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Learn the Basics of Wood Turning

How to Turn Bowls, Spindles and More on Your Lathe


Watching an experienced wood turner develop and form an exquisite bowl, spindle or other turning from a block of raw wood can be an inspiring, and in some cases, intimidating sight. But learning the basics of wood turning isn't difficult. After you know how to use your lathe safely, and techniques for using each tool, it becomes a matter of practice. In the following tips, learn wood turning basics so you can develop your wood turning skills.

1. Wood Turning 101

Woodturning a Spindle on a Lathe
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

While woodturning technically would fall under the umbrella of woodworking, it is often considered a completely different craft. Many woodturners have little (if any) interest in traditional fine woodworking, as they can come up with hundreds of projects that can be created on a lathe with the proper tools and techniques. In Woodturning 101, you can read and learn all of the basic techniques and safety rules associated with woodturning, in order to develop your woodturning skill level.

2. Wood Turning Safety

Unsafe Wood Turning Practices
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

Many tasks with power tools or machines in the woodshop are inherently dangerous. Statistically, wood turning probably ranks among the more safe tasks one would undertake with a power tool, although to keep it safe, one should habitually follow some basic safety rules. Learn the basics of woodturning safety in this article.

3. Common Wood Turning Profiles

Common Spindle Turning Profiles
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

When round a block of wood into a spindle, there is no end to the creativity of the profile that can be created. However, these profiles are almost always made up of a variety of just a handful of common cuts, such as square and v-grooves, fillets and coves. To create these profiles, you really only need four types of tools (along with your lathe, of course). Learn these various profiles and the tools required to cut them on your wood lathe.

4. How to Use a Roughing Gouge

Turning with a Spindle Gouge
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

Most woodturning projects on the lathe are started by using a roughing gouge to create the basic shape, whether a spindle, bowl, bottle stopper, or nearly any other woodturning project. The roughing gouge is a very versatile gouge, but it must be used properly (and safely) in order to get good results. Learn tips for using your roughing gouge when turning on a lathe.

5. Skew Chisels

Using a Skew Chisel
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

Few woodturning tools can be as dangerous as the skew chisel. Sometimes used for making square-grooves, it can also plane and shape many other profiles. However, the skew chisel's propensity for grabbing means that the wood turner must use the proper safety precautions to keep from getting into trouble with one in their hands. Learn the basics of using a skew chisel safely and effectively in this woodturning article.

6. Using a Parting Tool

Using a Parting Tool
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

The parting tool is a specialty woodturning tool that is commonly used to separate a finished turning from the rest of the stock, separating the stock into two parts (hence the name, parting tool). However, it can also be used for other tasks, such as cutting square-shaped grooves in a spindle. In this article, learn techniques for using a parting tool safely and effectively.

7. How to Turn Hammer Handles

Centering a Hammer Handle
(c) 2010 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

Many woodworkers use a lathe to turn spindles and bowls, but did you know that you can use your lathe (and the corresponding hand tools) to cut oval-shaped hammer handles? If you break the wooden handle on your favorite hammer, don't throw the head away. Get a nice piece of hardwood and head to the lathe to form a new hammer handle just to your particular liking using these woodturning tips.

8. Wood Turning Attire

One of the most common injuries in woodturning occurs when an article of the turner's clothing gets caught in the spinning lathe. By wearing proper clothing for woodturning, this potential hazard can be greatly reduced. Here are some tips for what to wear (and what not to wear) when woodturning.

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