Woodturning Information

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about woodturning, together with the Webmaster's attempt at the answers. Well, it would be a bit silly to just have the questions, wouldn't it?
Fully revised in May 2011; further updated January 2012 and July 2016

So, what is this "Woodturning" lark, anyway?
What is a lathe? What can it do?
What is faceplate work?
What is between centres or spindle work?
How do I learn how to turn wood?
Where do I go for help on turning?
What tools are used for woodturning?
Which tools should I buy?
Which lathe should I buy?
What is a chuck?
Which chuck should I buy?
What finishes should I use?
What can I make on a wood lathe?
What do I do with all these turnings?


What is "Woodturning"?

Woodturning is the art or craft of cutting shapes in wood while it revolves on a lathe. The cutting tool is held by the operator against the revolving work, and the wood removed in the form of fine shavings. Because the work is spinning, the shapes produced are generally circular in cross-section in at least one plane.

There are two main types: Plain turning involves cutting the wood as it revolves with handheld tools; this is the type of turning that we are mostly concerned with at ESW. Ornamental turning uses other cutting techniques such as rotary cutters and rose engines to produce more complicated designs and patterns; often the wood is held still on the lathe, or revolves only very slowly.

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What is a lathe?

A lathe is the machine which both holds and rotates the wood while the turner works. It generally comprises a headstock, which has a motor with the drive shaft linked to pulleys to allow the turner to vary the speed of the rotating work, and a central spindle mounted on bearings, which drives the work round; a tailstock, which is not powered but acts as a second anchor for the work in "between centres" turning; the bed (called the ways in North America) which is the frame of the lathe, holding everything rigid to prevent vibration; and the toolrest, on which the turner rests the cutting tool during use. The toolrest is supported on the bed and can be adjusted laterally to allow access to different parts of the work, and vertically to accommodate different types of cut.

Basic Lathe Schematic
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What is faceplate work?

Faceplate work is where the work (the lump of wood being turned) is held, by various means, only at the headstock end of the lathe, allowing the turner full access to shape or hollow out the spinning end of the piece. This technique is used for turning bowls, where the wood grain runs perpendicular to the axis of rotation, but also for hollow forms, boxes, goblets and vases, where the grain runs parallel to the bed bars (and hence the axis of rotation). Holding methods include a screw chuck, where the wood is mounted on a parallel screw thread in a hole drilled into the wood, a faceplate that has several ordinary woodscrews into the work, or a scroll chuck, which is described below.

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What is between centres or spindle work?

Between centres or spindle work is where the work (the lump of wood being turned) is held, by various means, at both ends (headstock and tailstock) of the lathe; the turner can only access the side of the piece to shape it. This technique is used for turning pens, chair spindles, banister rails, garden dibbers, and so on, and the wood grain needs to run parallel to the axis of rotation (that is, along the lathe bed) to get a good finish. The wood is normally held at the tailstock end by a revolving centre, which has bearings to allow it to spin with the work with very little friction. Before this, it was common to use a dead centre which has no bearings; lubrication such as wax is needed to prevent friction burns on the workpiece. At the headstock end, a two-prong or four-prong drive centre is commonly used (most new lathes come with both a four-prong drive and a revolving centre nowadays; these have Morse taper ends that fit into the tapered recesses in the headstock and tailstock). More recently, the Stebcentre has been introduced as an improved drive centre: this has a spring-loaded centre point and a circle of small teeth, and provides much better grip than the old four-prong drive. It was named after its designer, a Mr Stebbings, but now made and sold by Robert Sorby; cheaper copies are now on the market as "crown drives".

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How do I learn how to turn?

The best way to learn is to get expert tuition - as with most things in life, you get what you pay for! Tutors normally advertise in woodworking and woodturning magazines. Choosing may be difficult, and you probably need some advice and/or a recommendation; your local woodturners' club is the best place to find this kind of information (see the next section). There are also plenty of DVDs available now which cover many aspects of the craft.

That said, if you have just bought a lathe, some tools and some wood and are burning to get started, here's a brief guide. I strongly recommend that you read this entire page through a couple of times over until you are sure you understand it all before setting foot in the workshop for the first time.

The easiest place to start is between centres (see above). Choose a workpiece about a foot long and no more than a couple of inches across. Mark the centre of your log or square blank at each end, and make a small indent on each mark using a centre pop (or a nail, if that's all you have). Put your four prong drive (or Stebcentre if you have one) into the Morse taper of the headstock spindle, and the revolving centre into the tailstock quill (again, a Morse taper). No need to drive them in hard, just put them in carefully. Next, mount it on the lathe: gently knock it onto the four prong drive in the headstock spindle using a mallet, then bring up the tailstock, lock it in place and wind the tailstock quill into the work until the piece is securely held. More pressure is needed for a Stebcentre because of the sprung pin.

Check your lathe speed before you start up: for a two inch diameter piece, anywhere between 1000 and 2000 rpm is fine, but to the slower end of this if it is not a well-balanced piece (such as a log). Put the toolrest in position: you want a half-inch gap between it and the outer edge of the work, so revolve the wood by hand to check that it has clearance all the way round. Fire up the lathe: if there is a lot of vibration, turn it off again, drag the lathe back to its starting position and reduce the speed. Pick up your spindle roughing gouge, hold the handle in you best hand and the blade just back from the end in your other hand; the flute should be open to the ceiling. Place the tool on the toolrest in the centre of the log but away from the wood, with your best hand braced against your body at hip height, standing with spread legs for balance, square on to the lathe. Keeping the tool on the toolrest (exert gentle downward pressure with your front hand, which should also have some contact with the toolrest for stability), gently bring your back hand up your flank; the tool should start to move towards the revolving wood. The first contact with the wood should be the ground flat area below the cutting edge: this is called the bevel. Keep rubbing the bevel, and lift your back hand some more until the tool just starts to take shavings off the wood; this is very similar to finding the biting point on a clutch when driving. Once cutting, start to slide your whole bodyto the left or right, letting the tool traverse along the tool rest as you do. This is much easier and more controlled than standing still and just moving your hands.

With a commercial square blank, you should be rounding off the corners by now. Work from the middle to the end, going right off the end of the wood (make sure you don't ever go off the end of the toolrest, or the tool will be slammed downwards and you may lose control of it). Next, work back the other way, again from the middle to the end. Each time you lift the tool away from the toolrest, go through the steps above: contact with toolrest first, then rub the bevel without cutting, then lift the back hand to find the cut. As you cut wood away, the toolrest gap will automatically increase, so stop the lathe, adjust the toolrest to reduce the gap, spin the work by hand to check for clearance all round, and continue turning. To check whether the wood is completely round yet, stop the lathe and look - don't try to feel the work with your hand while it is spinning! Once round, you can try using a spindle gouge to cut coves, beads and other shapes; the technique is similar to that above: tool onto rest away from the wood, find the bevel on the wood, then lift further for the cut. To get the different shapes, you will need to rotate the tool in your hands to alter the angle the bevel runs over the wood. Describing this in words is quite hard: time for some lessons or a DVD!

Important safety tips: keep your fingers away from the gap between the toolrest and the work while the lathe is on. Both the wood and the toolrest are tougher than your flesh! Don't have loose hair or clothing that could get wrapped around the work and drag you in. Be careful what you do with your tools at all times: they are sharp. If you ever forget the first step and make contact with the wood before the tool is on the rest, the force of the piece on the tool will slam it down hard onto the rest, which is scary, and the tool could also dig into the piece: a chunk of wood will be pulled out of your work, which might also come off its mounting and fly around your workshop.

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Where do I go for help on turning?

Your local woodturning club (in North America, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, there almost certainly will be one within reasonable reach; elsewhere, they may be fewer and farther between) is an excellent place to meet fellow turners (including fellow beginners!), to swap advice, ideas, and encouragement; you might well find someone who offers tuition, either paid or even for free! Clubs are usually affiliated to the national association (e.g. the American Association of Woodturners or the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain), although some are independent. [Blatant plug] Of course, if you're anywhere near Surrey in England, then you can always drop in on on of our meetings! [End of plug]

Other resources worth trying are the World Wide Web (although I think you already know about that one!), and woodturning magazines (Woodturning in the UK, More Woodturning in the USA). There are now many woodturning forum web sites, where you can ask questions, look at or post images of turned work, or just chew the fat with like-minded people! There are also literally hundreds of YouTube videos that show how to perform specific techniques or how to make particular items.

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What tools are used for woodturning?

There are three main categories of turning tools, although the distinctions get fairly blurred with some of the latest offerings from the tool manufacturers. These are the gouges, the chisels and the scrapers. These are described below. In general, tools should be made of either high carbon steel or High Speed Steel (HSS); the latter is preferred, although more expensive to buy, as it holds a sharp cutting edge for longer, and is also almost impossible to blue or destroy the temper of the metal when sharpening on a grinder - something that can be a problem with carbon steel. Some manufacturers are now selling tools made of more advanced steels, which cost more but apparently hold an edge even longer.

Gouges have a flute or channel running along the tool up to the cutting edge; they are often divided into bowl gouges and spindle gouges, where the former have deeper and often U-shaped flutes, but there is no particular reason why a bowl gouge can't be used on spindle work, and vice versa, if it gives the desired result. The tools are usually used with the ground bevel rubbing on the wood behind the cut, which provides both support for the tool, and smooths the wood fibres to provide an excellent finish straight from the tool (if you do it right!). Most bowl gouges are ground out of a round steel rod; some spindle gouges are too, but others are forged from flat steel bar instead. Because the tool needs to be inserted into the handle somehow, forged tools have a ground tang or spike at the end, which is thinner than the tool - this is slightly weaker than a tool made of rod, which is just inserted into a drilled hole in the handle, and therefore has the same strength all the way down the tool.

Chisels have no flute, and are normally made from flat steel bar, rather than rod; distinctively, they have a bevel ground on both sides at the tip to form a cutting edge. Straight chisels are rare; much more common is the skew chisel, which has been ground at an angle to give a long point and a short point. Again, the bevel should rub; spindle work done with the skew often needs no sanding at all. The parting tool also falls into this category. Many novice turners try to use the skew chisel with no tuition or guidance, and quickly get into trouble with violent dig-ins or spiralling grooves along the work; the tool is then consigned to the back of the drawer, never to see the light of day again. This is a pity, because it is one of the most useful, versatile and effective tools available to the turner. Don't be afraid, persevere with it; get some guidance on its proper use, and you will soon find that it is your most-used tool.

Scrapers have no flute, and like the chisels, are normally made from flat steel bar, rather than rod; unlike the chisels, they have a bevel ground on one side only at the tip to form a cutting edge. This bevel is usually at a much flatter angle (about 70 to 80 degrees); the tool is used with the sharp point scraping over the surface of the wood, rather than with the bevel rubbing, as with the other two types of tool. It is important for the tool to be trailing, or pointing down below the centre of the work, or a dig-in could result, which is not good news either for the turner or the work!

If any of these descriptions don't make sense, then try looking at the manufacturers' Web sites, which have images of the tools they sell; all should become clear. See the links page for these sites.

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Which tools should I buy?

This is probably the most frequently asked question by novice turners at my club, except perhaps for "which lathe?". It's also the hardest to answer, as it depends on so many things. The best tool steels are still produced in Sheffield in England, and sold world-wide by manufacturers such as Robert Sorby, Henry Taylor, Crown, Ashley Iles and Hamlet. Personally, I can't tell much difference between them (I have tools from all these manufacturers) - the only discernable differences are in the shapes of the tools they make, not the metal. In general, I would recommend going for High Speed Steel over carbon steel; the newer steels, using powdered metal technology, like ASP2030 and ASP2060 are said to hold their edge even longer, but I haven't tried them. [Hint to the manufacturers - I'm happy to review them if you send me some!]

Having decided which manufacturer and which steel, the next question is, which tools? This depends so much on what you intend to turn. A turner who works mainly on 20 inch bowls will need totally different tools from a turner who produces dolls house furniture, which is mostly small scale spindle work. Most people advise you to avoid buying boxed sets, unless you are certain that you will use all of the tools in the set - usually there's at least one which just gathers dust. Its generally cheaper to buy just the tools you know you need.

If I was forced to make a recommendation, I'd suggest the following: a roughing out gouge (1 inch or bigger), a spindle gouge (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch), a bowl gouge (1/2 inch to 3/4 inch), a parting tool (1/8 inch - the diamond profile or fluted ones are supposed to be better, but I've never tried them), and a skew chisel (1 inch; the oval cross section ones are easier to use, because they roll on the toolrest more easily). Please don't complain to me if you follow this advice and you don't get on with one of the tools - this stuff is all personal preference.

One other point - I buy most of my tools unhandled and make the handles myself. This not only works out cheaper, but the tools are clearly yours, with handles of the length, thickness and shape which suits you. Of course, you do need to have access to someone else's tools (and lathe?) to make the first few handles!

The alternative to buying commercial tools is to make your own - not advisable for gouges, but chisels and scrapers are relatively easy to do. Ashley Iles are at most of the major woodworking shows in the UK, and sell High Speed Steel blanks in various shapes and sizes; it is then just a question of grinding it to shape on your bench grinder, and fitting a handle. An even cheaper alternative is to convert old tools: an old hacksaw blade can be ground into an ultra-thin parting tool, while old carpentry chisels from a boot fair can be shaped into a skew chisel or scraper quite easily. Remember, the latter are carbon steel, which can be blued and "lose their temper", which means they become very hard but also very brittle at the cutting edge, so the sharp edge is lost really quickly. Grind them very slowly, and quench in water often to prevent this. The HSS tools have a much higher annealing temperature - you would need them to be glowing cherry red before they would lose their temper. One word of warning: do not attempt to make turning tools from old files: the metal for a file is only hardened, not tempered, and can easily shatter under the stresses of turning. It is not worth risking your eyes and good looks to save just a few pennies!

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Which lathe should I buy?

This one really depends on what you want to do - and how much money you have! At the bottom end of the scale, you can get attachments for your electric drill which clamp to a table and let you try out turning for very little outlay at all; the drawback is that if you do get hooked, you'll want something bigger, more powerful and solid than this very quickly indeed!

As far as I am concerned, the features to look for are as follows: a really solid, well-engineered lathe which is easy to adjust. You will spend a vast amount of time moving the toolrest, so it should be easy to do, or it'll drive you mad. If the speed is adjusted by changing belts, this should be a simple procedure, preferably without the need for spanners. Ideally, all these adjusting parts should have handles of the spring-loaded locking type (they are known as Kip handles in the UK). A swivelling headstock (which lets you get better access to end grain projects like vases and goblets, and turn bowls larger than the swing over the bed) is a very useful facility to have - make sure the lathe has some kind of pin or lock to ensure the headstock goes back to true (in line with the tailstock). Obviously, the motor needs to be powerful enough for your largest turnings, as does the swing (the distance from the spindle to the bed, which is the radius of the largest turning - sometimes the diameter is quoted as swing instead). Variable speed is very useful, but costs more money, especially if it is electronically controlled.

The following lathes seem to be recommended on woodturning forums on the Internet more than most (which I presume makes them pretty good indeed!): the Oneway from Canada, the Teknatool Nova 3000 and Nova DVR from New Zealand, the Stubby from Australia, and the UK-designed VB36 from Steinert in Germany. We at ESW have bought an Axminster 1628VS, and are very pleased with it - we find it to be very solid and really quiet and smooth in use, certainly for the size of wood we or our demonstrators tend to work on. [Plug] I personally would like to add the lathe I own, the Myford Mystro, which was made in the UK by the same company which made the fabulous ML-8 all those years ago, most of which are still going strong on the second-hand market - or more like 20th-hand! The Mystro didn't get much advertising, as Myford seemed to focus on their larger engineering lathes, and sadly is no longer made -but it can be picked up second hand on Ebay and so on from time to time. It is incredibly solid and reliable, with all the features I have mentioned - as you can tell, I love it! And no, I'm not being paid to say that...[End of plug]

Here are some suggestions, based on approximate expenditure levels and what is available in the UK in 2016 (this is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it a direct recommendation - these lathes do however have most of the good features mentioned above, are from large and reliable manufacturers, and I have heard good things about them from other turners):

ExpenditureLatheCostSupplierNotes
Under £500Axminster Hobby Series AWSL Woodturning Lathe£200Axminster Power ToolsAC motor, 5 fixed speeds; pretty much the entry level lathe nowadays.
Under £500Axminster Hobby Series AH-1218VS Woodturning Lathe£300Axminster Power ToolsDC motor, electrical variable speed; not a bad price, a good starter lathe.
Under £500Axminster AWVSL1000 Woodturning Lathe£400Axminster Power ToolsAC motor, Reeves drive mechanical variable speed; big capacity for the price.
Under £500Record DML305-M33 lathe£300Record PowerAC motor, 6 fixed speeds; better now with larger M33 spindle; comes with scroll chuck.
Under £500Record DML320 lathe£500Record PowerAC motor, electronic variable speed; now with larger M33 spindle.
£500 to £1,500Myford Mystro (sadly, second hand only)£700?Myford LathesAvailable 5-speed or electronic variable speed; a fantastic lathe if you can find one.
£500 to £1,500Record CL4 Professional variable speed lathe£900Record PowerAC motor, electronic variable speed; better now with larger M33 spindle.
Over £1,500Wivamac DB801V£2,100+The ToolpostAC motor, electronic variable speed; a range of top quality lathes.
Over £1,500MAXI-1-M33 Heavy Cast Iron Swivel Head Variable Speed Lathe£1,900Record PowerAC motor, electronic variable speed, cast iron; a nicely engineered lathe.
Over £1,500Axminster Trade Series AT1628VS Woodturning Lathe£1,700Axminster Power ToolsAC motor, electronic variable speed, cast iron; our club lathe.
Over £1,500Teknatool Nova DVR XP lathe£1,700BrimarcAC motor, direct drive electronic variable speed (no belt changes, ever!).
Over £1,500VB36£5,500+SteinertMassive AC motor, electronic variable speed; the ultimate lathe if you can afford it.
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What is a chuck?

A chuck is any device which holds the piece of wood to be turned on the lathe by gripping it in some way. There are other ways of holding the work - drives, such as the four prong drive, the two prong drive or the cone centre, which work for spindle turning by pushing on the headstock end of the work, with either a dead centre or a live or revolving centre at the tailstock end; these are not generally termed chucks.

There are many types of chuck; some of them can be made in the workshop out of scrap timber, such as a jam chuck, where the work is prepared between centres with a spigot, a kind of cylindrical tenon, at one end; this then fits tightly (if you get it right) into a suitably sized recess cut in the scrap wood. The scrap wood needs to be held on another sort of chuck, however. Many other "homemade" chuck designs exist; its worth mentioning the glue chuck, where the work is glued to a piece of scrap which has already been mounted in the lathe - hot melt glue is the preferred option here.

Commercial chucks come in three main types: screw chucks, collet chucks and scroll chucks. Most turners will have a screw chuck; they are relatively cheap, and extremely useful for all kinds of faceplate work, especially the first phase of bowl turning. As the name suggests, the chuck works by a screw (usually a threaded rod, often with much deeper than normal threads) which self-taps into a pre-drilled hole in the work.

The collet chuck is a much larger and more complicated item: the chuck body usually has a threaded collar ring which is used to tighten the chuck; as it tightens, the four pieces of the collet are pushed inwards. These can be a little fiddly to use, and often require the work to be prepared to quite fine tolerances for the grip to be sufficient.

The scroll chuck is the most expensive type, but also the most useful. The chuck adjusts by means of a metal spiral or scroll inside, with the four jaw carriers sliding in the groove. This gives exact concentricity, a wide range of adjustment and an extremely tight grip. The jaw carriers are machined to take a large variety of chuck jaws, giving a wide range of workholding options for different projects. The chucks normally come with a single set of jaws (usually 2 inch), but the others are all extra. Unless you are related to Bill Gates, you will probably need to sell some turnings to finance the purchase of these.

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Which chuck should I buy?

Well, by now you can guess what I'm going to say... It all depends on what you want to do, and how much you can afford. The scroll chucks are the most expensive, but also the easiest and quickest in use, with no need for engineering precision when preparing the dovetail recess for the chuck to grip into. If you are just starting out, I'd suggest you get as a mimimum a screw chuck, which is an almost indispensable item. Then, as your skill grows, if you can afford it, go for a good scroll chuck.

One thing to look for in any chuck, but especially a scroll chuck because of the cost, is the way it fixes to the lathe. Most chucks have a threaded recess which screws onto the lathe spindle; because there are almost as many different spindle thread sizes as there are lathes, it is a great advantage if the chuck comes with interchangeable inserts, so that when (hardly ever if!) you change your lathe, you only need buy a new insert, not a new chuck.

The scroll chucks which generally get a good write-up on woodturning forums are the OneWay Stronghold (Canada), the Teknatool SuperNova2 (New Zealand - the old SuperNova is almost as good), the Sorby Patriot (UK), all the Axminster chucks (UK), and the Vicmarc (Australia), which is now sold in the UK as the Record RP4000. All of these have inserts, by the way. The Axminster range are very good, and have lots of jaw options, but the jaws only fit their own chucks. The jaws for the SuperNova also fit the SuperNova2 and the Patriot, which is slightly more flexible - but only if you are sharing jaw sets with friends, otherwise it doesn't really matter.

The latest innovation is for the chuck jaws to be rapidly changed over. There are two such chucks that do this: the American Easy Chuck from Easy Wood Tools, and Teknatool's latest release, the Nova Infinity chuck. I've not had the chance to try either of these, but they do look like a good idea if you haven't already got a chuck with a range of jaws of the old style...

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What finishes should I use?

Once you've turned a piece of wood, you want it to stay looking nice and clean, and not to soak up moisture from the air (at least, not too much - even with a finish, some moisture content changes are inevitable). This is done by the application of various finishes.

The first thing to say about finishing is that the finish can not be used to cover up for poor workmanship. Don't despair, however - abrasives can<grin>! You should start to sand, working with the lathe on a very slow speed, with quite a rough grit, pressing only lightly. Then work up through a range of grits; each one will remove the scratches left by the one before, until you reach a point where the scratches can't be seen (or felt!) at all. I use 80 grit in emergencies, but normally start with 120, then 180, 240, 320 and 400. Really fine work gets 500 and 600 as well, while for pens I end up with MicroMesh (in 8 grits ranging from 1500 to 12000!).

Once the work is as smooth as a baby's bottom, with all the blemishes, torn grain, dig-ins, etc. removed (although of course, you never get any of those, do you? I know I don't <huge grin and wink>), it's time to apply a finish coating. There are lots of products available, and the choice is yours, dependent on use. Most turners would recommend the use of a seal coat, such as a sanding sealer; these can be shellac-based or cellulose-based - use shellac if your top coat will be shellac-based. This is normally applied with a brush, and then wiped over with a piece of kitchen roll - much safer than cloth for use with revolving work; just don't use fancy kitchen roll with printed patterns, because the colour will run - don't ask me how I know this... Two or more coats are advisable, cutting back with a fine grit abrasive (600 is good) in between.

Examples of top coat finishes are oils (Danish oil, tung oil, linseed oil, and my favourite, walnut oil, which dries naturally and is self-evidently food-safe, as you buy it from the supermarket), friction polishes (which are specifically intended for use on a lathe), other polishes (such as shellac), and waxes.

It's not easy to recommend particular brands of these products, for two reasons: one, it's a very personal choice, depending on the result the turner wants to produce, and how much handling the item is likely to get; and two, the products do not seem to be international (presumably because they are hazardous to ship). Try asking around at your club (you have joined one by now, haven't you? That was recommended way back at question 6!). I will give an "honourable mention" to the following UK products: the Chestnut range of cellulose-based finishes, the Liberon Woodturner's Stick (a blend of waxes, based on carnauba wax), and the Briwax range. One point to mention is that friction polish only gives its best effect on smaller turnings (less than 3 to 4 inches in diameter) - it relies on the friction heat to melt the finish into the wood and build up the gloss, and with larger turnings the heat has time to dissipate during each revolution. For larger items, a paste wax like Chestnut's Wood Wax 22 or Liberon's Black Bison is best, applied over a sanding sealer. For that really special competition piece, you can buff the item with a lamb's wool bonnet in a drill (yes, just like a car body) - best to do this at least a day after applying the finish, to let it harden a bit. Another high shine finish is melamine lacquer, but it can be tricky to apply over large areas, because it dries really fast. A recent introduction is Microcrystalline Wax - I have heard good things about this and have bought a tin, but not used it yet.

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What can I make now I've learned the basics?

Okay, you've bought a lathe, tools, chucks, finishes, abrasives, maybe had some lessons, and you have made a few bowls and hopefully some tool handles; you're beginning to feel confident on the lathe. What else can you produce?

The range of possible projects is immense; with some imagination and skill, it is even possible to escape what appears to be a hard limit, the need for the item to be round in at least one dimension. Here is a list of potential projects that are wood only: bowls (fairly obviously), chair legs, banister spindles, platters, boxes, vases, dibbers, ring keeps, earring stands, yo-yos, tops, and if you like doing larger items, finials or newel posts. There are also options to combine wood with other materials: clocks, barometers, hinged boxes and pens are the most common of these. As a hobbyist woodturner, I quite often go into the workshop, pick up a piece of wood, and rack my brains trying to think what to make that would be about that size, and would suit that particular timber species - you may find this happens too. If inspiration fails you, there are books you can buy of turning projects, or plenty of project web sites.

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What should I do with all these turnings?

Once you've started turning, you will probably find that you can't stop, and your house will start to fill up with shiny wooden items. It is a good idea to start moving these on before your spouse starts tapping his/her foot and growling. Giving them as presents to friends and relatives is a good beginning; once you are turning confidently to a good standard, you will find that there is a ready market for well-designed and well-executed turned products. Good places to sell are craft fairs and markets, and possibly boot fairs (although these tend to have lots of people out for a real bargain, so you may have to adjust your prices). If you have joined a club, you may find that they host or attend events at which there will be a sales table; the club may take a commission. If you feel you have progressed sufficiently, then you might find a shop or gallery that is prepared to take your work - usually on a sale-or-return basis, and with a very hefty commission rate. To get a good idea of what will sell and how much, visit a craft fair that advertises a woodturner is present, and take a look at his/her stall.

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Disclaimer: while every attempt is made to indicate correct and safe practise in the above answers, no responsibility will be accepted for any loss, injury or other claim resulting from using the information on these pages. Please be sensible, take care, and if you think something seems dangerous, it probably is; stop, think, and try something safer! Equally, I have tried to be even-handed when mentioning manufacturers and products, especially those which I have not tried personally. I have endeavoured to make it clear where any recommendation is mine through first-hand experience, or distilled from other sources, such as many separate postings on the newsgroup. If I've missed out mentioning your company or product, I can be bribed with used £50 notes <grin>.