I started using the lathe with a very primitive roughing gouge I made from an old abused screwdriver and some small carving gouges. I ended up buying some older Buck Brothers skews to use from Harland B. Fosters, a local tool dealer located in Great Barrington, MA, that sells antique tools in addition to new ones and Hardware — think a small town cross between Lee Valley tools, Rocklers, Garret Wade and somebodiy’s grandfather’s shop.
Turning with the mini lathe is pretty simple. It reminded me a lot of glass blowing in terms of its immediacy. Making furniture is usually a slower, mediative process and turning is a little different. It was fun! I tried some old maple, poplar, and oak. The maple was the best — and worst. One of the pieces had too many curls and my primitive gouge kept digging in too much. The next few pieces I tried were much nicer and the Buck Brothers skews handled the maple better.
The poplar was a little soft, but sanded out OK. I made a simple handle from the maple and a small “paper clip” cup out of the oak. (Yes, you can turn bowls with this lathe — small ones at least.) Turning spindles felt a little bit safer than turning bowls. If I dug in while turning a spindle the worse that would happen would be that the wood would stop turning while the live center and the drill would keep going. Digging in while turning a bowl was a little more dramatic as the bowl would move quite a bit.
All in all it has been a pleasant experience. Except for the loose end caps I’m well pleased with the purchase. Since I don’t know anyone with a lathe, this was the least expensive way I could find to try out turning. As I mentioned, I plan on setting this up with a dedicated motor in my studio so that my boys can turn. (They already have a small Sjoberg bench). I’ll probably use it to make tool handles with until I get a bigger lathe.
Thanks, Michael, for taking the time to let us know how it turned out. It looks like this would be a great, inexpensive way for anyone to give turning a try!
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