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Wood Turning


From a Presentation by John Gay (Woodworkers Club of Houston) at the September 2015 meeting.

WWCH’s own John Gay presented the program at the September meeting.  John talked about wood turning.  He brought a selection of items he has made on his lathe, and he noted that not all items must be made out of wood.  One of the items he showed was made from Corian. 


John informed the group that there is a club in Houston that is dedicated to wood turning, the Gulf Coast Woodturners Association.  This group meets on the third Saturday morning of each month.  You can find out more about this group at http://gulfcoastwoodturners.org/.


John brought his Rikon mini-lathe.  He noted that this lathe has nice features.  It has a deep nut, which means you can put larger projects on it than you would think for this size lathe.


Working safely is of utmost importance, and John devoted several minutes of his lecture to safety.  Before you turn on the lathe, you should spin it manually.  This makes sure that any loose pieces are off the lathe, including the chuck key.  Turning the lathe manually allows you to check everything out before running it at high speed, including the clearance and the balance of the piece.


Just like all aspects of woodworking, there are a lot of accessories you can purchase for your lathe.  John listed some essential items and noted that one could probably start woodturning at around $500 for all of the required equipment:


         An upgraded steel tool that will maintain a smooth finish after lots of use.  This is better than the cast iron tool rest that often comes with the lathe.  The cast iron rest is not as durable and will get chips and nicks in it with use which will prevent precision in your turning projects.

           A chuck kit for your lathe with a wide variety of jaws. 

            A lathe faceplate

            A safety shield to protect your face from any chips that fly off

          Gauges and scrapers – John recommends a set with carbide blades to reduce time spent sharpening

         A painter’s pyramid is a very useful tool to help balance the wood and find the center of mass.  John noted that you need to find the wood’s center of mass so the wood will be balanced in the lathe.

          A divider tool

          A depth gauge      


John then demonstrated how to properly load a piece into lathe and how to use a scraper and a gouge. 


One interesting piece of information that John provided was that the best looking wood is wood that has been diseased or if it has had worms or other insect produce the prettiest turned products.  He recommended watching for trees that have been cut down and collecting a few branches. 

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