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Woodturning, an aberrant form of woodworking, uses a stationary tool known as a lathe to cut and shape wooden objects into aesthetic designs. Woodturning methods are broken down into two major branches: spindle and faceplate turning. Spindle turning relies on positioning wood between two points, then initiating the spur center to shape the wood into the envisioned form. Face plate turning relies on securing wood with screws to a faceplate, the tail stock, and a center piece for added support. Woodworkers create bowls, platters, plant vessels, and various containers using the faceplate method, while spindle turning to create pens, furniture legs, and other vessels. Some minor methods include: eccentric, elliptical, therming, segmented, green and wet, natural edge, and ornamental turning. It's important to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment before beginning any woodturning project.

The History of Woodturning

Engraving of Antique Lathe

Woodturning originated during the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt when emerging developments of a two-person lathe began to surface. A two-person lathe required one person to turn the wood using rope while a second person used a sharp-edged tool to create different wooden objects. The Romans improved the two-person lathe design by adding a turning bow. Germany, France and Britain capitalized on this design by making early bow lathe deviations.

During the Middle Ages, a foot pedal was created to replace hand-operated lathe turning, which freed the craftsman's hands to fully grasp the woodturning tools. The foot pedal was connected to a straight-grained sapling pole, which was termed the "spring pole lathe." Spring pole lathes grew in popularity during the early twentieth century. Bodgers, a pole lathe turner, earned a self-entitlement by making custom chair legs and spindles. Bodgers would purchase every tree on a plot of land, establish a place of business, then cut down the trees one by one before turning the wood. The furniture legs and spindles produced from the plotted trees sold in bulk, oftentimes a pence per dozen. A bodger's job description drew criticism due the inability to produce complete constructions, instead of only component parts. The term "bodger" carriers a modern connotation of a procrastinator or someone who leaves a particular job unfinished or completes it incompetently.

The Industrial Revolution motorized the lathe, thus minimizing the amount of time needed for woodturning. Motorized lathes also increased the overall rotational speed, allowing craftsmen to produce high quality work faster than manually powered lathes. Modern commercial woodturning uses computer-operated machinery to mass produce wooden objects with precision, at the same time eliminating expenses to hire specially trained craftsmen. Despite the industrial conversion, small niches of customers seek out hand-turned products. Fortunately, woodturning survives as a hobby for many people. Professional wood turners either produce large quantities of utilitarian pieces or smaller, aesthetic pieces as a means of artistic expression.

Woodturning Tools

Each tool has a specific function relative to the woodturning process. For instance, a roughing gouge is used to round a wooden spindle and produce rough edges. A spindle or detail gouge creates details on spindles, including beads and coves. Bowl gouges turn the inside and outside of bowls and rounded vessels. Skew chisels are used to smooth flat spindles, cut beads, and accentuate existing details. A craftsman uses a parting tool to separate a wooden object from the lathe, and to create a straight edge. Hollowing tools remove the deep sections of steep bowls and vessels. Scrapers remove the wood fibers without cutting, usually to smooth wooden objects with supplementary tools. Bowl savers core the bowl's inside, which allows the wasteful byproduct to be used to create an additional smaller bowl. An auger, or drill bit used to create guideposts to thread screws and cords, helps in the assembling process. Chatter tools add decorative marks to previously turned wooden objects. Wire can help burn lines into the wooden object with friction. Other specialized tools, such as skew and chisel combinations, thread and ring cutters, and medium fluted gouges have an independent functionality dependent on the current project underway.

Resources for Woodturning Tips and Techniques

Additional Resources

Man Using Lathe to turn Wood Block
  • Bay Area Woodturners Association ��� An organization for woodturners based out of the Bay Area region of California. The homepage includes a navigational menu to outside links, club news, galleries and newsletters.
  • Arizona Woodturners Association ��� The Arizona Woodturners Association offers information for club membership for those living in Arizona. The homepage includes links to outside resources, symposium, gallery photos, newsletters, and tips and techniques.
  • More Woodturning.net ��� A woodturning magazine on sale at bookstores. The homepage includes links to woodturning articles, and more information about magazine subscription.
  • East Texas Woodturners' Assocation ��� A woodturners organization located in the greater region of East Texas. It includes membership information, beginner's tutorials, mentorship program, scholarship information, tips and techniques, articles, and general safety instruction.
  • The Glendale Woodtuners Guild ��� The Glendale Woodturners Guild provides membership to those woodturners living in the great Los Angeles metropolitan area. The homepage has sections jam-packed with membership information, photo galleries, tips and techniques, and demonstrations.
  • Detroit Area Woodturners ��� A Detroit-based woodturning organization focusing on providing information and mentoring woodturners of all experience levels.
  • North Florida Woodturners ��� A woodturning club promoting and encouraging the art of woodturning within the Northern Florida region.
  • Woodturners Guild of North Carolina ��� An organized woodturning club focused on helping notice, intermediate, and advanced woodturners succeed in current projects.
  • National Association of Woodturners in New Zealand ��� A woodturning association determined to bring together inexperienced and advanced woodturners living in New Zealand.
  • Woodturning Design Magazine ��� An offline magazine dedicated to educating and promoting woodturning craftsmanship across the globe.
  • Carving Magazine ��� A general woodworking magazine available for offline subscribers.
  • Fine Woodworking ��� An online publication that features videos, project plans, how-to articles, magazines and books for all woodworkers and woodturners.
  • Woodworking.com ��� A general woodworking site that includes beginner's articles, how-to tutorials, tips and techniques, and a community for networking among other woodworkers and woodturners.

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