As someone who has been working with wood for 20 years and turning for 12 years, there are a few things that set me off. I’m going to jump up on my soapbox now:
1.) “What lathe is the best?” “What angle is that sharpened to?” “What tools are the best?” “What chuck…”
AAAAAAARGH! The answer to all of these questions is “It doesn’t matter.” I think far too many folks are concerned with the brand name, whether there is some perception of status or instant expertise if you own a Oneway vs. a mini lathe- it doesn’t matter! Folk overlook the basic facts- A lathe spins wood, and a tool cuts wood. A better lathe will outperform a lesser lathe only if there is a BETTER turner holding the tool.
We tend to think investing in better tools is the easiest way to get better at the craft, when the truth is that we really need to invest in our skills and knowledge. Once you have done this, most folks will realize that what they have is more than sufficient and stop asking those questions.
2.) “I can’t do what you do.”
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH! (really bugs me!) I stand there holding a sharp tool to a spinning piece of wood. It requires almost no skills at all. The root of the matter is that these folks are still mystified by the very basics of woodturning, which boil down to the following:
You either cut or you scrape. Period. A cut is supported by the bevel of the tool. A scrape isn’t. Pretty simple stuff. From there, you need to know what one looks like vs. the other, and watch your tool presentation to the wood. Practice makes perfect, but in 15 minutes, I’ve taken folks that have never held a turning tool and taught them how to make ribbons of wood fly.
If I had know 10 years ago what I know now, I’d be where I will be 10 years from now.
3.) “I like straight sided bowls”
(I’ll save the keystrokes the ARGH would require here…) Really? Have you ever seen one for sale in a store somewhere? If you did, you were probably in a pet store, because a dog dish is the quintessential “beginner bowl shape”. Usually, it is driven by two things- the desire to get the biggest possible bowl (not the best bowl) out of an expensive piece of wood (beginners SHOULD NOT BUY WOOD) or the fear of a catch in the curve or transitions.
We are all guilty of having to start somewhere, but my biggest investment in turning is my library. I have scores of books that went from how-to, to what-to, and finally why-to. Woodturning is a very tactile craft- most of the things we make are going to be handled by human hands, which can instantaneously provide feeback that our eyes cannot. If we pick up something that doesn’t feel “right”, it’s usually a red flag to our perception that something is “wrong”.
A straight sided bowl doesn’t fit into the human hand. It may be perfect for keeping the dog from knocking its water over, but let’s try to work in some curves.
Why am I ranting about this? Generally speaking, I don’t know. I guess it’s because I see an opportunity to change the way turning is taught – why, how, what. If you know why, you can apply how to make whatever you want.
Rant off. Thanks for listening.