Beginning Woodturner asking for help

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Forum topic by oldwoodman posted 10-22-2009 06:07 AM 1241 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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137 posts in 2821 days

10-22-2009 06:07 AM

I have some questions for those of you who are experienced wood turners.

My wife and I are wanting to begin learning about woodturning. I have a 1982 Shopsmith that is currently set up in lathe mode. We purchased a face shield and have a basic 5-piece chisel set. The chisels are made of high speed steel.

I have already “turned” a piece of Douglas Fir just to experiment. I found out right away that rough grain wood is not too satisfactory for woodturning. But it was fine for starters since I was learning how the different chisels operate, etc.

Tonight I cut and glued up some pine boards and some Douglas Fir. I used Titebond III between each piece of wood. I thoroughly covered one side of a piece before I attached it to the next piece. So, I have three “glue ups” drying in the shop. The two pine pieces are roughly 5” x 5” x 4.5” thick. The Doug Fir piece is 5.5” x 5.5” x 3” thick. My thought is to screw a practice piece onto the Shopsmith 3 ¾” faceplate, attach it and begin working on it. I will cut off the corners of each piece before I screw it to the faceplate.

Here are my questions.

Is it safe to turn a chunk of wood that is made of several glued pieces? The instructions on the Titebond bottle recommend waiting for at least 24 hours. I will be out of town anyway and will not be able to “turn” these pieces until Saturday night.

Is my assumption correct that it is never a good idea to turn a piece of wood that has a knot or knots in it?

Is there a better type of wood with which to practice turning? I have some knot-free con-common redwood scraps. Would a glue-up of redwood be good for practice?

As a general rule, is it best not to glue pieces of wood together for turning?

What type of wood would you recommend for practicing on?

I know I have asked a lot of questions. But in my time on this forum I have found out that many of you are very knowledgeable about woodworking in general and woodturning in particular. I welcome any tips that you wood turners can give me.


6 replies so far

View LesB's profile


1228 posts in 2866 days

#1 posted 10-22-2009 07:03 AM

I assume you are gluing up wood to build a piece big enough for turning. The types of wood you are choosing including redwood are “soft” wood and not the easiest to turn smoothly as you discovered. Sticking with local and relatively inexpensive wood you will be more satisfied with try hard woods like maple, birch, and walnut. My favorites which are “free” is any fruit wood such as apple, pear, apricot, plum, cherry and so on. These are the woods I started with and they were literally “fire” wood chunks. End grain is always harder to cut than the long grain so work on that first.

Turning from glued up pieces is generally safe but ALWAYS wear eye protection and when “roughing” out of round pieces a full face mask; at least until you know the wood is sound. There are way too many procedures to discuss here but I would suggest stating with wood blanks held between the head and tail stock and then progress to face plate mounted work.

Just for the info, another way to mount pieces to the face plate and avoid screw holes in the work piece is to use a sacrificial piece of 3/4” plywood between the plate and the work piece. Attach the plywood (cut to fit the plate) to the plate with screws. Then glue a sheet of newspaper or brown paper bag paper to the plywood and then immediately glue the work piece to the surface of the paper; centering as best you can. When the glue is dry (24 hours) turn your piece to desired shape and sand. Then carefully separate the work piece from the plywood with a sharp chisel. The paper will come apart and all you have to do is scrape and sand it off the bottom of the work piece. When the time comes invest in a good adjustable chuck.

If you come up with more questions I’m sure one of us can help.

-- Les B, Oregon

View scrappy's profile


3506 posts in 2853 days

#2 posted 10-22-2009 08:38 AM

LesB covered the basics prety good. One thing I was wondering, are your chisels SHARP? The better sets come sharp from the factory but most are not REAL sharp. You will get a lot better cut and less roughness(tareout) if your tools are kept sharp.

As long as your pieces are glued up properly there should not be any trouble turning them. Just do a search for “Segmented” turnings and you will see a new level of “glue ups” They are fantastic.

I also use a piece of scrap for a backer board to screw to the turning plate. It is a good way to keep from the screw joles.

Keep us informed of your progress. and have fun!


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17577 posts in 3099 days

#3 posted 10-22-2009 09:42 AM

When you glue the plywood to the work piece, are you gluing end grain, long grain or both to the plywood.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View lew's profile


11266 posts in 3178 days

#4 posted 10-22-2009 04:42 PM

Using Pine/fir is an inexpensive way to practice.

As you have notice, heavily grained wood doesn’t peel away as cleanly as tighter grained wood. Keeping your tools sharp- like Scrappy said, will help reduce some of the tear out on the fir.

Also, using the “paper” joint, that LesB mentioned, requires sharp tools to lessen the resistance of the cuts and therefore putting less strain on the paper joint.

As far as the knots go, If they are “tight”, they can be incorporated nicely into the beauty of the turned piece design. Trifern has displayed many beautiful pieces using this idea. As you turn, check the knot stability. If it appears to be getting loose, use some super glue to stabilize it before continuing. If the knot is very loose either remove it, before turning, or choose another piece. Again, check some of Trifern’s work.

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

View oldwoodman's profile


137 posts in 2821 days

#5 posted 10-24-2009 07:16 AM


Thank you for all of your advice. It certainly is a help to have some guidance from people with experience. I appreciate your effort in helping a newbie at woodturning.

View LesB's profile


1228 posts in 2866 days

#6 posted 10-28-2009 10:15 PM

Referring to knots. If they are not already “tight” to the wood I glue them in with “super” glue (cyanoacrylate). As long as the gaps are not to large. Get the thick stuff. It seeps into the cracks before it sets up and often takes several applications to completely fill the crack but it works great. Be sure to let it set up well. Sometimes the surface film develops and when you cut through it on the lathe the inner glue is still liquid you throw all over. Not that I have ever done that (-;
Works on cracks and if you spot a new crack developing during the turning process you can often stop it from getting worse by filling it with the super glue.
I wish it came in colors; especially black, because it would look better. The clear super glue is not usually obtrusive in the end and saves a lot of pieces that might end up in the fire wood box.

Has anyone tried coloring super glue??

-- Les B, Oregon

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