I like to turn wood. It’s just fun. The log is spinning at speeds you can’t imagine, wood chips are flying off everywhere, VERY bad things can happen at any second if you’re not paying attention. Really, this is right in my wheelhouse.
To turn wood you really only need two things, a lathe and a chisel. Some safety gear is probably a pretty good idea if you care about your vision or your hearing, but hey, I’m not here to judge you.
“But lathe’s cost thousands of dollars!!!” This is true, but you can get cheaper models. The one I use was 250 bucks from Harbor freight. Is it fancy? No. Does it work? Yes. I also bought a Bowl Chuck because I like making bowls. That ran 125 bucks or so because I wanted one that probably wouldn’t release the bowl and smack me in the head. So far, that’s only happened once and it was more of a graze to the neck. If I were shorter though…
Anyhoodle, one of the other reasons I love woodturning is that you can go outside and pick up a oak branch or something, maybe the width of your arms, and ten minutes later you’ve got a candle stick! Or a baseball bat! Or a dowel rod! Really, it doesn’t take long at all once you learn how to use it.
The dowel rod thing isn’t a joke. It’s really cool to put together a table with pegs and glue and know that you even made the pegs yourself from sticks out of the forest. C’mon…that’s awesome! (right?)
My wife even made an artistic piece that resembles the silhouette of a sexy, curvy lady out of Tree of Heaven (an invasive tree, double win!)
Bowls take a little more skill, so I won’t talk about those here in this post. But here’s what you do to make cool stuff…
Lock your wood into the machine. Then turn it on. Don’t do those two steps out of order, the results are not hilarious. Anyway, get ‘er spinning and you’ll notice some wobbly action in the wood. That’s because it’s not perfectly balanced. You can adjust this to get it closer, but ultimately, you will balance it with your chisel.
Gently, you bring your flat chisel into the spinning wood and watch the bark chips go everywhere. You can leave strips of bark on certain parts for coolness, if you’re into coolness.
Once you have the bark mostly removed, you just make neat designs with your chisel. If you bought a whole set of chisels with round ones and stuff, you can make different designs and little cupped edges and all sorts of things. Chisel sets are around 50 bucks for a very cheap set (these would need to be sharpened regularly, but you can do that with a sander or a grinder, it’s not hard). Like any other hobby, insanely expensive options also exist. You can spend 250$ on a single chisel, but I’m not the kind of person to do that. I mean, I make beer bottles…
Then it’s time to sand! Sanding is my favorite part. Mostly because I really hate sanding in pretty much every other situation. With a lathe, though, it’s so damn easy! You just hold the sand paper under the spinning wood for a few seconds and you’re done. Go to higher grit paper for a smoother finish.
Speaking of finish, you can make that new candle stick shine with a number of things. I have used beeswax, leather, the back of a spoon, olive oil, lard, the fleshy part of my thumb (should have thought that through more), and cured salami. In all the cases, you run that stuff on there while it’s spinning, then remove any excess with something like a rag or a thick leather strip (all while the wood is still spinning). Then you’re all done!
Rolling pins are super easy to make too. I don’t have any pictures of those but I know they show up in many of my already posted pictures as background items in my kitchen. You can also easily turn baseball bats. One of the things I plan on doing somewhere is making a dozen or so baseball bats and using them as balusters alongside stairs. You could even make a chair and use baseball bats for the legs! The possibilities are endless, especially if you like baseball bats and candle sticks.
If you get a chance to turn some wood, do it! You might already know someone who is addicted to making wood spin at incredibly high RPM’s. Ask around, you’ll soon be addicted too.
(On the off chance that something does fly off and hit you in the head, I am not responsible. It was probably Bender’s fault.)
When I was a young teenager, back in the early 80’s, we had a whole wood shop in our basement complete with a lathe that my Dad used to make all new balusters for the rail around our front porch. The only thing I ever made on the lathe was a short bat. It’s almost as thick as a regular bat, but only about 18″ long. The thing is made of oak, and incredibly heavy. I put some cloth tape on the handle for better grip and even used a wood burner to put a logo on it with my initials and a lightning bolt. It’s a cool thing. I keep it tucked between my bed and the little dresser next to my bed just in case we ever have a break in.
I have the same basic thing, except made out of walnut, right near our bed for the very same purpose.