Woodturning is a kind of woodworking that allows you to make round objects
out of a single block of wood. Typical turned objects are bowls, pots, vases,
candleholders, plates, lamps, and spindles used for things like banisters
You need a machine called a lathe in order to do woodturning. A lathe turns,
or rotates, a piece of wood at a high speed. When you place a chisel or another
tool against the spinning wood, the wood is shaped. In this way, the lathe
allows you to work the wood in the same way as a pottery wheel allows you
to work clay.
You can make all kinds of groovy things out of wood. You'll see plenty
of interesting objects at displays and shows. This is where some woodturners
really let their imaginations run wild!
Mary Lacer was reading a magazine one day and trying to decide what to
make for an upcoming show. She saw a photo of a stone birdbath and figured
she could make one out of wood.
"I chose white oak because it can hold water. It was so neat to see it
out in my yard after the show. The very first day, I saw a robin jump in and
take a bath!"
|This beautiful bowl was made by Bob Clancy of New Mexico. This bowl
is made of pine.|
|Courtesy of: American Association of Woodturners|
A wide variety of different woods are used in this craft. It's a great
way to make use of wood that might otherwise wind up in the fireplace.
"Beautiful wood can be found from felled trees, firewood piles and scrap
or leftover wood from woodworking shops -- pieces that would not otherwise
be used for furniture," says Dave Pozar, a turner from Massachusetts.
Experts say turning wood brings out a beauty which otherwise might never
have been seen. "Every piece of wood is unique in color and grain, which you
don't see until the outer layers are removed in turning," says Pozar.
Experts say getting started in this hobby is easier than doing any other
type of woodworking because you need fewer basic tools. You will need:
- A lathe, which can be had for about $200. Without this tool, there is
- Turning tools, which come in a variety of shapes for different purposes.
"They're made of steel and usually have wooden handles and are used to cut
or scrape the turning wood," says Jay Keller, a turner in Sunnyvale, California.
A basic set of turning tools can be bought for about $150.
- Safety goggles are an absolute must. "There is some danger of flying chips
of wood or flying tools, so a safety mask, or at least safety goggles, are
a must. You might also want a dust mask if you're sanding so you're not breathing
in sawdust," says Pozar.
Experts say woodturning is a relatively safe hobby, much safer than using
a table saw. In fact, they say many people start as kids. Yet you still have
to be careful.
"While turning is one of the least dangerous woodworking activities, a
lathe should always be treated with respect. You have to be careful with wood
spinning at 1,000 rpm. or more," says Thomas Dalzel, a turner in Pickering,
Turners suggest this hobby is catching on because it's fairly inexpensive
and beautiful objects can be created in a day.
"Using a lathe is the fastest way to make something in woodworking," says
Dalzel. "Judging by the equipment that's being made for woodturning, I think
it's growing; otherwise the market couldn't support it."
While still relatively unknown, the recreation of woodturning is definitely
growing. The American Association of Woodturners has experienced a 20 percent
growth in membership every year since 1990.
Most turners say they do this as a hobby, but there are a few who see the
lathe as an artist's tool, allowing them to create one-of-a-kind bowls, vases
and other pieces. Some of these items sell for as much as $1,000 a piece.
Those who really like this activity might find themselves teaching others
how to use the lathe as a part-time instructor.
If you like working with your hands and you have an eye for detail, woodturning
could be your kind of hobby.
Experts say learning from an experienced hobbyist is the best way to get
started in woodturning. Check with your local community college or recreation
center for beginner's classes.
Get in touch with other hobbyists for advice and tips. You can try a local
association, a woodworking magazine, or an Internet newsgroup.
See if you can find someone in your community who enjoys woodturning and
ask if they'll let you try it out with their equipment before investing in
the tools you'll need to do this. It would be terrible to spend $500 on equipment,
only to find the hobby isn't for you.
The American Association of Woodturners
103-3499 Lexington Ave. N.
Arizona Woodturners Association
The Michigan Association of Woodturners
A directory to woodturning links and artists
Creations Fine Woodworking Gallery
Lots of photos of beautiful woodturned pieces
Find online forums and supplies here
Back to Career Cluster
Web-based woodworking magazine for non-professionals