Setting Up the Blank and Woodturning on The Lathe

Woodturning-Classic Bowl Turning
for Beginners

Lesson - 2a

Begin Woodturning Process

Picture of prepared wood turning blank.

Part II - 1

We have removed the clamps, and now we are starting the woodturning process by mounting the blank on the lathe.

Picture of the woodturning blank cut into an octagon.

Part II - 2

To begin, I saw the blank as round as I can on a band saw. If you do not have a band saw, then you saw the four corners off as close to the circle as you can, making it eight sided.

Picture of woodturning blank  in a roughly round shape.

Part II - 3

This picture shows how the blank looks after I sawed it out. You can see the rough edges - I did not try to saw it into a perfect circle.

Picture of face plate of Jet Woodturning Lathe.

Part II - 4

Now, we have to mount the face plate to the screw block. Position the face plate so that the finishing nail that we put in the blank is sticking up into the middle portion of it. Looking down through the top, center the plate as best you can around the nail, then screw the plate to the block. Doing this will ensure that the woodturning blank will be as balanced as you can make it when you first put it on the lathe.

Picture of face plate mounted on Jet Woodturning Lathe.

Part II - 5

Here, I am mounting the woodturning blank onto the lathe. I will start turning on the outside of the bowl first.

NOTE: The first step in creating a bowl should always be to turn the outside before you begin on the inside.

Picture of positioned tool rest on Jet Woodturning Lathe.

Part II - 6

The next step is to position the tool rest. Put it as close to your work as you can.

Picture of round nose wood turning tool.

Part II - 7

In this picture, I have just started to woodturn the outside of the bowl. The tool that I use for this part is called a round nose.

Picture of  bowl turning tools.

Part II - 8

This picture shows the three tools that I use to create bowls. The one on the left is a round nose tool with a rotating bit so that I can continue to move to a sharp edge. The one in the middle is a wedge tool that I use to turn the base of a bowl. The one on the right is a plain round nose tool with one edge which I have to keep sharpening.

I will show you how to sharpen your tools in a separate section.

Picture of turning using a round nose  tool.

Part II - 9

Notice how I hold the tool - there are a lot of different ways. You will have to do what is comfortable for you. I hold the tool tightly with my left hand with the tool positioned so that it sits on the tool rest. It is important to remember that the tool must be held firmly against the tool rest at all times. Your right hand is to guide the tool by moving it back and forth. You do not want to burn the end of the tool by holding it in just one position. You want to move your right hand back and forth, like a pendulum, which will move the cutting edge of your tool so that you do not cut at exactly the same place on it all of the time. That tool is going to heat up.

Note 1: Wear eye protection when you are working on the lathe. It is also a good idea to wear a mask.

Note 2: When he first began woodturning, my apprentice did not like the heat that came off of the wood - so he put duct tape around his thumb . He has since learned to turn without the tape.

Picture of

Part II - 10

Here, I have moved the tool rest to the face of the blank. I am going to test the blank to see if it is "true" (flat). If it is not, I will use the same round nose tool to make it true. When I have finished, I will go back and turn the outside some more.

Picture of trued face of the turning blank.

Part II - 11

This is how the face of the blank should look after it has been trued.

Picture of Jet JWL-1236 Woodturning Lathe.

Part II - 12

I used a Sears Craftsman 12" Wood Lathe for many years. In December 2007, I decided to purchase a Jet JWL 1236 Woodworking Lathe. I have been very pleased with its performance.

NOTE 1: Your lathe should be located in a well-lighted area - including natural light, if possible. You should have it positioned at a height that will enable you to stand comfortably and to maintain good body position so that you can control the turning tools correctly. I am over 6' tall, so I raised my lathe to a comfortable height by placing 2x4s under the feet.

NOTE 2: You will probably never need to use it in a woodturning shop, but have a fire extinguisher close to your work area anyway. I have never had to use mine, but it is there in case of an emergency. (I did lose a woodworking shop to fire once.)

This concludes Lesson - 2a.
When you are ready,
Proceed to Lesson - 2b

Go to Lesson - 2b

Return Woodturning to Homepage