1. Member
Join Date
Aug 2008
Location
Reno, Nv
Posts
3,632

Switch hit

Let's use this baseball bat video for some good. Some of us newer folks could benefit from the experiance on this board. What are "proper" turning speeds?
Keeping in mind that all of us have different comfort levels, chime in on the following;

Pens
Roughing Spindles (square)
Roughing Spindles (round)
Roughing bowls (square)
Roughing bowls (round)
Hollowing - chisel
Hollowing - Fostner bit
Finish cuts Spindles
Finish cuts bowls (square)

Sanding both
Finish application...on the lathe of course

This should be a good one!!

2. There are mathematical formulas for determining turning speeds. Personally, I believe those formulas mean nothing. Not only size, but shape, density of wood and personal likes determine settings.
I go with what 'feels' right and won't set the New Madrid fault to quaking again.

3. The circumference of a 10" bowl blank is traveling at a little over 26 ft per second with the lathe turning 600 rpms. The circumference of a 3/4" pen blank is traveling at about 1.3' per second at the same lathe speed. (Someone check my math because I'm no Albert Einstein). So the way I see it a lot of things can go wrong at 26 fps while things get pretty boring at 1.3 fps. I turn bowls, platters, anything over 8" diameter at the the slowest speed on my lathe. The exception would be something with a void or natural edge where the tool is in hit and miss mode. Then I turn faster to shorten the time the tool is in the air, lessening the chance for it to move and catch an edge. For small spindle work (such as pens) I crank it up to at least 2000 rpms. For drilling (boring) with a jacobs chuck in the tail stock I go with the slowest speed to eliminate heat buildup. Same with sanding, I think slower allows the sandpaper to do its thing better with less heat buildup.

Your mileage may vary but that's how I do it.

4. I attended a seminar given by Larry Hasiak, Al Stirt and Binh Pho. They all said the same thing when asked about turning speed. Turn at what you are comfortable with. They all said yea a lot of people will tell you this speed for this and that speed for that but it all boils down to what you are comfortable with turning. Some people will turn a pen at 3700 rpm. I am not comfortable with that so I turn at around 1500 to 1800. I don't think I have ever turned a bowl faster than 1200 after it is balanced. Spindle work such as chair legs I rarely ever run over 2200. HF's I rarely get much over 600 to 750. These are what I am comfortable with. I never run a forstner faster than 500 rpm and most times around 400.
Last edited by Bernie Weishapl; 10-26-2008 at 03:10 AM.

5. Like a lot of turners, the speed of my lathe has increased as my experience and comfort level have grown. I rarely pay close attention to the tachometer on my lathe, but I know I'm turning bowls and hollow forms faster now than I did a year ago. I'm also using higher speeds when roughing a blank, because the Ci1 seems to cut more smoothly on faster wood. Numbers-wise, I'd say I'm in roughly the same ranges Bernie mentioned, although I'd say I take most hollow forms faster than 750 rpm for finishing cuts.

6. I agree with Vaughn in that as my experience has increased - so has the speed of my lathe because my comfort level has changed. My style of turning now has evolved to a point that I am comfortable roughing out bowl/hollow form blanks at speeds I would never have thought about a year ago. What I do - works for me - and the actual speeds are not that important.

I am one of those guys who throws a chainsawed blank on the lathe and roughs it out without cutting it to form on the bandsaw first. So, that makes for a bumpy ride to begin with! I usually start out around 300-400 rpm - depending on how out-of-balance the blank is. Take a couple of cuts - then turn the speed up a little. Couple of cuts - turn the speed up. By the time I take the last few cuts on the outside - the lathe is running somewhere around 800 to 900 rpm. Hollowing out the inside of a bowl I usually start around 650 for the truing up the face and turn up to 850 - 950 for actual hollowing. A year ago the max I would run the lathe was 650 or so when roughing - 800 for finishing. Now I don't really look at the RPM indicator that often and just go by 'feel' and lack of vibration.

Forgot - I sand on the lathe but finish everything off the lathe. Sanding is done at the slowest speed (on my high range) which is 127 rpm.

Can't be of any assist on spindle turning as I don't do that very often anymore - bowls and especially hollow forms are much more fun - to me!

7. I've basically only turned pens, and truthfully any speed has been comfortable.

I have learned though that for somethings slower is better.

Slow + sharp = Successful roughing.

Slow + sandpaper = Longer Sandpaper Life + less heat on my fingers

Just yesterday I've started to explore doing other items. Made a lidded box, and today I may experiment with a bowl and some spindle turning. I've bought a book on turning and am going through it step by step to learn some of the techniques that I've just avoided.

One thing the 'Dont Do This' guy started me doing is wearing a face shield when turning instead of just safety glasses. So, His demonstration has accounted for some positive actions, at least for me.

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