random #17: I finally have a proper wood lathe!

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 05-12-2009 01:05 PM 2414 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: What LA does with its wood (and lawn trimmings) Part 17 of random series Part 18: Progress on those Hollywood Juniper limbs »

Mom visited last week, and with some ideas of things she wanted me to build, we checked out Anderson Plywood (LA, CA) – she loves zebrawood :) – and my favorite place: Rockler (Torrance, CA). While at Rockler, she fell in love with some turned bottle stoppers made by Robert, who I think might be a manager there, and decided she wanted me to make a bunch for her and her friends, starting with a set of 3 for one friend in particular.

They only had 2 chrome wine bottle stopper hardware packs left, so we got those, and chose 1 bottle stopper blank each of osage orange ($1.49), black and white ebony ($4.99), and tulipwood ($3.99).

Somehow this lead to a long talk about lathes and turning, and the small capacity of my Sherline mini machinist lathe, and suddenly she asked if I’d like an early birthday gift (birthday’s in August!) of the on-sale lathe we’d seen in the front of the store. It was the JET JWL-1220 12”x20” wood lathe. Of course, I said yes :) It’s normally $450, but this was the floor model, occasionally used for demos, and had light finish wear, though no actual machine wear, so they wanted to get rid of it for $380. I later found out the little yellow key for the on button was missing, so I’ll need to get a replacement, though one from a different machine worked, despite not fitting correctly. Also, the little tool rack on the back is missing, but it’s just a stamped metal piece with one 90° bend and a few drilled holes, so I think I’m just going to quickly fashion a replacement to hold the live center, drive spur, knockout bar, wrenches, and whatever else. Now I need a press brake!

I have nowhere left in the garage to put it, which is forcing me to do a tremendous, and much needed cleanup and reorganization, but meanwhile, of course I had to set it up on top of my table saw and give it a twirl. I don’t really know what I’m doing with larger things yet – and by that, I mean > 2.5” radius :) – so I’ve already caused my first 3 attempts at it – all in some really crappy European olive tree wood that’s splitting faster than a deadbeat dad – to fly from the chuck across the garage. Nothing’s hit me in the head yet, thankfully. I have the Oneway Talon, and the #1 jaws for it.

I’ve tried drilling out a hole in the bottom with a Forstner and clamping outwardly from inside it, and I switched to a blank of Eucalyptus from the tree I found awhile back, this time turning the blank’s outside between centers, and flipping it around to turn a large tenon, flipping it back around to clamp that from the outside. In all cases, the wood has given way when I’ve gotten to turning the inside. Either the jaws tear out of the Forstner hole, or shear off much of the tenon. I’m currently looking through how-tos, like this one.

One of the problems is that I’m turning smaller things, and don’t have much wood to waste on hollows, or tenons. Maybe these smaller things need to be glued to something bigger first, though that probably means I have a lot more waiting for them to dry out better first. I’m not excited about all the work and waiting of the glue-ups, either. Any thoughts here? I’d say the olive might be too soft, but I don’t think it is. It’s somewhere around birch, I’d guess. The Euc is much harder. I’m surprised that tenon sheared away, especially as I was taking light internal cuts with the internal tool, and wasn’t far in yet. Maybe I should have switched back from the #1 jaws to the chuck’s original ones, and used a much larger tenon – most of the bowl width, to provide a lot more clamping area to spread out the forces. I think the ultimate answer may be that I simply need to sharpen up my tools, and turn at a much slower speed. I have been taking it very fast, as I can get a really smooth finish that way.

I’m still too busy to take a bunch of fun pics, so here’s one I took just before we unloaded the lathe. It’s a heavy little thing. Oh, and that heavy-duty retractable cord reel is on sale for 50% off now at Rockler. Score!

JET lathe, retractable cord reel, bottle stopper blanks and hardware, and dust separator lid in back of rented PT Cruiser

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

7 comments so far

View trifern's profile


8134 posts in 5229 days

#1 posted 05-12-2009 01:13 PM

Sweet, tell your mom my birthday is in July. I look forward to seeing your projects.

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

View MRod's profile


74 posts in 5525 days

#2 posted 05-12-2009 03:19 PM

I just aquired a jet lathe as well, really nice machine.

I too have had to come to the realization that I do not have the luxury of saving every piece of scrap wood I produce. As of last week it is all gone. My primary wood I am moving into storage down the street which I like as the storage room is kind of like my showroom now. I have all of the individual species separated and its like I am walking through my own little store and picking what I need.

I need to get good lathe knives/tools next. Any suggestions?

-- MRod, Henderson, Colorado by way of Brooklyn!

View PG_Zac's profile


373 posts in 4851 days

#3 posted 05-12-2009 03:22 PM

I’m jealous Gary.

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

View lew's profile


13534 posts in 5218 days

#4 posted 05-12-2009 04:14 PM

Great Score, Gary!

That doesn’t look like the bed of a pickup truck! When you go to the “store” you always take the biggest vehicle you have- just in case ;^)

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

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5111 days

#5 posted 05-12-2009 04:18 PM

wait a minute…my bday is in augost too? what does THAT Mean?!?

Congrats on the new Toy! new possibilities await… dont try to make it all at once… let time and one project at a time show you the capabilities of what you have now.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5039 days

#6 posted 05-12-2009 05:35 PM

Hey Gary
Nice gift nice MOM. can’t wait to see some great turnings from all that found wood.


View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


24658 posts in 5138 days

#7 posted 05-12-2009 08:08 PM

Happy Birthday!! You always have some cool links in youir blogs, thanks, good job.

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

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