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Beginning Wood Turning Tips

Updated on September 14, 2014

Some ideas for those just starting out in the craft...

When you first start out in wood turning, it seems like there are a bunch of things that nobody tells you, like that you can turn bowls and other useful items without shelling out huge dollars for gear...

That's me, turning a bowl, at the Shopsmith lathe that I bought for $120 at a yard sale. They also didn't tell me that I could start out with just "the basic" in tools and then add the more expensive and higher quality tools as needed them and as I gained more skill.

Also, you can get all kinds of input, help and opinions through your local, state or national woodturning guild and they usually have website and monthly meetings where you can learn form others that are already experienced at the craft. I have found that those folks tend to be very helpful & friendly to beginners.

Turning the inside of the bowl...
Turning the inside of the bowl...

You don't have to spend a lot to get a lot!

Inexpensive tools don't have to be cheap "offshore" tools

A set of 5 lathe chisels and a faceplate came with my first garage-sale Shopsmith. From there, I turned and sold some pieces at a craft-fair and bought a nice ($70. or so) 1/2" bowl gouge and an inexpensive (about $165) chuck to make holding bowl-blanks easier. The one nice tool I'd recommend any novice turner own would be a 3/8" or 1/2" deep-fluted Bowl gouge. Probably 3/4 of my turning time is spent with this tool in hand. Don't skimp here.

If you shop hard and do your research, you can find many lathe tools, parts and supplies on ebay for much less than you'll spend in the stores.

Most of the handles for my tools are custom-turned, from really nice-looking pieces out of my firewood pile.

Also, you can get free wood to turn if you just ask the city or county workers that are trimming the trees in your area for it. Usually, they are happy not to have to take it to the landfill or dump.

Great Stuff from Amazon to get you going with your new "hobby"

I recommend that you start with less and add items as you can afford to, and as you sell pieces. No need to spend it all until you know what you really need.

Peachtree Woodworking 1" x 36 Yards Double Stick Tape PW3599
Peachtree Woodworking 1" x 36 Yards Double Stick Tape PW3599

Double stick tape for attaching blanks to your lathe...

Wooden Carving Mallet 16 oz By Peachtree Woodworking PW3287
Wooden Carving Mallet 16 oz By Peachtree Woodworking PW3287

There are a thousand uses for a mallet in any woodworking shop! Makes a great gift too...


The dreaded safety, fun!

...don't leave home without it...

Safety First! I used to tell the students that took the vocational printing course that I taught that they needed to go home with the same amount of fingers and toes that they came in with. The same idea applies when turning wood.

At times, you are spinning the stock at a rate of speed that you're eyes can't even focus on to see and you are scraping a piece of sharpened steel against it! I don't mean to scare you away from turning, only to make you aware that you need to take sane precautions before you do this.

Turning wood can be an inherently dangerous undertaking, and you need to take every safety precaution that you possibly can and wear every safety device that is likely to save you from bodily harm and injury. This includes gloves, an apron or smock,eye protection, safety glasses, face shield, breathing respirator, air filter, and yes, I really mean it. Some species of wood are known to be toxic to humans and you don't want to find out the hard way what you are allergic to.

Wood Turning Books to get you going - ...these are my very favorites and I own them all...

You can start out with one book, following the suggestions of one turning Guru--and then see if their ways work for you. Then move on to another and another and pretty soon, you'll have your own wood turning style and just imagine--you'll be turning down offers for you to host a show on PBS or whatever...hey, at least you can dream!

Why do you want to turn wood?

The Woodturner
The Woodturner

Why do you want to get into woodturning?

See results

More turning tools and supplies...

These are optional items you can add as you sell and give away pieces that you make.

PSI Woodworking Products LCSIDE2 Round Side Scraper Chisels, 2-Piece set
PSI Woodworking Products LCSIDE2 Round Side Scraper Chisels, 2-Piece set

After the gouge, I use one of these to get the surfaces almost "no sanding needed" smooth

3M SandBlaster Bare Surfaces Sandpaper, 100-Grit, 9-Inch by 11-Inch
3M SandBlaster Bare Surfaces Sandpaper, 100-Grit, 9-Inch by 11-Inch

I usually sand through the grits: 100, 220. 320, 400 & 600.

Great Lakes Wholesale 16Oz Mineral Oil 60061 Health Products
Great Lakes Wholesale 16Oz Mineral Oil 60061 Health Products

I usually put on a good coat or two right after sanding to seal those opened pores in the wood.

Carnauba Wax 5-1/2" x 2" x 5/8"
Carnauba Wax 5-1/2" x 2" x 5/8"

I usually apply a friction-coat (carefully--with the lathe running) and buff it in with a piece of an old tee-shirt.


Turning A Bowl

Guestbook--Please leave a comment! - Thanks for being here! I Appreciate It!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      thank you ! great info here.............

    • catbehaviors profile image


      7 years ago

      At the county fair there is always a wood turning booth. I love watching how woodturning works... once they even gave us a custom made honey dipper and top. Someday I would like to try out woodturning, it looks like fun! :)

    • Wolfcreek profile image


      7 years ago

      I like this lens alot - good information.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 

      7 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Lovely woodwork and a well designed lens.

    • Philippians468 profile image


      7 years ago

      love woodwork! hands on!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, very informative! Thank you for all the information!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've done other craft woodworking projects but not turning. I always wanted to try it. Thanks for the information.

    • howdoyouspellst profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome lens!! Woodturning is so cool! It's a great hobby, and great for making custom gifts for friends and family!! Thanks for the awesome tips and products.


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