Woodworking without woodturning


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Hi all. So many times when looking for the next project, I come across a project I'd like to build but there is some turned part of the project...and I don't turn wood. I end up skipping over any project that has any round parts. I've been tempted to go buy a lathe but feel there is so much I still need to learn in woodworking without trying to learn woodturning. Unfortunately, I don't know anybody that does woodturning either. I can't be the only one in this situation. Thoughts or suggestions?

Cheers,

Aaron

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What are the round parts you need? Things like table legs can be ordered online in a wide variety of styles and sizes. 

If you want to do it yourself, see if there is a “maker space” near you that has lathes. If you have a Woodcraft/Rockler near you, they often have wood turning classes. You could get in touch with the instructor to see if you could do a slightly different project than the class, or use the class to make a connection with someone that owns a lathe in the area. 

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On a narrower side of it, small items like pulls, knobs and pins can be turned on a drill press. I don't have a lathe, either, but often turn smaller items using rasps and sanding sticks on my drill press. Certainly not as handy as having a lathe, but it gets the job done.

I have intentionally resisted getting a lathe because I know what a black hole turning can be. But I'm like you in needing a turned piece now and then, so I'm taking a turning course this semester at the community college, mainly so that I'll have access to the lathes when I need one.

Good advice above, maker spaces, schools and retail woodworking stores all offer access and some classes. There are also a ton of Youtube videos with excellent info. One nice thing about videos is that the camera can zoom in to see the position and orientation of the cutting edge as it makes contact. That's hard to see in a classroom setting.

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That is a great looking desk.  The turnings are not super complicated, but getting four matching legs does take some work. You could turn it on just about any lathe with a bed long enough, and do it with carbide tools.  I’d suggest following up on the suggestion of finding a turning instructor at a Woodcraft or similar shop. 

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Your have my sympathy and understanding.  I, too, am without a lathe because.....

On 8/21/2018 at 9:48 AM, Mick S said:

I have intentionally resisted getting a lathe because I know what a black hole turning can be.

and also lack of space and .....

On 8/21/2018 at 8:24 AM, LazarusDB said:

I've been tempted to go buy a lathe but feel there is so much I still need to learn in woodworking without trying to learn woodturning.

 To everything...turn, turn, turn......

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Woodturning might be part of woodworking in a a generic sense, but it's really kind of it's own thing.  I know lots of turners who just turn, they don't do much, if any, wood working.  I've been to pen turners club meetings at member's shops, where they might own 3-4 lathe's, but not a table saw or a router. 

It's kinda of like a piano player in a band.  The band can be fine on their own without a piano, and the pianist can make a good solo career, but put them together, and everything is better. 

So if you have an interest in it, don't worry about how much or how little you know about 'standard' wood working, it's a completely different beast. 

It does have a very low barrier to entry, just get a cheap lathe, and some simple beginners tools, and you're off to the races.  But turning is what most drug dealers must have based their business model on.  The first taste may be free or cheap, but anything beyond that, you're gonna pay.    You start off doing simple spindles, goblets, etc, then you need this to do that, and then I need to get one those do hickeys so I can do that other thing....  

But if you're looking for some sets of turned pulls or whatever, post up in the turner's corner.  Somebody might be willing to turn them for you at a reasonable cost. 

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This afternoon I spent about 3 hours on a lathe at school, more than I've spent cumulatively since 1988. It is somewhat like riding a bicycle. Muscle has memory - faded, yet intact. And it's addictive. I have an excellent instructor - Laura Yeats

When I made the comment above about it being a black hole, I wasn't referring so much to the cost or accessories, but to the addictive nature of it. I've know so many people over the years who no longer make furniture (talented furniture makers!) who only turn now. 

 

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I was in a similar boat.  I do very little turning but added a lathe to my shop purely because of the same reasons you have.  I'm not very good at turning and don't claim to be.  I do know enough to turn a handle or pull if I need one tho.  I also don't have a lot of interest in turning.

There's lots of inexpensive options out there.  I started just about as cheaply as you can get and have found myself adding a few items here and there as the projects I wanted to do called for them.  I still don't have a single item to turn a pen but, I do have enough to do some basic turnings when I need to.

 

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On 8/21/2018 at 8:48 AM, Mick S said:

On a narrower side of it, small items like pulls, knobs and pins can be turned on a drill press. I don't have a lathe, either, but often turn smaller items using rasps and sanding sticks on my drill press. Certainly not as handy as having a lathe, but it gets the job done.

I've resisted using (abusing?) my drill press this way, assuming/fearing that the bearings weren't designed for lateral force and would acquire wear and runout over time.  Do you have a sense for how much this happens?

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9 hours ago, Mick S said:

This afternoon I spent about 3 hours on a lathe at school, more than I've spent cumulatively since 1988. It is somewhat like riding a bicycle. Muscle has memory - faded, yet intact. And it's addictive. I have an excellent instructor - Laura Yeats

When I made the comment above about it being a black hole, I wasn't referring so much to the cost or accessories, but to the addictive nature of it. I've know so many people over the years who no longer make furniture (talented furniture makers!) who only turn now. 

 

Glad your class is going well! I hadn't recently thought about checking the local community colleges for woodworking classes, but will look into that this weekend.

I have also found it to be a black hole in the addictive sense, and quickly found myself spending all of my shop time at the lathe. I got a bit burnt out of in after causally suggesting to my wife that I could turn pens as Christmas gifts for family members last year. Before I realized what was happening, I was turning dozens of pens for family, friends, coworkers, etc. Now I turn an occasional bowl or other item for a fun change of pace in the shop, or use it when I need knobs or something else for a project.

8 hours ago, Pondhockey said:

I've resisted using (abusing?) my drill press this way, assuming/fearing that the bearings weren't designed for lateral force and would acquire wear and runout over time.  Do you have a sense for how much this happens?

I'd imagine the wood piece would deflect or break before you are able to apply enough force to cause damage, unless you are attempting to turn something large.

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9 hours ago, Pondhockey said:

I've resisted using (abusing?) my drill press this way, assuming/fearing that the bearings weren't designed for lateral force and would acquire wear and runout over time.  Do you have a sense for how much this happens?

Lots of people use a drill press with sanding drums. I sometimes put a wire wheel in mine for putting texture on parts. The amount of force I exert against the part is necessarily minimal. The part will come loose if you push too hard. 

The bearings in a drill press are no different than the bearings in most smallish lathes, router spindles, etc., all of which take much more lateral abuse than what I'm doing on the drill press.

 

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I recently discovered that these drill press lathe attachments exist:

https://www.amazon.ca/Woodstock-D4088-Lathe-Attachment-Drill/dp/B005W16YJS/ref=sr_1_1/143-0305279-9664667?ie=UTF8&qid=1535038056&sr=8-1&keywords=lathe+attachment+for+drill+press

Does anyone here have any experience or comments about them?  I thought it may make a reasonable tool for smaller turned items without having to invest in an actual lathe.

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I've thought about that. Then i also think that spending $100 more might be worth it to just get one of these little guys.

https://www.amazon.com/WEN-3420-Variable-Speed-Benchtop/dp/B072JBP61N/ref=lp_9022386011_1_1?s=power-hand-tools&ie=UTF8&qid=1535040435&sr=1-1

They are cheap and so far I've had a few WEN tools that turned out ok for infrequent use. I'd like to do some tool handles and other small things.

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I was trained not to turn. Decades ago I had worked for an old cabinetmaker. A great experience. Lucky for me. He had a lathe. I played with it a little. He asked me if I was willing to work for 50 cents an hour. That cured me. We farmed it out then and I do that now. I like the tip from Mick. Why didn't I think of that?

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When I was 8 or so I turned a spindle under the watchful eye of my grandfather.   While I still have  that spindle I didn't think much about turning for years.  Then an article came out in Shopnotes, I think, about how to turn pens on your drill press.  I turned about 50 pen/pencil sets for Christmas that year but we didn't have the money or space for a lathe.   So I quit thinking about turning again.  Then I retired, built my shop and had some space for a lathe.   Found a nice used one and set it up. Now I use it as a "break" when I have a need to do "something" just not regular woodworking.   For me that is a perfect spot for the lathe.  I am not very good a turning, but then I am not very good at woodworking either so it all works out.

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14 hours ago, Pondhockey said:

I've resisted using (abusing?) my drill press this way, assuming/fearing that the bearings weren't designed for lateral force and would acquire wear and runout over time.  Do you have a sense for how much this happens?

I have the same concern since my drill press is on the cheap side. So when I have to turn a small part, I use an old power drill mounted on a base I originally made for a disc sander:

post-17356-0-14532400-1427408030.thumb.jpg.e332353205692fc6cae302537e76d8b7.jpg

I don't have space for a lathe, but I think I would enjoy turning on the real thing.

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2 hours ago, Chestnut said:

I've thought about that. Then i also think that spending $100 more might be worth it to just get one of these little guys.

https://www.amazon.com/WEN-3420-Variable-Speed-Benchtop/dp/B072JBP61N/ref=lp_9022386011_1_1?s=power-hand-tools&ie=UTF8&qid=1535040435&sr=1-1

They are cheap and so far I've had a few WEN tools that turned out ok for infrequent use. I'd like to do some tool handles and other small things.

I've seen the little WEN lathe go on sale at Home Depot for ~$100.

I have a couple of HF versions of the same one and they are OK little lathes for stuff like pens, tool handles, ornaments. Only issue I really have with them is the tail stock wheel can be hard to turn. They are variable speed too, which is a nice little bonus.

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Learn to turn, my brother! Learn to turn. 

 

It will make you a better woodworker. 

 

I am going to say this as respectfully as I can - try not to think of turning as different from your other areas of woodworking. Sure, it uses slightly different tools, but it involves: planning, preparation, execution, surface planing, detail work, joinery, finishing - and other aspects that are done in other non-turning avenues of woodworking. IOW, learning to turn will make you a better woodworker in all other areas. It shouldn't be thought of as an "either or", but more, as an extension of your woodworking. Plus, it's SUPER fun and you get the pleasure of finishing the project on the same day you start it! (Most of the time, anyway.) 

My advice:  

Pick yourself up a mini or midi lathe, a starter set of turning tools and a means of sharpening them. 

Turning will demand that you sharpen your tools with a frequency and sharpness that (probably) exceeds what you have had to do with chisels and plane irons in the past. This is such an important and  fundamental core skill  - and being proficient on a lathe will ensure that you are an equally proficient sharpener. And, again, you will be better for it! 

 

Take care

 

 

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19 minutes ago, applejackson said:

Turning will demand that you sharpen your tools with a frequency and sharpness that (probably) exceeds what you have had to do with chisels and plane irons in the past.

 

I agree on frequency, but not on sharpness. I don't think it's necessary to take your lathe chisels to a sharpness beyond bench chisels and plane irons. The turners I know use the lathe chisels straight from the 120 grit wheel on the bench grinder. From what I've seen on youtube this isn't an uncommon practice.

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On 8/21/2018 at 8:07 AM, LazarusDB said:

This most recent example is the desk on the cover of the latest issue of Fine Woodworking. Thanks for the tips.

If you are going to do much of that, get a lathe.  If you want to put off falling into the vortex, I would recommend the bounty of woodworking (say, the previous dozen or so issues of FWW) that does not have large spinny parts or curliques for the next few years.  The occasional turned pull or table leg can readily be had without buying and housing the tools to make them.

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2 hours ago, JohnG said:

I agree on frequency, but not on sharpness. I don't think it's necessary to take your lathe chisels to a sharpness beyond bench chisels and plane irons. The turners I know use the lathe chisels straight from the 120 grit wheel on the bench grinder. From what I've seen on youtube this isn't an uncommon practice.

Maybe not more sharp, but certainly just as sharp, and a heckuva lot sharper than any factory delivered edge. I use a Tormek and I get a razor sharp, polished edge on my turning tools and my Chisels and planes but you're right, I misspoke about them needing to be sharper. The frequency with which you need to sharpen most of your turning tools is exponentially more than Chisels because turning hits the blade countless times per session. Nuff said.

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