Now what - what to get after Lathe?

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My wife has been interested in getting into woodturning (probably bowls), and I have an occasional interest in being able to turn furniture parts, so we bought a lathe on Black Friday. (Powermatic 3520C; not cheap but seems to be well reviewed, has a 5 year warranty, and seems to be a good size for what we want to do.) 

What do we need on top of the Lathe to make some beginner projects (say a tool handle and small bowl).

Set of 3 carbide tools? What size?
Chuck (to be honest I don't really know why/when one is needed)?

Thanks for helping a noob out.

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Dang! That's a nice black friday grab. I had my eyes on a new planer but i couldn't pull the trigger. Pickup still has some left on the loan so maybe next year. Hope you both enjoy the lathe.

Can't help on what to buy but will come back to read what is suggested.

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For a tool handle you can get away with the stuff that came with the lathe.

You might need a smaller tool rest, 14 inches is pretty big. Tool handles for screwdrivers are around 6 inches or so long. A Jacobs chuck for the tail stock would be a nice purchase as well, it'll let you drill out the handle on the lathe instead of trying to do it on the drill press. But you could just drill the blank on the drill press and then turn it. The main benefit of the Jacobs chuck in the lathe is you get a perfectly centered hole.

For bowls you'll want a chuck. A chuck is essentially just a work holding jig for stuff that rotates. It allows you to slide the tail stock out of the way and hollow out the bowl, while keeping the blank secure. It can secure pieces by clamping down the jaws onto a piece, or expanding the jaws to fill a recess.

Tool size? 1 to 2 feet should be fine. The longer the tool , the more control you have over it. If the cost difference is minimal longer is better.

Check out Jay Bates' candy dish video he does a spindle turning for the handle and a bowl turning for the dish.

He uses a spur and live center to rough out the handle blank, then cuts a tenon to go in the chuck for more secure work holding. For the platter he uses a faceplate to cut the recess for the chuck jaws and then the chuck to finish the platter.


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Congratulations on the new purchase and stepping into the "tar pit" with both feet.  The Powermatic was a strong first move, there aren't a lot of places to go up to from there.  The good news is there are still lots and lots of other tools, accessories and general turning gee gaws to spend any money you may have left on. Oh yeah, and wood.  

The question of what next has sort of been gone over in this section of the forum at least a couple of times and might be worth a search, particularly as there are differing opinions.  But I'll give you my views briefly.  

First you do need proper safety gear for you and your wife.  Safety glasses and face shield.  Protection for your lungs like an Eclipse filter mask, Trend Airshield, etc.  And possibly hearing protection, particularly if you use dust collection.  

The next thing you need is to join a woodturning club, check the American Association of Woodturners web site for one near you.  Advice, mentoring and camaraderie.

As for turning tools I am a strong proponent of carbide scrapers, particularly for new turners.  The Carter Product's Axe tools seem to me to be the best value.  They make radiused square, round and rounded diamond.  You could start with the first two, but I make fair use of the diamond.  You will also need a parting tool.  This could be HSS or carbide.  If you choose to go with traditional HSS tools (parting tool or otherwise) the tools themselves are a little cheaper at first, but you will need a sharpening system and the learning curve to use them (other than the parting tool) is longer and steeper than carbide scrapers.  Caveat:  do not confuse a Hunter style carbide tool with a scraper, they are intended to shear and are much more difficult to use.  To distinguish the two I would describe the Hunter type as a being pie pan or cupped shaped as opposed to flat on top.  

The lathe should have come with a live center, a star drive and a face plate, all of which you will need.  It is possible to turn a bowl off a face plate with a sacrificial foot, but a chuck is much easier.  Although a chuck is frequently used with the tailstock it can mount a piece for turning without the tailstock allowing you access to the inside of a bowl or hollow form.  Each chuck has a limited range of motion so there are different size jaws for different size work.  Nova is the most commonly available brand, but there are others.  

I recommend starting out with turning blocks from the store that are dry (no wax).  Green wood turning isn't difficult and may actually be easier, but it's a two stage process (turn>dry> turn) and there is a certain amount of bowl mortality in the drying process.  You want some early successes as you get started.  

Calipers, center finding gizmos, compass, sanding contraptions, kitchen tool parts...  Come to think of it the first thing you need are some catalogues, Craft Supply for a start.  

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Get a face shield first! I have a Uvex I got off Amazon. Then get good quality hearing protection. A member of our woodturning club was showing photos of his face after a piece of wood shattered. He is very lucky it wasn't any worse.

The rest of the things will depend on what you want to spend to start. The lathe is the cheapest part of turning. I look at shops that have a whole wall full of tools and wonder how they afford them. Part will depend on what you want to turn- pens, bowls and platters, hollow forms, etc. Riley and Mark have given a lot in detail for you.

Check out This group is dedicated specifically to wood turning. Great bunch just like here.

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What size turning tools should I get - it looks like the range from ~12" to ~30" total length, with the most common size seeming to be about 24". I can imagine that over time we might want to fill in the range, but to start with what's the most versatile size? (I imagine turning a "soup bowl" sized bowl might be my wife's canonical starter project).

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Are looking at Carbid scrapers or traditional HSS tools? 

If the later typically your spindle tools like gouge and skew will have shorter handles.  Bowl gouges will have longer handles.  

If you are looking at carbide scrapers they seem to come in 3 sizes.  The very short are for pens and such.  The large versions (I wanna say around 16" handle) are for full size work and the in between are for--I don't know--but apparently something in between.  Easy Wood does make one really long handled rougher.   

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