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Thread: What is a practical way to find out if turning is for me?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean

    What is a practical way to find out if turning is for me?

    I keep finding that I want to make something round. It might be some custom cabinet knobs, a cylinder, a small disk, a tool handle, etc. etc.

    I keep saying to myself, "Go buy a lathe." Then I say, "That's a darn expensive way to get the things you want. Do it another way." Then I say, "It might make a great hobby...remember how much Granpa Black enjoyed it."

    If I do purchase a lathe I want enough quality that I won't get frustrated by the tool. I don't want to spend for a "Rolls Royce" quality because I am not sure I will get hooked. I can see $300 and I can't see $1,000. So what is the best compomise at the lowest end of the scale where compromise works?

    I do not see making anything very large. I'm guessing 10 to 12" swing, 18 to 20" length. These numbers are just guesses. I don't know enough to ask the right questions and it is very frustrating.

    There is a woodturning club within reasonable travel distance. However, they always meet when I have another, unchangeable committment so I can't go to them for advice.

    Thanks in advance for whatever feedback you can give me.


    Jim (I really should have signed it "Confused."
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Jim, if you have a Rockler or Woodcraft nearby, you might check and see when they're holding their next "Learn to Make a Pen" event. For the cost of about $10 (maybe less) for a pen blank and kit, you can give it a spin with an experienced eye looking over your shoulder.

    If you do decide to get a lathe, there are a number of decent ones in the $300-ish range, although as you get closer to $500 you get into the 12" mini-lathes, and they can be good little workhorses. There are also used lathes that show up on Craigslist and other similar listings from time to time. Some of these can be great bargains. Keep in mind though, the lathe is only the beginning of the expenses. Then there are turning tools, sharpening jigs and grinders (or wheels), safety gear (face shield, preferably with a powered respirator), more turning tools, a chuck, chuck jaws, a pen mandrel and bushings, books, more turning tools, videos, magazines, sandpaper, finishes, more turning tools,a hollowing rig, a powered bowl sander, a bigger lathe, more turning tools, a vacuum pump, a bigger bandsaw, a chainsaw, an electric hoist, and more turning tools.

    Seriously, if you already have a grinder, and are capable of making things like sharpening jigs (lots of plans and example on the Web), you can probably expect to get started with a decent initial setup for probably about $200 to $300 above and beyond the cost of the lathe. I'm sure some guys have done it for less, and others have spent way more. My current lathe was about $3000, and I probably have close to that much invested in tools, accessories, and other equipment (like a compressor, bandsaw, and chain saws). On the other hand, I've made some of my favorite pieces on a $300 used Sears lathe with about $300 or $400 worth of other tools and accessories. It's not necessary to spend a fortune on the hobby/addiction, but it is possible.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    Simple choice,,, let another turner make your round stuff, its cheaper and they can get all the complications that one of those lathes cause its a never ending dark hole that once you fall in you wont get out, or very few do.. like vaughn said once you start the windows start gettin drafty fast.. yu need this tool and that chuck to stay in the mix of things..just a constant influx of needs become aparent!!! this is from a flat workers point of veiw..but if you do take the plunge, vaughn and his wood craft idea is great place to start.
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Tampa & NC

    What is a practical wasto find out if turning is for me

    See if you can find a turners club near you,then pay em a visit and tell them your interested in turning an maybe you can hook up with some one who will let you turn with them for a bit,just to see if you like it and if you find you do then they will probably offer some advice on getting what you need.I have a few friends who are thinking about getting started and I told em when they get the time my shop is open.One is going to retire this yr and another lives next to me when in NC and everytime he comes over,he says,man I gotta try that.There are a lot of turners out there that love helping folks get started.So look around and don't be bashfull,just ask.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Goodland, Kansas
    I agree with finding a club near you and turning to see if it would be something you would like. For the money I would say the Jet 1220 VS would suit you fine. I have made a lot of ornaments, mini birdhouses, lidded boxes, drawer pulls, several tool handles, bowls, vases, bottle stoppers, etc. but yet you could turn a bowl or vase if you like up to 11 1/2" in diameter. I have did some chair repair for a lady here in town where I had to make some new legs and cross pieces that paid for my bed extension which will give you around 40" in length. I also made her new drawer knobs or pulls for 3 of her dressers. She had some missing and wanted them all to match.
    Bernie W.

    Retirement: Thats when you return from work one day
    and say, Hi, Honey, Im home forever.

    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    S E Washington State
    I'd check out a Woodcraft or Rockler store, must be one somewhere down there. I bet they will help you find out. Go to a demo class they provide, then get out your wallet.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Colorado Springs, CO
    One thing about turning. The lathe is the cheapest part of it so don't worry to much the cost of it just make sure you get a good one. +1 on the 1220vs!

    Everything is better with inlay or marquetry!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Grand Rapids, MI

    I'd have to agree...

    I think what's been suggested is good advice. Classes, demos, and turning clubs would definitely be the way to go. But I would also say go to youtube and and watch some videos. Combining hands on experience with seeing the processes used and projects made by experienced turners may give you creative inspiration. And if it doesn't, at least you didn't invest in a lathe yet.


    No longer associated with Woodcraft. That's right, I am now a full time woodworker!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    As I recall, Jim, you are in the north San Diego county area. Look into the San Diego Fine Woodturners club. Then look up Nan Bushley. She is one of the finest teachers I know. Take a lesson. If you are intrigued further see if she is still doing weekend classes at Palomar. Or ask her where you might go. I do not know if Rocker in San Diego is doing woodturner events or who does them. Rather than take a course in a specialized woodturning venue, i.e., pen making, try to hook up with Nan or some one she suggests and get a wider perspective.

    And tell her 'hello' from me. I also have a great friend in Escondido than can help. He is relatively new to turning, but an excellent woodworking instructor, with whom I share a friendship from the days I taught at Palomar. Keep us posted.

    Yup, taking a lesson will cost a few bucks, but those dollars will be saved ten time over in ill advised purchases and unproductive time trying to learn skills on your own leading to frustration, etc.

    Life is too short to P.O.'ed!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean


    Hi and Thanks to all of you who responded.

    I saw two votes for Jet 1220. I will look this up on the web and see in person if possible.

    I cannot go to the No Co Wood club or the Wood turning club. There is one night a month that I cannot get away. I work every Saturday. The WW Club meets on that Thurs PM and The Turning club meets on Saturday. I wonder if they just don't want me.

    Anyway I will see if I can find out how to contact Nan Bushley and I will do so. If that does not work I will try to set up something with a member of the Turning Club on a one to one basis.
    Carol, I don't mind paying for instruction because I learn more and faster that way. I learn a lot from reading books and magazines. However, they are a world away from actually doing something.

    Yes---I have heard about the slippery slope to the abyss. I will try to wear cleated shoes and put sandpaper on my posterior.

    Rockler in San Diego is an hour and five or ten minutes away via crowded freeways. Driving on a road course was fun. Driving on a freeway is as interesting as painting a house or shoveling horse doo. However, I do go there about once a month.

    Thanks Again and


    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.

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