7 Basic Woodturning Tools To Start With
These tools will ease you into woodturning and make it easier to create bowls, candlesticks, handles, pens and pepper mills.
Working With Woodturning Tools
I cannot tell you how many times speakers at my Minnesota Woodturners Association (MWA) meetings described woodturning as “addictive.” It is easy to get hooked on making beautiful and functional pieces of art. Plus, learning about the tools and techniques is a captivating endeavor that can fill a lifetime.
But in the bliss of being a newbie, you can spend a lot of money on woodturning tools in no time. That doesn’t take into account other things you’ll need — a wood lathe, tool-sharpening equipment, a band saw, wood stock for turning, materials for sanding and finishing, and so on.
The following are seven wood lathe tools that will get you off to a good start.
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While this is not a tool you buy and store in your shop, it may be the most important one on this list.
A tool helps you do things, and a woodturning community helps you save money on tools and wood, as well as learn techniques in classes. Plus, it’s the go-to resource for answering the countless questions about the details of your projects.
MWA dues cost me $35 a year, and it’s worth every penny. Members have given me tools and advice, even a lathe that was no longer in use. MWA organizes group purchases so members can buy tools at a discount from woodturners’ supply stores.
Buy the best tools you can. I’m not a fan of cheap tools. The additional cost of an excellent tool will be forgotten over its long life and quality results. Also, if you’re in a community and decide woodturning is not for you, you can easily sell quality tools to members. They will not buy your cheap tools.
Search for a woodturning community in your area. Start with the American Association of Woodturners, which has 365 worldwide chapters.
This tool makes squared wood blanks round. It’s beefy, with a long handle and a U-shaped steel flute that removes a lot of wood.
Unlike most turners who love creating gorgeous bowls, I just do spindle work to make heirloom lefse rolling pins. I use a roughing gouge is the most, to round out blanks and create curves and coves in the handles.
My roughing gouge, purchased used, is 1-1/4-inch across the flute, but a 3/4-inch roughing gouge is a common and versatile size. Prices range from $70 to $120.
This tool shapes wood and creates finer details than a roughing gouge because of its shallower, narrower flute. The spindle gouge has a “fingernail” grind, meaning the edges are ground back to the shape of a fingernail for versatility and clearance in tight grooves on the spinning wood.
A 1/2-inch spindle gouge is typical. Prices range from $40 to $120.
This is a great wood lathe tool with a rounded top and bottom edge that adds maneuverability. Plus, a skew chisel is tremendously versatile.
However, some woodturners say it’s difficult to learn to use properly. A skew tip can catch the rapidly spinning workpiece and cause kickback. Take your time studying the right way to use it before working with it.
I’ve used a versatile 1/2-inch skew to plane wood to a glassy smooth surface and create fine beads. Prices range from $40 to $80. If you absolutely don’t like a skew, you can do much of the same work with a 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch spindle gouge, priced at $35 to $80.
When turning spindles, a parting tool cuts off unwanted material from the main body of the workpiece, establishes diameters and cuts small flat areas. I have two parting tools, one with a 1/16-inch-wide blade for precision cuts, and another with a 3/16-inch-wide blade for most of my parting work. Prices range from $45 to $75.
This tool with deep flutes can shape the inside and outside of a bowl. U-shaped bowl gouges reach into the bottom of a bowl to make smooth cuts. V-shaped bowl gouges with a fingernail grind are used for roughing, finishing and detail work.
Having 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch bowl gouges lets you turn different sized bowls, with a 1/2-inch gouge ideal for detail work. Prices range from $50 to $150.
Scrapers remove marks created by a bowl gouge, so you’ll use one often. It doesn’t cut; it scrapes using a burr that must be kept sharp to be effective. A round-nose scraper removes marks inside the bowl, and a square-nose scraper handles marks on the outside. A one-inch scraper is sturdy and the most versatile. Prices range from $65 to $100.