A peaceful evening just lathing around...

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 05-29-2010 04:32 PM 1324 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Late in the evening, I finally had a chance to correct an old turning that has laid on a shelf down in the shop for over a year. I think we can just consider this a “homework” project from jockmike2’s WoodTurning School and Coffee House.

A couple years ago, a dear friend of mine wanted to help encourage my interest in lathing and picked up a harbor freight economy lathe and a set of their HSS chisels. I read some articles on turning and seen some really pretty pictures, but my approach to turning seem to consist of finding chunks of hard maple outside, rotating it at high speeds, and praying to God I don’t hurt myself as I put the chisel to wood.

The economy lathe by HF has some serious limitations and it has proven frustrating at times. The lathe is very light and was prone to bits of tap dancing when an out of round piece was mounted on the faceplate. This made turning especially difficult as I would have to catch the machine before I could apply the chisels. Fortunately, I do not have a large shop and there weren’t too many locations the lathe could run to and hiding was definitely out of the question. The other limitation is that hollow vessels had to be turned on a faceplate and the lathe has a 3/4 10 tpi headstock. Not very useful for aftermarket chucks. Every now and again I could turn something that could be considered close to a finished project but could never re-seat the project to get a nice balanced spin on it for finishing cuts.

One item in particular was a sore spot for me. I had turned a rather small diameter log into a chalice, It was flawed and had some gouge marks, but I was especially proud of it because it was such a difficult turning for a novice. I was hollowing out a piece with heartwood attached, getting a decent hollowing from such a narrow vessel, and I was doing it on a faceplate, which is not easy for goblet style turnings. It was not good enough to finish, but too precious for me to throw away.

After meeting jockmike2 and spending some time turning with an individual who knew what he was doing (he will tell you differently, don’t listen to him ;) I decided to do a little work on the HF lathe and upgrade it some. I found an adapter on the penn state industries website and purchased their four jaw utility chuck. I also weighted down the lathe with some cinder blocks (Many thanks to fellow LJ’ers who posted pics of using similar weighting systems) and sharpened my chisels on my new Worksharp 3000 system. Because of the adapter, my tailstock needs to be elevated to get back on center, but am working on that right now. In the interim, the chuck will work fine for small projects. Here is my setup currently -

Harbor Freight lathe with fixings

The chuck is pretty decent for the price. I have two sets of jaws as well as a set of jumbo jaws for bowls. Under $100 delivered (cost more than the lathe actually). It is pretty well balanced and I can see it making a very big difference in the capabilities of this very cheap lathe.

PSI Utility Chuck

I was able to chuck the chalice and adjust it till it was mostly balanced. I took off a little more material and scrape most of the gouges out of it. I thinned the walls a little bit more and gave it a good sanding. Now all that is left is to apply the finish and the topcoat. Overall, I am pretty happy with it and am glad I was able to salvage the piece.

Maple Chalice

Vacation time is going great. I feel like I am entering in a new phase and am definitely feeling upbeat.

Hope everyone is doing well,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

9 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3602 days

#1 posted 05-29-2010 04:46 PM

Way to go make what you have work with a little tweeking.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3189 days

#2 posted 05-29-2010 05:19 PM

Yikes, dbHost has competition in tool tweeking world. Although, I am coming along with my TS. So I am riding tail on you two. But, alas, it is far from finished.

Remember, I keep saying this, and no one seems to bite…......your portable tools weigh a whole bunch, along with miscellaneous attactments, old parts, etc. Make a cabinet for that lathe to sit on, kinda a quick and dirty, with drawers and/or shelves. 2×6’s or something for the top, and it will weigh a ton when you put a bunch of stuff in it. My tool bench illustrates that, and it is essentially unmoveable. I bet you could build it with scrap construction lumber from the neighborhood, and judicious dumpster diving…........(-:

Must be pretty satisfying to fix up that chalice. Sounds like you are well up the learning curve with wood turning. Alas, I don’t even have a lathe. Wouldn’t fit right now.

Starting the second day of my 4 day call marathon. One delivered yesterday, two in labor already this morning. So the shop has kinda been out of the question. Besides working, I have to water a gazillion plants, indoors and outdoors, since Sherie, is out of town for the weekend. Fix my own meals, take care of Kermit. Oh well.

Of course my birthday is coming up. I could probably give her a link to whatever my heart desires, and it would magically appear. But I don’t have the room. Rats.

By the way, what is the height of the stand for your lathe, meaning from the floor to the top, meaning the flat green surface under the lathe proper?

Have a good weekend, I’ll be drifting in and out of touch due to work…........


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4271 days

#3 posted 05-29-2010 07:00 PM

Beautiful job on the chalice, me thinks I’m about to loose a student. I see you growing in leaps and bounds just like Trifern did when he first joined LJ’s. One big difference, he had some real teachers and man did he learn fast. I’m happy you’re having such a good time with your lathe, reminds me of starting out and how much fun it was to learn something new everytime you get on the lathe. And dude there’s so much stuff yet you can buy for it, and buy for it, and buy for it. In a way I feel sorry for you cause you’ll be poor like the rest of us when it’s all said and done, but you’ll still be smiling. Happy Turning.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3140 days

#4 posted 05-29-2010 08:06 PM

niiice save with that wood, good to see your learning curve go steap now
but realy, I know I tell you to relax but that can´t be all you made this week
anyway good to hear you have enjoyd the week

now remember to be carefull with those scharp weapons you have now….:—)

be safe

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3359 days

#5 posted 05-29-2010 08:35 PM

Good recovery on the chalice David. Woodturning is fun and interesting, so I hope you enjoy your turning journey.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3621 days

#6 posted 05-29-2010 10:01 PM

Nice work David

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3133 days

#7 posted 05-30-2010 06:07 AM

Thanks for the comments all. The support is always appreciated.

Jim Bertelson – The stand is approx 32 inches give or take a few of those many small lines on the tape measure. I am not opposed to the idea of a rolling combo lathe stand/storage center. Problem is, like you, I have space issues to contend with. The temporary cinderblock fix allows me to move the lathe wherever I need to without moving a bunch of other machines to make room for rolling it. Great idea though. Sounds like you are busy over there. I don’t suppose there is any correlation between the cold weather and the high birth rate over there ;) Seems to me that some days you are running a birthing marathon.

Mike – If you think you are almost finished teaching me buddy, I will let you know you are not getting off that easy. Even if you could teach me all you know about turning (doubtful), there still is chair building, wood bending, finishing techniques, cutting boards, etc. We just scratched the surface :)

Dennis – I wish I could tell you that I completed a dozen great projects during my time off. I think the largest project I worked on was myself this last week. More like an education and I feel like I came out of the shop a new man. It may seem strange for a guy to say he hardly made anything but feels like he learned more in a week than he has in a few months previous. All prep work, cleaning boards, jointing, with a few things to do on the side to keep it from being mundane. I did take a pic for you, since you mentioned wanting to see me “unplugged.” I was working some bloodwood with a card scraper to prep it for the jointer. I try to get as much surface crud off to help extend the life of the knives. So here you are, before and after pics of David “unplugged” :)

Bloodwood pre-scraping

Bloodwood mid scraping

a1Jim, stefang, Rick – Thanks for reading and leaving the commentary. As always, the encouragement is greatly appreciated.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3140 days

#8 posted 05-30-2010 11:57 AM

waow David that seams to bee a lot of work with a card scraber
but the board sure looks good and what a niiiice colour bloodwood have
not to ruch on you but I can´t wait to see what project you will show us

I´m glad to hear you feel like a new man after a week in the shop
doesn´t matter how much you made the most importen with a hobby
is to get the stress out of you
not so long ago I walked into my so called shop (realy isn´t a proppershop
only a big pile of boxes and a bench) realy determent to clean up the mess
in there and got hit by a blocking, I was sitting in there for 3 full hours
when my daughter came down and said eatingtime, when I walked out of there
even thow I didn´t make anything except hanging a screwdriver on the wall,
I was recovered from the days stress at work

we have rain all day today so I will go down this afternoon and have some time in there
cleaning the shop it´s realy needed

take care


View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3189 days

#9 posted 05-30-2010 07:08 PM

David Craig
Thanks for the stand height. Just thinking about some alternate ways to use my shop space.

This weekend is little busy, 5 deliveries, last a csection already this morning. Hope it slows down so I can water Sherie’s flowers.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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