Wood turn­ing a great work­shop hobby

The Southern Gazette - - SaltWire Homes - Steve Maxwell House Works House Works by Canada’s Handi­est Man’ Steve Maxwell fea­tures DIY tips, how-to videos and tool prod­uct re­views.

Hold a sta­tion­ary chisel against a spin­ning piece of wood and good things can hap­pen. This is what turn­ing wood on a lathe is all about. Work­ing on a lathe is at least as fun as any other kind of wood­work­ing, and the equip­ment you need isn’t com­pli­cated, ex­pen­sive or large. If you ever wanted to get into wood­work­ing in a small, quiet, sat­is­fy­ing way, turn­ing could be the start of some­thing great for you.

Of all the lathes out there, a medium-sized bench­top lathe makes sense for most home wood­work­ers. The Delta 46-455 midi lathe is a great ma­chine that’s earned an en­vi­able track record over the 10 years I’ve owned it. Be­sides be­ing small enough to store out of the way, portable lathes like this one al­low both small and large items to be turned. You can make any­thing from a wooden writ­ing pen to a large lamp body or salad bowl. In the case of this Delta and re­lated mod­els, you can also add as many bed ex­ten­sions as you want, al­low­ing vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited lengths of wood to be turned.

There are sev­eral ways to hold wood in a lathe as it spins, and the pop­u­lar cross-shaped fit­ting that comes with new lathes is called a spur cen­tre. It’s con­nected to the lathe’s mo­tor and drives the spin­ning ac­tion of the wood. An­other op­tion is a round at­tach­ment called a face­plate. It al­lows wood to be fas­tened with screws and sup­ported only at one end while turn­ing. Re­gard­less of how you sup­port and pro­pel wood on the left side of the lathe, the right-hand end is sup­ported on a sim­ple cir­cu­lar cen­tre as it ro­tates. This cen­tre is held by some­thing called the tail­stock. It can be ad­justed from side-to-side and locked to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent lengths of wood.

I don’t know of a bet­ter way to in­tro­duce kids to wood­work­ing than with a lathe. It’s one of the safest wood­work­ing power tools, yet it also works fast enough that you can’t get bored.

Any length of wood you turn that’s larger than a one inch by one inch cross sec­tion should be sawn into an oc­tag­o­nal pro­file on a ta­ble­saw be­fore mount­ing in your lathe. Smaller items are OK left square. Ei­ther way, be­gin turn­ing with two things in mind.

Slow speeds and gen­tle cuts are the way to be­gin turn­ing any rough blank, espe­cially if you’re new to lathe work. Lathe speed is ad­justed by mov­ing rub­ber drive belts to dif­fer­ent pul­leys — just like the way speed is var­ied on a drill press. Start with one of the slower set­tings, then speed things up as your turn­ing be­comes smaller and bet­ter bal­anced. It’ll take some turn­ing be­fore your wood be­comes smooth and round, so you need to go gen­tly at first as the faceted shape of your blank gets re­fined.

Choos­ing the right tools is the sin­gle big­gest ad­van­tage you can give your­self as a novice wood turner. Tra­di­tional high speed steel chis­els work well when they’re sharp­ened prop­erly, but sharp­en­ing turn­ing tools is a pretty chal­leng­ing skill in and of it­self. You can mas­ter turn­ing more quickly if you use chis­els that are ready to use right out of the box. This is why I re­ally like Easy Wood turn­ing tools. Be­sides com­ing im­pres­sively sharp, the cut­ting tips are made of re­place­able car­bide that keeps cut­ting for a long time. I use the Ci1 Easy Rougher, Ci3 Mini Fin­isher and Ci4 Mini De­tailer most of­ten. You can turn with them for hours and they seem just as sharp as new.

Fast and beau­ti­ful cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties.

These are what lathes de­liver, and no mat­ter how much I use one, I’m al­ways amazed by what these tools can do.


Car­bide turn­ing tools like these make is eas­ier for be­gin­ners to get good re­sults on the lathe. They come sharp and ready to use and the cut­ting tips are eas­ily re­placed.


This medium-sized bench­top wood­turn­ing lathe is one of a cat­e­gory called “midi lathes”. It com­bines the power to do large turn­ings with the fi­nesse and small size of smaller mod­els.


This child’s toy is called a capiru­cho and is a pop­u­lar in South and Cen­tral Amer­ica. Steve turned it from some scrap trop­i­cal hard­wood deck lum­ber.


Here a blank piece of wood is be­ing turned on a face­plate to make a capiru­cho child’s toy.

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