top of page
A beginners guide

So what is needed to start

A powered lathe ,at the beginning of your woodturning journey you are unlikely to have decided what you enjoy turning the most be it large bowls,hollolwforms or pen's.

Lets start out with the anatomy of a woodturning lathe. Pic1

Anatomy of a woodlathe

Pic 1

Manufactures can slighty differ the addtional equipment that comes with your lathe. Below is a common selection included in your lathe purchase. A explanation of the Morse taper,

The principle of a Morse taper is that of 


The truinnion the male portion and the bore,the female portion are both uniformly tapered.

So a four prong drive pic 1 with a no2 morse taper  this is inserted into the spindle which is located in the headstock of the lathe.

A revolving ring centre pic no2 again with a no2 morse taper  Which is housed within the quill of the tailstock.

A knock out bar which is used to KNOCK the drive centre & ring centre from there supporting postions pic no3

Pic 1

Pic 3

Pic 2

Two Types of Woodturning

No 1 Spindle turning ,or turning between centres, is a woodturning method referring to a piece of wood on a lathe that is being turned on its center axis.


The 2nd turning method commonly known as face plate turning, a more accurate description is when the work is held from the headstock spindle only. This method of holding is used for cross grained bowls &  hollowforms with the wood Being mounted bertween centers first To form a tenon,spigot or reccess to hold the piece of work. Hence there are quite a number of ways that a piece can be held. no1 faceplate pic 1

Pic No2 Is of a screw chuck with addtional screw holes which are great as you can use more screws for added security.

Pic 1

Pic 2

Just a note about the  tools,chucks,lathes,finishing products

I mention on my website,I only refer/recommened what i use every day in my workshop as the pictures show these are not the usaul stock photographs but photos of my actual pieces of equipment.


Pic 3  This is the easy wood tools 4 inch chuck. This chuck has proved to be a great addition to my workshop, the range of accessories compete with any other brand of chuck manufacturer.

The ease & speed of jaw changing is unparalleled this being completed in under 30 seconds, no screws to lose in the shavings.  This speed of this jaw change is  achieved with Snap lock technology.

easy wood chuck.jpg

Pic 3

The tools used in woodturning

Before we get into specifics of which turning tools just a quick explanation of determing the size of gouges in the UK & USA.

There are two standards in measuring the size of bowl gouges. The British uses the width of the flute, the US measures the diameter of the tool steel. A 3/8" British bowl gouge is equivalent to a 1/2" US size. Make sure you are comparing the same thing.

So i will list the tools from left to right then go into further details tool by tool, So we have a 3/8ths Bowl gouge ,11/4 in Spindle roughing gouge , 1in skew , diamond shaped parting tool, 3/8ths spindle gouge, 1in scraper

Bowl gouge

The 3/8th bowl gouge is a good sized tool to begin with. It features a deep flute that is shaped for both shaping the outside and inside of bowls or goblets. ,as for the grind go with 45° to begin with the wings slightly swept back.

Spindle roughing gouge

The spindle roughing gouge is used to remove the corners of squared timber and for initial rough shaping, start with a bevel angle of 45°.

not to be used on faceplate work

The skew chisel

My skew is a 1in or 25 mm  I definetly find this size easier to use than a 1/2 in or a 3/4 in as do my students ,it is easier to keep the toe of the skew clear of the workpiece resulting in a more managable tool start with a bevel  angle of  30°.

Diamond parting tool

The diamond shaped parting tool. Another versatile tool. Either use to size diameter or part off a project. i prefer this particular shape of parting tool as it is less likely to bind when doing deep plunge cuts, care must be taken when sharping you want to keep the cutting edge at the widest point as you can see in the profile shot of the tool this way you are keeping the correct profile  which allows the design to work.Start with a bevel angle of 35°.

3/8ths Spindle gouge

A great tool for making curves in your project. The flat sweep on the flute is used for detailing on spindle turning to create both beads and coves. Start with a bevel angle of 45°.

Negative rake scraper

One of the easier tools to use and similar to the Spindle Gouge. Used to refine concave forms such as coves on spindle work, or light touches on the inside bowes & small bowls bowls.

Woodturning safety

Woodturning like many activities, can be hazardous. By following some simple steps with a common sense approach.

  1. ​Safety visor or goggles must be worn.

  2. Solid shoes must be worn 

  3. Secure all loose items - hair,sleeves remove/make safe necklaces, name lanyards

  4. Secure - make sure workpiece is surcurely fix to your chosen holding device

  5. Set - the toolrest height & postion SPINNING  the workpiece  ensureing it dose'nt fowl the toolrest

  6. Speed - ensure the lathe speed is within your skill set & appropriate for the piece mounted on the lathe 

  7. Tool choice - make sure you choose the correct tool for the job inhand

  8. STOP THE LATHE - if at any point the sound changes STOP & attempt to idetify why the noise changed    

Safety at the lathe is your   responsibility
Processing a log for woodturning

When processing a log for woodturning there some things we need to take into consideration.

A very common question is where do I find wood for turning.  The next challenge is once you have collected some wood, boards, or branches, how do you get the rough wood onto your lathe?.

 One of the keys to successful woodturning is preparing the wood . 

The pieces below are the result of learning how to process your logs so that you can gain maximum visual impact. Yew such a beautiful ,the pic at far left has the sap wood running north to south on the right hand side of the piece indicates this is side grain and that it is end grain top & bottom.

The piece of Elm in the middle had a burr growth where the bowl portion is which dictated how i would proceed making an off Centre piece. The final pic on the right you

First of all establish where the Pith of the tree ? You will find Pith at the very center of the tree, which is the oldest part of the tree. The pith, together with the tree’s first few annual rings, is called juvenile wood. The pith area has a greater tendency to crack than the rest of the wood in a tree.the log, I now make two parralel cut lines across Pith: then two vertical lines producing a square around the pith. The two outer planks from the original one taken out of the log can now be processed into pen blanks, small snack dish, door stops. Follow the same process for a larger logs, this piece of Yew is 6in/150mm in dia ,the pics run from left to right.

yew pith_edited.jpg
yew centre plank_edited.jpg

On smaller dia logs we can sometimes get away with splitting the log right across the Pith line as in the pics below also in the right hand pic you will notice the pith has started to decay.

process log woodturning_edited.jpg
bottom of page