Turners...I need some advice

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Forum topic by D_Allen posted 10-21-2011 01:40 AM 1366 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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495 posts in 2810 days

10-21-2011 01:40 AM

I seem to be committing some violation of basic turning skills, but I’m not sure what.
I’m running out of wood. This base piece started out bigger. I keep getting gouges as the tool catches.
I’m not sure what is wrong. The tools seem to be sharp enough.
Since I have never had the privilege of being shown how, I am going by gut and feel, which is probably not the best method of learning.
What I do know is that if I sort of roll the gouge into the wood at a high angle to the top of wood, it goes better. Often I can see the shavings come off the tool like tiny ribbons. That seems to be the sweet spot.
I fear that I may be trying to push the tool into the wood at the wrong angle.
And the skew, I just can’t do well with that. That always seems to catch and gouge.
I’ve seem videos of using the skew sort of like a knife coming across the top of the spinning wood. But the technique so far escapes me.
I suspect this is just part of the learning curve and with time and practice it will get easier and better.
Any advise would be much appreciated.

-- Website is finally up and

12 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3100 days

#1 posted 10-21-2011 02:15 AM

Turning is very much a “feel thing”. You know when the tool is right because it feels right. However, for new people, finding the sweet spot where it feels right can be very difficult and people often get discouraged.

I didn’t get on the right track until I took a 3 day, hands on class. I’m not saying that face-to-face instruction is necessary, but it sure can help get you started.

I would tell you to put the skew away and focus on the gouges and scrapers first. In my opinion, the skew is the hardest to master.

I can also recommend the Easy Tools. As the name implies, these are very easy tools to use. Go to the website below and watch the video. These tools really are as easy to use as the video indicates. I would tell you to just buy the mid sized easy rougher first and add other tools later when/if you think you need them.

The negative to Easy Tools, IMO, is that you may never master the conventional tools. Is that bad? Some may think so. I’m not sure I do.

b.t.w. – The video and and the tool name, easy rougher, implies this tool is just for rough work. I disagree. You can do some very fine work with this tool. On many of my projects the only tools I use are an easy rougher and a bowl scraper.

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

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2810 days

#2 posted 10-21-2011 02:48 AM

Thanks Rich. I’ll consider those tools, however, they are pricy.
I think the first part of the video is a bit misleading in that no one would let a gouge bounce like that.
Even an amateur like me knows that. I also like the idea of some classes or instruction. I’ll see what is available in this area.
I bought the cheap carbon steel tools from HF so that I could learn on an inexpensive set and also learn to sharpen the tools. Perhaps I should get a good set of tools for turning and practice sharpening on the junk tools.
I’m thinking that maybe they aren’t as sharp as I think they are.
However, that said, the 3/4” gouge is the one that seems to work for me the best.

-- Website is finally up and

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3781 days

#3 posted 10-21-2011 03:05 AM

One thing I see, and it may be just for photographic clarity, but it seems that your tool rest is pretty far back from the piece you are turning.

Also, the cove is rather “tight”- narrow side to side. You didn’t mention what size gouge you were using. The more narrow the cove, the smaller gouge you should use to prevent catches.

As for the skew, well as Rich said, put it away for now. It is difficult to use, at first. Concentrate on the gouge and scraper. When you get good with them, go to YouTube and watch some videos on using the skew. The practice your technique and your “Navy” vocabulary.

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

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3484 days

#4 posted 10-21-2011 03:16 AM

when i first started turning one of the many videos i watched taught me the ABC’s of turning.

A= Anchor the tool to your rest
B= Bevel… Ride the bevel on the piece
C= Cut. Slowly raise the back of the tool lowering the cutting edge into the piece until it starts to cut.

I’m not trying to be condescending or anything, so please don’t take it the wrong way.

I also found if I came at the wood at an angle, that I had less catches. As far as cheap tools go, I have the set from Penn State and they are doing me fine.

-- San Diego, CA

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2810 days

#5 posted 10-21-2011 04:02 AM

Thanks all for the advice and suggestions.
lew, the tool rest is there for trying to turn the large diameter of the base.
I glued the 3 pieces end-to-end using small dowels. It was to be a candle holder, The larger piece on the right was turned to fit into a 3/4” hole in the top. I wanted to use it to steady the whole thing. The maple base is glued to a 3/4” thick piece of plywood and that is screwed to the faceplate.
I watched some videos and have decide that in most cases I either have the tool rest too low or the tool is engaging the wood too directly. I think I’ll take this off the lath and find some scrap wood to practice on more.
Those guys sure make it look easy in the videos.

-- Website is finally up and

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3100 days

#6 posted 10-21-2011 04:03 AM

If you are using high carbon tools as opposed the more popular high speed steel (HSS) tools you are more likely to have problems due to your sharpening technique.

You should not let high carbon tools over heat. You should be cooling them frequently by dipping them in water. If they are overheated, they can become, effectively, ruined and you will never be able to keep a sharp edge. If your tool turns blue when sharpening it is usually too late.

This is much less of a concern with HSS tools. Of course, it is of no concern with the carbide cutters in tools like the easy rider since you do not sharpen them.

If you are curious, I have read and, based on my own experience, I believe that the cutter on the Easy Rider is good for about 20 hours per edge. You can get about 80 hours out of a cutter and you can replace them for about $15. I’m only on my second cutter, in about 2 years, and I use my easy rider a lot.

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

View tamboti's profile


207 posts in 3167 days

#7 posted 10-21-2011 04:35 PM

Hi there is three things you must try; one read as many articles about turning you can lay your hands on,two join a woodworking / woodturning group/clud in your area, three take a 2-3 day course.

Finally stay away from easy tools you are not turning but scraping and to pay top dollar for a scraper that you could make your self by buying a cutter from the local engineering supplies and attaching it to a piece of square bar. I have had a close look on the net at these type of tool they are out dated as the square cutter looks identicle to the ones used on a cutter blok to make rabits. the statements made are my opinion on what is available on the net.
Regards Roger

-- Africa is not for sissies

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3221 days

#8 posted 10-21-2011 04:53 PM

I fear that I may be trying to push the tool into the wood at the wrong angle.

While I have only been turning for around a year, I can tell you what worked for me and learned from books by Richard Raffan( Good book)

Interpim hit it dead on with the ABCs.
Don’t push it into the wood. Rest the tool against the tool rest so that the bevel is against the wood but not cutting, then slowly raise your back hand to slowly angle the bevel into the wood. This will produce a clean cut.

Also, if you are trying to turn the large base, the tool rest is still too far away. In that pic, the tool rest looks the correct distance from the plywood (which you aren’t cutting), not the large diameter base attached to it that you said you were cutting. Move the toolrest closer to the piece you are cutting, 1/4” or so from wood.

Finally, the toolrest height should be just below the centerline .

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2810 days

#9 posted 10-22-2011 02:48 AM

Eric, I see what you mean about the position of the tool rest. When I started doing the base it was as large as the plywood. I kept trying to keep from gouging and each time it did, I carefully worked the diameter down to clear the gouge. I was getting so frustrated with the process that I did not take the time to reposition the tool rest.
cr1, I’m going to try to keep in mind you suggestion of reversing my approach and see what happens.
I know this is a matter of practice…practice and probably more practice.
Something else that I discovered that may be a factor is that I did not have the piece spinning very fast. The lathe goes from 600-2400 RPM and I was at about 1500. This morning I felt brave and before going to work I tried the 1” skew at a higher speed. I tried using it like I saw in a video last night and it went much better…and I didn’t get hurt either.
Thanks again everyone.

-- Website is finally up and

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2862 days

#10 posted 10-22-2011 07:10 AM

Practice on the neighbor’s wood pile? Good wood is expensive, try grabbing the nicest looking pieces from someone’s log pile and use them; just pre-shape a little on the bandsaw. At the very least you can hand back some pretty kindling and maybe something nice as the technique gets better.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3135 days

#11 posted 10-22-2011 01:26 PM

A few recommendations. BTW – I have the HF set you are talking about and I believe they are HSS steel. They dull quickly, what feels sharp on the fingers don’t necessarily feel sharp on the wood. I had to work on my sharpening technique before I really could get the cuts that I wanted. There are many sharpeing jig systems out there. I personally like the Work Sharp system. One thing I also noticed about the HF chisels is they lack heft. Some of what you might be feeling is vibration from the light weight of the tool on the piece. Which is why you might be getting better results from the larger chisels.

When roughing/rounding the piece, I keep the lathe at the lowest speed and raise the speed when it is true. I move the rest around so that I can position it as close as possible without catching on the piece as it turns. I also like the chisel to be able to move easily when I slide it back and forth across the rest. Some tool rests are very rough. On mine, I filed off any raised metal slivers and sanded it over. Afterwards I put a little Johnson’s wax on it to make the action a little smoother. Sometimes the tool can catch on the rest which causes a slight jerk of the chisel causing a catch.

As the piece turns, I look at the blur to identify the widest section of what I am working on. I set the tool just outside the edge of the blur and gently guide it in. As Rich already stated, you go by feel. You can tell what angle generates shavings and which shocks your arm. Don’t put a death grip on the tool. When you are at a good spot, the tool can be lightly held and guided. If you are feeling strain on your arms, you are holding it too tight and/or putting too much tool pressure on the turning. This is also a good indication that the tool might not be sharp enough. Even when roughing, the chisel should be peeling the piece without much effort on your part. If your chisel is bouncing on the wood , it is going to get out of round and your cut will not be consistent.

I hope some of this helps. Good luck and keep at.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2810 days

#12 posted 10-22-2011 09:52 PM

It’s the tools…as I suspected.
I bought a Crown 1/2” gouge today and practically all of the issues I had with the gouging of the wood went away. What a nice tool.

-- Website is finally up and

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