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Some of my fun students have been my grandchildren; I have taken the time with each of them who have expressed a desire to learn the art of woodturning. Shown here is David (grandchild number 9) who badly wanted to "turn his first bowl". And he did. It is my hope that at least one of our grandchildren will take to creative turning and carry the art form even further. Perhaps David will be that one.

In Part One of our 'About Turning' series, I discussed the pros and cons for turning both green (wet) and dry woods. I strongly feel that such basic information is a logical starting point for both beginner and intermediate turners who come to my studio for turning instructions. Since the different woods produce different results, it is also good information for non-turners---i.e., the collectors of wood art. In other words, I think it makes sense to begin the pursuit of turning excellence by learning as much as you can about the woods you will be working with.

In my experience as a teacher, I have found that many students want to immediately start by turning a bowl. But, the fact is that is the least effective way to learn the art of turning wood. I believe the student comes out ahead when he or she first learns the basics. And then conscientiously practices them---over and over. Thus I always begin by introducing the lathe novice to spindle turning, starting with a 3 x 3 x 12 in. block of wood and the spindle roughing gouge. Though initially intimidated by a square piece of wood spinning rapidly, the typical student quickly learns how to turn that square block of wood into a round 'dowel'. And for many this success on the first try births the first stage of being 'hooked' on turning.

This freshly-cut wood is from trees downed by winter storms in East Hampton, L.I. Along with some ambrosia maple (see piece in foreground) the pile includes some copper beech, a wood one doesn't get that often on Long Island...

Decorated bowls come from wood such as that shown above. This collection was featured in an issue of Early American Life magazine.

Initially, the aspiring turner must become familiar with four basic spindle-turning tools-- the roughing and spindle gouges, skew and parting tool. I believe there are two advantages to learn how to turn by first zeroing in on spindle turning;

  1. In a relatively short time, the student develops confidence in his or her ability to handle the sharp cutting tools and,

  3. The fundamental rules for turning a spindle also apply to bowl turning. From the get-go, the student learns the proper way to make initial contact between tool and spinning wood, how to maintain proper cutting edge position and the importance of maintaining bevel contact.

Generally, the beginner reaches his comfort zone relatively quickly; this is achieved when he is confident about approaching a spinning wood blank with a razor sharp tool. When this point is reached, he is ready to learn the techniques for turning a bowl.--- HW

To read the first installment about how to turn wood, please click here.

LEARN TO TURN----Classes for beginners and intermediates

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