1. Lathe height—The height of the lathe should be set so that center of the spindle should be near the height of your bent elbow.

 2. Where and how do you stand—stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart and face the area that you will be turning. Shoulders parallel to the tool rest are best.

 3. Tool Rest Height—This is dependent on the tool you are using. The cut that the gouge makes should be around or just above the centerline of the lathe. If you change the tool, change the tool rest height.

 4. Tool Rest Position—The tool rest should be as close to the work as possible without interfering with the rotation of the piece. Always check that the work piece will clear the tool rest before turning on the lathe.

 5. Make the triangle—Hold the tool with your left hand resting on the rest and your left elbow tucked into your body. Your right hand is at the furthest end of the tool and is touching your right hip.

 6. Rub the Bevel—Starting with your right hand as low as possible and the bevel rubbing without cutting. Slowly raise your right hand until the cut starts.

 7. Do the Wood Turner’s Dance—move the cut along by shifting your weight from one foot to the other. For instance if you are rounding some spindle stock from right to left. Start with your weight predominantly on your right foot and as your cut progresses, gradually shift your weigh to your left foot.

 8. Let the wood come to the tool—While you know that the wood doesn’t move into the path of the tool, but the other way around, what this tip is saying is be patient with the cut. Allow the tool to cut at the speed that it wants to cut.

 9. Don’t use a sledgehammer to kill a fly—in other words use the smallest tool that is appropriate for the job. I love my 3/8 inch bowl and spindle gouges.

 10. Be patient. If you find yourself working hard, change something. When was the last time your tool was sharpened? Do you have too much tool hanging over the tool rest? Is the rest the right height? Woodturning should not be physically taxing. If you do have a catch, try to analyze what happened. And remember you last cut is just practice for you next cut.

“Seed Pod”--Turned and carved hollow form in black walnut.

Copyright 2011 George Balock