Turning slippery slope #2: Looking more fun as I go - opinions requested

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 01-04-2009 02:05 AM 1236 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Starting to turn Part 2 of Turning slippery slope series Part 3: Sharp tools »

Have not turned anything yet—have my first class in a couple of weeks. But I’ve been spending a lot (really a lot) of time on the net watching free videos and looking at projects. I’m really getting excited about the possibilities.

I’m very nervous about using the lathe – that’s why I want to take classes and such. I’ve done pens but nothing more (honestly didn’t do those all that well).

Watching these videos have really led me to believe that I can do a lot of small projects and not be physically taxing.

I am a little bit concerned about the vibration. I’m assuming that with sharp tools and a solid bench set up that vibration would not be that great. I would, however, like your opinions on this issue.

I’m thinking that roughing out would be the most vibrating. But I’m seeing that there are ways to get around that as well – such as rounding the corners on a bandsaw – etc.

Anyway – I’d like your opinions on the vibration issue and how to consider lessening that issue. Hopefully I can get some ideas and direction on getting off to a good start.

Thanks in advance.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

8 comments so far

View lew's profile


12062 posts in 3756 days

#1 posted 01-04-2009 02:17 AM


I think you have it pretty much correct about the vibrations. Going from square to round can produce a lot of vibration- if you rush it. Taking it slow and easy, with sharp tools will reduce the vibration. Using the band saw to knock off the corners is also a great idea.

I find that turning bowls can also produce a lot of vibration. Especially if I am cutting from a blank that was taken from a tree rather than built up from dried stock. It is difficult to get those blanks smooth and true because of the more crude method which is used to extract them. Also, turning the inside of a bowl can be a little more challenging.

However, I am a self taught turner- books and videos have been my only reference so I am sure that there are tricks that I have never even thought of.

Looking forward to seeing and reading about your progress. Good Luck!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View woodnut's profile


393 posts in 4053 days

#2 posted 01-04-2009 03:05 AM

Betsy I by no means am a professional turner and as lew said I am self taught. I am sure your instructor will tell you this, but be careful of catches, some times they can really send a sock though your body. I know this becouse as I said I’m self taught. Not trying to scare you at all, turning is wonderful, just want to give you a heads up. All my catches happen either becouse of dull tools or me not letting the tool do the work and forcing the issue. Hope this helps.

-- F.Little

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3897 days

#3 posted 01-04-2009 03:17 AM

Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate the input.

I think I’m glad that I’m starting with a sharpening class!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View FrankoManini's profile


40 posts in 3516 days

#4 posted 01-04-2009 06:20 AM


I have few tips for you. As an avid turner, albeit amature, I have learned a few lessons the hard way. here are som pointers to the “easy path”.

1) Add as much weight to your lathe as you can.l My lathe weighs about 650 lbs, and I still added another 300 pounds of lead ingots and sand to it. Many lathes have shelves under the ways, or spots where you can add a bit of mass. Try inside one or both of the legs. Mass helps reduce vibration and absorb some of the shock.

2) Don’t rush, turn slowly at first. The speed of your laythe doesn’t make that much difference on the quality of a cut (with a couple of exceptions) so the only thing you’ll accomplish by cranking up the speed is that you’ll be done turning faster. The downside is that you’ll need to react faster if you get a catch, and that generally, vibration increases with speed.

3) Find the RIGHT speed for your work. Large blanks deserve respect and patience. The larger the diameter, the slower your speed should be. Often you can find a speed that causes a minor vibration to resolve itself. Try increasing the speed of your lathe until the vibration goes away. If you’re not comfortable with that, reduce it until the vibration resolves.

4) Sharp tool reduce catches, cut better, provide better feedback to the user, and are safer to use. I am glad to see your course work starts with sharpening.

5) To avoid dangerous situations, simply remember this evertime you pick up a tool: The tool contacts the rest before anything else. Then the bevel engages the work next. Then raise the handle of the tool to engage the cutting edge of the tool. Stop raising the tool when you start getting chips.

6) Minimize the distance you tool overhangs the rest. Adjust your toolrest often so you get the feel of the difference it makes.

7) ALWAYS, and especially when you’re learning, follow these safety tips:
-wear appropriate FULL FACE protection
-keep your workspace clean
-don’t wear loose clothing (ties, scarves, or dangly jewelery) and tie back long hair
-don’t turn in contorted or uncomfortable positions while you’re learning (there are times when, to accomplish certain tasks, you’ll want to lean over the lathe, or push the tool to it’s limit – save that for when you’re really comfy with the basics).
-keep your feet under your shoulders and move your body to make cuts in a smooth, and balanced way

Just a note about safey, I’ve been turning since I was about 10 years old, and I’m apporaching 40 now. Last year, I was leaned over the lathe hollowing a deep vessel with a specialized tool that was advertised as “catch-free”. I was taking light cuts, sharpening regularly, and making slow progress. The vase was made of beech, a very hard and dense wood. The tool caught and launched the end of the handle into my lower jaw. thankfully I didn’t have my tongue hanging out my face in concentraction, but it was enough for me to see stars and hit the emergency stop button. It must have been loud since my wife ran down to the shop to see what had happened. I was sitting on the floor dazed as a drunken pirate. Accidents happen even when you’re doing the right things. My error was that I was trying to spped up the process by increasing the size of the cut I was taking. I should have been more patient.

In my opinion, the lathe is one of the safest tools in the shop, but I’m intersted in extreme turning, so I’ve been bitten more by it than any other tool. Still, I treat my lathe, and all my pointy, sharp, spinning, reciprocating, and orbiting tools with respect. Understand how and why they work, and youre more than half the way there.

Anyway, I hope this helps…

-- - If my wife asks, I got ALL of my tools on sale.

View jlfenter's profile


2 posts in 3431 days

#5 posted 01-04-2009 08:18 AM

The advice from Frankomanini is excellent (and goes well for all aspects of woodworking). I would recommend that you start off with green or at least not-thoroughly dried wood as it allows you to build confidence in your addressing of the wood.

Like the others’ advice, tool to the rest, then bevel to the wood…. Once you get started it is addictive, tons of fun and always interesting.

I bought the Jet 1236 and took the beginner’s class at Woodcraft before I started. The instructor really drilled in the need for good quality, sharp tools.

Have fun!!

-- Jack - Remember, its not the wood's fault...

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3897 days

#6 posted 01-05-2009 04:11 AM

Wow Frank – thanks for the detailed reply. Those are some great tips.

Jack – I’ve been warned about the addictive nature of turning. I’m looking forward to being caught up into something that is so innocent in its addiction!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View BobD's profile


52 posts in 3414 days

#7 posted 01-23-2009 09:24 AM

very new to this site, but I like what I see so far.
New to turning also.
Turned about a dozen pens and a couple of bowls. Turned out well for being self taught.
My number one need is to learn the tool sharpening game. I’m sure there is good advice here. Can someone point me in the right direction?
Sharp tools are key so I’m looking for a good sharpening system. Advise welcome.

San Diego

-- Bob, San Diego

View toyguy's profile


1652 posts in 3838 days

#8 posted 01-23-2009 01:44 PM

Oneway Wolverine sharping jig video........

This is a very informative video on sharpening lathe tools. The wolverine is with out a doubt the most popular jig on the market, but there is others, and a fellow with a bit of work could make his own to do the job.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

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