Musings of a new Woodturner

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sharpening Secrets on Halloween

Sharpen all new tools!Just do it!

Everyone I have talked to and everything I have read indicate that you must sharpen all new tools.New tools from the store are not sharp enough.Let me repeat... they are not sharp enough!You need to take the time to put a good, new edge on your new tool.This will allow you to enjoy your new lathe tool the way it was meant to be.

I started with pen turning.Further, I felt that a new lathe tool comes sharp enough to cut your wood without problem and would last for several wood turnings before needing to be sharpened.After all, a new table saw blade cuts cleanly and lasts for a long time before needing to be sharpened.Why not a lathe tool?

Well, I found that I was getting a lot of lathe tool marks on my turnings that were hard to get out during the finishing step.Plus, there was chip outs that happened unexpectedly.After taking the bowl turning class where we turned green wood, I found that I had to sharpen the gouge 4-5 times during the 2 hours of turning.Every time the fingernail gouge had a new edge put on it, it was like slicing through butter.I got fine shavings and a very smooth surface without catching or chipping out.And you could tell right away when the tool became too dull to continue.

When you sharpen your new tool for the first time, I recommend that you attempt to match the bevel set by the manufacturer.You should try to match the bevel angle at the center edge of the tool.Then, you keep that same bevel for the sides.Unfortunately, I found that Sorby had a different edge on the sides of my fingernail bowl gouge.So it took me a while to get it evenly the same on all sides.By using the manufacturer's bevel, you will always have a good reference point.You can also use the reference bevel angles recommended by the experts like found in the book "Learn to Turn" by Barry Gross.These are also good starting points.

As you gain experience with using and sharpening your lathe tool, you can change the angle of tool's grind to suit your style.However, I strongly advise against letting others reshape your tool before you are comfortable using it the way it came from the manufacturer.Instead, it is better to have them show how they sharpen their own tools so you can see their sharpening technique.Having others set the grind on your new tool at an angle different than the manufacturer and change it several times does not help you learn consistency in your turning style.The manufacturer's grind is designed to be useful in most turning situations and serves as a good point for starting out.

Tip 1 - Purchase a small gauge (about$10) with different angles set in it.This is a very worthwhile tool to know the bevel angle set at the manufacturer.

Tip 2- Watch the 10 minute sharpening video by Mike Mahoney on YouTube.His video is very clear about what is required to put a new edge on several different types of lathe tools.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Find A Woodturner

One of the most important ways to learn woodturning is to talk to another woodturner.I started doing this by hanging out at the local Rockler and Woodcraft stores around the woodturning equipment and supplies.For instance, I learned about the Spindlemaster lathe tool from someone who was shopping for pen making supplies.His insight provided me a tool that I have found indispensable.

Another way is to talk to the sales people that are woodturners.My best learnings have come from meeting Nick Schirz at the local Woodcraft store in Cincinnati.I actually go Thursday nights after work to talk with Nick when I have a specific how-to question and usually he has an answer or suggestion.I learned the importance of sharpening and turning technique from him.I also took a bowl turning class taught by him that was excellent.

You should also consider joining a local woodturning club.The American Association of Woodturners keeps a list of local clubs for each state.I will be attending my first meeting of the local chapter (Ohio Valley Woodturner's Guild) on November 17.I will post my experience after this meeting.

Another source is a good magazine.There are several out there which I found at my local BAM (Books-a-Million).The one I chose was Woodturning Design.This appears to be a good magazine with clear techniques and examples.The other is American Woodturner which is published by the AAW - American Association of Woodturners.I found this magazine more for the more advanced woodturner.Both are quarterly publications.

One last point, you should consider going to the woodworking shows that come to all the major cities during the year.I learned a lot about penturning at the Indianapolis show this past winter.And I picked up some good tool and supply tips!

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Library and A Video Clip

I have looked at many woodturning books from the library, local book stores, woodworking stores and the internet.I now own 6 books and one tutorial magazine.These are the four that I have found most helpful in my sojourn into woodturning.

My Library
  1. "The Pen Turner's Workbook" by Barry Gross, 2nd Edition, 2006 - This was my first woodturning book.Barry does an excellent job of providing the pen turning basics.And he provides an excellent gallary of pens that you can try.
  2. "Learn to Turn" by Barry Gross, 2005 - This is a beginners guide to woodturning from start to finish.He does an excellent job of explaining what is needed and how to do it.He has an excellent tutorial on sharpening your lathe tools.Importantly, he provides the angle the various tools should be sharpened at.
  3. "Turning Wood with Richard Raffan" by Richard Raffan, 2001 - Richard is the master woodturner.He provides a clear, concise description of what is required and lots of pictures on how it is done.This is for a more advanced understanding of woodturning.I like this book so well I plan to purchase "Turning" by him in the near future.
  4. "Woodturning Basics" by Fine Woodworking - This was the summer issue of The Best of Fine Woodworking.It has an excellent article about William H. Macy, the actor, and his love for the hobby.Plus, it has individual woodturning basics presented by the masters like Richard Raffan, Ernie Conover, and Howard Lewin.

I recently picked up a book on turning green wood.I have not read it yet and will share what I think in the future.

An Excellent Video Clip

I also have come across an excellent video clip on sharpening.The video is "Tool Design and Grinding with Mike Mahoney" by Mike Mahoney.It is very concise and clear in showing you how to sharpen the common lathe tools.It is about 10 minutes long and can be found on YouTube.

You are welcome to share your personal Library and Video Clip favorites.I have a great thirst for picking up first rate training material and value others opinions.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Must Haves for the New Woodturner

After much research and actual purchases, I have come up with a must have list for the starting woodturner.This is for the woodturner who is interested in pen and bowl turning as their first sojourn into woodturning.

  1. Mini or Midi Lathe - Jet Mini Lathe is an excellent starting lathe.It is very common at the major woodworking stores like Woodcraft and Rockler.I also recommend that you invest in the legs for the Jet Mini and purchase lockable casters for mobility.I got my lockable casters at Woodcraft.
  2. 12" Band Saw - Jet, Powermatic and Ricoh make excellent 12" band saws.I bought a Sears 10" bandsaw that is modeled after the Ricoh.The bandsaw is to cut your wood blanks whether they be dry or green.
  3. Drill Press - Delta and Powermatic make an excellent drill press.I have a Delta benchtop drill press.I recommend that you buy a table with fence for your drill press.I got mine from Woodpeckers.The drill press is to drill holes in your pen and bowl blanks.
  4. Low Speed Grinder - You will need a grinder to keep your lathe tools sharp.A dull lathe tool makes for a frustrated turner.Surprisingly, you will sharpen your tool edge repeatedly during a project.I got mine at Woodcraft plus a metal stand.It is also worthwhile to invest in a Wolverine jig that helps you accurately put the correct edge on the tool.Being new at it, this jig is worth it!
Lathe Tools - I recommend that you buy a good quality HSS lathe tool like Sorby.Sorby can be bought at Rockler or Woodcraft.The edge sharpness will last longer and it can take many grindings.Do not make the mistake I first made by buying a kit of midi tools - they have small handles (not helpful when turning bowls) and you will only use several to start pen and bowl turning.Instead, invest in the specific tools you will use to start.Thus, the basis for my list below.
  1. Gouges - I recommend purchasing a 3/8" spindle, fingernail and bowl gouge.These will be used for all spindle and bowl turning on a Jet mini lathe.
  2. Roughing Gouge - This tool is key to roughing the initial shape of your pen or bowl.The midi tool I have works fine.It is a 1/2" gouge.You could go as big as 5/8".
  3. Spindlemaster - This is a an excellent tool to smooth out your turnings.The classical smoothing tool is a skew.However, a skew is very hard for beginners resulting in tearouts and gouges where you don't want them.As my skill and experience grows, I will begin to use the classic skew.I recommend a 1/2" spindlemaster to start with.
  4. Parting Tool - An 1/8" or 3/16" tool is best.This will help part items on the lathe.I have not used my parting tool yet, but I am planning some future projects where it is necessary.
Lathe Acessories
  1. Woodturning Chuck - This is worth investing in.I did not scrimp here.I bought a Nova G3 chuck.It uses a gear action to move and lock the jaws on your piece.Plus you can buy a variety of jaws for different applications.This is essential for bowl turning.
  2. Pen Turning Mandrel - This is essential for turning pens.Make sure you get the right taper for your lathe.Both Rockler and Woodcraft carry pen mandrels and the bushings are interchangeable.
Jigs - I will provide directions in a later posting for making your own jigs.
  1. Pen Blank Holder for Drilling - I made mine.
  2. A Pen Press - I made mine and use my drill press as the pressing mechanism.
  3. A Pen Blank Cutting Jig for the Band Saw - I made mine.
This list is a work in progress.By no means is it complete yet.I expect it to grow as my experience in woodturning grows.My next expansion of this list will deal with the materials and supplies needed to complete a woodturning project.

Until later....

Resources detailed in this post:

Woodcraft (www.woodcraft.com)
Rockler (www.rockler.com)
Woodpeckers (www.woodpeck.com)
Wolverine jig (www.oneway.on.ca)
Sorby (www.robert-sorby.co.uk)
Nova Chucks

What is Woodturning

Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe. Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it.

There are two distinct methods of turning wood: Spindle Turning and Faceplate Turning.In Spindle Turning, the grain of the wood runs lengthwise parallel to the axis of rotation.In Faceplate Turning, the grain of the wood runs perpendicular to the axis of rotation.Most bowls and platters are faceplate turned.Pens, furniture legs, and spindles are spindle turned.It is the orientation of the grain that determines the method in use.Spindle turning is named for the type of product originally produced, while face plate turning is named for an early method of attaching the material to the lathe.

The distinction between spindle turning and faceplate turning is due to the fibrous nature of wood.When wood is cut in such a way that the fiber being cut is not supported by the fiber below it, it tends to separate and tear.This "tearout" exhibits a rough, highly undesirable surface texture.To prevent "tearout", spindle turning cuts are made from high points toward the axis on the outside of the piece, while faceplate turning cuts, the opposite applies.

One type of woodturning is to create hollow vessels.Either spindle turning or faceplate turning can be used to create different types of vessels.For now, I consider this to be far more advanced than my current knowledge of woodturning.Thus, I will better describe it when my knowledge of woodturning grows.

In The Beginning - Woodturning Beginnings

The mission of this blog is to help those who are beginning their woodturning adventure.I will provide the beginner with a how to get started approach to enter the wonderful world of woodturning.If you follow my blog, you will learn right alongside me.

My goal is to not only help you know what is needed to get started, but provide a compendium of the best resources available for your Woodturning Beginnings.Importantly, I hope this site becomes a source not only for you to learn, but also for me to learn from your experiences.

Many times, a beginner does not know where to get started, what is required or what is needed.My hope is that this will become a site where the beginner can gain this insight and provide their own learnings for others.Importantly, my intent is that your enjoyment of this unique form of woodworking becomes a passion not hindered by the time and cost associated with getting the right stuff (resources, tools, and wood) to get started.

So join me in our Woodturning Beginnings!