I am in the process of building a simple lathe out of scrap old machine
parts. I have no idea on what the basic tools I will need to get started.
Any comments on what cheap (HA!) tools I might look into?
Get one of the six or eight-piece sets commonly sold. They include at least
a couple of gouges, a parting tool, a skew or two, and two or three
scrapers. I'd get the one with the most gouges and least scrapers, as the
best thing to do after the initial learning curve is to modify them into
cutting tools anyway.
"Spindle" orientation is pretty much taken care of by these, which may be
carbon steel to save dollars or high-speed which resist heat damage better.
If you turn at slower speeds, there's little need for HSS, because there's
less heat. You can always buy HSS in the tools you use most or heat most
once you figure out what they are.
For faceplate work you'll want a "bowl" gouge, which any more is a longer
and deeper flute version of what sells as a spindle gouge. I like a
broad-bottomed U versus V ground flute, some don't. Goes by the way you
cut. One is enough, because all your other tools can be used as well, even
the chintzy thin scrapers if you care to. Just keep the toolrest tight as
possible. Second rule of turning, actually. First is stand out of harm's
On the assumption that you're building a lathe because you can, and
therefore you don't want to turn only small stuff like pens, the really
cheap 8-pc import sets you see on eBay for 20 bucks are as cheap as they
get. You'll spend more time grinding and sharpening them than turning,
however. Which may not be a bad thing! You might want an expendable set
of tools for the purpose of learning how to do it right before
committing a decent, $100 tool to your grindstone.
You can also find on eBay sets of older Craftsman or Delta tools that
are better quality and not much more expensive. These will last you to
the point where you're knowledgeable enough and sufficiently hooked on
turning to want to plunk down $60 or more per tool.
Absolutely must-have items: A book on how to turn wood safely. One of
many is Rowley's "Woodturning: A Foundation Course". You will be sorry
someday if you don't read it or something equivalent.
Can't-live-without items: 3/4 roughing gouge, 1/2 and 1/4 spindle
gouges, parting tool, 1750 rpm bench grinder.
Specialty must-have items: bowl gouge (only if you're going to hollow
out bowls, goblets)
The rest will naturally fall into place as you go along.
Richard Holub wrote:
Thanks George, I now have an idea on what to read about when searching for
these tools. I usually get catalogues from ROCKLER or WOODCRAFT but I get
overwhelmed with the large selection of tools. I guess I should pick up one
of those books that John suggested but I just don't want to buy a "wood
turning bible" that will take me forever to read. THIS IS JUST A CURIOSITY
PROJECT. If I like it I might spend some money to expand.
BDY...the lathe I am building should be able to turn a piece of wood from 4
in. to 48 in. by max.4 in. thick.
Forty-eight is asking a lot. You'll seldom see more than around 40"
capacity without a second purchase. For longer you tenon things together,
Out of print, but the best book on turning - not just how to turn a blurfl -
is Frank Pain _The Practical Woodturner_ . Runs through the principles, the
tools, and how to apply them.
The reason I am going with 48 in. is because my cousin wants to work on a 4
ft. x 2 in. staff (martial arts). I have no intention on doing anything as
furniture with this lathe. The 2 x 2 in. metal frame bars I have are 7 ft.
I figure that if I am going to have this tool in my workshop, it might as
well be ready to accept something up to 48 in.
BTW-although the frame is 7 ft. long it will only accept a 48 in long
working piece due to bearings, motor, etc.
On Sat, 10 Dec 2005 19:39:37 -0500, "Richard Holub"
Martial arts stuff is better done with a drawknife, not a lathe. Best of
all it's done with an axe and choosing the right tree to begin with.
The problem is short grain. You want the grain to be as straight as
possible, but given the usual constraints it's better to have a slight
wiggle in the surface than it is to have a smooth surface and weakness
from short grain. A lathe will happily make something that looks fine,
but snaps clean across when you use it.
Then you will also be building a "steady rest" for your lathe. Not a
complicated accessory by any means but necessary for long, thin work.
You will discover that long, thin spindles are quite flexible and
without a steady rest may come flying off the lathe, with potentially
Richard Holub wrote:
Could you comment on this subject as far as "steady rest". My intention was
to weld a long pipe alongside the full length of the lathe. The tool rest
would flow on this pipe so that it could be adjusted to whatever size work
piece I have. Am I missing something here?
Another fellow already posted a link to a steady rest.
As for your welded-on tool rest or rest-support, consider that having it
at a fixed height and/or distance from the bed is only an advantage if
you're always going to be doing the same type of turning (e.g. table
legs of a particular diameter). Otherwise, a tool rest that is
adjustable horizontally as well as vertically is of more general
utility, and one that can be moved out of the way altogether would
permit you to sand or otherwise finish your workpiece while it is still
mounted between centers (and rotating). To avoid grievous injury you
don't want to be sticking anything between a rotating workpiece and a
toolrest or fixed toolrest mount.
Let your relatives know that you'd appreciate their buying you one of
the turning books for the approaching holidays. You'll build a better
lathe as a result of it and probably avoid a visit to the emergency
Richard Holub wrote:
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