Wood Lathe & DIY Woodturning Projects

Don’t limit yourself to just gardening activities. Working with a wood lathe is one of the many¬†other great hobbies that can co-exist with your gardening efforts. A wood lathe is a machine tool that helps you carve and shape pieces of wood into all sorts of intricate designs and shapes. The process for this is generally called woodturning. Keep in mind that woodturning is different to many other forms of woodworking because the wood is always moving on the lathe while it is being carved and shaped. With some practice, anyone can create beautiful pieces of wooden objects by using a wood lathe. For example, you can create a container for your indoor plants or even a nice set of wooden gardening tools. On this page, you will find information on what woodturning is about as well as answers to common questions asked by woodturning beginners.

Table of Content
Woodturning Types
Wood Lathe
Woodturning Safety
Woodturning Questions
Section 1: Types of Woodturning

Woodturning can be classified into two categories: spindle turning and faceplate turning. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the differences.

Spindle vs. Faceplate Turning

In spindle turning, the grain of the wooden work piece runs parallel to the bed of the lathe. The work piece, which is also referred to as a blank, is mounted to either or both sides of the lathe, which are called the headstock and tailstock. Once mounted, the work piece rotates, which allows the woodworker to shape and trim the wood using special tools like a spindle roughing gouge. Woodworkers use spindle turning to create objects like table legs and candle sticks.

Faceplate turning, on the other hand, requires for the grain of the wood to run perpendicular to the bed of the lathe. A number of objects could be used to attach the work piece to the lathe, such as a face plate, glue block, and a chuck. Faceplate turning is used to create objects like bowls, goblets, and ornaments.

Section 2: Woodturning Tools

Note that the two types of woodturning specified above will require separate sets of tools. Using the wrong tool can cause more damage than good so don’t ruin your wooden masterpiece by using any carving or shaping tool. Also, when you are making a purchase, make sure you invest in high-quality tools. Beginners make the mistake of going for the cheapest tools available, which is understandable considering that they are just starting to start a hobby. However, the difference between high-quality and low-quality tools is high in the case of woodworking. For example, high-quality gouges would not just be sharper, it would also last longer so you would not have to buy new gouges on a regular basis. Quality aside, here is a visual guide of the tools that beginners should consider getting for either categories of woodturning.

Woodturning Tools

Spindle Turning Tools
The spindle roughing gouge, spindle gouge, diamond-shaped parting tool, skew, and narrow parting tool should be more than enough for beginners to construct basic woodturning projects. It is best to master these tools first before you move to other tools that cater for specific needs. Here are brief descriptions of the functions of these tools.

Spindle Roughing Gouge is used to rough out the wooden work piece. It is very effective for removing wood quickly. For example, you may want to use this gouge if you want to turn the shape of the wood from a square to a cylinder.

Spindle Gouge is used to make detailed cuts and features such as concave curves and convex curves. At first glance, this gouge may look like a woman’s fingernail.

Diamond-shaped Parting Tool is used to shape small flat areas and remove waste wood. The most common diamond-shaped parting tool tends to be around 19mm wide.

Faceplate Turning Tools
For those using the faceplate method, the basic set of tools for beginners would consist of a bowl gouge, round nose scraper, square-end scraper, and side radius scraper.

Bowl Gouge is used to shape the inside and outside surface of a wooden bowl. It tends to be the most-used tool for turners so make sure you get a high-quality bowl gouge.

Round Nose Scraper is used to remove any tool marks that may have been left in the inside surface of a bowl.

Square-end Scraper is used to remove tool marks from the outside surface of a bowl. Both scrapers are important for creating smooth surfaces.

Learn more about these tools by checking out this article by Allan Cusworth.

Section 3: Woodturning Safety

Like any other practical activity, there are many risks associated with woodturning. Follow these general set of rules to ensure the safety of yourself and people who may also be around you in the workshop.

1. Understand Your Equipment
Make sure you have a full understanding of the function and limitations of woodturning equipment. A lot of things can go wrong if you use the wrong tool. For example, a spindle roughing gouge should never be used for faceplate turning.

2. Simple Work Fashion
Put away any accessories such as jewelries and watches that you won’t need in the workshop. Make sure you also tie your hair back if you have long hair. You would not want your hair to get caught in the lathe.

3. Wear Safety Equipment
It doesn’t matter how good you are at woodturning. Make sure you have your safety equipment on at all times. We highly recommend at least having dust masks and eye protection goggles.

4. Check Your Lathe
You should always check the lathe before you start working. For example, make sure the lathe is spinning at an appropriate speed, make sure there are no missing or broken parts in the lathe, and make sure the drive belt is tight and secure.

5. Secure the Wood
Make sure the wood is fully secured onto the lathe. The last thing you want is for the wood piece to fly out and injure someone.

6. Use a Tool rest
Make sure the tool, whether it is a gouge or a scraper, is resting firmly on the tool rest before you let it touch the rotating piece of wood. You should never be operating a lathe without one.

Section 4: Woodturning FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions asked by beginners.

How do you determine the right lathe speed?
Ultimately, the best lathe speed would be when there is little to no vibration while the wood is being turned. It may take a bit of trial and error before you are able to settle with the appropriate lathe speed. You would find that many lathes come with step pulleys which allow you to control the speed of the lathe.

How do you properly hold wood on a lathe?
Remember, it’s not necessarily about holding the wood as tight as possible on a lathe. That could actually cause more harm than good. This video by Mike Peace does a great job of describing a number of different methods to holding wood on a lathe.

How do I pick my first wood lathe?
It isn’t as simple as buying the first lathe you see in the market. There are a number of specifications and features you have to take into account when you are in the market for a lathe.

What kind of objects can I make with woodturning?
You can find plenty of resources online on fun woodturning ideas. If you want an all-in-one resource for woodworking in general then we highly recommend registering for message boards like Woodworking Talk. You will find plenty of friendly folks there who can be give advice on current and future woodworking projects. If you are looking for people who do woodturning in your local area, try searching for local wood turning clubs. Unless you live in a really remote area, there is a good chance that you will be able to find one by searching online.