Woodturning Basics – 5 Dos and 2 Don’ts

Dan turning

That’s me in the above photo, practicing my woodturning basics with the help of a friend and his lathe. It’s amazing how much you can learn about turning in just a few hours. That’s part of the fun of it. Working in a circle rather than a square seems to lend itself to faster learning. I pulled out 5 “Dos” and 2 “Don’ts” from this exercise, with the help of our Facebook audience.

  1. Do wear eye protection. The small glasses were sufficient for this basic work on smaller pieces, but as you get into more aggressive work you need to use the big face shield (not pictured). Also add a dust mask if the chips are small and airborne.
  2. Do try out a variety of tools, if at all possible and affordable. I suggest a medium-sized roughing gouge and one or two skew chisels at minimum. You could also try a detail gouge.
  3. Do stand relaxed but athletic. I’m about halfway there in the photo. Learn to use both hands properly. Body mechanics require tons of practice!
  4. Do challenge yourself a bit, or find a teacher who will challenge you. I almost gave up on the skew chisels, but am glad I persevered. By the end it was my favorite tool to use.
  5. Do make something useful. Tool handles, beer taps and stirring sticks are all good options. Purely ornamental pieces can come later, around Christmas-time!
  6. Don’t leave your shirt untucked like I did. That’s true of all work in the shop. Better yet, wear a shop apron over everything to save your clothes and help prevent getting dangerously tangled up.
  7. Don’t worry the project! Have some fun and if it doesn’t work out, start on a new blank or simply change the design. Turning is supposed to be somewhat fluid, after all.

Dan Farnbach

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