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Woodturning instruction, examples, and resources

Updated on October 1, 2014

Woodturning is a very addictive hobby. I first started turning to make legs for the furniture I was building but as I learned I became addicted to turning bowls, vases, wood goblets, hollow forms and segmented woodturnings.

There are two main types of woodturnings. Spindle turning and faceplate turning. Spindle turning is done between centers. In faceplate turning your piece of wood is connected to a faceplate. An example of spindle turning would be a table leg. Faceplate turning would be bowls and vases. Quite often you need to incorporate both types of turning in the same project. An example where both types of turning are used is in a pedestal table. The table top is a faceplate turning while the pedestal is a spindle turning.

This hollow form is an example of faceplate turning.

Wood goblets are an example of spindle turning.

Choosing a wood Lathe

When choosing a lathe there are a couple important things to look for.
First is speed. Some lathes just spin too fast and can not be slowed. If at all possible get a lathe with a speed controller. Some lathes allow you to change the belt position on step pulleys which changes the ratio which changes the speed. This is better than not being able to reduce the speed at all but your lowest speed can still be too fast.
A speed controller allows you to adjust your speed down to a couple rpm which is desirable for applying film finishes.
Slower speeds are also desirable when sanding.

The second thing to consider when choosing a lathe is swing. Swing is the distance from the center of the spindle to the lathe bed. If you multiply the swing x 2 the result is the maximum diameter turning you can do on the lathe.

It's usually a good idea for a new turner to get a mini lathe. They are less expensive than a full size lathe and can turn many many things. Later on when you step up to a full size lathe you will more than likely keep the mini for smaller projects.

Choosing woodturning tools

Next you need turning tools. You really don't need to buy every type of turning tool when first starting out. I would suggest a roughing gouge, spindle gouge, round nose scraper and a parting tool. If your going to do bowls add a bowl gouge. I personally rarely use a spindle gouge. I find that I can substitute a bowl gouge for a spindle gouge.


Next you need a way to sharpen your tools. Most all woodturners prefer a slow speed (1725) grinder. The reason behind this is slower speed creates less heat. This is not an issue with hss (high speed steel) tools as the heat doesn't affect them. It was a major problem years ago when carbon steel tools were your only option.

Another theory is a slow speed grinder is preferable for turners who are learning to sharpen. At a slower speed your grinding off less of your tool.

That said I am the odd man out and prefer a fast (3450rpm) grinder.

Online suppliers of woodturning supplies.

I have a couple favorite suppliers that carry everything woodturning related.

Craft supplies USA
Packard Woodworks
Oneway Lathes

Woodturning examples

Below are pictures of different types of woodturnings. Many more can be seen at my website

A simple bowl made with big leaf maple burl.

Semi closed wood bowl in boxelder.

Staved wood goblets.

A hollow form in redwood burl.

A segmented bowl made with various exotics.

Big leaf maple square bowl.

An inlaid segmented vase.

Staved wood bowl.

Spalted maple lidded bowl. Gaboon ebony finial.


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