Spin control

The first aspect of woodworking I fell in love with was woodturning, all the way back in high school. Several decades later, I’m rediscovering it.

Well, that’s kind of misleading; I never stopped using the lathe, but over the years it became relegated to more of a supporting role. A chair project might require a few spindles, for example, or a box a pair of handles. But my most recent book, and the one I’m working on now, both feature a number of turned projects. For the earlier book, I did all three lathe-related projects in a row for a hefty taste of what I’d been missing. My current book has four lathe projects, plus two more that require turned components. As before, I’m doing them all back-to-back for the sake of expediency – all the lighting and camera setups are in the same place – and I find that I’m loving every minute of it.

Not sure what the rekindled appeal is, but I suppose a big part of it is watching a workpiece magically take form right before your eyes. Sure, you can change the shape of a workpiece with a saw or other tools, but the rapid spinning gives the appearance that you’re molding the workpiece with the lightest pressure from your hands. I like that.

The other aspect is that turning is just so darned relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve gotta have your wits about you at the lathe lest you find a chisel suddenly embedded in the wall or ceiling (or, forbid, in something softer). But working the lathe doesn’t require large movements, heavy lifting, or any serious amount of pushing or pulling to work the wood. It is, in a word, comfortable.

I’m wrapping up the last of my turned projects for this book, and after that it’s back to more angular woodworking. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m making a point that the next time I have the opportunity for some “me time” in the shop, the first thing I’ll be doing is a lathe project.



  • You are right on about the lathe. I taught Jr High Wood shop for 17 years and when the kids came in they didn’t know what a lathe was. By the end of the term I had to ration lathe time because they all wanted to be turners. AJ I got your civil war wood projects book. My kids loved it especially the mirror. Thanks. Will you be at the Las Vegas show AWFS in Las Vegas next summer? Bob

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