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This section contains some useful tips and guides. If your thinking of taking up woodturning then there is some useful information or feel free to contact the chapter if you have any questions on how to get started.

Getting started: The Lathe


Parts of the Lathe


Quick Guide to Woodturning Tools:


Types of Tools  tool2.png

  • roughing gouge - a wide fluted gouge used to initially round a wooden spindle, and to roughly shape it. Generally not intended for cutting end grain due to the large cut it takes and the relatively weak tang connecting the blade to the handle. 
  • spindle gouge or detail gouge - a shallow fluted gouge used to create details on spindles, including beads (raised portions of the turning typically semi-circular in cross section) and coves (relieved portions of the turning).
  • bowl gouge - a deep fluted gouge used to turn the outside and inside of bowls and vessels. Often has a thicker shaft and longer handle than a spindle gouge because it has to cut farther away from the hand rest and deal with the forces of turning a large bowl.
  • skew chisel - a wide, steeply pointed chisel with the edge running at an angle to the length of the tool. Used to smooth flat spindles, cut beads, and add details. Skew chisels are only used on spindle work (never on faceplate work) and are honed after sharpening to create a razor edge.
  • parting tool - a pointed tool used to separate (part off) work from the lathe, and to create a straight edge separating large and small diameter sections - wide parting tools also called bedans are used to create evenly sized spindle sections.
  • hollowing tool - many different types of tools used to cut out the deep sections of steep bowls, vases and hollow vessels. Often with very long handles, to maintain enough leverage when working in a deep vessel, far away from the hand rest.
  • scraper - a tool that scrapes the wood fibres instead of cutting - these are used to smooth off wooden items cut with other tools, and to shape items that are not possible or difficult to shape with gouges. A sharp scraper has a burr at the edge which cuts the wood, only a dull scraper actually scrapes.
  • bowl saver - a tool used to core out the inside part of a bowl, allowing the waste piece to be used to create a smaller bowl, and to limit the amount of wood chips created when hollowing out a bowl.
  • auger - a drill bit used to drill a hole partway or all the way through a wooden item. For cutting the hole for a lamp cord, or as the first step when hollowing out a bowl or vessel
  • chatter tool - a flexible scraper used to add decorative chatter marks to turned items
  • wire - a simple wire, sometimes with handles attached at either side, for the purpose of burning lines into the piece with friction.
  • there are also several tool types for special purposes, as well as tools that are a combination design of the above tools, i.e. skew/chisel combinations, thread cutting tools, ring cutting tools, medium fluted gouges, etc.



suggestions only, as safety is each individuals responsibility

When woodturning, it is important to wear certain personal protective equipment (PPE). Loose clothing should not be worn, all jewellery should be removed, and long hair should be tied back. Wood shavings generated during turning will also need to be periodically removed.

  • Eye protection is a necessity when woodturning. There are several PPE available for eye protection such as safety goggles, glasses and visors, some of which feature built-in respirators. Although all of these are adequate, for the highest level of protection, a visor that protects the entire head from dust and debris should be worn.
  • Respiratory equipment and Dust collection systems are also important when woodturning or doing any type of woodworking that creates dust. This can range from a simple disposable dust mask, to a full face helmet with built in respirator. Most stand alone respiratory equipment will interfere with dust shields and visors, so devices that incorporate both are available. Many woods create dust that is actually a health hazard. For example, cocobolo (granadillo) dust is known to be toxic (toxic shock). Many people are sensitive to oils carried in walnut, locust, and oak sawdust.
  • Ear protection Compared to other power tools, a lathe is a quiet machine. Ear protection should be used if noise is excessive, this may be due to motor (fan) noise from a shop dust collector, or the combination of wood and tool being used.
  • Hand/Skin protection Gloves should not be used with rotating equipment, since there's always a risk of getting tangled in the machine. Nevertheless, some woods provide splinters that not only puncture skin, but also cause festering sores and/or skin irritation. Polishes and finishes used in woodturning can also be harmful or irritant to skin, often containing organic solvents such as methanol, turpentine and toluene.
  • Foot protection. Protective footwear, often leather steel-toe boots, is required for any type of shop activity.

A good way to check the safety before starting the lathe is 'SAFER':

  • S - Speed - check the rpm speed, slower for big, heavy things, faster for smaller lighter things.
  • A - Aside - make sure you are stood to the side of the blank's 'firing line' (not in front of the wood).
  • F - Fixings - check that the wood, tool-rest, tail-stock etc. are correctly attached.
  • E - Eye protection - make sure you're wearing sufficient eye protection.
  • R - Revolve - Check that the wood can turn around without encountering any obstructions.

Safe usage of a lathe also depends on the operator knowing proper techniques and being aware of the limitations of both the machine and the workpiece. For example, using a high spindle speed with an unbalanced workpiece may cause the lathe to vibrate dangerously. Spinning a large workpiece too fast may cause it to explode. Inappropriate use of tools such as gouges and skew chisels can cause a catch, where the tool bites suddenly and aggressively into the wood in an uncontrolled manner. This exerts very large forces on the workpiece, the tool, the lathe and the operator, often causing the workpiece to break apart or tear free from the lathe or pulling the tool out of the operator's hands and throwing it through the air.

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