questions for the wood turners

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Forum topic by RKW posted 03-13-2010 05:26 AM 1213 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3415 days

03-13-2010 05:26 AM

Eventually i wanted to get into turning, but being fairly new to woodworking i am still working on several other area’s. However, i had a very interesting day and it looks like i am going to travel the wood turning avenue sooner than i had anticipated.

I was shopping at my hardwood dealer today and i started chatting with an older gentlemen who come to find out lives in my town. We got to talking and he asked me if i was interested in buying a lathe. I said not really, i have too much going on and i am still trying to justify some of my recent purchases. I was however interested in the type of work he did and wanted to see his shop, so i agreed to go buy and take a look at it.

I spent a couple of hours at his house looking at his projects and admiring his shop. He wanted two hundred dollars for his lathe which i think was a decent deal. Its a delta(not sure what model it is) has variable drive. It was pretty big. He still had the receipt and owner’s manuel. He purchased in 1997 and paid $500.00.

I told him if he still had it in a few months i might consider it. Heres the kicker. He said, i can tell you are really into this and i think you would really like this lathe. Why dont you just take it, i will show you how to use it and you can just pay me $20 here and $20 there when ever you have extra cash.

He has a total of 3 lathes and he is wanting to get this one out of his way. I really felt like he just wanted me to have it, knowing i would enjoy it. This was one of the nicest men i have ever met. So i agreed to pick it up next week and we are going to do some turning on it before it leaves his shop.

I just wanted to share this story and now here are some questions.

1. Since this will be my first and it is going to have some unanticipated expenses, will the $10.00 8 piece harbour freight turning tools be ok for a starter set? I was thinking i could replace them one by one as i progressed.

2. What are the best resources for someone who knows nothing about turning?

3. Any accessories i need to consider?

4. What type of projects would you recommend for a starter?

5. What additional tools would you recommend? Callipers?

Any comments and advice are welcome…....thanx

-- RKWoods

9 replies so far

View Skylark53's profile


2661 posts in 3028 days

#1 posted 03-13-2010 05:51 AM

I don’t have a lathe so I can’t offer any advice, but I love the story. Keep us posted. Thanks.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4186 days

#2 posted 03-13-2010 06:33 AM

There are a ton of good books out there for beginning turners. Find one with lots of photos and get going. Basic turning is fun and easy. (I’m a new turner, too.)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3042 days

#3 posted 03-13-2010 03:18 PM

IMHO – It is essential that you keep your tools sharp and you need a good set-up for sharpening your tools. Even a $10 Harbor Freight set of tools will do a decent job IF THEY ARE SHARP. In fact, you will have to sharpen the cheaper tools more often than you would sharpen more expensive tools. Plan on pausing to sharpen every 5 to 10 minutes. Sharpening can be very quick if you have a good setup.

I advise a slow speed grinder with 8” wheels of 60 – 80 grit and a wolverine (or comparable) tool holding setup.

Other advice – Initially focus on using your gouges, scrapers and parting tools. Don’t touch the skew until you have some experience with these other tools.

Turning is a “feel thing”. You can read about the right way to hold the tools and people can tell you the right way to hold the tools but you won’t be a good turner until you learn what it feels like to hold the tools correctly. For most of us, that takes some time. Don’t get discouraged. Eventually it will be like someone turned on a light. You will know that right feeling.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View LSJ's profile


89 posts in 3320 days

#4 posted 03-13-2010 03:19 PM

1. The Harbor Freight turning tools will be fine for a starter set, but you will out grow them quickly if you turn much. I still use my gouge from my cheep tools from time to time. I use them to make new shapes but you have to watch the temper.

2. Watch You Tube and get a book. It sounds like your best resource is selling you the lathe.

3. You will need a grinder for sharpening, lots of sandpaper and a good tape measure. After awhile depending on what you are turning you will need a shop full. I use my table saw, miter box, drill press, band saw, hack saw, plane, and a whole lot more in my turning.

4. Start with playing with a spindle. I still have the first practice piece that I ever made. It is nothing but practice cuts but it reminds me where I started. I have that piece in a basket by the fireplace with rolling pins. For your first real project make a rolling pin.

5. You will need calipers and you may want to get some wrenches, that way if you want to cut a 7/8 inch handle on a pin you can just pick up that wrench without adjusting your caliper.

-- I like to turn

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3042 days

#5 posted 03-13-2010 03:23 PM

Another thought – - Calipers are nice and eventually you will want a set. When I am doing smaller spindle pieces I keep a cheap set of open end wrenches at hand. It’s a great way to know what your diameter is.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View LSJ's profile


89 posts in 3320 days

#6 posted 03-13-2010 03:49 PM

Rich is right it will be like someone turned on a light. When you start it seems like someone is turning the switch on and off. I still have days like that. I have days that everything is almost perfect and then when nothing is going right. When a bad day starts I walk away for a while or even for the day. The main thing is that you need to enjoy turning. When a bad day starts you can get frustrated and make mistakes and you can get hurt.

One more accessory that you need before you turn on the lathe for the first time is a good face shield. An old turner told me that a piece of wood does not glance off of you nose it tends to stick there for a while. It may hurt if you get hit with a shield on but it will not stick.

You will also need something for the dust and there will be a lot of it. Get a mask, hook up your shop vac if you have one and then you will need a dust collector at some point. That list of tools just keeps growing.

-- I like to turn

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4186 days

#7 posted 03-13-2010 04:38 PM

The bad news about turning is that the list of useful tools and accessories goes on for a mile. I started off with a $300 investment for a small lathe and inexpensive set of turning tools. That quickly blossomed to probably close to $1,000 once I started adding things I “couldn’t do without”, like a good chuck system, 8” variable speed grinder for sharpening, a sharpening jig, etc.

I’ll also tell you that the Easy Rougher Mini and Easy Finisher Mini have been a great investment.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3735 days

#8 posted 03-13-2010 04:40 PM

Join your local AAW club. They are full of helpful people with years of experience. Most have a library full of DVDs and books, have a mentor program, have monthly demonstrations, and feature world class turners at events. You can search the AAW’s website for a club near you here:

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View woodcrafter47's profile


352 posts in 3073 days

#9 posted 03-13-2010 05:26 PM

First get some pretty good tools and start slow ,turn spindles and small stuff Bowls and etc to get aquatined with the lathe and tools and how they act and feel to the wood, I did a lot of trial and error.Don’t be afraid and just practice and some moooooooooore practice …... I am still learning.
Enjoy it and pick-up all free wood you can. glue up’s turn fine.
I too agree that it can get expensive but once your are hooked you can’t stop yourself.

-- In His service ,Richard

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