Woodturning Techniques

Woodturning is a way to make wooden projects using a lathe. The wood is generally turned by a motorized lathe while a tool us used to shave, gouge, and shape it into different objects. Woodturning is commonly used to make bowls, furniture, bats, instruments, wooden toys, game pieces, spindles, chair or table legs, and plates. Of course, as with any woodworking hobby, woodturning can be used in a lot of different ways. The project is only limited by the imagination and skill of the woodturner.

Projects usually start with a blank piece of wood. For spindles, toys, tool handles, doll house parts, and other small projects, you may be able to start with wooden dowels. This can simplify the process for you. If you don’t start with a dowel, you will need to use a woodturning tool designed to get the blank into the basic shape that you want to work with.

Most projects start with a roughing gouge to round the wood blank into a spindle. The spindle can be smoothed using the razor sharp edge of the skew chisel. However, if you are making a bowl, which is the most popular woodturning project, you will need a special bowl gouge that is designed to turn the inside and outside of the bowl. You may also need a hollowing tool to cut out the deep sections of the bowl, especially if the bowl is narrow, or you’re turning something like a vase. A tool called a bowl saver is popular because it allows you to cut a smaller bowl out of a larger one, saving your wood pieces for later projects.

You can work with a blank while the wood is still wet or green to more easily get it into the basic shape that you want without having to wait for the entire block to dry out. Turning on wet wood is actually easier and creates less sawdust than dry wood. However, you may not want to turn your whole project while the wood is wet. This technique of cutting on wet wood is usually used only to get the wood into the basic desired shape so that it will dry out faster. Wet wood that is turned will distort a little as it dries and shrinks. You want to make sure that you have enough wood thickness left to work with so that you can remove the rough exterior and any distortions once the wood is dry. Drying out large pieces of green wood can result in cracks, so many woodturners prefer to rough turn their pieces while the wood is newly felled.

There are many different styles of woodturning that can help you to create artistic and functional pieces. Pool cues, wooden eggs, candle holders, and platters are some other commonly turned items. You can use dowel rods of varying thickness to get you quickly started on a lot of different projects. Research which type of wood is better for your project before you order or make your dowels. You can purchase birch dowels, maple dowels, red or white oak dowels, cherry dowels, poplar dowels, ash dowels, or walnut dowels, giving you a large selection of woods to choose from for your woodturning project. Some companies will even turn wood that you provide into custom diameter dowels so that you have complete creative control over your project.