I've been doing a lot of turning lately - Christmas presents.
Turning is the weirdest of the types of woodworking I've
done and I've been thinking just how weird it is.
Whether you carve, sculpt or make furniture (or boxes),
you force the tool into stationary wood or feed the wood
to a spinning tool. OK - so if you carve, you hold the wood
still, hold the tool still and wack it with a mallet or push
the tool into the wood. Turning is the only form of wood-
working I can think of that has the wood moving, the cutting
tool moving in one, two or three axis - AND often being
rotated around one, two or even three axis.
Of all the types of woodworking, turning uses the least
amount of wood - often cut offs and scraps from other
woodworking projects. So it's low risk in terms of the
wood needed. Screw up and you're out a little wood that
you couldn't use for much of anything else. In an hour,
an hour and a half at the most, you either have a piece
done - or know it isn't worth continuing with. So it's low
risk in terms of wasted time if things don't turn out
well. And despite the apparent insanity of poking a sharp
tool into a spinning piece of wood, it's surprising safe -
relative to other woodworking operations. Again, a low
safety risk, despite first impressions.
When I think about it, it's like jumping on one leg
while patting your head and rubbing your stomach
while whistling and chewing gum while juggling one
or more sharp tools. If I think about it while I'm doing
it I'm afraid I'll punch myself in the stomach, hit myself
on the head, spit on my wood while choking on my gum,
falling over and having the sharp tool stab me in some v
ital organ. Logically, turning should be the riskiest thing
to do in the shop - but isn't.
Think about the other tools you use in woodworking.
With a miter saw, you're spining a 1- or 12" round
plate of steel - with 60 to 80 sharp carbide teeth
and lowering it into a stationary piece of wood -
sometimes with your fingers inches away from the
sharp spinning things.
With a router, you push the spinning at 20,000 to
28,000 rpm sharp carbide into a piece of wood.
Table saw - a 10" - 12" piece of steel with a bunch
of sharp carbide teeth spinning up out of a cast
iron table that you shove a piece of wood into. If
the fence is set up wrong, or if the board isn't
flat, or the edge against the fence isn't straight
some of that wood may become a spear thrown
with surprising force and at a speed that's quite
Drill press? Ever had a big forstner bit catch?
If it can't remove wood it can spin the wood
with pretty amazing force.
12" disk sander spinning an abrassive that will
wear through skin in an instant - bone as well.
How about a joiner with three sharp knives
spinning - and cutting the bottom of a board
inches from your finger tips.
The planer is probably the safest of the major
power tool. You'd really have to work at getting
any part of your body near the spinning knives.
Then there's the time "start to finish". What
other woodworking project can you do in an
hour to an hour and a half?
Think of another woodworking project that uses
2 board feet - or less. OK - so maybe a small
jewelry box or a tool rack - but that's about it.
Fun this woodworking thing.