Turning, how big is too big?

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Forum topic by bigblockyeti posted 04-29-2016 06:17 PM 1253 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3572 posts in 1141 days

04-29-2016 06:17 PM

Just because you have the capacity to turn something large does necessarily mean you should attempt it: What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever attempted (and succeeded) to turn? I have a small craftsman lathe that I’ve probably put too big of a motor on and just so I knew I could do it, I turned a log just under 36” long and started at about 8” in diameter and ended up close to 6” after everything was done. It’s interesting to see the end result in the video, especially seeing the guy sand the work with a full sheet of paper instead the smaller detail work I’m used to.

31 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


4935 posts in 3083 days

#1 posted 04-29-2016 06:47 PM

16” bowl (green maple) on a PM3520B during a workshop at Arrowmont. The wood was cut the day before and was really out of balance. Had to keep speed down (under 350rpm) until I got it round.

I have a 20” Nova in my home shop, but haven’t turned anything over 10” on it.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View AlanHollar's profile


9 posts in 382 days

#2 posted 04-29-2016 07:17 PM

Biggest Diameter: 32” plinths @6” tall for column bases outboard on Woodfast lathe
Largest spindle: 16” diameter by 7’ long posts. inboard on Woodfast
Biggest bowl: 23” diameter by 15” tall red oak burl. Vega Bowl lathe

View Nubsnstubs's profile


811 posts in 1150 days

#3 posted 04-29-2016 07:32 PM

18 3/4” on a PM 3250 last week. Still in the rough stage as there are a lot of cracks. None that would cause grief. They’re just obnoxious sense….. .. Will soon be trying to core some Desert Ironwood at 22+”....O need to make the knife to reach that far…... Anything over 11 3/4” has only been done since December, as my other lathe was only 12” swing. Love that big sh**............. heheheh …........ Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

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3572 posts in 1141 days

#4 posted 04-29-2016 09:01 PM

Bigger bowls I understand, what worried me initially seeing this video was how out of balance the log was to start with (especially given it’s mass) and how little was done ahead of time to get it at least a little closer to being round before starting to turn it. With how much the tool rest was flexing it just looked down right dangerous. A log that large would certainly take a long time to dry before attempting something like that too.

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1410 days

#5 posted 04-29-2016 09:38 PM

A drawknife to balance the log would have been much faster and safer. 15” bowls and platters outboard on an HF 34706.

View bigblockyeti's profile


3572 posts in 1141 days

#6 posted 04-29-2016 09:54 PM

As out of whack as that thing was a drawknife would certainly be a good idea, I was thinking a chainsaw to speed things up a bit.

View Jimbo4's profile


1420 posts in 2183 days

#7 posted 04-29-2016 10:17 PM

Whatever it takes to get as close as possible to “unbalance” prior to lathe attachment, i.e., hatchet, chainsaw, bandsaw, beavers, etc.

-- BOVILEXIA: The urge to moo at cows from a moving vehicle.

View hairy's profile


2377 posts in 2952 days

#8 posted 04-29-2016 10:51 PM

I’ve turned bigger circumference bowls, and longer canes, but this is the heaviest.

-- stay thirsty my friends...

View REO's profile


883 posts in 1494 days

#9 posted 04-29-2016 11:18 PM

24” in diameter 16’ long staved. solid 23” diameter 9 feet long. log wet 22” diameter 7 feet long. just as the log in the vid it checked overnight and badly over the duration of drying. Its what the customer wanted. the lathe weighed about 900 pounds but could be moved easily while the rough blank spun out of balance. we were playing around. usually we turned the work slowly and used a circular saw with a dado blade on it chucked on the cross feed to rough in and switched to a thin kerf blade with a rounded tooth grind for finishing. On the dry material we could start the finish sanding with 80 grit.
these were 8” dameter x 12’

these were 14’ long

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20 posts in 215 days

#10 posted 04-29-2016 11:29 PM

These coloumns were 12” X 24 ’ long as I remember.also built all of the windows and doors to reproduce those built in 1820.

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883 posts in 1494 days

#11 posted 04-29-2016 11:39 PM

everything is huge even the risers and treads on the steps in the background!

View Nubsnstubs's profile


811 posts in 1150 days

#12 posted 04-30-2016 01:31 AM

Reo, I saw your comment on youtube. You are spot on at what you said…..... Thank you. About those 14 footers, is that the 2 lathes you put together? Or am I delirious?

Folks, this guy probably lives in a third world country where the only rules that apply is earn your living the best way you can. If he gets hurt, no one outside his family or the customer will care. What we perceive to be unsafe isn’t unsafe in other parts of the world. They use what they’ve got, and are probably pretty grateful to have what they have. .... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

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883 posts in 1494 days

#13 posted 04-30-2016 02:59 AM

Thanks Jerry . Recently it was two home made lathes. These pictures are probably at least 20 years old. The big green lathe would take 10 plus feet between centers. for longer turnings as you can see we would use another lathe or mount the tailstock to the floor on a frame. we would turn half and then flip the turning to do the other end. we did some replacement columns with capitols and bases that were about 24’ long 16” in diameter staved because they were fluted without much depth. In that case we matched three 3 8’ sections. The spindle motor was reversible (bright green drum switch) and to avoid cranking from end to end on roughing cuts I salvaged an old x tale drive of a milling machine and mounted it on the traverse wheel. Dad had a stroke at 86 and dumped most of his equipment. the big lathe and all the tooling went for 700 dollars. I visited the guy who bought it a couple years later and found the lathe out back of the shed outdoors, all rusted up. I asked to buy it back…. he refused.

View Roger's profile


19714 posts in 2224 days

#14 posted 04-30-2016 11:46 AM

That looked like the handle of the Jolly Green Giant’s ice cream scoop to me.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Wildwood's profile


1851 posts in 1555 days

#15 posted 04-30-2016 12:53 PM

Today not many turners have access to very large wood & equipment to move it much less a lathe to handle turning mammoth pieces of wood. Knud Oland & Ed Moulthrop (both deceased) early pioneers in large turnings made their own tools, modified or build their own lathes and had equipment to mount mammoth wood on their lathes & turn it. Knud encouraged turners to make his style of tools themselves. Lissi Oland continued to turn large pieces after her husband’s death but moved back to Denmark and continued turning not sure if still turning.

Lissi Oland

Olan tools

Ed Moulthrop

If can find that modern masters video where both son & grandson featured think will find it pretty interesting.

Size not a big factor if wood mounted in the lathe securely and you turn at comfortable speed. Size does matter to person ultimately going to use items you turn. Think we all want to challenge ourselves just not sure large always better.

-- Bill

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