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Woodturning Tips for Beginners

Below are some of the basic but useful hints tips and ideas I have learned from others and from experience over the years. Remember you are always learning, someone somewhere will know things you don't, be open to new ideas and respect the experience others can offer and you will benefit by becoming a better and wiser turner. Enjoy!!

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Use sharp tools
This makes turning much easier and quicker, and means that the wood is cut smoothly. My bowl gouge needs sharpening about four times for one bowl, so you may wish to buy an electric grinder to make sharpening quick and easy.

Practice with each tool
It took me a while before I could cut smoothly and without dig-ins. So get yourself a piece of scrap wood and practice different techniques on it until you get good at them. For between centres work, you need to be able to: rough out (gouge), smooth (skew chisel), and form shapes (parting/beading tool, spindle gouge). When I make bowls, I use only one tool (a bowl gouge) for almost everything, so don't feel that you must have loads of tools to begin with! Also, try not to be put off if a tool snatches (usually the skew chisel) as this will be remedied with practice.

Tool Set Ref: RS-67HS

Beginners 6 Piece Woodturning Set

The ultimate full size, all round woodturning set. Perfect for the beginner for any type of turning from bowls to spindles. These 6 tools are also essential for the more experienced turner.

* 3/4" Roughing Tool
* 1/8" Parting Tool
* 3/8" Bowl Gouge
* 3/8" Spindle Gouge
* 3/4" Oval Skew
* 1/2" Round Nose Scraper
Robert Sorby 6 Piece Turning Tool Set

Get a book or video
There are lots of woodturning books and videos which I found very useful. If there is another woodturner in your area, get in touch, but if not, books and videos give lots of advice and tips. They also show people actually woodturning so you can see what to do. There are lots of woodturning sites on the internet too.

Use different grades of sandpaper
Start with the roughest, sanding until all tool marks are gone. Change to a finer grade to get rid of the rough sandpaper scratches. Finally, use an even finer grade to get the wood glassy smooth. I use '150', '240', and '320' sandpaper. You can get the wood even better still if you hold a handful of wood shavings against it to 'burnish' the surface.

Check before switching on
Before you start the lathe, spin the wood to check that it won't hit anything on the way round. Check that all bolts/clamps are tight too. Remember your safety glasses just in case the unexpected happens! If you are sanding the wood wear a dust mask, especially with exotic hardwoods.

Although wood turning on a lathe is probably statistically safer than using other woodworking tools and machines, it has some very specific safety rules that should be followed. If adherence to these safety rules can be enforced from the outset until they become habit, your wood turning will consistently be a safe and enjoyable experience.

Safety Glasses:
As with all woodworking, safety glasses are the most important piece of safety equipment. There are numerous styles of safety glasses. Try out the many styles that your woodworking supplier offers, and find a pair that you'll be comfortable wearing. Be certain that the pair you choose incorporates impact resistant lenses and side screens to protect against debris created by your power tools.

Face Shield:
A face shield is a good idea when wood turning, as chips tend to fly in any direction. A clear, impact resistant full-face shield will keep these flying chips and debris out of your face, helping you to avoid distraction when turning.

Proper Attire:
When wood turning, proper attire is of the utmost concern. It is advisable to wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt to keep flying chips and debris at bay. However, you should wearing avoid loose-fitting clothing, to prevent the excess cloth from becoming entangled in the machine. Also, when wood turning, a woodworker's apron is a good idea. This will also help keep flying wood chips away from your body.

When turning some woods, particularly fine imported woods such as mahogany or rosewood, it is advisable to wear a dust mask or even a respirator, as the fine dust generated by turning these woods can cause irritation to the lungs and mucous membranes. Prolonged exposure to such dust may cause some long-term effects.

Always Use the Tool Rest:
When wood turning, never free-hand a tool into the turning stock. At the very minimum, this can cause tear-out, which can ruin your hard-earned efforts and turn a fine wood turning into firewood immediately. Even worse, free-handing can cause a the tool to be ripped out of your hands. A flying, sharp cutting tool is a recipe for disaster. To properly use a lathe, the tool rest should be placed close to the work and tightened in place. Always rest the tool before moving it into the stock.

Adjust your Turning Speed for the Stock Size:
As a general rule, the larger the piece of stock, the slower the speed that the lathe motor should spin. Turning a very thin piece of stock for a pen can be rotated much faster than an eight-inch piece of stock for turning a bowl. Remember to set the speed of the lathe before turning on the lathe motor. Failure to adhere to this rule can result in a rather large projectile.

Read the Safety Precautions as with any power tool, always read and follow the safety instructions that come with the tool. Failure to follow the safety instructions can lead to severe injury, and even death.

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