Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Turning some more hardwood...

Turning some more hardwood...  I found another log (box elder, I think), a little bigger, in my log pile.  I trimmed it up on the band saw, then mounted it on the lathe's face plate, and started turning a bowl.  You can see various stages below.  It's finished now, sanded down to 320 grit, and awaiting only some Watco finish.

This is quite a learning experience for me, as I've never tried my hand at turning wood before.  I've read a lot about it, but that's not at all the same thing actually as doing it!  On this bowl I experimented quite a bit with different lathe speeds, with and without the live center on the tailstock, and with all five of the carbide turning tools (a very basic set) that I've purchased.  I can now use the tools without digging into the wood, which is at least a very good first step.

I've also learned enough to understand the pro and con comments I've read about carbide turning tools.  Basically the carbide tools rip and tear more than high speed steel tools, because (amazingly!) they aren't as sharp as the steel tools.  I've ordered a set of high speed steel tools, which I think I'll be using for finish work – the carbide tools seem great for roughing out the shape.

Using the live center added a lot of stability to the process of roughing out the right side of the bowl (what is now its top).  On the other hand, I am kind of amazed at how little vibration I felt when turning the completely unfinished – and grossly unbalanced – log, even without the tailstock in use.  I think that's a result of the sheer mass of this lathe.

Yesterday afternoon I made a run to Home Depot, and they did have the Watco.  So today the bowl and goblet get finished.  Photos will follow, of course.  The Home Depot experience was frustrating yesterday.  I had a fairly long list of things to buy, all little things I need to finish off the hatch to the upstairs storage and mount the electric hoist up there.  At least half the things I needed were either very hard to find or were out of stock on the shelf, and I had to get help from one of the hard-to-find employees (it was busy, and they were all helping an endless stream of beseechers).  I finally managed to get everything I needed and headed home, stopping at Jamba Juice on the way home for a big mango smoothie.  When they called my name, a young man quickly walked up to the counter and took my smoothie and left.  I told the young lady serving what had happened, and she immediately called the police and started making my replacement smoothie.  Before she could finish my smoothie, a policeman walked in with the kid who had stolen my drink, verified that he had the right person, handcuffed him and left.  Wow!

That smoothie tasted wonderful :)


  1. I'm enjoying your "new tool" posts. I bought a low-end lathe at a yard sale some years back, but it is still sitting in a corner. I've been too cheap to buy the turning tools (champagne tastes and beer budget). Chris Schwarz recommends the Easy Rougher (carbide) from Easy Turning Tools as the one tool to have if you only have one. What brand do you have?

    I've been moving from mostly power tools to adding more traditional hand tools, by searching yard sales and flea markets for restorable old planes, saw, etc. A lot of them need handles, some of which could be turned on a lathe. I'm getting closer to biting the bullet and setting up the old lathe.

  2. Hi, Richard!

    I bought a "starter set" of the Easy Turning Tools, after reading (probably) similar reviews. My set has a rougher, a detailer, a parting tool, a hollower, and a finisher. They are all easy enough to learn (especially if you, like, READ THE ONE PAGE MANUAL!) that even this novice picked up the skill quickly. Never having seen these tools before, I was very surprised just how BIG they are - but after using them, I can see why: you need the rigidity and leverage that those giant tools provide.

    The HSS set that I've ordered I also selected after reading a bunch of reviews. There seems to be more than a little bit of snobbery in the woodworking world, reminiscent of the high-end audio "tweakie" world, where completely unsubstantiated BS is mixed up with actual technical knowledge. The woodworking world has, I think, more of the latter than the tweakie world does :) In any case, I ended up ordering a Robert Sorby HSS starter set. It will be an interesting experiment for me to see how they compare with the carbide tools. It will also be interesting to see if I can learn how to keep them sharp :)

    I've got a few old-fashioned hand tools (mainly chisels and mallets), and will be getting some more, mainly for detail work and carving. I have lots of admiration for those craftsmen who can make beautiful things from hand saws, draw knives, and hand planers, but I don't have any desire to be one of them :)