As The Lathe Turns #4: I Feel Like An Idiot

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by William posted 02-10-2013 06:14 PM 2841 reads 0 times favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: The Lathe Saga Continues Part 4 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 5: This Idiot Can Learn »

I’ve had the flu and haven’t felt up to doing too much. I’m been puttering around though and doind what I can.

Yesterday, I pulled out my grinder and oil stones. It was something I could do sitting down. So I got some of my lathe tools sharpened up nicely.

One of my older sons had brought me a small pile of firewood. It was still pretty wet, but I remembered someone telling me green wood was a good idea to start with for practice. So, today, I pulled out my electric chain saw and chopped off a piece large enough for a small bow. After plenty of reading, and plenty of helpful advice from fellow Lumberjocks, and some new toys thanks to my friend Eddie and my wife, I was ready to crawl back on that horse.

The first thing I done was chucked it up in the old lathe, the one with the bent shaft. As long as I’m still learning, I figured this would be a better idea. I can rough things out on this old lathe. That will get things almost balanced well before putting it on the good lathes.

After it was balanced good, I put it on the Ridgid lathe that Eddie had given me. I worked with it here until I was ready to chop off the excess amount I did not need. I intentionally started with more wood than I would possibly need, in case there was any mistakes.

Up until this point, everything was going perfectly. The chips were flying and there was a smile on my face.

Then I mounted this onto the new lathe that my wife got me. Between the Ridgid lathe, and this new lathe, and both of them running true, things went so much smoother than my past experiences. The piece chucked into my four jaw chuck and ran perfectly true. There was no issues.
Then my new troubles began.
I have done a lot of reading lately. I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do. Apparantly I was wrong. No matter what I did, had so many, and with such severety, catches with the tools, that I wound up having to stop before I finished and make the decision to try and figure out what I’m doing wrong before I mess around and hurt myself.
No, I do not have a “proper” bowl gouge. I know that is an issue, but I can’t believe that it the only problem.
I tried different tools.
I tried different angles.
I tried adjusting to tool rest to different positions.
I spent close to three of the most frustrating hours of my life trying to figure out what exactly I am doing wrong as compared to the information I’ve read and the tons of video I have now watched on bowl turning. As determined as I am though, I am not quite sure at this moment what exactly I’m doing wrong.
I do know that the catches I’m getting are severe enough to do damage, either to the mcahine, or myself. Also, I think this is how I bent the shaft on the first lathe. Overall, I am fearful at this point to continue until I figure this out.
I understand that a proper bowl gouge will become something I just can’t continue without. At this time though, I can’t believe that the inability to afford an expensive tool at this time is the only problem.

This is how far I got into the inside of the bowl before I decided it was best for me to stop. I followed the advice I read in one of the books I’ve been in, and used a forstner bit to remove a lot of the center before beginning.
At this time, I can turn spindles and such, and some real nice bowl blanks. I cannot seem to get face turning, or the interior of bowls, right. So I left this piece chucked into the lathe for now, as a daily reminder that I need to try and learn some more.

As for the title of this entry, it is how I feel at the moment. This is now the first time I’ve felt this way, and probably won’t be the last. It is a feeling I am sure some others feel when you try something that you’ve seen others make look so easy, and you just can’t seem to get it right.
Oh, well, back to the drawing board. In other words, time to learn some more.


31 comments so far

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


7064 posts in 2834 days

#1 posted 02-10-2013 06:34 PM

No advice from me, a total beginner here. I am sure if it was so easy, everyone would be doing it. I do like to little tool holder though. I need to make one like that.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3078 days

#2 posted 02-10-2013 06:56 PM

Thank you Shane.
That was actually the point of the title. It is something I run across often in scrolling, something I am very good at. I have people tell me, “but you make it look so easy” all the time. It is easy for me, but I’ve had several years of practice at making it look easy.
Eventually, I hope to make bowl turning look easy too!
If I can just figure out what makes me feel like an idiot today, then I can master that aspect before something else makes me feel the same way again.
Feeling like an idiot is not meant to be a bad thing, just a step in the learning process.

The tool holder is easy to make. It is just two round disks of wood.
Mark them so when you stack them and unstack them you can put them back in the same place.
I stacked them together to drill four evenly spaced 1/4” holes all the way though for alignment dowels. I drilled 1 1/4” holes (or whatever you need for your tool handles) through one disk and half way through the other. You can space it however you wish.
Turn the disks over and drill a 7/8” hole (or whatever size dowel you’ll use for your center pole) all the way through on disk and halfway through the other.
Now seperate the two disks, keep the disks lined up where you marked them.
Glue four 1/4” dowels in the holes you drilled for the allignment dowels.
I also shot some brad nails through the edges of the 1/4” dowels for extra support.
After they dry, slip the whole assembly over your center post and put the tools in.
You can glue or secure in place.
I left mine free so I can spin it to get to tools without having to reach over the edges of other sharp tools.

I got the idea out of one of the many wood working magazines I read. I can’t remember which one.


View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3092 days

#3 posted 02-10-2013 07:01 PM

William that is wet endgrain it is a total to turn even with the
sharpest bowl gouge.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View JL7's profile


8692 posts in 3201 days

#4 posted 02-10-2013 07:07 PM

No help here either William, except to say….....I’ve had the same results trying to turn a bowl…...certainly not as easy as it looks! I believe persistence will pay off though!

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View derosa's profile


1590 posts in 3071 days

#5 posted 02-10-2013 07:58 PM

I’ve only turned two small little bowls, not having a 4 jaw chuck and relying on screwing the piece to a rather flimsy plate has discouraged trying more. On the one piece the wood was very tight grain and the inside cut easily and smoothly. The second was a red oak piece and it looked like I tried butchering the inside. Tool kept catching and tearing the wood. Both where endgrain but the coarser wood just wouldn’t turn that well. Although maple can be hard it may be a good start for the smooth grain, same with cherry. Best I have for you since I’m not much of a turner myself and wish I had more practice as well.

-- A posse ad esse

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3078 days

#6 posted 02-10-2013 08:06 PM

Jamie, it is very wet. I’m talking I could take a bath in the water coming off of it wet.
So that means that even if green wood is good for learning to turn, it is not good to learn to hollow out bowls on?

Jeff, thank you. You know me though. I am persistant if nothing else. I will prevail, eventually.

Derosa, I do have a four jaw chuck. I hope that gives me a step up in getting going good. I bought me chuck when I really had no idea what I was going to do with it. When I got my old blue lathe though, I was able to also purchase (used, but like new condition) the four jaw chuck, two extra sets of jaws, one set of plates with the rubber feet (can’t remember the proper name) and the screw chuck that can be mounted in it as well. I got all that for a hundred bucks. I can’t remember the brand name right off hand, but I looked it up once and I think I got a helluva deal.

Thank ya’ll for your words of wisdom. You may not realize it, but even someone telling me they’ve tried and had problems, like Derosa, helps me a lot. It shows me that I am not an idiot, but learning like others before me have done.

Hopefully, I’ll have some master bowl turners chime in sooner or later.
I gotta get back to reading my book.
Thanks guys.


View DIYaholic's profile


19739 posts in 2911 days

#7 posted 02-10-2013 08:15 PM

Well, you may not be a master turner, but you are a very capable page turner. I suggest you keep doing that, the answers & skills will come!!!

Good luck.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3092 days

#8 posted 02-10-2013 08:35 PM

William it can be done but firstly end grain bowls have a whole tecnique
Easier to split down the centre and do the two halves

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3539 days

#9 posted 02-10-2013 09:07 PM


-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3078 days

#10 posted 02-10-2013 09:33 PM

Don’t you laugh at me Grizz.

I am turning pages this afternoon Randy. And I’m learning too.

Jamie, I’m not sure what you mean by splitting it and doing two halfs.

I have been reading. I can’t make it to the shop again today, but two things I have learned today. I should have already seen this, but who knew there was so much to learn that it would all get so tangled up in my head that I’m confused. Maybe these two things will helps some.
1. The grind for a gouge to cut spindles or end grain are dramatically different. According to the book I’m looking at, that long sharp grind on my gouges just won’t do. I need a grind that is more along the lines of forty five degrees. Is this correct according to what others here are doing?
2. My scraper tools have been being used extremely wrong. I have been using them at or just above centerline. I tried other ways as well, but with even worse results. The key though, again according to what I’m reading, is that keeping the tool edge upward at all is wrong. I am actually supposed to pointing the tool slightly downward from the tool rest. This makes sense and scares the hell out of me all at the same time. It makes sense because of the scraping action and how that position would put it at a better angle to do so. It scares me because this also puts me into a position where, instead of the tool being knocked back towards me, it can be snatched from my hand if I’m not careful.
Either way, in less my friends tell me some more wisdomly advice here today, I will have to try these techniques.


View William's profile


9950 posts in 3078 days

#11 posted 02-10-2013 09:37 PM

Jamie, I think I recall that you give turning classes?
If so, I’m really wishing I could take your class right about now.
Some more personalized training would really come in handy right now.
I’m doing all this by reading, experimentation, and trial and error.
I have checked, but can’t find but one bowl turner that I’ve been able to talk to. He, however, doesn’t want to allow anyone like me to see him work. He says he’s not interested in anyone learning from him and taking away any of his business. My desperate pleas that I have no interest in stepping on his toes has done no good.


View stefang's profile


16209 posts in 3570 days

#12 posted 02-10-2013 09:40 PM

A few questions and answers William.

Q1. Did you cut from the outside rim towards the center?
A1. On end grain you want to cut from the center towards the outside.

Q2. Was your cutting edge at center point, that is the tool, not the tool rest.? This can be hard to determine with the huge hole you drilled.

A2. The cutting edge should be centered.

Q3. Did you keep the bevel rubbing at all time?
A3. If the bevel isn’t in contact with the wood, the workpiece will catch your tool straight off.

Q4. Did you start the cut with the handle of your tool angled toward the front of the lathe where you were standing and then swung outward in a horizontal arc while your cutting edge traveled from the center of the workpiece to the rim side nearest you?

A4. It should have.

I’m assuming you had a sharp gouge with a 30deg. bevel and that you had an appropriate lathe speed for the size of the bowl. These are the main points I can think of right now. I have turned many wet bowls and other vessels without any problem, but if you are using a small spindle gouge that could give you some problems with wetness, but not catches.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Doe's profile


1420 posts in 3066 days

#13 posted 02-10-2013 10:03 PM

Oops, I posted this before I looked for updates; others have said this stuff before me.

I’m not a pro but I have some suggestions.

Try using a scraper; it looks like you have a good sized one. Remember to have the tool rest higher than mid point to prevent catches. You can use it on the inside and outside. With light cuts, you might be able to reduce tear out (the fuzzy white areas), but I’m not sure about how green wood behaves.

Are you always rubbing the bevel and going downhill? If you are then you might have had trouble because of the angle of the gouge. Bowl gouges are more stubby and less likely to jab into the wood.

When you get around to using split logs, never ever use the spindle roughing gouge. It can break, it can break your tool rest, and worst of all, it can break you.

Thanks for sharing; the details are really interesting and the pictures are great. I’m looking forward to the next installment . . .

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View luv2learn's profile


2889 posts in 2538 days

#14 posted 02-10-2013 10:09 PM

William, no advice here. I just started turning last week and I am happy to let you go first and become the problem solver :).

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3078 days

#15 posted 02-10-2013 10:14 PM

Thank you for responding Stefang.

Question #1.
Yes, I did cut from the whole I made with the drill bit, in shallow passes, towards the outside of the bowl. I learned this from the book I am reading.

Question #2.
I think so at one point. I played around with this one, possibly a bit too much. I am not sure though. I agree with your assesment about the huge hole. Maybe I went a tad overboard with removing as much as possible with the forstner bit. It is hard to determine the exact center line with the axis with a 2 1/4” hole bored through the middle.

Question #3.
Yes, and no. For some of the tools I tried, I did. For some though, like my largest gouge, with the tool rest at it’s lowest possible point, it was still impossible to keep the bevel rubbing like you had told me. I immediately stopped using that tool though because of how badly it caught.

Question #4.
No I did not, and maybe this was a major issue. I kept trying to start closest to me, swinging towards the hole I had drilled. The book I’m reading told me about making passes from the drilled hole, slowly working outwards, towards the outer edge of the bowl. It was not clear on which way to make the passes though.


By the way, I appreciate the advice you gave me about keeping that bevel rubbing. I still haven’t gotten the end grain bowl turning part, but I could not believe the difference that one tip made in the way my tools cut on the outside. For spindle turning, that is making things so much easier. I was able to turn spindles before, but still often had catches. With the bevel rubbing technique you suggested, I turned the outside of this bowl without one single catch.


showing 1 through 15 of 31 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics