The creation of wood bowls, platters, pens, and more is often accomplished utilizing a unique method of woodworking known as wood-turning. Since approximately 1300 BC, this method of woodworking has been used to create both beautiful works of art and practical tools. Though today, most professional commercial woodworking is done via machine, hobbyists keep historical wood-turning alive, using a motor to turn the wood.
Large-scale wood-turning was not possible until the Industrial Revolution, when the lathe was motorized. A motorized lathe allowed for the lathe to spin at greater revolutions per minute (RPM), thus allowing for a faster, more efficient process and a higher-quality end product. At present, with technology allowing for digital precision in products created by wood-turning, two types of turners exist: production turners, which create large amounts of products, and artistic turners, which create a smaller amount of handmade products.
Before determining the types of tools you need to begin wood-turning, it is essential that you understand the different materials from which the tools can be made. Each material offers different advantages, and having a complete understanding of those advantages ensures that you can create the pieces you want. Wood-turning tools are typically created from three types of steel (steel, high-speed steel, and carbon steel) and powdered metal. High-speed steel requires sharpening less frequently than carbon steel, as it typically maintains its edge longer. Powdered steel tools maintain their edges even longer, but as they are harder than high-speed steel, there is much more effort involved in sharpening. Sharpening wood-turning tools requires other tools, known as sharpening jigs, which must all be used in different ways, depending on what the tools to be sharpened are made of. You must be careful not to overheat carbon steel, which, as it is not as hard as other types, can overheat easily, thereby losing its sharp edge. High-speed steel, on the other hand, is much more resistant to overheating.
There are a wide variety of tools that can be used in wood-turning, allowing for an even wider variety of pieces that can be created. The main tool, which carves into the wood as the wood turns on the lathe, is the gouge. There are different types of gouges, which each have a different effect on the wood. The main types are the roughing gouge, spindle gouge, and bowl gouge. The roughing gouge is typically the first used in a project. It makes a large cut into the wood and is useful for large, initial work. For more detailed work, the spindle gouge is necessary. This shallow gouge can be used to create detailed patterns in the wood, providing a finishing touch. Finally, for bowls and vessels, the bowl gouge is necessary. This tool has an elongated handle and a thick shaft, which allows for it to make the cuts necessary to create large, heavy pieces.
Another necessary tool is an auger. It is not part of the gouge or the lathe but is rather a drill bit meant to drill holes into the wood. This can be an important tool in the creation of bowls, vessels, and lamps. A hollowing tool is also valuable when creating bowls and vessels. This long tool can be used to hollow out long, thin pieces, such as certain types of vases.
Learning the Craft
The most important thing to remember when purchasing and using woodworking tools is that they are, above all else, dangerous. Not knowing how to safely and properly use the tools can easily lead to injury. For more information about how to properly maintain and use your wood-turning tools, it is best to learn the craft from an experienced wood-turner.
Wood-turning is a discipline boasting a long, illustrious history. Due to this, there are still people around the world practicing wood-turning, especially of the ornamental variety. There are numerous wood-turning enthusiast groups meeting in schools and recreation/cultural centers around the country. Furthermore, there are many opportunities to learn online via educational pages and videos.
- The Daniel Collection
- About Wood-Turning
- Early Wood-Turning Lathes
- Wood-Turning in 1900
- A Gallery of Turned Pieces
- Basic Wood-Turning Tools
- Lathe Safety Rules
- Ornamental Turners International
- American Association of Woodturners
- Create TV: Woodturning Workshop
- Beginning Wood-Turning in Your Garage