Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to Common Woodturner and Member Questions
I had the opportunity to talk to a factory rep from Oneway at the symposium this year and was telling him about my frustration with the VarigrindII sharpening jig.. He gave me some pointers that have resolved all my troubles. First set the leg of the Varigrind jig to a 22.5 degree angle to your gouge. The easiest way to do this is to fold a square piece of paper in half to get 180 degrees then in half again for 90 and again for 45 and again to get 22.5 degrees. Once you have the leg to gouge angle set to 22.5 degrees use a pliers to tighten it down so it won’t vibrate loose. Now set the distance from the front of the jig to the tip of the gouge to 2 inches and tighten the clamp. With the grinder turned off, set the ball end of the jig shaft into the cradle and adjust the length so that you have the tool resting on the wheel with the bevel in full contact. Using a sharpie to blacken the end of the gouge and turn the grinder on and off again and lightly touch the side grind of your gouge to the wheel. You should see a shinny line that covers the full length of the bevel. If not readjust your length and check it again. Turn the grinder on and let it come to speed before you set your tool on the grinder. Turn the gouge on its side to begin the grind on the side bevel and not the tip. You Do Not need to Press down on the tool. The weight of the tool and jig will provide enough pressure to sharpen the tool but not ware the tool out by over grinding. Hold the tool in the center of the jig and rotate it smoothly from one side to the other. One or two passes is enough to have a very sharp tool unless you are re-shaping the grind pattern. This will also prevent over heating and burning the tool tip. Note that the front of the jig will be between the ends of the U shaped front arm but not contacting the bottom of the U. You can sharpen all of your bowl and spindle gouges without changing your settings. Your swing and rotation will change with the different grinds but not the tool position in the jig. I told them they needed to do a better job with their training video.
Absolutely is the answer to both questions? The dust from many types of wood is not only harmful but toxic. Even if you have a dust collection system in your shop, it is not adequate to protect your lungs. You need to wear at the very minimum a good dust mask especially when you are sanding. You will find many turners recommend the Trend Airshield system. This system gives you a full face shield and head protection combined with an elastic face skirt attached to the shield to give you full protection from dust as well. It has a motorized air filtration system and blows cool air down the face to prevent your glasses or face shield from fogging up and helps to keep you cool. This is another somewhat expensive piece of equipment but then what price do you put on your health and your lungs.
A good face shield not only protects your eyes but your face. I had this difference proven to me one day not long after I started turning. A bowl that I was working on exploded off the lathe and hit me squarely in the face with enough force to push me back. Had I not been wearing a full shield I would have had sever damage to my face not just a sudden wake up. Safety can never be over emphasized in wood turning. You are using razor sharp tools and spinning a piece of wood at hundreds or even thousands of revolutions per minute. Any unseen defect in the wood or turning at too high a speed could cause things to fly apart and that can cause serious injury or even death. We have lost members of the AAW family from just such an accident. Sometimes even those who have been turning a long time can get careless and bad things can happen in a split second.
There are several types of face shields available, I prefer the bubble type as I wear glasses and it gives you a little more room and a neck deflector to keep chips out of your shirt. Just make sure it has an impact resistant shield.
A scroll chuck is an adjustable set of jaws attached to the lathe spindle at the headstock. It holds and spins one end of the wood while you are turning without support at the tailstock. For your safety, always support the wood with the tailstock until it is time to hollow the piece. Scroll chucks come in many sizes. Select a chuck that matches the lathe you are using. Several types of jaws are also available for a variety of woodturning projects.
While a chuck is something you will probably want to have, they are fairly expensive and it is not necessary to buy one immediately. You can turn wood between centers or by attaching it to the faceplate that came with your lathe using wood screws. NEVER use drywall screws. Another option is a glue block attached to a faceplate; attach to your wood with hot glue. When turning small projects this is an excellent option.
A jam chuck. It consists of a piece of wood secured to the lathe spindle using a scroll chuck, a faceplate or a threaded adapter. The piece of wood has a hole or groove turned into it that is the same size or slightly smaller than the piece you are turning. Your project piece is then literally jammed tight into the hole or groove. This method can be used to finish a bowl bottom or finish a finial.
A vacuum chuck. This chuck consists of a vacuum pump, pressure gauge, tubing and adapter. It is used to hold your work firmly for things like finishing the bottom without damaging the finished side of your work
The major difference between a bowl gouge and a spindle gouge is the shape and depth of the flute. The flute of a spindle gouge is circular and shallow, while the flute of a bowl gouge is a modified open U-shape or V-shape. Both gouge types are made from a round shaft piece of steel and come in a variety of sizes. A spindle roughing gouge is also U-shaped however, it is forged from a flat piece of steel or extruded into shape. A roughing gouge attaches to the handle with a tang similar to a wood or steel file. NEVER use a roughing gouge when turning a bowl or platter; the tang can break causing serious injury. A spindle roughing gouge is used for spindle turning only, primarily for knocking the corners off a square piece of wood with the wood grain running parallel with the bed ways.
There is no simple answer to this question. Before you purchase a lathe do your homework. Pickup a woodturning book, read articles on the web and watch woodturning videos. Find a local woodturning club and attend a meeting or two, ask questions, visit a woodturner’s shop. You don’t need to own a lathe to attend a meetings. Woodturning can be an expensive hobby, therefore, a little due diligence from the start may possibly save you some frustration and money in the end.
Start by asking yourself several questions.
What is my budget? Woodturning can be an expensive hobby but it doesn’t have to be to get started. A good lathe will range from $300 to $12,000 not including turning tools, chucks, tool sharpening equipment, chainsaw, and other miscellaneous equipment. Be careful investing in used equipment. If you are thinking of going this direction get a club member to help you check it out before you buy. Remember there are two reasons why people sell used lathes. They no longer turn and the lathe is starting to have problems, so use caution here. Buy the best lathe you can afford. The web is a good resource for equipment reviews and price comparisons. Spend some time doing your homework before you buy. Another excellent resource is the members of a turning club. We are very willing to talk about our lathes and the equipment they would recommend or not recommend. If you choose to start with a small inexpensive lathe to make sure you enjoy woodturning, that’s fine. Just be aware that you will likely be lathe shopping again in the not to distant future. The good thing is that your inexpensive first lathe will make a great dedicated polishing station in the future. Neal Addy has a very good lathe specifications chart on his web site www.nealaddy.org/pub/lathe_list.html. While he does not make recommendations, he gives you a lot of information; if you click on the name of the lathe manufacture it takes you to their website for more details.
The second thing to consider is what do I want to make? If you plan to turn pens and smaller things then your needs are far different from the person who wants to turn large bowls and hollow forms. Think ahead, plan for what you might want to make in the future. A good friend once told me “remember, you can turn small things on a big lathe but you can’t turn big things on a small lathe.”
The next thing to consider is how much room do I have for my lathe and turning supplies? Unless you are planning to turn long spindles you do not need a long bed lathe. Among the most important things to consider are motor size , speed adjustment and the swing of the lathe. The swing is the the distance from the center of the headstock spindle to the bed of the lathe, doubled. A lathe measuring 6 inches from the center of the headstock spindle to the bed of the lathe has a 12 inch swing. The maximum diameter of wood you can turn is 12 inches in theory. The maximum diameter will be reduced by the thickness of the banjo if the length of the wood is longer than your tool rest can reach. The banjo is the part that holds the tool rest in place and slides along the bed of the lathe.
The next thing to think about is what type of electrical power do you have available, 110v or 220v? Smaller lathes operate on a 110v outlet. Lathes with a 2 hp motor, or larger, may require a 220v outlet. Check to see if your electrical panel has any available space and contact a licensed electrician for the installation.
If you are completely new to turning, I suggest you begin with a good book about the basics. There are several books available from your local library, book stores and online resources. If you search the web for, “Learn How to Turn Wood,” you will find many resources. An excellent beginner’s book is titled, “Wood Turning A Foundation Course,” by Keith Rowley; and, “Learn To Turn,” by Barry Gross. Keith Rowley’s book is referred to by many as the most complete and best overall basic instruction for beginners.
My next suggestion is to join your local wood turning club. Our club has an extensive library of books and videos on a wide range of topics that can be checked out free of charge by club members. Here you will also find many people willing to answer your questions and help you get started. We have Open Shop the third Saturday of the month where you can come and get some hands on time with other more experienced turners. Our club also offers mentoring to our members.
I suggest you read the book first and watch some basic woodturning videos, it helps to have some basic knowledge so you know what questions you want to ask. To find the location of a local woodturning club, you can go to the “American Association of Woodturners.” site woodturner.org They provide a list of woodturning clubs across the USA.
There are several retail woodworking stores and online stores, like ebay, where you can purchase wood. However, most wood turners prefer to turn fresh cut green wood that is pretty easy to come by just for asking. I have found wood piled on the curb with a “free” sign on it; I have also stopped at houses where trees are being cut down and asked for a few pieces. I have never had someone tell me no. Other sources for free wood for include city tree trimming crews, tree dump sites, neighbors, your local tree trimming companies and fellow turning club members. Most are willing to share when they acquire a bunch of wood by posting a wood alert notice to fellow members. A good chain saw will become a must have tool. Our club also has a monthly raffle and many members bring wood for the raffle. Free wood is always great; however, always get the owner’s permission first, be courteous, and clean up after yourself.
Absolutely, any member is welcome to bring a guest to the meeting. Please fill out a guest badge for them when you arrive.