Bought me a wood lathe, now what?

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Forum topic by Logan Craig posted 07-17-2011 02:50 AM 5987 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Logan Craig

41 posts in 2711 days

07-17-2011 02:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe lathing wood lathing wood lathe question advice lathe advice

So I bought a largish wood lathe on Craigslist. I believe its a Chicago Machinery brand and will do about 4 foot long and maybe 12”-16” diameter turns. I got it and some craftsman turning tools for a steal.

I have no experience with lathes, but gave it a shot with a piece of cheap pine 2×4 I cut square. It seems to have plenty of power and the turning tools have seemingly good edges but I had a lot of tear-out on the pine I used. My best guess is that my problem is the cheap pine studs I’m using.

My question is what do you pros think is the reason for the tear-outs? I could speed up the lathe or slow it down if need be. What speeds are good for what? What wood should I be using? What’s the cheapest stuff that will turn smooth?

It could be my technique too, I guess. What do you think? Feel free to direct me to any good web sites or even an Amazon book or something…

Logan Craig

-- Logan

14 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4423 days

#1 posted 07-17-2011 04:25 AM

Generally, you start off at a fairly low speed when “roughing” the piece into round. Once you get it round, a higher speed gives you a better cut. Keep in mind the the larger the diameter of the piece, the faster the outer edge is moving. Larger pieces, therefore, require a slower speed than smaller items. I don’t have a link handy, but if you search the net you can find charts that will give you the proper speed for different diameters.

Using the tools correctly and keeping them sharp are the next big issues. If there are no woodturning clubs in your area to get hands-on learning, again, I recommend the internet. There are a ton of instructional videos out there that cover pretty much everything.

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

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3203 days

#2 posted 07-17-2011 05:01 AM

Pine is tough to turn because of the change from hard to soft layers. If you are are getting tear out, it means one of three things: You are cutting too aggressively, your tools are not sharp enough, or you are not cutting at the right angle. You have to get the feel for it.

As far as the speed, the biggest reasons to change the speed are to deal with larger pieces and to turn slow for things that are still out of balance.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View lew's profile


12441 posts in 3960 days

#3 posted 07-17-2011 06:33 PM

Pine is very soft and prone to tearout. Try something with close grain and a bit harder- walnut, maple or cherry turn well. Also, for some real fun, get a piece of green (wet) wood- a straight tree branch works. Turning wet wood is very enjoyable- nice long shavings. However, practically every you turn will warp as the wet wood dries.

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

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4302 days

#4 posted 07-17-2011 06:40 PM

Do you know how to sharpen your tools? Sharp tools are very important.

Are there any local wood turning clubs near you?

From a learning perspective, I would recommend videos. I find them easier for learning turning techniques.

Oh and get the free pen turning video from Penn State. Pen turning is a good way to get your feet wet.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3790 days

#5 posted 07-17-2011 06:43 PM

Why not start out with a few small logs thin with bark and all.Then get used to turning wet wood it flies off in nice big ribbons and makes loads of fun.never mind about tearout at the moment just get used to turning stock as round as you can get it .Just start of with a few small branches straight off the tree or forrest floor twigs removed. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Logan Craig's profile

Logan Craig

41 posts in 2711 days

#6 posted 07-17-2011 11:04 PM

Turning green wood? Cool. I’ll give it a try.

I would try pen turning, but my lathe won’t go that small. Well, I guess it might be able to, but I doubt it would work very well. I’d love to try it though, I’ll keep my eyes on Craigslist for mini lathes.

As far as sharpening the tools; I don’t really know how, but I realize I will have to learn. However, I believe they are sharp enough right now that that isn’t the cause of my issues.

I’ll get my hands on some hardwood and give that a try.

A wood turning club wood be very cool. A quick Google search shows a few results for my area. I’ll look into them. Thanks for all the suggestions.

-- Logan

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

278 posts in 2775 days

#7 posted 07-17-2011 11:18 PM

Find someone who turns, There are hundreds of competent turners willing to share their knowledge. And there are lots of local guilds too. Woodcraft stores can give some basics, or Rockler. Don’t fall for the “You need bigger, faster, stuff att this stage. Get some sticks and turn em round and keep going until you are telling the wood and the gouge what to do and not them telling you. Start out with something 2” round and work up to bigger. 15 years ago, even though I’d been turning for ten years full time and earning my living from it, I went for an advanced course in Provo with Craft Supplies. Mike Mahoney, I believe was the instructor. Best three-day course in turning I ever took. Actually, the only one I ever took. Great value for money. Get yourself on one of their courses. they will cover all the other issues of safety and sourcing too . It’ll shorten the learning curve and give you exactly what you need as a foundation.

-- Paul Sellers, UK

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4302 days

#8 posted 07-17-2011 11:18 PM

With pen turning you use a special mandril. You should be able to get one for your lathe. The free pen turning video is worth getting. Also, there are a lot of wood turning videos on youtube.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View peteg's profile


4423 posts in 3028 days

#9 posted 07-18-2011 12:58 AM

Logan, I go along with Paul’s advice with some lessons, might cast a few bucks but it will give the confidence, tool skill and allow you to enjoy the real fun of creating your own pieces quicker.
Hey good luck & we all look forward to seeing your first post.

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3927 days

#10 posted 09-19-2011 03:51 PM

How about turning medium small items such as rolling pins? The tapered end ones are quite useful and you can play with different shaping techniques as you progess. See if you can acquire some maple or cherry or black walnut, as these are indigenous species that are hard enough to work well with.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Logan Craig's profile

Logan Craig

41 posts in 2711 days

#11 posted 09-19-2011 04:22 PM

Thanks for the advice.

-- Logan

View paplou's profile


324 posts in 3549 days

#12 posted 10-10-2011 04:09 AM

You are trying to turn the hardest wood to turn smooth. grab a piece of wood of any kind but pine and you will see a big difference. learning to turn go to and search wood turning. one of the best to learn from is captneddie and bobham5. good luck.


View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5132 posts in 4165 days

#13 posted 10-18-2011 10:29 PM

Sharp? Nah…...
You have dropped into one of the most extensive and intensive portion of woodworking.
Turning is an art that will be learned thru practice and studying both the use of the lathe and the appropriate tooling.
Sharpening is just one of the aspects, and one that will yield benefits.
You can get caught up in the thoughts/opinions of spending huge sums of time and money used in the tech, but a simple approach will work. Just remember that the old turners did not have super high tech stuff.


View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3475 days

#14 posted 10-18-2011 10:39 PM

I would recommend a good book on turning – Richard Raffan or Daniel Ellsworth are two good writer/teachers and both of their books are full of good tips and techniques. There are also alot of videos on you tube…and throughout the web.

Pine is not a wood I would choose to start with, green wood is great – but you need to learn how to dry it or you will end up with a disfigured and cracked pile of wood fibres. If you have a turning club nearby…check it out….AAW (American Association of Woodturners) has a list of local clubs on their website.

Another big item you need to get is a decent chuck…correct chucking of your wood, is not only much safer….but much easier to get the workflow that you want – there are many ways to do this…no one method is the best….some are better then others though – and some are not very safe.

As mentioned, sharp tools are required….you should make sure that you understand how to sharpen and to treat the edge. Once again, there are many methods – machines, jigs, sandpaper, waterstones, ceramic stones, diamond stones…etc…etc. All of them work…some better then others…all will get you where you want to be….but you must know the method and the means.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

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