Wanna learn to turn

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Forum topic by Mainboom posted 01-24-2019 07:47 PM 691 views 1 time favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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83 posts in 55 days

01-24-2019 07:47 PM

hi newbie on the forum here.

just to start im not new to woodworking. I do scroll saw work bandsaw work. make countertops cutting boards. general carpentry bla bla. main reason id like to learn turning is because after a glue up i cant get back to something for a week and many things can go bad in the time depending on temp in my garage and other reasons. So id like projects that can be finished in a few hours or something that can sit till i get back to it . so now to the questions.

i have read all the finewood working books on turning watched video on video… is it a bad idea to try turning alone or should i have someone teach me first ?

would a laguna revo 1216 lathe be over kill for a first lathe or would a turncrafter 12in be a better option? i know its ultimately what i decide but id like honest opinion. i have looked on cragslist for about 3 months and nothing has come up.

would a set of the psi chisels or the scorby sets be a good idea at first or should i buy each gouge and parting tool and scraper separately ?

so them are my general question any help or honest opinion would be helpful thanks

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

32 replies so far

View Andybb's profile


1797 posts in 901 days

#1 posted 01-24-2019 07:56 PM

What do you want to turn, bowls etc or pens? Better to have a tool and not need it than to need a tool and wish you had it. A 1216 might be overkill for a pen but not for a bowl. Grab it if it’s in your affordability range.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Phil32's profile


461 posts in 201 days

#2 posted 01-24-2019 08:09 PM

As a teenager I taught myself how to do woodturning. I was encouraged but not taught by my uncle who had a truly primitive lathe. However, I recommend that you start with a simple project – a bowl project with a circular blank or an easy spindle project like a candle stick. Get a feel for the tools and the cutting speeds. Go for it!

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View HokieKen's profile (online now)


8631 posts in 1436 days

#3 posted 01-24-2019 08:19 PM

I think we would all love to have a hands-on teacher to show us how to turn. But, for the vast majority of us, I doubt it really happened that way. Unless you know an experienced turner or have a local woodturning club or there’s somewhere that offers classes, it’s just not practical. Luckily, there are forum sites like this where we can get answers and opinions and sites where experienced turners willingly (and freely) and graciously share their experience and knowledge. And of course there’s YouTube :-)

So, if you have someone who can and will give you face-to-face instruction, by all means take advantage! If not though, you will be far from the first person who had to learn via books, websites and videos!

The lathe really depends on budget and what you want to turn. Between those 2, if it’s in your budget, I’d go with the Laguna. The outboard side will be nice if you decide you want to turn larger bowls and the speed range goes much lower which is also nice for large bowls. If you know you’re not going to be turning big bowls though, I think the Turncrafter will be fine and save you a few bucks.

I would start with a set of gouges and chisels from Benjamin’s Best or wherever (just make sure they’re HSS and not carbon steel) and after you get some experience, then you may want to replace tools one at a time with higher-quality tools after you figure out which tools you use frequently. I’d also recommend looking at some carbide insert tools. They aren’t the only tools you need IMO but they will dramatically shorten the learning curve and remain useful even after you’re an experience turner. Our own KelleysCrafts makes and sells carbide tools. I don’t have any skin in the game but I do have a set of his tools and can say they are excellent and competitively priced.

Best of luck and enjoy! Turning is one of my favorite parts of this hobby :-))

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Wildwood's profile


2570 posts in 2432 days

#4 posted 01-24-2019 08:31 PM

Don’t know where you live or budget but would recommend the Laguna over the Turncrafter if can afford it. Other stores are stocking it now so shop for best price. Know some Wood Craft stores may have them in stock.

Both Packard Woodworks and Penn State will send you free Catalogs.

If just interested in pens right now PSI tools will serve you well only need a roughing gouge, skew chisel and perhaps a parting tool. Recommend buying individual tools as you need them over a set.

PSI bowl gouges & parting tool will also serve you well.

You will need a way to sharpen your tools, and perhaps a sharpening system. Both catalogs sell sharpening systems with Packard having more variety. Packard also sell more varieties ot brands of turning tools and has sales or discounts if buy more than 2 tools.

For bowl turning might want a 4-jaw chuck and both catalogs carry them.

-- Bill

View Derek Oliver's profile

Derek Oliver

264 posts in 2449 days

#5 posted 01-24-2019 08:47 PM

First off, Welcome to Lumberjocks! Now to address your questions. I would go with the Laguna if you can swing it. I was introduced to turning by a PSI pen turning ad in Wood magazine, so naturally I started with a small pen turning lathe. Then I decided I wanted to turn a little larger items, so I bought Delta midi lathe (great lathe!). Then I wanted more capacity so I bought the bed extension for the delta. Now, still not happy with the size limitations (mainly the swing over the bed), I’m on the lookout for a good deal on a full size lathe. If I had to do over again, I would have just started with the full size lathe. You can turn a little pen on a big lathe, but you can’t turn a big bowl on a little lathe. As for the tools, PSI or Benjamin Best or good tools to start with. I started with those and have never really upgraded to Sorby or any of the other big names. What’s more important than the name of the tools is your ability to sharpen them. A slow speed grinder is a good investment. If you don’t want to invest the time into learning how to sharpen you chisels, then the carbide tools with replaceable tips is the way to go. Even if you do learn to sharpen you HSS chisels, you may find the need for a carbide tool, but you can always add that later on, when budget permits. As far as self-learning vs. teacher, I think having will a teacher will help you progress faster, but a lot of us at self taught. It just takes a little longer. Turning clubs are great if you have one near you. If you go the self taught route, there are some good videos on YouTube. I personally really found Lyle Jamison videos very helpful for learning to turn. Alan Stratton and Carl Jacobsen have turing oriented channels as well, though the are more project oriented and less instructional, but still inspiring for a new turner. Those are my thoughts on the subject.

View MrUnix's profile


7243 posts in 2496 days

#6 posted 01-24-2019 09:03 PM

So id like projects that can be finished in a few hours or something that can sit till i get back to it.

You can do that on your scroll saw with the right projects :)

Woodturning can be fun and rewarding, but each individual is different as to if they need hands on mentoring or not. Some people just naturally take to it… others never really do and abandon the hobby after a short while. I would not invest heavily until you figure out where you fall within that spectrum!

You can spend a LOT of cash if you want… or you can dip your toe in the water fairly inexpensively and see how you like it. Where are you located? If people know, there may be some LJ’s in your area that can help you out finding a nice starter lathe and getting you going. As for accessories, which can add up quick – hold off until you know what you want/need. For example: A dedicated sharpening system is nice, but a belt sander and homemade jig will do just as well. Scroll chucks are handy, but a threaded glue block will do the trick and won’t cost a penny.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Mainboom's profile


83 posts in 55 days

#7 posted 01-24-2019 09:27 PM

thanks for all the replys so far !!!

I probably will go with the laguna revo 1216 for the outboard turning. I would like to turn segmented bowls and hollow forms ultimately . Pen’s and salt shakers would be nice too. im mostly interested in anything segmented and possibly turning epoxy wood bowls. I watch a lot of Andy Philips on youtube. and a few others. I kinda figured most people were self taught but I don’t like to assume things.

as for the chisels. I have heard the benjamins best are a good set. the only thing im not understanding is the sizing for chisels. like the benjamins best set I have seen are a micro set ? and I have searched for benjamins best chisels and always get banjamin moore paint. lol the psi site only had a micro set. I mean does the length really matter on the handle or am I missing something ? I was looking at the easy tools on woodcraft I hear they make things easyer.

I already have a low speed grinder for when I have done intarsia id just have to buy a diffent wheel then my gray wheel. is this wolverine jig I read about worth the money or is it best to learn to just grind by hand ? or is this a personal choice again ?

I know by now that tools cost money im just trying not to throw money away on cheap stuff im gonna have to replace in 2 weeks. oh also do most of you get logs and cut them down or buy blanks from somewhere ? the only lumber mill we had around burned down and now I have to drive 2 hours or order from online places.
I do have a turning club in my area just waiting on a reply from them. and im in western illinois

thanks again for the help

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

View bigJohninvegas's profile


585 posts in 1759 days

#8 posted 01-24-2019 09:58 PM

Hello, and welcome to LJ,
I see your home page says Nw Illinois.
Are you close to Rockford?
I find it best to seek out a local turner, or club.
Lots of good info, and often a used lathe to get started on.
This wood turning online web site has a lot of good info, and is where I found the above linked club.
Other clubs too under the community tab.

-- John

View Mainboom's profile


83 posts in 55 days

#9 posted 01-24-2019 10:14 PM

Thanks for the website.and I’m actually in the western illinois.

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

View Andybb's profile


1797 posts in 901 days

#10 posted 01-24-2019 10:32 PM

I use my lathe mostly for turning pens so my experience is based on that. I made a couple of boxes just for the exercise.

As always, your mileage will vary. Forgive what may seem like random thoughts as I’m new to turning and am learning as I go. I enjoy turning pens it as it provides my ADHD with instant gratification and a completed pen an hour after I start vs weeks for furniture projects. They are easy to make, easy to correct and easy to just start over.

Unfortunately for us youtube trained turners the issue is you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t know what you’re gonna like until after you buy/try it. I started with the HF HSS tool set and I’m glad I didn’t spend a bunch of $ on them. I also bought a Rikon slow speed grinder which I used on those tools until I went to Rockler and bought the 3 piece carbide set. (there are 2 sets. one for pens that is shorter than the larger one. I got the longer ones cuz I thought I’d be turning more than just pens, which I haven’t) Have used the grinder only once or twice in the last 8 months.

I am a fan of the carbide family. Yes you can buy replacement blades for $25 from Rockler but that could take years before you need one. Firstly, you are going to just loosen the screw and rotate the blade to move it to a sharp section. When it’s time to actually sharpen it, unscrew the little blade, put a little oil on a honing plate and draw circles for about 10 seconds and it’s good as new. I had already bought a replacement blade (on bad advise from the Rockler guy) before I realized it was so easy to sharpen. Now that I have spares I’m probably good for 10 years. The replacement I bought was the square tip with a slight radius ground into it and I get fewer catches with that.

So, when turning pens I use a combo of what I have that seems to work for me. If it’s really hard wood I’ll start with the HF roughing gouge until it’s round then switch to the round carbide (although there are times when the roughing gouge does as good a job as the round carbide depending on the wood). Then, once I’m close to the bushings I will switch to the Benjamin’s Best 3/4” skew I got which gets me pretty darned close to a 400-600 grit sandpaper finish. I think I’ve only actually “sharpened” the skew on the grinder once since I’ve had it. I got a cheap little 600 grit credit card sized honing plate and that gets it back to razor sharpness in about 15 seconds after doing a pen. I think I’ve only resharpened the roughing gouge once or twice, mainly to learn how to use the grinder. Otherwise, it too is razor sharp after a few seconds with the hone.

Had I to do it all over again I would have still bought the HF HSS set but skipped the grinder and just used my bench grinder and a hone but since you already have one you are good to go.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View OSU55's profile


2152 posts in 2287 days

#11 posted 01-24-2019 10:41 PM

Focusing on your reason for interest in turning ”id like projects that can be finished in a few hours or something that can sit till i get back to it” – smaller items, like pens, bottle stoppers, tool handles – fit under finish in a few hours, because you can get dry enough wood to complete them in a short time, depending on the type of finish. For larger items like bowls, vases, etc even purchased blanks are not dry enough to turn and finish in one setting unless you are after the “warped” approach (which is great if you are). Otherwise, the piece needs rough turned, set aside to dry (with a good process), then finish turned, then depending on the type of finish it could take several days or more to complete. Buying blanks for turning larger items gets expensive – it’s far better to start with green wood, which then gets into whether you have a green wood source, a chainsaw to cut blanks (you already have a bandsaw to refine the blanks), a place to keep logs, cut blanks, drying rough turned items, etc. Then there is segmented turning, which involves time and glue ups, which from your original message is something you don’t want.

Just wanted to hilight some things you might not have considered when thinking about turning. If still interested in the larger items, the Revo 1216 would be a good choice, understanding your into about a $1,000 when outfitted for outboard turning. If that and another $500 or so for tools, sharpening/jigs, tool rests etc don’t make you blink, then jump in with both feet and have fun.

If you have some resources as mentioned above to help with learning the craft, take advantage of them. I did not, and am self and article/video taught. My favorites are Lyle Jamieson and Allan & Stuart Batty. A lot depends on you and how well you learn from watching and reading vs someone right there hands-on.

As for tools, PSI Benjamin’s Best and Hurricane are the place to start and move on to name brand stuff after you learn how to sharpen and what tools you like. After 5 years I’m still using most of the original tools I got. As for carbide – I have a different opinion than most I think – they do next to nothing to teach the skills to use hss tools except scrapers because that what they are – scrapers, and really only for roughing. A hss scraper properly honed is much sharper and much better for prepping for finish. Carbide is ok for roughing, but once I learned how to use gouges properly I rarely touch the carbide. What they are good for is for a noob to make the 1st few pieces the quickest way, so if that is the goal, then carbide is the ticket. Make your own tools and handles though, and only buy the inserts. A hss scraper is enough to make a handle to get started – for that matter a 1-1/4” piece of wood dowel will work.

View Mainboom's profile


83 posts in 55 days

#12 posted 01-24-2019 11:18 PM

@osu55 you make some good points. I guess I should clarify more on why im wanting to get away from “furniture building”. short answer I don’t need any furniture we will just go with that. plus I can make more with less wood and get the same satisfaction in the end. plus im more of an instant gratification type of person if I can go and turn a pen and knock it out in 2 hours or less that’s great !!!! its more about time with me and completing something in the time allowed

I do agree with the comment about the carbon tools. im not knocking them but I have heard they are not the same as a gouges and scrapers and its a completely different way of turning and its better to use the real thing. also I think that’s a great idea to buy inserts and turn my own handles ill have to remember that. as far as sharping I have a grider like I said and I have stones so im good there

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

View mike02719's profile


80 posts in 4083 days

#13 posted 01-25-2019 12:02 AM

The one thing I missed in your post was what you have for a shop. That could be critical in your choice for a lathe. Any decent full size lathe will weigh around 500 lbs. You will need close to 6 or 7 feet by 4 ft. footprint. The electrical requirement should be 220v 20a. Some dust collection is necessary, I still use a shop vac. Lighting is very important. I don’t like to disagree with other bloggers, but chisel set are never the way to go. You will not use all of them. You may not like the quality and you still own the whole set. This is an item available on Craigslist if you buy a good name. Some of my favorites have no name and are quite ugly in appearance. The list of necessary items is endless. Drill chuck, centers live and dead, jaw chucks, tool rests, etc. the list goes on. Some of these items are dedicated to certain lathes, i.e. buy a new lathe, buy new equipment. All this being said, turning is more enjoyable than anything you can do in the shop. I get lost in the shop, and my wife has to come after me to quit. Hope you enjoy turning as much as I do. Good luck!

-- Mike, Massachusetts

View Andybb's profile


1797 posts in 901 days

#14 posted 01-25-2019 12:14 AM

I don t like to disagree with other bloggers, but chisel set are never the way to go. You will not use all of them. You may not like the quality and you still own the whole set.
- mike02719

Yes. Agreed. I have only tried 2 or 3 out of my HF set. It’s just that for $60 the whole set was cheaper than some individual tools. Again, when you have never met a real life turner that can advise you it is difficult to know what you will like. I made my own parting tool a la Capt'n Eddie. and gave the 1” skew out of the set an Alan Lancer curved grind. Other than that I use the roughing gouge.

Good luck.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Mainboom's profile


83 posts in 55 days

#15 posted 01-25-2019 12:19 AM

oh well I pretty much have everything I could need. I just finished drywalling my shop I have it wired for 240v. outlet everywhere. I have a tablesaw, bandsaw, I have a dustdeputysetup. I pretty much own everything but a lathe and a drill press. you accumulate when you build your own garage I guess. I have lots of floor space. my garage is 24×30 and everything has a mobile base on it so I can move it against the wall. plus no cars go in my shop its in my back yard and strickly my shop.

I just got an email from the woodturning club here in town. basically they told me to buy nothing and wait till I go to a meeting. they have lathes there I can use and its open once a week so I guess I can hangout for another month no reason to get in a hurry.and make bad choices.

thanks for the help

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

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