Woodturning - lacking something

Used my lathe (a $60 garage-sale purchase) for the first time a couple days ago. I was pleased with my first attempt. It was rough (hitting it randomly with a rasp would have resulted in a smoother finish) and had gouges taken out of it here and there, but for a first attempt, I thought it was okay. I thought the overall roughness was attributable to the fact that the blank was a dust-dry piece of cedar.
I've since seen other turned pieces of cedar that looked just fine. And today I tried turning a king chess piece out of cherry. It was rough and had big gouges taken out of it here and there. It looks as though someone had hacked out its shape using a small hatchet. It was such a disappointment to take it off the centers--it looked fine while it was spinning around. When I came in from the shop SWMBO asked, "What have you been up to?" to which I replied, "Wasting my time."
I'd like to blame this at least in part on the tool rest. I can't find the sliding part (it's around here somewhere) that the rest itself slips into, so I cobbled one together of plywood. To say that it's not steady would be an understatement. But the adage "It's a poor workman blames his tools" echoes in my brain.
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if the rest moves or vibrates then it will be of little use.
I routinely turn dry pine, oak and maple without major problem on my delta midi. the other question is what tool are you using?
BRuce
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BRuce

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That was my first thought. Tool selection and sharpness.
Jim
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Jim Wilson asked

The lathe I have is branded Foremost, but it's that mid/low-level generic with the steel tube rather than a flat bed, five speeds selected by belt placement, a 12-inch swing with 37 to 40 inches between centers. You've probably seen it under some other name--seems to be selling for about $240. (Sears' version is $300.)
It seems to be a decent-quality tool, and I have it bolted solidly to a hefty bench. The only thing "wrong" with it, as I mentioned, is I can't find the banjo (Never heard that term before) and devised a wholly inadequate slider made from plywood scrap.
So, I'm going to now assume that my poor results are not so much a matter of horrible technique as a matter of the tool rest bouncing back and forth like a hypercaffeinated yo-yo, find someplace to order a new banjo--and then try to think of another excuse for why my trunings look lik the dog had been chewing on them.
Wait--there's my excuse right there!
BTW - the cedar was Western Red.
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You need a solid tool rest and sharp tools.
If the tool rest is moving (and a plywood one certainly is), you're turning firewood.
What lathe is it? It should be easy enough to get a replacement banjo (the sliding part) if you really can't find the one that came with it.
Also, take a bit of time and learn to do basic sharpening on your lathe tools. Hit your library for a book, or do a Google search.
Also, rec.crafts.woodturning is a great newsgroup for turners... Lots of very friendly and helpful people there.
djb
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Ever watch Roy Underhill?

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I don't do a lot of turning but I do do some and have worked with cedar quite a bit and don't think it is exactly the best wood to practice turning on. It just plain splinters too easily.
I'm sure there is a corollary to the poor workman saying that covers one that tries to do the job with improper tooling and possibly dull tools but I can't think of it right now. I'm sure it would include crusin' for a brusin' though
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Mike G.
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Mike G wrote:

"Cedar" could be any of several different woods too.
I, OTOH, *love* cedar (/Juniperus virginiana/, an aromatic "redcedar" with reddish heartwood) because it's the first wood I've found where I can produce a smooth finish straight off the tools. (Not to mention it's beautiful and smells good too...) It does splinter easily, but it also cuts like butter. The only piece in my entire collection of mediocre newbie turnings that never saw sandpaper is the one I made from my lone chunk of that stuff. (Well, OK, there were two chunks of that stuff, and one of them blew up. So you have a point about splintering. :)

Definitely. A plywood banjo sounds like a ghastly idea to me as well. Maybe some really experienced turners could do beautiful stuff with an apple corer and a banjo and toolrest cobbled together out of papier mach and duct tape, but I don't see any shame in being unable to do good work with grossly unsuitable tools. The trick is knowing where to draw the blame line.
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In a different prospective I can agree with all of that. However here we have a newbie, not an experienced turner who already understands that extra care has to be taken with cedar. I thought the heads up was appropriate.
While there is no shame in not being able to do good work with grossly unsuitable tools it does seem to be a bit of a folly to seemingly complain about the inability
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Mike G.
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