What do you think of when you see a pile of woods or logs just lying around? Most people would normally assume that those woods would make great firewood, make-shift bench or even a great scratching post for cats. A wood turner on the other hand, would be swamped with creative ways and ideas of turning those normal, everyday material into great pieces of art. Turning is probably the best way to work with woods; shaping and custom-designing them into various objects of purposes. The reason it is called wood turning is because it uses a machine tool called a lathe.
A lathe is a lot like a potter’s wheel that is used to shape wet clay. A lathe however, is more specific for use with wooden block or slab. The lathe rotates the work piece on its axis, so various operations like sanding, drilling, knurling and turning can be done with relative ease. The machine’s rotation also makes it easier for the wood turner to be precise and detailed in his work. There are two methods in turning wood; spindle turning and faceplate turning, also known as bowl. The main difference between the two lies in the orientation of the wood grain, which will be important to the axis of the lathe.
Working with wood usually entails the worker to move the tools used in shaping the piece. In wood turning it is the piece that would be moving, while the cutter and other tools remain stationary. The best way to wrap your head around the concept is to delve in and get some hands-on experience. If you can have access to the tools needed, it is time to start turning simple objects. Start with the chosen material to work on. As a large wooden block can be hard or take longer to shape, wood workers usually lob the rough edges and corners with a chainsaw before turning it. Nail a plank to the four corners of the wooden block and place and clamp the plank to the saw horses for better cutting precision.
Now remove the plank from the wooden block and get a measuring tape. Measure properly and find the center of the piece, and mark it. Place the faceplate on the center and the block can now be fixed to the lathe. It is time to do some turning. For this, you will need gouges. Depending on your preferences, there are three variations of materials for the gouges. These tools need to be sharp and their materials will determine how often they would need to be sharpened. High speed steel can maintain its sharpness longer than carbon steel, but it would not stay sharp as long as powdered metal tools would.
Before you begin turning however, note that you would be working with a big chunk of spinning wood and it can be quite dangerous if your hands are not steady enough. The wood would be turning in an anti-clockwise manner. Hold the gouge upwards, roughly at 45 degrees slant and shave off the work piece as it spins toward you. You can shape it into various objects. The tools will help you gain all kinds of shapes and details. You can add intricate designs or lines to the center of the piece. You can also add a gentle curve near the base of the piece if you wish. If you want to add details to the base of the piece, then you would need to use the tools at the side of the lathe, near the tailstock or the ram that holds the piece stable.
That covers the basic concept of turning wood to make a bowl using the faceplate method. Though it all can be quite a hassle, wood turning is a great way to give a physical form to your creative visualization, and the end-product would be more than mere satisfaction. Take your time with the work, and always stay safe.