While it is easily understood that a wood lathe is needed to begin woodturning projects, there are a few other necessities before starting. Many of these are already found in the typical woodworking shop while others will need to be purchased.
The basic wood lathe comes with one or two faceplates for bowls and other large work; a spur center and tail center for holding spindle projects; and a couple of tool rests for different sized work. No cutting tools are generally supplied with the lathe.
While experienced turners will purchase individual tools, it is advisable for the beginner to get a beginning set. This will contain the necessary tools for spindle work. Usually this will be a roughing gouge, a couple of spindle gouges of different sizes, a couple of skews of different sizes, a couple of scrapers of different sizes and a parting tool. Such a set should be high speed steel, not carbon steel which is cheaper but does not hold an edge very long compared with high speed. Later on bowl and faceplate tools can be purchased or made. If the beginner is anxious to begin turning bowls, a one quarter inch bowl gouge will get them started and different sizes can be purchased later on.
Once the tools are purchased there needs to be a means to sharpen them. Woodworkers new to woodturning will be amazed at how often turning tools need to be sharpened. The usual means to a good edge is a grinder however most shop grinders have wheels too coarse to give a good edge on high speed steel. An aluminum oxide wheel of appropriate size should be purchased. It should be around eighty grit and a wheel dresser to keep it round and clean is really a necessity.
While some turners consider a sharpening jig to be a luxury, for a beginner it is almost a necessity. Sharpening woodturning tools freehand is a skill in its own right if not an art. Learning it at the same time as trying to learn woodturning is difficult and learning to turn with dull tools is almost impossible. A jig should be purchased or made at the very beginning.
One of the things that makes woodturning special is the ability to much of the time sand and finish a project on the lathe. Sandpaper in grits from eighty to two hundred twenty is usually found in the workshop but some turners like to go as high as two thousand grit for some projects. Usually up to three hundred twenty will be fine. Danish oil and similar finishes work well for most woodturnings and again is a typical supply of most shops.
Safety is an important part of any woodworking shop and work around a wood lathe is no exception. A face mask to protect from flying wood is a necessity as is a dust mask to protect the lungs from sanding. Hearing protectors are good to have. Most lathes are fairly quiet but saws, drills, sanders and dust collectors as well as other shop tools can cause hearing problems.
Tools to ready the wood for the lathe will likely be already in the shop. Bandsaws and table saws are often used and a chainsaw is a part of most woodturner's arsenals of tools.
A quick look at a woodturning catalog will convince any aspiring woodturner that bits and pieces can be acquired for years to come but these should get one started. Certainly a lot of enjoyment are contained in these few simple items.