Skew Techniques

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

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Skew Techniques

Postby David Sims » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:48 am

Hey there,

Are there any specific skew techniques that would help me use my skew on my pole lathe? I am fairly new to pole lathe turning and this is one tool that I have a heck of a time using. It always ends up riding all over the place mucking things up.

Original I was going to make my own tools, but I ended up buying the Ashley Iles Carbon steel set and really like it. They take a great edge and cut really well. I got the 4 tool set. Here is a link so you can see what I am talking about: http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/stor ... ning_Tools

The only tool I cannot seem to master out of this set is the skew chisel. I could really use some help with that one tool. Anyone care to post a short vid showing proper technique? :D Written help would be appreciated as well but might be a bit harder to understand or say vs seeing it in action.

Thanks in advance.

Dave
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby gavin » Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:58 pm

I am not aware of any videos.

But here are my tips:
If your skew is say 30 mm wide, make sure you only offer less than 15 mm up to the work. With less than half the width touching the work, you've less chance of a dig in.
Cut down hill i.e. from bigger diameter toward a smaller diameter. Even a slight slope makes a lot of difference.

Hold the handle of the tool so that the cutting edge is nearly parallel to the axis of rotation.

Let the bevel rub. If you are not capable of pulling off thin shavings 3 to 5 mm wide with other tools, then you should not be using skew.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby Robin Fawcett » Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:57 am

Trying to explain in writing how to use a skew is like trying to explain how to knit or write - virtually impossible. If you were this side of the pond I'd suggest a days tuition with me Dave!
The way I got good at using the skew was years ago when someone asked me to make 50 coconut shy balls... they eventually took 3 days to make but the real payment was the skill I developed and experience of making them. I suggest you mount a lump of wood in your lathe and play with it - don't try to make anything - form a ball at the end of the spindle and have a go at smoothing it with the skew. Try it sharp point up and sharp point down - if you get a catch, try and work out why. Above all try to relax and enjoy it - Practise & Perseverance (and make sure the tool's really sharp).
Maybe I'll have to make a Youtube vid on Skew Techniques for the polelathe... Some of my vids do show me using a skew and may give some insight but the camera angles don't really show how I'm presenting it to the work.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby davestovell » Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:10 am

I was having trouble with the skew until I decided that my very sharp skew was not sharp enough. I stopped stropping on leather and now strop on MDF with Autosol paste and it made all the difference. Now I am using the skew more than most of my other tools. Stropping on MDF may not work for you but whatever your preferred method of honing is, I wouldn't even bother to try using it until it is super super scary sharp. The sharpness allows me to gently take very fine cuts cross grain producing very fine 'angle hair' (as Robin Fawcett calls it). I find that I am honing the skew quite often and I use the 'angel hair' as an indicator as to when to re-hone, just a couple of rubs and it's back to working sharp.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby jrccaim » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:43 am

Totally agree with everyone! What a nice change :)

davestovell wrote:I was having trouble with the skew until I decided that my very sharp skew was not sharp enough. I stopped stropping on leather and now strop on MDF with Autosol paste and it made all the difference. Now I am using the skew more than most of my other tools. Stropping on MDF may not work for you ... of rubs and it's back to working sharp.


Myself I use a leather strop, glued to a 2x4 piece, and charged with Jeweler's rouge. After all Autosol (TM, trademark, by the way) is is a fine abrasive in some solvent. So is rouge, minus the solvent. Any sufficently fine abrasive will to the trick. There is Aluminium oxide (ruby in the raw), there is Tripoli. There is plain old old Ajax (UK probably different name in the UK; kitchen sink cleanser). and pumice. I suspect Ajax is pumice. Autosol now available in the USA, from Lee Valley at least. On to MDF: for wood it is about as flat as you can get. Very nice for stropping. I happen to have an enormous supply of rouge and I still stick by it, but we are in total agreement. I use leather, and I like the very slight bit of "give" it has. But that's just me. Mirror edge, that's the ticket. Of course since I got my watchmaker's loupes I have been horrified at what I thought were mirror edges; but that's another topic.

Robin Fawcett wrote:Trying to explain in writing how to use a skew is like trying to explain how to knit or write - virtually impossible. ... If you were this side of the pond I'd suggest a days tuition with me Dave!
The way I got good at using the skew was years ago when someone asked me to make 50 coconut shy balls...
Maybe I'll have to make a Youtube vid on Skew Techniques for the polelathe... Some of my vids do show me using a skew and may give some insight ...


I will watch your video, if you make it, with not just interest. I'll watch it over and over! Guaranteed lots of views :) I use skews constantly. I do not pretend to be a master. Still learning!

My uncle, who was a medical doctor, was very interested in metal turning (strange but true). So he took tuition from an Italian maestro. The maestro told him to (made him!) make a cube on a lathe. Believe it or not it can be done. But not on a pole lathe, takes a chuck to do it. As I think of it, probably a four-jaw chuck. Takes some doing. Point is, he was forced to learn stuff way beyond his pay grade, just like Robin with his coconut shy balls. Decades afterward, my uncle still talked about how he learned to think about things in a different way. And so Robin's advice is oh, so on the mark. Pick up the tool Try to cut, as Monty Python would say, a dead parrot out with it! Well, I exaggerate. A candlestick would do just as well. Push it! If you can actually cut a dead parrot out with it I expect a You Tube video :)
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby ToneWood » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:44 pm

jrccaim wrote:...My uncle, who was a medical doctor, was very interested in metal turning (strange but true). So he took tuition from an Italian maestro. The maestro told him to (made him do it!) make a cube on a lathe. Believe it or not it can be done.... Decades afterward, my uncle still talked about how he learned to think about things in a different way. ...)
Interesting. My brother reckoned English gunsmiths apprentices used to (perhaps still do) have to make a smooth cube of metal using files, as an exercise in filing. We know a gunsmith who served his apprenticeship at Holland and Holland in London, so perhaps the story came from there.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby Robin Fawcett » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:06 pm

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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby bulldawg_65 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:09 am

Thanks Robin!

I just started turning. (I'm using the dreaded electric lathe for now. I do plan on building a human powered on soon) Your explanation on how to use the skew just made it click for me. Thanks so much! :D
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby davestovell » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:08 am

Great video as usual Robin.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby davestovell » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:55 pm

I recently acquired a curved skew from ebay. I find it much easier than a straight skew, any ideas or opinions?
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby jrccaim » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:55 am

Erm, not quite sure what you mean by a curved skew. Is it concave or convex? Maybe picture would help. Biggest problem I find with the skew is that the corners dig in. I find it is a matter of practice. You must present the tool to the wood so you don't have any dig-in. If the skew were curved then you could use it as a sort of scraper. But then I don't like the idea of scraping although I have done it before and will do it again. Scraping provides a dull finish to the turning. Might as well use sandpaper. That is why the skew is so effective. It shaves. Nice little long chips curve off it. Got to be sharp! Else it won't shave, it will scrape. It is true that you will get the form correct by scraping, but the finish leaves something to be desired. Moral: if nice long shavings are coming off, you are doing it right. If what you are getting is sawdust, you are scraping. Sharpen that skew. Try different angles of attack. One of these days I will get it right myself. :) And this is why I like adjustable tool rests. Lets me try different angles of attack.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby gavin » Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:02 am

jrccaim wrote:Erm, not quite sure what you mean by a curved skew.


Image curved or oval cross section - I think this is what was meant.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby davestovell » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:51 am

No I don't mean an oval skew.

This is what I have but it has a bevel on both sides

curved skew.jpg
curved skew.jpg (202.43 KiB) Viewed 13224 times
Last edited by davestovell on Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby Robin Fawcett » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:13 am

Richard Raffan says he grinds his skews with a convex curve to the blade edge which "broadens their use". I've never tried one - but as I said in my film I do prefer the oval cross-section. Power lathe turners use a skew which has a round cross-section...
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Re: Skew Techniques

Postby jrccaim » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:44 am

This is interesting. Indeed I thought you had the tool portrayed in Gavin's post. I can see places where it would be useful (not indispensable). I am now trying to figure out why the bevels on both sides would help. Only thing I can think of is that it does tone down the corners a bit. Maybe they don't dig in so much. But corner dig-in is overcome with practice. However when you are starting out perhaps it would be useful to round the corners of a regular skew a bit. I would not object out loud. But philosophically I don't like it. The sharp corners are an essential feature of the skew. It is much like training-wheels on a bicycle. Well-meaning parents often fit them. In my opinion, and it is just an opinion, I did not climb Mt Sinai and find it graven on stone, that they are doing the children no favor because they will take twice as long to learn with them. When I learned to ride a bike I had no training wheels. Bike went over twice, and after that no more. Nothing like a fall on hard concrete to get your bike-riding down pat. So it is with the skew. So when you are learning it you fall over. That is the edge digs in. Well, tough, it was a practice piece. Next time you are a little more careful and so we learn. With a sharp-cornered skew I can cut tapers in nothing flat. And sometimes I even let the sharp corner dig in just a tad. Goes faster. As long as it doesen't stop the lathe, and sometimes it does. Oops. Back off, MacDuff. Leonardo da Vinci said it well. "Experience is the name we give to our own mistakes."
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