First completed turning, with catches.

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Project by Oldtool posted 08-13-2012 10:12 PM 3423 views 7 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first completed turning project, have been practicing on spindles but not worth saving, and there was catch after catch with the skew chisel. Got to the point where I finished it with a spindle gouge so I wouldn’t waste the wood. What I’ve seen done in YouTube in 5 minutes, took me about 3 hours.
I have searched the internet and Youtube for information on how to properly use a skew, but can’t seem to get the hang of it from what I’ve viewed. My main problem is working left to right, going downhill, as with the lower half of the handle. It feels very awkward using the skew this way; it seems I need to stand to the left of the project, with the skew handle close toward the center of my stomach, almost as if a crossed hands position. I’m right handed, and while doing this my left hand is on the tool and the rest.
So, if any of you know where I can see good reading material or videos on the internet, please show the web address in a response.
My confusions lie in the areas of: proper height of the rest when using a skew; proper body position with respect to the work; and how high on the work the skews bevel should rest.
I appreciate your help, and happy woodworking to you,
Thanks for viewing.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

28 comments so far

View TerryDowning's profile


1151 posts in 3202 days

#1 posted 08-13-2012 10:21 PM

Nice looking mallet. Good job!!

Using a skew is a practiced art.

Remember the old joke?

Q: Hey Mister how do I get to Carnegie Hall?
A: Practice Practice Practice.

Same answer for the How do I properly use a skew question.

I practiced on pine 2×2 If you can skew pine smooth, you can turn anything and pine is cheap. Also remember to keep a skew sharp. A skew can never be too sharp.

-- - Terry

View TheDane's profile


5963 posts in 4747 days

#2 posted 08-13-2012 11:48 PM

@Oldtool—The skew pretty much bedevils us all. As Terry said, practice will smooth out the bumps.

I am right-handed, and had the same problem you are having. For practice stock, I ripped 2×4’s in half and cut them up into 18” billets. I threw caution to the winds, reversed my stance, took the butt of the tool handle in my left hand and worked at it until I figured it out. Now I can go either way, though I confess I feel better about coming at it from the right.

I think the lathe was actually invented by a left-hander. No right-hander would have designed a machine with the headstock gets in the way so much!


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

View blackcherry's profile


3346 posts in 4907 days

#3 posted 08-13-2012 11:50 PM

Please forward for closer look…lol nice mallet and soon you’ll be working with the hardest of the hardest woods.

View SuburbanDon's profile


487 posts in 4078 days

#4 posted 08-14-2012 12:10 AM

Nice job. A friend gave me one of those lathes and I really haven’t done anything with it yet.

-- --- Measure twice, mis-cut, start over, repeat ---

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 3286 days

#5 posted 08-14-2012 12:46 AM

Nice Mallet, same problem here with the skew but it just takes some time and sharp tools are a must…...

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View slotman's profile


115 posts in 3541 days

#6 posted 08-14-2012 12:52 AM

Nice mallet. Practice makes perfect, but learning from others is a great tool. Reading, watching,& better yet taking a class works wonders.

-- Roger

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 3868 days

#7 posted 08-14-2012 02:14 AM

I have a suggestion that has helped me learn to use a skew. And BTW, I am still learning.
Get yourself some 60 degree centers. A live center for the tail and a drive center for the head.
You may already have these.
Pilot drill the centers of a piece of practice stock and set it up in the lathe.
What this does is eliminates the nasty effect of a catch while you are learning the techniques.
When you do get a catch, the wood basically stops turning instead of it trying to tear the wood away or the tool out of your hand.
I turn most of my work between centers and have been using a skew a lot. Cutting a celtic knot blank down with a skew is less stressful on the knot.
Begin with a few things in mind but first begin with a good sharp skew. There should not be a burr on the edge either.
Lay the skew to the wood with the handle below the wood center, the tool rest at center and the blade at a right angle to the stock. Keep the center part of the blade to the wood. A catch will occur when either of the ends, the point or the heal, try to dig into the stock. Also, it helps while learning to begin with the area behind the edge rubbing on the stock and gently angle the edge into the wood. The movement should be in a steady left or right direction that basically peels the wood. Keep the blade moving in one or the other direction anytime it is in contact with the wood. I go from center to the end in both directions and never allow the blade to stop moving.
I know this is like trying to explain to someone how to drive a stick shift but you will get the hang of it with, as mentioned, practice and more practice.
I had tried using the skew many times before using the centers and the catches always made me put it back on the rack.
This should help you get used to using the skew to shape the stock the same way that a gouge does. As for using the skew to make fancy flutes and other cuts…you’re on your own.

-- Website is finally up and

View Oldtool's profile


3219 posts in 3275 days

#8 posted 08-14-2012 11:20 AM

Thanks for the advise D_Allen, very much appreciated. I like the idea for preventing catches, I too was ready to put the tools on the rack and let them collect dust.
Happy woodworking.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View dragonnotes's profile


82 posts in 4116 days

#9 posted 08-14-2012 11:27 AM

I have that same lathe. Mine flexed when I put too much pressure on it. I ended up building a stand with 80/20 aluminum and 2×4’s and screwed it down everyplace I could. How did you make your stand? Btw, the mallet turned out great. There is a great book called the “Frugal Woodturner” I highly recommend it.

View Oldtool's profile


3219 posts in 3275 days

#10 posted 08-14-2012 11:52 AM

I made a 2 X 4 base frame with a 3/4” plywood top, then bolted down the lathe with large fender washers. I also experienced the flexing, but this cured it.
I also made a new drive, from a hex coupling as shown in Shop Notes issue number 73. Didn’t like the HF device, center too long and prevented the points from digging in sufficiently. I also got the HF faceplate and the Four jaw chuck / key. Everything uses the same 5/8” threads, which I found to be an advantage, as follows; I didn’t epoxy the rod with ground point into the coupling drive assembly, because I back it out a little after centering the drive, allowing me to pound the three points in further. Also, I transfer it to the four jaw chuck when mounting work, where it enables me to center the piece, back it out after tightening the four independent jaw adjustments.
Thanks for the complement and book reference, I’ll look for it on Amazon.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View chrisstef's profile


18132 posts in 4091 days

#11 posted 08-14-2012 02:10 PM

That is one sweet Man Hammer.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 3224 days

#12 posted 08-14-2012 02:22 PM

I also haven’t found much luck with my skews, due entirely to lack of experience with them. Usually I rough out what I’m doing with gouges (I can get pretty smooth results if I’m careful) and then do a final smoothing with various scrapers. I have a flat scraper from Crown and a home-made rounded scraper that take care of the majority of my smoothing.

I haven’t tried it, but I hear the Sorby Spindlemaster (see this link for a review I found online) is a good beginner’s tool for doing the planing cut you’re looking for with the skew. Granted, it’ll set you back a few dollars…


View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 3224 days

#13 posted 08-14-2012 02:22 PM

Nice mallet by the way. I’ve been meaning to make one of those.


View rdwile's profile


167 posts in 3196 days

#14 posted 08-14-2012 03:34 PM

For spindle turning I have moved almost exclusively to scrapers and skews to finish the turning after the roughing gouge. First point of emphasis is the sharpness of the skew, for example on a project like your mallet I would sharpen the skew at least twice more after the sharpening to start. By putting the rest slightly above the equator of the piece and moving the edge onto the piece so the angle of the chisel is more or less tangential to the turning piece you will get a nice skimming effect. the skew takes a delicate touch, you are likely only a few ounces of pressure between the ideal pressure and a heart-stopping catch. Many turners I know will not even use the skew, others can get a finish better than sanding from the skew. On downhill cuts I always use the shorter end of the skew as the lead edge, its much easier to get a catch with the acute angle of the long edge vs the obtuse angle of the other edge. Not sure this is helpful but it takes lots of experimentation to figure out the tool and technique that works for you.

-- Richard D. Wile, IG: @rdwile

View Brown Chicken Brown Cow's profile

Brown Chicken Brown Cow

4 posts in 3315 days

#15 posted 08-14-2012 06:54 PM

From one beginning turner to another… I found that the technique described by rdwile is most effective at using the skew without catching.

Put the tool rest up high where the skew is close to the top of the piece.

Also, look for the Woodturning Workshop on PBS with Tim Yoder. He does a good job of showing how to stand and what motions work for the tools he is using. He’s pretty funny, too.

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