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Forum topic by RussellAP posted 07-24-2013 05:10 AM 934 views 1 time favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3104 posts in 2557 days

07-24-2013 05:10 AM

It’s late and Facebook is boring so I thought I’d post some of my new found knowledge about lathing and the associated tools.

In the world of woodworking, the lathe is the original and still the most versatile tool in the shop. Nothing else does what it does. But the accessories can drive you nuts.

There are, broadly speaking, two types of lathe owners; those who have the very best of everything from Sorby, Nova and all the rest of the high end tools and you have the people who find a way to get it done cheap.

I find myself coming from the first to the second. This means I have a lot of lathe accessories.

Lets talk chisels.

For bowl turners, the chisel is a very personal thing. Some prefer gouges and others prefer scrapers. However there is a tool for every purpose on a lathe and if you learn to use the right tool for the right job, your success and safety will profit. Most guys who start out lathing will have a bad experience with a gouge rather quickly. Rather than go to the scraper, learn how to use the gouge and what all those different gouges are for. They actually are quite versatile doing anything from clearing a lot of wood like hollowing a bowl, to delicate work and smoothing. I admit, i’m a scraper man. I’ll take an hour to hollow a bowl, but I feel more confident with a scraper and I can sharpen it easier and quicker.

Under and over chucking can be problematic for obvious reasons, but consider alternatives to the chuck for small items. I’d love a vacuum chuck for small bowls. Face plates require screws which can go deeper than your bowl will be hollowed out. Be sure not to use long screws and use steel screws, put them in your vice and if you can make a pretzel out of one, they are the right ones. Other screws just snap off.

Lighting. I have a 500W halogen clamped to a board just to the left of the wood I’m working on. If you turn a fresh piece of wood, it will throw water off as it spins and if that water hits that halogen, it explodes. So keep it where it wont get spinning water off a wet log. I also have a reading lamp that is the type you clamp on to the edge of your desk. I threw the clamp it came with away and just drilled several 1/2” holes in my lathe table that I made and stick the base in that hole. I have several holes so I can move it out of my way and to see inside bowls. I keep the lathe where I can get maximum light from outside too, plus general fluorescent lighting in the shop.

Live ends. One of my favorite live ends is my drill chuck. I put a 3/8 craftsman socket in it and it has a 6” reach and will spin with my work on occasion but sometimes it will burn if you’re turning at a high speed. I’v been meaning to put a grip on the end but haven’t seen the need. It’s really great for deep bowls that you need a little safety between centers. Sometimes I use a cut off tenon to buffer the live end if I don’t want any scaring on my work.

For anyone that turns bowls, it’s common knowledge that you have to have a plan of how you’re going to go about it. The best plans cannot account for needing to go back and smooth out a piece, and that piece will be where you can’t get to it because you can’t chuck it anymore or it’s at a tough angle which is liable to ruin the piece as likely as fix it. The best way to avoid having this come up is to thoroughly check your work before you modify the chucking of the work. Sometimes there is no way to chuck and rechuck without having to turn the bowl round again, especially if the wood is wet or partly wet. It changes by the hour, so what you turned round at noon, is warped at 6. You best be done with it before that happens.

If you turn wet wood, you have many options to dry the wood without warping or other disasters. I like to turn the bowl completely out, then plunge it into a stock pot and bring it to a boil for a couple hours. Then let it cool and dry. Still warps a bit, (wood will be wood), but they all do unless you have 6 months to wait and then return the bowl again. I’m more into instant gratification so I turn dry wood now. Which brings up another interesting point, Tear out.

Nothing pisses me off more that turning a bowl that has tear out along the end grain. The end grain is just not tight enough to cut without pushing it over and digging it out. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. Some things that help are in no particular order; use a lighter touch with an extremely sharp (carbide if you got em) scraper at very high speed. The problem with tear out is you don’t know you have it until you have it. Tear out is deep and can’t be sanded out so don’t fool yourself. I’ve left the tear out alone rather than try to fix it at times, especially with Spalted maple for some reason. It’s a beautiful wood, but hard to get perfect.

I suppose I’ve rambled on long enough. I hope this helps someone. It’s from a lot of the questions I had as a newbie myself.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

2 replies so far

View Bob817's profile


675 posts in 2653 days

#1 posted 07-24-2013 12:00 PM

Thankyou for sharing that Russell.

-- ~ Bob ~ Newton, N.H.

View MrFid's profile


888 posts in 2175 days

#2 posted 07-24-2013 12:30 PM

Good read… thanks!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

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