). For me. this is about 20in (508mm) lower than the spindle on the high-speed grinder.

Above Comfortdbte height and stance for tool sharpening on the top of the Tormek wetstone grinder.

Above A typical 'waiting for the bus" stance.

Left Static stance - -feet close together.

Sharpening height

High speed grinder Wetstone grinder

Deep-fluted gouge 45in+ (1143mm) 50in (1270mm)

Spindle roughing gouge 48in (1219mm) 50Viin (1283mm)

Shallow-fluted gouge 49ttin (1232mm) 50in (1270mm)

Stance

Look at people standing in a bus queue, particularly at their feet, which will probably be about 8in (203rnm) apart, with the toes pointing out slightly and legs fairly straight. This is a 'static stance", which is relaxed and physically inactive - ideal when waiting for the bus. Then look at someone like a boxer or lencer in action. Their stance is entirely different, with one foot well in front of the other, knees bent and constantly moving. This is a "dynamic stance', which has power, movement and agility. A joiner will take a dynamic stance when planing a piece of wood, with one foot well in front of the other, in-line with the cut to be made. This allows the joiner to apply the force evenly all the way along the wood.

Above A typical 'waiting for the bus" stance.

Left Static stance - -feet close together.

I once had a very beautiful gouge, which was forged, very shallow, about 1 :/┬╗in (32mm) wide and sharpened with a long fingernail grind. I never used it for fear of losing its beautiful bevel, which had probably last been sharpened in the 1920s or 30s. This gouge had puzzled me as I could not see how the turner would make full use of the large fingernail cutting edge. This was until another turner pointed out the user was probably standing on one leg in other words, working on a treadle or pole lathe. The turner would make lots of fine cuts because of the limited power. He would probably make the cuts towards himself, a direction in which he would be most stable and able to apply the force and movement to make the cut. Putting the gouge in its correct historical context brought it to life.

The lathes we use now have powerful electric motors up to 3hp (2.5kW). Electronic variable speed means that the belts don't even need to be changed and the speed can be adjusted as the project progresses. Turning tools are now bigger, longer and stronger, allowing turners to take advantage of the great power available. With these developments, you are free from the restraint of having to provide the power to drive the lathe and can take a suitable stance for the |Ob. A dynamic stance will give you the power and agility to make and control the cut. Standing with feet slightly apart sideways and one foot well in front of the other, the turner can apply forward pressure along the tool to cut the wood, while allowing sideways movement swinging the tool around curves.

A good lathe should have space for your knees and toes so that you can stand and work comfortably. A bad lathe would be one which is mounted on a flat-fronted bench that doesn't have a toe kick space. Toes and knees have nowhere to go. which will greatly affect the turning and can cause back problems. If the lathe is set back from the front edge then this exacerbates the problem. If you can put your toe (and possibly your knee) up to the centre line under the lathe, then you should be fine.

Above Ready tor action.

Loft Dynamic stance feet apart for power and agility.

Above Turning the outside of a cross-grain bowl tett-handed.

Top Turning the outside of a cross-gram bowl left-handed on the Harrison short bed.

Above Turning the outside of a cross-grain bowl tett-handed.

Woodturning

Take up the correct stance while approaching the lathe, having already mounted the blank and set up the tool rest position. Stand back from the lathe, take a deep-fluted gouge in any hand, place it on the tool rest and line up the bevel with the direction ot cut. Stand behind the tool, looking down the bevel in the direction ot cut, change hands if necessary, then take a dynamic stance, ready to make a cut away from yourself. In this position you will have very good control over the cut and the wood-shavings will be directed away from you. You will also be in the safest position should the wood leave the lathe. This can mean working from the opposite side of the lathe and occasionally I even sit on the lathe in order to get myself in the best position to turn. A swivel head lathe would avoid having to do this.

Now I reckon that when you initially make this approach to the lathe, about 30% of the time you will find that the handle does not fall into your natural

Top Turning the outside of a cross-gram bowl left-handed on the Harrison short bed.

hand. This is when you will find out that you need to be ambidextrous to be a good turner. It might feel a little strange at first but it will quickly become natural and greatly improve your woodturning technique. Of course, there are exceptions when doing fine detail work, such as Vs. beads and coves, or very small items. It would be silly to change hands to do the opposite side of a bead cr cove - it could slow the job down and the result might not be as good. But even with these detail cuts, a dynamic stance is needed. Stand behind the tool for the initial cut. which effectively means to the side of it. I usually take the most dynamic stance for the finest cuts.

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Above Turning inside a bowl right-handed.

Right A dynamic stance, to the side of the grinder brings you close to the action while being in the safest place.

Above Turning inside a bowl right-handed.

Tool sharpening

A good stance can make a great difference to tool sharpening. If you are using a high-speed gnnder. standing to the side brings you close to the action with a very good view of the sharpening process. You are also out of the way of sparks. A dynamic stance makes the process easier and quicker. Follow the same rule as when turning fine details: hold the handle in your natural hand, which will dictate on what side of the grinder you stand.

Sawing

When it comes to putting wood through a saw. be it a circular saw or bandsaw. your stance should be a safety issue. Taking a static stance can be dangerous. For instance, if the wood moved forward suddenly, through a soft spot in the wocd or similar, and you were to fall forward, then the teeth of the saw would be very close to the fingers. Good practice and safety are in tune with each other.

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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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