Beginners tools

discussion of the niceties of turning on a bow, bungee or pole lathe.

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Beginners tools

Postby TonyT » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:31 pm

I am working up to building a pole lathe (or maybe a treadle - I do have the base from an old sewing machine...)
Thing is, will I be able to get some results using the tools I have for my electric lathe, or do I have to start learning to forge hook tools before I have a go at building a lathe. In fact, another separate question, will hook tools give me good results on an electric lathe? I do a lot of deep end grain hollowing and I am always keen to find ways to make it easier...
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby gavin » Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:12 pm

TonyT wrote:I am working up to building a pole lathe (or maybe a treadle - I do have the base from an old sewing machine...)
Thing is, will I be able to get some results using the tools I have for my electric lathe, or do I have to start learning to forge hook tools before I have a go at building a lathe. In fact, another separate question, will hook tools give me good results on an electric lathe? I do a lot of deep end grain hollowing and I am always keen to find ways to make it easier...
Cheers
Tony

Let your first metabolic lathe be a reciprocating one i.e. not using the treadle from sewing machine.
You will get results from powered lathe tools but you'll get better results with with shallower bevel angles of approx 25-30 degrees
Hook tools and powered lathes do not mix well. Wear eye protection if you do use them. There is a good reason hooked tools are not sold for powered lathes. They grab something fierce.
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby TonyT » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:10 am

Thanks for the input Gavin - pole lathe it is (or maybe I'll do a bungee one, but using a bow instead...)
I have some old (but good) tools I can grind to a better angle without spoiling my best ones.
And perhaps you've saved me serious injury - no hook tools on the powered lathe, got it! :)
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T
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby mstibs » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:23 pm

Mike Abbott recommends for the pole lathe a large roughing gauge (mine is 38 mm), a lady finger approx. 12 mm and a straight or skew chisel - the broader the better (32mm here) if I remember right.
Saxons. Were good wood-turners, they had to be because they were poor potters...from "A Short History of Woodturning with the Pole-lathe" by Brian G. Howarth; My bilingual (de/en) Blog: http://mstibs.wordpress.com
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby jrccaim » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:44 am

Here I am einig (as one) with mstibs. And also with Gavin. And not for the first time either. So you have a pole lathe. Thing is, what do you want to do with it? For example you might want to turn bowls or bowl-like objects. Perfectly valid. For this you will need hook tools. I really think this aspect belongs in the bowl-turning major heading of this forum. On the other hand you might want to turn what for lack of a better name I will call candlesticks. This is a huge area which includes not just candlesticks but tool handles, bats of all kinds, children's rattles, spurtles ... go look at Mike Abbot's books. For this you will not need hook tools. They will get in your way. For this you need (1) a roughing gouge (2) a ladyfinger gouge of about 10-12mm and (3) a skew chisel perhaps 12 mm also. The roughing gouge should be as wide as you can get it. I use a 25 mm carpenter's gouge and it is much too narrow. Mstib's 38mm much better. 50 mm a dream. You see, you have to get things down to cylinder form before you do anything fancy so the more wood the roughing gouge removes at one go the better. Then shape your candlestick with ladyfinger gouge and skew.

It is perfectly true that a real expert with a hook tool could do all of the above with a couple of hooks. And turn a couple of bowls out into the bargain. Maybe even with one hook! But when you are starting out I would really recommend the three tools above because they are much easier to master. None of us are born expert. We learn from making mistakes. So go slow at first.

When I was starting out I bought a set of (power lathe) turning tools; asiatic imports. Cheap, though. This is not a bad way to go. I got the ladyfinger and the skew in the set, plus a parting tool which I use occasionally. But nowadays I would recommend regrinding your own tools. I reground a skew out of a cheap asiatic tool which cost about $1. I retempered it and it works just as well as my "commercial" skew. Do not think you need those long handles that the power people use. They are fighting a 1 Hp motor, or 750Kw as we say nowadays. You are bucking a one legpower motor! You do not need the leverage. The only place where I would really spend money is on the roughing gouge, it is hard to find (or make) 50 mm shallow gouges. But they are made in the UK at least.

Final point in a much-too-long post. If you turn get yourself a grinder of some sort. You need to spend as much time sharpening as you do turning.
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby TonyT » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:20 pm

Thank you very much for your input. It really is appreciated.
As for a large roughing gouge - I really wouldn't want to regrind what is almost certainly my best tool (certainly the most expensive!) that I use on my power lathe. I am intending to make a prototype lathe this week. Since I keep my tools pretty sharp anyway, I will have a go with my roughing gouge, and I do have a huge, cheap and nasty one I can regrind without shedding any tears if it isn't successful. I am glad you mentioned cheap asiatic imports, jrccaim - I probably wouldn't have thought of using mine (which I was given and instantly consigned to the back of the shed).

I was planning on trying spindle turning first - I had the idea that would be more straightforward to start with...? And if I can readily get all that sorted, I will have a go at bowl turning when/if I can sort some hooks.

Thanks again
T
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby gavin » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:45 pm

TonyT wrote: I will have a go at bowl turning when/if I can sort some hooks.


Also you will have to sort a different lathe to turn bowls. It's possible on a spindle-lathe but not worth the bother. Go and find someone else who has one - you'll learn loads, even if they only ever made one bowl more than you have. Have you declared your location? If not, why not? There may be someone near you with bowl lathe who'll share skills. Are you going to Bodgers Ball in Cambridge 2013? There you'll see different ways of doing things. :D :D :D Or go on a course with someone to teach you bowl turning - there's quite a few of us who can do this.
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby TonyT » Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:18 pm

I would very much like to talk to somebody who knows more about this than I. I notice the only Lancastrian member of the association is in Merseyside, so I have hesitated to contact them directly.

I have had a little play today. I disconnected the belt drive from my powered lathe, so I had 2 live centres, then tried using hand bow power and a variety of tools which I had. Best results really seemed to come from carving chisels, but pretty much everything I tried (turning tools, carpentry chisels, even a knife and an axe) would give some result. I know I was using only small spindles, and hand bows won't have the power of a proper pole lathe, but I seem to conclude that really it is the sharpness of the tool that is more important than it's profile...?
T
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby gavin » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:26 pm

TonyT wrote:I would very much like to talk to somebody who knows more about this than I. I notice the only Lancastrian member of the association is in Merseyside, so I have hesitated to contact them directly.

:? Why? Are they violent there?

TonyT wrote:I have had a little play today. I disconnected the belt drive from my powered lathe, so I had 2 live centres, then tried using hand bow power and a variety of tools which I had. Best results really seemed to come from carving chisels, but pretty much everything I tried (turning tools, carpentry chisels, even a knife and an axe) would give some result. I know I was using only small spindles, and hand bows won't have the power of a proper pole lathe, but I seem to conclude that really it is the sharpness of the tool that is more important than it's profile...?
T

I applaud your willingness to have a go with resources to hand. Can you post pictures of your swarf? Is it long ribbons, translucent? and less than 5 mm wide? If you cannot find some one for free near you , I suggest you seek training from an expert. If you are in Lancaster you are 33 mins from Kendal where livesSteve Tomlinson. Get a days training from him. It will be valuable. If you cannot afford that but have a workshop with pricey power tools, re-consider your priorities.
You could go to Coppice Association NW's weekend in woods in May - but I would not wait till then.
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby SeanHellman » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:02 pm

With respect Gavin, I have met and seen many people turn bowls on their pole lathe and I have done so myself. You will need to sort out a new tool rest. A normal spindle pole lathe is quite capable of handling small bowls and that is how I recommend starting especially if you already have a pole lathe. Any bowl over 8inch diameter or so I would recommend a purpose built lathe as you will want something sturdier. If building a lathe for bowl turning then make a big sturdy one. It is also easy to make another set of poppets for spindle turning

On the whole I use acute and very sharp tools, carpenters gouges work a lot better than electric turning tools
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby JonnyP » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:28 am

Just get going with what you have Tony.. You will soon realise what works n what doesn't. Check out how I got going, using just what I had.. http://www.bushcraftliving.com/forums/s ... php?t=6369
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby jrccaim » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:36 am

JonnyP wrote:Just get going with what you have Tony.. You will soon realise what works n what doesn't. Check out how I got going, using just what I had.. http://www.bushcraftliving.com/forums/s ... php?t=6369


Couldn't agree more. Look, power lathes evolved from pole lathes via treadle lathes. So what I find is that most tools designed for power lathes work just fine with pole lathes. Browsing through YouTube videos I see all kinds of double-bevel super-fancy strange grinds on gouges (for instance). Nah. Power lathe turns maybe 2000 RPM . We would have to be very strong to get half that. And we would achieve it only for tenths of seconds. But this does not matter. The super-fancy grinds are superflous on a pole lathe. With your leg, you will get your turning done. Most important feature I think we need: a sharp edge. And gouges are notoriously hard to sharpen. I look at it this way: if I am gettting lovely long strips from my pole lathes, why I've done my sharpening right. If I get sawdust instead, it is back to sharpening again. In this case sawdust is an indication that you are scraping, not turning. Any idiot can scrape. With any kind of tool. And indeed there is a time when push comes to shove and you have to scrape. But it will not have the beautiful finish of something really turned. I strive for a mirror edge on gouges. This is certainly debatable. I might be obsessive. But I find my mirror edges work much better than anything else. It does take practice, experience. and raw skill to put on a mirror finish. And, since we are turning by leg-power, we have to compensate for the motor on a powered lathe. I occasionally turn wood cylinders on my Taig lathe, AKA Peatol lathe in the UK. Powered by a 1/3 Hp motor. I am always amazed how easy it is! But I am using carbide-tipped tools and spinning 2000 rpm. The wood doesn't have a chance. Resistance is futile, as Darth Vader would say.

Amazingly the criteria for metal turning agree. If you are getting nice long shavings you are on the right track. Even in steel. If you are not, regardless of tooling, you need not some other design of pole lathe. You do need to sharpen your tools. But that is out of scope for this post. I have put some thoughts on the subject in my blog.
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby TonyT » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:11 pm

I WISH I was making long, translucent ribbons! :)
I also wish I had spare cash to go on a course, or even take some tuition, but, in line with the global economy, I don't have that sort of disposable income. The other side of that coin is that I DO have some time, so I think I may have to learn by trial and error. I am certain progress would be much faster with a little expert input (and I am very grateful for all the opinions posted here), but I reckon I should be able to get something that works... eventually! :)
Thanks all for the encouragement
T
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Re: Beginners tools

Postby Shankar » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:57 pm

"Resistance is futile" the Borg in Star Trek rather than Darth Vader I think you will find. Sorry OCD for Sci-Fi as much as for mirror finishes in edges for bodgers. ;)

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Re: Beginners tools

Postby jrccaim » Tue Mar 12, 2013 6:26 am

If you are not making nice long shavings there are several possible reasons.

The one that has plagued me for many years is that the tool is simply not sharp enough. You think it is. But It is not. It should pare your fingernail without pushing. Now, when you rough out from zero it it is very difficult to get long shavings. But once you get it down to roughly cyilndrical is possible. If not, read on.

Your tools may be sharp enough. But perhaps you are holding the thing at the wrong angle. There are a lot of variations on this theme. The way I do it, learned from Mike Abbot's books, (if you are using a gouge, say) is to let the bevel rub the work. It will cut not at all. Now raise up your lever hand ever so slightly. Oh very slightly. Blade goes down, of course. You get shavings that way. You will find that if you raise hand too much you will stall. If you raise your hand it somewhat more you will start scraping. There is no sin in scraping. It's just not a way to remove nice curly shavings quickly. Associated with this is depth of cut. If you try to remove too much again you will either stall or scrape. Do not be impatient. You have but one legpower. And you have to coordinate the b** leg and the tool and the feed and... no wonder power lathes caught on! It is hard to learn. Took me ages. Once you learn you will wonder what all the fuss is about.

It may also be that your tool rest is not not at the right height. For this reason I love adjustable tool rests. I go to some lengths to make mine adjustable. Every turning for me seems to involve jiggering the height. The books all say to make tool rests at center height. I like mine below CH. Maybe 50 mm. But again, there is a lot of individual preference. And possibly the bevel angles you tools are ground to. On a metal-cutting lathe if your tool is not at exact center height you will have catastrophe. But we are not turning metal here!

I found it very useful to practice with scrap wood. Never mind form. Just get shavings. There is a "feel" to it that I cannot describe. And in the final stages of turning you will resort to scraping, probably. No sin. Just slow, but that's what you want when you have a turning on final approach. You want to remove one skosh from a turning. Say 0.1 mm = 1skosh. Go ahead and scrape!
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