Sanding your projects on the lathe is a quick and easy way to bring them to their final smoothness. However, using standard sandpaper can lead to ugly striations as the grit of the paper digs into the project. One way to sand quickly without leaving ugly marks is to switched to powered sanding.
Power sanding can be accomplished in a number of different ways. You can use a simple sanding pad chucked into a drill. You can also use a random orbit sander that is purpose-built for lathe work — they typically include smaller, softer pads than sanders built for flat work, and some (like the air-driven sander I use from Woodturnerswonders) also include extensions to help reach inside bowls and other vessels. These types of surfaces aren’t typically encountered on flat work, so the purpose-made sander helps a lot.
The debate over gouges versus carbide tools is fought every day in woodturning forums and groups, so we won’t re-fight it here. They both do the same thing. Gouges have a much steeper learning curve (you must also learn to sharpen the tools properly and ride the bevel to get a clean cut) whereas carbide cutters are easier for beginners to get the hang of — get lined up on center and you’re good to go.
Not all tools are created equal, and this applies to both carbide tools and gouges. Cheap gouges are usually made from cheap steel, so it is common for them to lose their edge more quickly — which gives beginning woodturners a lot of practice at the sharpening station. On the carbide side, cheap carbide tips may not give you the smoothest possible cut, and it’s important to remember to turn the insert when cut quality starts to suffer. Trying to get “just one more” out of a dull carbide tip is a good way to ruin a workpiece.
When it comes to technique, experience is going to be your best teacher, but here’s a quick starter course. For gouges, start by bringing the bevel up to the piece, then slowly raise the handle until it starts to cut. Move slowly for a cleaner cut. Carbide tools, on the other hand, are brought in straight and level at the centerline of the work piece.
That’s it for this edition of Back to Basics. If you have a topic you’d like us to cover, leave us a comment and let us know. Thanks for watching!
I love turning boxes. If it weren’t for YouTube, I’d turn boxes more or less every day. This week, I wanted to experiment with Milliput, a two-part epoxy clay. This seemed like the perfect excuse to turn a box with a Milliput inlay (or, even better, two boxes with Milliput inlay!).
I turned the lid by securing the piece to a waste block with hot glue. I decided to add an inlay to the lid of the box as well, so I used a parting tool to create a channel into which I could place the Milliput.
For the body of the box, I turned a tenon on a piece of maple after truing up the piece with a roughing gouge. I removed most of the waste using a Forstner bit, then added a channel for the Milliput. Because of the channel and added inlay, I left the walls of the box a little thicker than I normally would.
Playing with the Milliput brought out my inner child a little bit — I used two colors to create a striated effect, then molded it to the piece and allowed it to dry overnight. The instructions say Milliput only takes 2-3 hours to cure completely, but when you’re going to spin something at several thousand RPM, better safe than sorry. Once cured, the Milliput cuts like butter.
While working with the clay, I protected my workbench with some contact paper, because the Milliput sticks to everything it touches. That’s great because it will stick to your workpiece, but not so great because it also sticks to the bench and your hands. If you don’t wear gloves, be sure to wash your hands between colors, or you will cross-contaminate the clay.
One important note: Milliput is heat resistant to a point, but I wouldn’t recommend a buffing wheel as that might bring it above its safe temperature. All in all, it seems like a great way to add detailed patterns and inlay to projects without cutting hundreds of tiny pieces. It’s also very easy to create random swirls and marbling by just kneading the clay around until you get the effect you want.
If you’ve got other ideas for how to use Milliput, let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching!
When you’re getting started with woodturning, it’s natural to look for projects that are easy to complete while still teaching basic lathe skills. Workshop projects like chisel handles are a great place to start, but when you’re ready to make items suitable for use in your home, utensil handles are a great project for new woodturners.
In this video, I turn a couple of handles for kitchen tools. Starting with some birdseye maple, I turn two styles of handle. One uses a mandrel (essentially a rod used to support the work from inside), while the other is simply turned between centers.
In both cases, the process is simple: I use a roughing gouge to true up the work, then switch to a spindle gouge to create a graceful curve that will fit comfortably in the hand. To make the piece look more finished, I check the size of the collar using a set of calipers, then bring the end of the handle down to that size using a parting tool. From there, you can simply taper the handle to that diameter using the spindle gouge.
Handles may not be glamorous, but they teach some important skills. You can use handles to learn about turning between centers, using mandrels, sanding and finishing on the lathe, establishing and reaching critical dimensions, and of course the use of tools. There’s no reason why you could not also use carbide tools for these projects, but they do present a good opportunity to learn how to use traditional turning tools. If you use a dense tropical hardwood for your handles, you’ll also get a great lesson in sharpening your tools!
These handles are a great way to improve your skills at spindle turning and get more comfortable with your tools. They don’t require a huge time or material investment to get started, so a mistake isn’t as disastrous as it would be for a more involved project.. Each of the handles I made in the video took about 15 minutes from start to finish, not including drying time for the lacquer.
I made these handles for specific kits from Chefwarekits, which are very high quality and make excellent gifts for friends and family. You can also make new handles for existing tools if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started. Even a dollar store vegetable peeler looks like a high-end implement when it’s sporting a handmade hardwood handle.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the video!
Jellyfish LED Accent Lamp
At the beach last week, my wife and I were browsing through a local store and saw these jellyfish-inspired air plants made with sea urchin shells. Of course, I immediately started thinking about how to create a jellyfish project of my own in the woodshop.
I started planning in earnest once I got back to the shop. I decided on maple burl for the base. The piece I used looks like coral or a rocky sea floor and adds some atmosphere to the finished lamp. The head is made from Osage Orange and rounded to a graceful curve. To connect the two, I used a rod made of amber acrylic, which was turned down to size, sanded, and then bent using a propane torch to carefully soften the middle section. Again, I was trying to obtain an organic feel, so a gradual curve is important
The tentacles are made from myrtle wood that I carved on the bandsaw and shaped using an oscillating spindle sander. I made several more intricate inner tentacles using the lathe to cut a spiral shape.
The lamp itself consists of LEDs recessed into the maple base. LEDs are ideal for this because they are small, require little power, and do not generate as much heat as fluorescent or incandescent lights. The acrylic tube helps transmit the light up through the piece and illuminates the tentacles from behind. A piece of blue acrylic sheet cut into a circle acts as a diffuser for the lights in the base while also concealing them from view.
I finished most of the piece using clear lacquer. After four coats, the lamp has a beautiful “wet” look that makes it seem like it’s underwater.
I had a lot of fun making this piece despite its challenges. I love how it turned out and I hope you do too.