As The Lathe Turns #1: How a Good Day Turned Bad

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by William posted 01-25-2013 01:27 AM 3771 reads 1 time favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 2: As The Lathe Turns........Again »

In the responses to yesterday’s blog, I told a friend of mine, Grizz, that I would turn him one of my bowls. I don’t know why, as I’m still learning, but he hinted that he’d like one.
Also, some things Bearpie said in response to that blog kept sticking in my mind. The main thing is sharpen my lathe tools. I’ve been and am using the Paul Sellers method of sharpening these days for pretty much everything. It works great for all my tools, except those lathe tools. It puts a sharp edge on them, but they never seem to cut as good as they used to when I was simply hitting them on a bench grinder.
The thing is, my sharpening on the grinder was sort of a hit and miss thing as well. So I started thinking about it. I remembered seeing a video by Alex Harris, the teenage woodworker, about a jig he built for sharpening lathe tools. I looked it up and built this.

It was easy to build, and easy to use, just as Alex said it was. So I sharpened up a few of my tools, chucked up a piece of wood and tried it out. It made an amazing difference.
Then I went back to thinking about Grizz’s bowl. I really didn’t have anything large enough to get started though in the way of wood. So I walked outside to smoke a cigarette. While standing at the fence, I looked out across my neighbor’s field, and remembered the pecan tree he’d cut down about a year ago. It was just laying there in pieces that he had cut up. So I walked on over and asked him for a piece. He said to take all of it I wanted, so I took the only piece at the time that I was capable of carrying back to my shop.

After chopping some of the edges sticking out off with an axe, I mounted it on the lathe. There was still a tiny bit of wood sticking out hitting the tools rest bracket though. I really did not want to take this heavy piece of wood back down again.

Then I thought about an electric chain saw my wife had bought me some time ago. I’d never even turned this thing on before.
Back story here:
I have a messed up back, as some of you know. The last time I put myself in the hospital with my back, was from trying to crank a gas powered chain saw. Before I made it home from the hospital, my wife had sold the chain saw and bought me this electric one.
I had scoffed at this little chain saw until today. It did a real good job though of trimming the offending wood off the pecan log that was on my lathe.
Now let me tell you, I have to thank Bearpie and Alex Harris. The advice, and the now sharper than ever lathe knives made a world of difference.

Now, some of you may be asking yourself right about now, why in the world am I so determined to get this lathe thing going?
Even before I got into woodworking as much as I am now, I have always, for some reason, been in awe of seeing guys take logs, bark and all, spinning them on a lathe, and using only knives, turning that log into something useful. The thing I’ve wanted most for a long time was to happily turn a bowl while standing ankle deep in wood chips, while more fly over my shoulder. I know some people may find it weird, but this is something I have just wanted for so long.

So, if any of you can understand what I wanted, and why, then you ought to already know where the topic of this photo is heading. This was FUN!
This photo was taken before I even finished today. By the end of it all, I was turning a bowl, ankle deep in wood chips, and neck deep in heaven.

Up until this point, things were going just great for me.
As I got deeper into the bowl though, no matter how sharp the tools were, no matter how careful I was, edges would sometimes dig in on the inner sides, or in the other material I was trying to hog out, and things got dangerous, QUICK. This last photo was where I decided that enough was enough. I had to back up and figure out what I was doing wrong before I wound up getting seriously hurt.
So there I stood, as I sometimes do, thinking things over. As I was doing so, I started rolling my turning round and round on the lathe with my hands. I noticed something didn’t feel right. Now, I’m no expert turner. I’m only a beginner, but I knew that there shouldn’t be that much wobble up and down in this. The outside seems perfectly round, but the inside was off. I can’t explain it, but it was just off. It was off center and off round. What was going on here?
The first thing I checked was that the turning was still firmly in the jaws of the chuck. It was. I couldn’t figure that out anyway, because the outside still seemed fine.
Then I took the bowl out and spun the chuck itself at low speed, under the power of the motor. It looked like it had some wobble to it. So I pulled out my micrometer and set it up in a makeshift stand. Sure enough, the chuck was turning out of round.
So then I pulled the chuck off and checked the shaft on the lathe itself. Sure enough, the shaft was not turning true.

The first thing I thought about was bearings. So I tore the head of the lathe apart. I could not feel any play in the bearings though. So I started checking everything that could possibly be causing this.

I couldn’t believe it myself, but the offending part if the shaft itself. It is bent. I rolled the shaft by itself along the best know flat surface in my shop, the table saw. There is noticable wobble at the inner threaded section of the shaft. With this crude checking, I cannot tell if the bend is somewhere in the middle of the shaft, or just at the end. It appears the outboard side is running true, so I don’t think it’s the middle of the shaft. I don’t know. What I do know is that, being a cheap chinese made machine that I bought used, I have no dilissions of finding a replacement shaft.
So, unless I can figure out a place to find parts for this machine, or win the lottery (and I don’t play) so I can buy a new lathe, my bowl turning days are done for the time being. That just turned my day to crap, because I was thoroughly enjoying it.

So Grizz, how about something besides a bowl???


36 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3754 days

#1 posted 01-25-2013 01:46 AM

oh that is to bad your lathe is messed up, dang, not for me but for you and your tool, im sorry its messed up, don’t even give it a second thought William, maybe some day you will get it fixed or get a different one, then you can make me a bowl..i hope things work out …so what are you onto now…im sure it will be something really wonderful…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3293 days

#2 posted 01-25-2013 01:56 AM

I’m glad you came by Grizz. Just the man I need to talk to.

I can’t do a bowl at the moment.
Don’t tell, but I’m already dropping hints to my wife that I would really like to have a decent lathe. This is my second cheap one. I don’t honestly think we will be affording one this year though.

However, you know my specialty is scroll work anyway. Give me a clue to what you might like.


View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3754 days

#3 posted 01-25-2013 02:10 AM

well i hope you get a better lathe sometime when its right for you guys, i have a feeling its a part of wood working you will excel at…you know i love all your work William, and if you did do some scroll work that had a grizzly or mountains, that would really tickle my fancy…but don’t feel you need to do that , but if you want…you know i will love to have something you made..if i come across any lathe situations ill let you know, you just never know…let me ask you this, is there a machine shop in your area that could make you a new shaft..just a thought…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3049 days

#4 posted 01-25-2013 02:17 AM

The post was reading and sounding nice, up until the bent shaft. Maybe one will turn up sooner rather than later, then Grizz can have a pecan bowl. Good luck.

View Ted's profile


2875 posts in 2662 days

#5 posted 01-25-2013 02:21 AM

Time to hit Craigs List… lot’s of deals on old lathes – not cheapies but decent ones that just need some TLC, and you’re just the man who can get an old lathe working again.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3293 days

#6 posted 01-25-2013 02:33 AM

Grizz, the old lathe isn’t worth putting that kind of money into. The only machine shops around here that have the ability to make that part are going to charge an arm and a leg to do it.
Ted, I’ve been checking Craiglist for AGES looking for a better lathe. People in this area just aren’t into tunring wood, or they aren’t getting rid of their lathes.
Both of those topics brings me to this.
I’ve been looking at this lathe for some time. It gets good reviews, here on Lumberjocks and elsewhere. It seems to be one of those rare gems from Harbor Freight. My only concern is if my four jaw chuck is going to work on that lathe.

Shane, I hope I can get one sooner or later. I was really starting to get into it too.


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3141 days

#7 posted 01-25-2013 02:33 AM

William- I think a local machine shop could either true that shaft of fabricate a new one for not much $. No wonder that other one whacked you in the head! I know nothing of lathes but wobble when spinning anything is NOT a good thing. Lets be careful out there.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View boxcarmarty's profile


17140 posts in 2811 days

#8 posted 01-25-2013 02:40 AM

What about the ice cream???

-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3293 days

#9 posted 01-25-2013 02:47 AM

I don’t know Andy. This lathe has other issues as well. As I said, it is one of those cheaply made tools that I bought second hand. I think it’s going to boil down to one of those “you get what you pay for” deals.

Marty, what about the ice cream?
You bring the salt rock, milk, and cream.
I got an ice cream maker and glass bowls.
Will that do?

I got up off my butt and went to the shop to check the paper work on my 4-jaw chuck. I DO have the correct adapter to fit that lathe I linked to in my previous response. I think that is going to be my next lathe.

I just need to figure out how to get Marty to pay for it.


View DIYaholic's profile


19844 posts in 3126 days

#10 posted 01-25-2013 02:51 AM

I feel your pain and understand the frustration. I’m going through the same thing with my TS.

Good things will come your way, I’m sure. You deserve it!!! Don’t fret, just do a lot of research and a solution will present itself!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View JL7's profile


8747 posts in 3416 days

#11 posted 01-25-2013 03:00 AM

William – something better will come of this…..for sure…

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3293 days

#12 posted 01-25-2013 03:17 AM

Thanks Randy.
I will be keeping my eyes peeled.


View William's profile


9950 posts in 3293 days

#13 posted 01-25-2013 03:18 AM

Thanks Jeff.
I hope so.


View clieb91's profile


3647 posts in 4386 days

#14 posted 01-25-2013 03:28 AM

William, Sorry to hear about your lathe. Certainly one of those tools you can fall in love with or get addicted to very quickly. Hope you are able to come up with something in the not too distant future.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3293 days

#15 posted 01-25-2013 03:34 AM

I do to.
I said on another thread just a few minutes ago,
It appear I fell in love with wood turning just about the time my lathe bit the dust.
Hopfully I’ll find something soon enough.

I have to go to bed now.
Since I can’t turn a bowl tomorrow,
I’ll need to do something different.
It’s all good though.


showing 1 through 15 of 36 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics