Woodworking Tools: The Art of the Lathe

woodworking tools lathe

As you become more and more skilled at woodworking, you will find yourself trying and using more different tools, often becoming more interested in certain ones. In my case, years ago I became fascinated with the lathe. I didn’t have much money, so I made my own, quite primitive. I made all the usual turned products, like lamps, baseball bats, bakery rollers, and of course, bowls. Later, when I could afford to buy a real lathe, I started turning wine and champagne glasses with very thin stems. I broke a few for each one I completed! Many years later, I decided to take an intensive, one on one lathe course from a master of the art. One of the most helpful things I learned was to “rough out” blocks of green wood to be turned into bowls in a year old so, when dry. I took a really wet piece of elm, which he had cut into a block with a chain saw, and screwed it to the face plate. He showed me how to turn a bowl, leaving about an extra inch of thickness on all sides, with water spraying all over the place. Then he put it away in a corner of his basement, while bringing one out that had been turned a year ago. It was somewhat shrunken and distorted, but completely dry, with no cracking or checking. I then turned this into a finished bowl, and ran the bottom over a jointer to make it smooth.

One may also glue up multiple pieces of the same or different wood species for turning interesting projects. After turning, I used to polish the wood to a soft luster by holding the lathe sawdust against the turning piece, then finishing it with a stick of paraffin held against it. The heat of friction melts the wax right into the wood, which is great for bowls that will be used with food. Another owner here at Barney & Carey, Dovi Hirsch, specialized in making wooden pens on a miniature lathe…as a teenager!

In addition to keeping our woodworking customers happy with fine hardwoods, we are also constantly saving pieces of those woods in sizes perfect for lathe turning projects, and they fly off the shelves. The lathe may not be your passion, but I can assure you that it is a relaxing, satisfying way to create beautiful and unusual items that may be thoughtful gifts!

Talk to Our Expert Woodworkers

The team of expert woodworkers here at Barney & Carey Co. is here to help answer your woodworking questions, help you find the best tool for the job…or do the job for you, if you like! Contact us using the brief form below.