Saw the new Lathe 101 NYW show yesterday (our local
PBS station shows an "earlier" copy of it on Wednesday.
While I'm not a turner nor do I own a lathe, I would
feel that I would need much more instruction then
what he allows. He gives you a basic introduction
to the elements of a lathe, how to set the tool rest
and what tool you should use when, but really skips
lightly over the choice of RPM, how to sharpen all
the various tools (he only sharpend a gouge) how
to do a bowl, etc. His "practice" project was a
log of about 3 or 4 inches and his first "real"
project was a baseball bat.
He did something, that I didn't expect tho -
he was showing how to do the bat and in his
left hand, he had calipers and in his right, a
tool. While the bat was spinning, he took the
calipers (from behind the bat) and measured how
deep his cut was. He said it was ok to do that.
Is it? I would be curious from those who do turn
as to how this is safe.
It is commonplace for turners to put the calipers to a
spinning workpiece. I've never seen nor had a mishap though
I suppose it is quite possible to catch the calipers on
the piece and have them fly at you. I always wear a face
shield when turning and keep if flipped all the way down
to where it touches my chest so that my throat is protected.
Compared to the damage a skew chisel could do if it gets away
from you, the caliper is not much concern. That said,
you'd have to have a pretty weak grip on a lathe tool to
have it torn from your hand. Typically if you catch the
workpiece, the belt slips instead. Working on large pieces,
especially large bowls at high RPM may be dangerous but
for most of us the worse risk using a lathe is probably
the danger of a tool rolling off the banch and landing on
Though he's better than I, Nahrm has never impressed me with
his lathe work. He gets the job done, but an expert turner would
use the skew chisel much more for faster, neater, work.
: It is commonplace for turners to put the calipers to a
: spinning workpiece. I've never seen nor had a mishap though
: I suppose it is quite possible to catch the calipers on
: the piece and have them fly at you.
: Compared to the damage a skew chisel could do if it gets away
: from you, the caliper is not much concern.
True point, although the skew chisel is going to be braced by the
toolrest (and so a catch is really unlikely to fling it at you), while
a calipers or wrench held from the back of the workpiece would, IF caught,
be more likely to come flying.
I think it's unlikely that either a box wrench or a pair of calipers would
get caught in the first place, since that would require them to be sharp
enough to dig into the workpiece.
-- Andy Barss
Worse yet is having a bowl gouge catch on you while your roughing up a 50lb
log that is spinning and have the bolts of the headstock shear off, dent the
crap out of the toolrest, just about snap your gouge, have a 50lb object
hearl right past you (best lesson I ever learned was stay of the firing
line) - then have to clean out your pants!
Measuring a diameter with the lathe turning is pretty standard. When turning
a spindle to a specific diameter - i.e. a tenon to fit a drilled hole, about
the only way to get it right on is to hold a calipers, or my favorite, an
end wrench on the back side of the piece while taking a light cut with a
parting tool. SOme folks sharpen one side of the end wrench and use it as a
scraper, but I've never treid that.
I haven't sharpened nary a wrench to use as a scraper but have used many a
wrench (after being cleaned free of grease) as an accurate caliper that will
not change sizes on you. Move it slowly back and forth and it will begin to
burn the high spots. Sand or use the skew to remove high spots. When the
wrench moves from end to end you have a fairly straight dowel to work with.
When making pens I decide what max. diameter I want for the pen, and rough
the blanks down this way.
On 17 Feb 2005 12:56:55 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
Years ago when I first started turning I used to shut off the lathe
all the time to take a measurement with the calipers, thinking the
same thing you are. Then I started working out in my mind what
possible mechanism there is for an accident. I took into account the
material, its rotation, its size, the tool (caliper), the shape of the
legs of the caliper, how it contacts the work, and everything else I
could think of.
I concluded that there isn't anything that I could conceive of that
would make this a dangerous operation. Years later after having done
it a lot and seeing others (with more experience in a week than I have
in ten years) do it, I feel perfectly comfortable with my analysis and
If you have an idea of how an accident could occur, please let me know
so I can revisit the process.
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999
The only mishaps I've had are when my elbow of the caliper-holding arm
drops onto the spinning chuck. If the jaws are outside the diameter of
the chuck it can smart pretty good but I've yet to draw blood this way.
I've not seen the Norm episode yet so the following is offered not
knowing how he did it: To get the most accurate sizing with the caliper
I make sure the legs are placed around the turning and with light
pressure pulled out as I part down to size. If you try to push the
calipers onto the turning you can mis-size the cut.
On a related note, I have certainly caught the straight legged pointed
dividers when sizing mortises or diameters in end grain on numerous
Owen Lowe and his Fly-by-Night Copper Company
"Sure we'll have fascism in America, but it'll come disguised
What's left out? Turn fast enough to remove the wood from the piece, and
any faster simply builds danger (square of velocity, remember?).
Keep the tool rest as close to the work as you can, because letting
something spinning that fast have the leverage advantage is likely to
remodel your face with the tool you _were_ holding.
You sharpen the tools the way you sharpen anything else, by removing steel
to reproduce present contour a few microns back.
Bowls are covered in the 225 course.
: What's left out? Turn fast enough to remove the wood from the piece, and
: any faster simply builds danger (square of velocity, remember?).
I disagree -- the minimal speed to remove wood can easily cause a really
rough surface. Try turning a spindle or a pen at 200 rpm, then up the
speed to 2000 rpm. The faster speed gives a much better surface.
-- Andy Barss
OK, if you think you can substitute force for finesse, have at it.
Point is, you don't _have_ to. Speed doesn't remove the wood, the edge
does. Folks who say you need speed for smooth are either working with poor
edges or presentations. Does your plane produce a better surface if you
move it faster? How about your carving gouges?
Sharpen and present properly, and it's merely carving with a moving piece of
Even though I don't own a lathe and never operated one, but having seen
Norm do some turning over the years, I thought the show you mentioned
was a good introduction to the lathe. I am thinking about getting one
if I can convince SWMBO that I need it!
I think that Norm "confessed" that he was no expert and that
he was self-taught. It is like if you went to a neighbor who
was a pretty good woodworker and asked him for some "getting started"
tips on the lathe. Sort of a summary of what he has learned in
the past shows where he has used a lathe.
I respect Norm because he never has a problem with asking
for help from an expert in a field he is not familiar with -
steam bending wood, sharpening chisels, bowl turning pop
immediately into my mind.
One would certainly not expect a complete and thorough lesson in
25 minutes or less (my PBS in Phila had this show last Saturday,
Don't mess with Norm!
Seriously, happy woodworking!
As a confirmed "Normite", I can only say thatIn article
Recognized that Norm only had about 24 - 25 minutes (all
those "ads" on PBS for the sponsers tend to eat into the
show) to show what he knows about lathes. I agree that
it was an introduction. My only question, not a point, was -
his use of the calipers on spinnng stock. I have seen
him use a table saw without splitters or a guard, joiners
without push blocks, etc. all of these are safety "no,nos" and
wanted to know if he was doing something that wasn't safe.
He says he's self taught. Not a problem with that, many of
us are. But we all don't have a national TV show either. He
has some obligation (no?) to show us safe habits. I would
imagine this technique was cleared by the producer and
Time-Warner - now the owners of the show. There's a
local turner in our area who offers classes and if I can
get the money to go, I'm going to take one of his classes so
I get the ask the question again.
Anyways, I have always been a fan of his and my earliest
rememberances of him was at the National Woodworking Show
in LA about 10 or 12 years ago - he stood in the Delta booth
and there was NO ONE around - he had yet to become the
"beloved" figure he is now - then he was just starting NYW and
was the carpenter on TOH. I wanted to go over and chat and
didn't - sorry I never did. Oh well!
The reason you see the lack of guards and other safety items on TV and
mags is usual "to show whats being done better".
Eh...I can see that in showing a special setup for a magazine, but for
the actual cut? do you really need to see the actual cutting?
Isn't that kinda like watching paint dry?
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