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So you want to start woodturning..?

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

I'm often asked on social media about a variety of topics, so for my first blog post I figured I'd start with a recent question and talk about the basic tools you'll want when you first start turning. Everyone's experience will be different depending on the type of turning they want to do. Here's my answer to someone who reached out to me recently...

"It’s a great hobby and can be pretty addictive! Just start with a mini lathe and a set of cheap, decent tools, then make some pens, small bowls and other miscellaneous stuff and you’ll get a feel for what you’re interested in making and you can expand from there. Small projects are good in the beginning because you get immediate gratification.  If you’re really serious about starting to turn, then give me an idea of your budget and I can make some specific recommendations on lathes, tools, etc."

This person replied and said his budget is $1000. My response...

"$1000 is plenty to get started with a basic, quality setup for pens, bottle stoppers, smaller bowls, etc. Start with a name brand mini or midi lathe (Jet, Rikon, and Laguna all make decent ones). Shop around a bit and I’d even see if you can find a used one on Craigslist or something. Most are 1/2 hp, but if you can find a 3/4 or 1hp, that would be better. Other good features to try to have are variable speed (with a dial) and a reverse switch. The most basic (without the speed dial or reverse) run about $400-$500 new. A decent 6 piece tool set runs about $250-$350. Wood River (Woodcraft brand) is decent, so is Hurricane. Sorby and Crown are better. Learning to use the various basic tools will serve you well, regardless of what you end up turning. To get started, I recommend a roughing gouge, bowl gouge, spindle gouge, round nose scraper or bowl scraper, skew chisel, and parting tool if you buy separately. I don’t recommend carbide tip tools - they’re easier to get the hang of but they don’t cut nearly as well as high speed steel. Also get an 8” grinder (~$75-$100) with a medium coarseness wheel and a fine wheel. You gotta have sharp tools! Finally, having a way to cut wood down into blanks (chainsaw or bandsaw) will be helpful if you plan to do bowl turning." (BTW, I am not sponsored or paid, in any way/shape/form, by any of the brands I mentioned.)

My woodturning journey started with a more modest budget than $1000, so that is certainly possible. Maybe I'll cover "turning on a budget" in a future post... Thanks for reading!

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