Wood Turning Woes

Rob in NC

Rob
User
For those who saw my introduction post, you know that I am new. I got my Nova Comet 2 about a month ago. So far, aside from some very limited practice spindle work, I have turned three bowls. Each has been a challenge. East Indian Rosewood, Canarywood and African Mahogany. It seems the Canarywood was the easiest, followed by the Mahogany and the Rosewood was a pain. I also have a small section of Black palm that I've fought with. All were kiln dried.

I got some more bowl blanks from Bell Forest and thought I'd give it a go. First up was Red Elm (again, kiln dried) and I fought it until I got a massive catch. I decided to stop right there until I can try to figure out what is going on. The catch wasnt even on the interior of the bowl, but while shaping the exterior.

I know this is limited information to diagnose, but I would have thought kiln dried Elm would be easy. I cant even get shavings, just hot dust. Hot enough that I'm fearful of ruining the temper on my gouge.
So likely culprit here...
tools not sharp enough?
improper technique?
wood more difficult than I thought?

Combination of all these?

Open to suggestions. Thinking I should get a small section of green wood so I can at least cancel one variable here...
Any advice appreciated.
 

Attachments

  • 20211009_172528.jpg
    20211009_172528.jpg
    416.9 KB · Views: 34
  • 20210926_115322.jpg
    20210926_115322.jpg
    219.2 KB · Views: 33
  • 20211009_172604.jpg
    20211009_172604.jpg
    266.2 KB · Views: 29
  • 20211009_131225.jpg
    20211009_131225.jpg
    210.9 KB · Views: 32

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
Several things jump out - yes likely a combo of your suggested reasons.

1. Kiln dried wood is harder, and is harder to turn. Try fresh local 'farm to table' produce - like a tree branch or piece of firewood. Turning is a skill that takes practice, and wood does grow on trees... practice practice, practice (on cheap wet wood).

2. Best way to learn is NOT through trial and error - learn through others. In person, videos, or even the old fashioned BOOKS. I can recommend a few things that helped me

In person - . Getting a few minutes of turning help and instruction could be life saving. And LOCAL is one of the many things that NCWW does best. Put out a call for help from a local turner to get you started.

Videos - there are many YouTubers that purport many things - and can do so on this free platform. But many are unedited and not worth watching.
Here 2 folks I recommend
- John Lucas (https://www.youtube.com/user/john60lucas/videos) is great I think, although he does not delve much into bowl turning.
- Lyle Jamieson is another recommended - he did a pretty informative series 9 years - the last ones in the listings of his YT work.

Books - Likely anything by Richard Raffan or my preference David Ellsworth is worth reading closely. I believe I bought this one:

Ellsworth on Woodturning: How a Master Creates Bowls, Pots, and Vessels (Fox Chapel Publishing) Over 400 Photos, Step-by-Step Directions, Techniques, Expert Tips, and Troubleshooting for Your Lathe Paperback – November 1, 2008


Catches can and will happen - but you NEED Instruction in some form to learn to avoid them (as much as possible).

Hope that helps
 
Last edited:

Rob in NC

Rob
User
Thanks for the reply, sir. I've watched quite a few videos, although I will admit to leaning toward Ashley Harwood's vids because... well... the obvious. :)
In lieu of not having anyone here at the moment to guide me, it appears that I do need to get some green wood. At least then I can see if that is any easier for me. Perhaps at some point, if I find someone close by, I can bribe them with bourbon to show me where I'm failing at. I will say that watching vids has helped. I watched a ton before getting the lathe... then after getting a feel for things, I watched more. I am just at a point now where that I'm missing something and I'm not sure what. Maybe green wood to build some confidence is the ticket here until I can get someone here.
Thanks again!!!
 

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
Ok Rob - I guess I can repeat that there is a lot of crap on YT that is not worth watching - unless you like the scenery.
I watched less than 2 min (skipping forward to see actually turning ) of Ashley Harwood - and cringed! Not terrible, but not the best either (in my view). And certainly NOT a complete or a fair assessment based on 30 s of viewing!

What I can say is watch someone else....

I saw a push cut with a bowl gouge - but I believe most people recommend and prefer a pull cut (EDIT - prefer a pull cut on the outside - on the inside you'll likely use a push cut END Edit).
Then skipping forward i saw a large skew used as a scraper .

I would not recommend either of these techniques - but I am no expert turner. I would use a pull cut and shear scraping in these circumstances.

As I recall - vaguely - there are only 4 kinds of bowl cuts - push, pull, scrape, and shear scrape.
EDIT - here's a video i haven't watched, but I suspect proviudes clarity:
I would not recommend turning more until you understand that much - and how to use to the bevel on a bowl gouge to your advantage (i.e. "Riding the bevel'). I wish I could find Lyle J's video that made this sooooo clear - but don't see this up there.

Get some serious instruction!
 
Last edited:

cyclopentadiene

Update your profile with your name
User
Other good sources are local woodturning clubs, community college courses and woodcraft classes.
Many of these are virtual die to COVID ie the Piedmont triad Woodturners association meetings are virtual right now. there are generally mentors that will help and teach turning. The costs are minimal
Woodcraft in Raleigh offers very good turning classes but I am not sure if they are currently offering them. Bill and Jim Wallace are regular instructors at Woodcraft and Alamance community College. I learned from these guys at ACC. They also have a program in Reidsville. Other community colleges most likely offer programs at a reasonable cost
Another more expensive but excellent program are the various woodworking schools like Stuart Kent from this site (eastern NC)or the Penland school near Asheville
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
I've turned some red elm before, and I think turning it green will make a huge difference. Turning green wood is (to me) much easier and more enjoyable than dried wood. Yes, you'll have to wait for it to dry after rough turning it to shape, but it's worth it. I try and keep a healthy stock of rough turned bowl blanks. Green wood is much easier to hog material out, and it doesn't get as hot. Get some green blanks either locally, or turningblanks.net has a good selection, and is located in SC so shipping will be really fast.

As far as Youtubers go, highly recommend the following:
Mike Waldt - a large catalog of videos, and he's meticulous about explaining things. Check out his beginner series
Mike Peace - Another large catalog of videos. Does a variety of different projects.
Alan Stratton (As Wood Turns) - Does weekly videos and covers a lot of different things
Carl Jacobson - Lots of videos and good explanations.

For the channels above, almost all their videos are well edited, and don't drag on forever.

For in-person instruction, in addition to the suggestions above, there's also Tryon Arts & Crafts School about an hour from you. One of the instructors is from Charlotte and he's a good one (Madison Greer). There is also an AAW chapter in Asheville, Carolina Mountain Woodturners. Basic membership is only $25/year.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
Practice, practice, practice.... Oh and sharp tools! If youre going to turn get a decent grinding setup to sharpen on the fly. And have fun with it, turn firewood etc. Its a finesse activity, not just a mechanical process.
 

golfdad

Co-director of Outreach
Dirk
Corporate Member
Ok Rob - I guess I can repeat that there is a lot of crap on YT that is not worth watching - unless you like the scenery.
I watched less than 2 min (skipping forward to see actually turning ) of Ashley Harwood - and cringed! Not terrible, but not the best either (in my view). And certainly NOT a complete or a fair assessment based on 30 s of viewing!

What I can say is watch someone else....

I saw a push cut with a bowl gouge - but I believe most people recommend and prefer a pull cut (EDIT - prefer a pull cut on the outside - on the inside you'll likely use a push cut END Edit).
Then skipping forward i saw a large skew used as a scraper .

I would not recommend either of these techniques - but I am no expert turner. I would use a pull cut and shear scraping in these circumstances.

As I recall - vaguely - there are only 4 kinds of bowl cuts - push, pull, scrape, and shear scrape.
EDIT - here's a video i haven't watched, but I suspect proviudes clarity:
I would not recommend turning more until you understand that much - and how to use to the bevel on a bowl gouge to your advantage (i.e. "Riding the bevel'). I wish I could find Lyle J's video that made this sooooo clear - but don't see this up there.

Get some serious instruction!
Turn a Wood Bowl is a very good series.
 

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
Turn a Wood Bowl is a very good series.
Dirk - is that a video (series?) on YouTube? Who does it? Can you be a bit more specific with your reference?
Seems like a title like that might generate lots of videos done by different people (only some of which are worth watching and learning from).
 

Rob in NC

Rob
User
Thanks for the replies. Yes, I realize that the technique used by Ms. Harwood is beyond me for the moment. She appears to do well with what she does, but not a great beginner tutorial. I have watched a lot of the 'Turn a Wood Bowl' series with Kent. I had not watched any Mike Waldt and will add that to my collection. I'm at the point now where that I cant decipher what is crap and what isnt. When I started making knives, I watched only one person on YouTube. He had a 14 part series and that's where I learned. Of course after making several, I started to watch other folks, but I didnt want to confuse myself with different techniques in the beginning. I should have done this with the turning vids, but I did not.

Had seen the vid posted by Henry and watched it several times in fact. I think I have the basics down (in theory). There is something that I am missing here. Either some nuance or tool sharpness or something. I tend to think my issue is starting out turning kiln dried wood. I'll snag some green wood and see if that makes things easier until I can refine my technique. I dont mind to let them sit while they dry. It matters not to me. I'm not running a business here; rather I'm just playing.

Sharp tools... That may be an issue as well. Because I make knives, I have several belt grinders... In the shop, I have a couple 2x72's with VFD so wouldnt have to worry about ruining the temper on the tools, a 1x30 and a 2x42. I may just make a jig to dedicate for tool sharpening. I'll have to look at some ideas.
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Few more things about Ashley Harwood, she makes her money on commissions and doing instruction (either in-person or her classes via the Wood Whisperer Guild). YouTube is probably not a significant source of income, so I t’s not in her interest to put her instruction out for free. Also, her channel is only 2 years old, and most content creators are still figuring things out at that point - Editing, pacing, release schedule, etc. that said, I do like her. I think she’s a great turner and would love to see her studio work whenever I’m in Charleston next.
 

awldune

Sam
User
When in doubt, sharpen! You will almost always see a huge difference with a freshly sharpened tool.

I get lazy with sharpening and when you try to press on with a dull tool you will regret it!
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
Thanks for the reply, sir. I've watched quite a few videos, although I will admit to leaning toward Ashley Harwood's vids because... well... the obvious. :)
In lieu of not having anyone here at the moment to guide me, it appears that I do need to get some green wood. At least then I can see if that is any easier for me. Perhaps at some point, if I find someone close by, I can bribe them with bourbon to show me where I'm failing at. I will say that watching vids has helped. I watched a ton before getting the lathe... then after getting a feel for things, I watched more. I am just at a point now where that I'm missing something and I'm not sure what. Maybe green wood to build some confidence is the ticket here until I can get someone here.
Thanks again!!!
That is a good question - where are you @Rob in NC ?
Spend a day with @Mike Davis and you will be well on your way, a little practice as @chris_goris suggests and then back to Mike for a few hours and there will NOTHING you can't acheive!
 

SabertoothBunny

SabertoothBunny
User
Sharpening, it comes down to the grind you want to use. Personally I prefer the 40-40 developed by Stuart Batty and used by Ashley Harwood. Harwood is down in Charleston, SC and does classes regularly and they are amazing classes and worth the trip, she also teaches the 40-40 sharpening in classes. Stuart Batty should have videos out there on how to do the 40-40 sharpening. If a 5'4" women weighing almost nothing can slice through wood with ease that I see men bigger than me struggle with I will stop to learn her style. I am 6'0" and 210lbs so I am not exactly small and have found her technique to work very well, sharpening takes time to learn.

Turning dry wood can get quite hot. Not hot enough to damage tools and if your tool is getting excessively hot that is because it is dull and friction generating heat. Maybe get a set of the cheapest golfers gloves you can find that fit nice and snug for turning dry wood. I use them as those shavings can sting your fingers even with sharp tools. Catches are from bad technique and/or losing focus. In your case it is likely inexperience but don't let that get you down, we all get catches at times. This is specific to dry wood, green wood doesn't tend to heat up to a point it stings.

Like others have suggested, check out videos for understanding. But videos only take you so far unfortunately. The woods you have started trying to make bowls from are some woods better saved until you are more confident and experienced per cost and difficulty turning. Maple, cherry and poplar are some great woods to use to learn with while turning because they are more forgiving and not as expensive to get. Avoid black palm until you are a confident turner, it is prone to splintering and breaking apart due to grain.

Your pictures show a need for work in technique and sharpening. Find someone to learn from in person, to help you grow in skill. In person lessons are often better than videos as you learn more typically. Plus you can build great relationships that way too. Seek out different turners to learn from if you can, over time you will develop you own style based on what you learn from others.

Consider other smaller project that bowls starting out. Pens, bottle stoppers, pill boxes, honey dippers, rolling pins, etc are great things to start with and start building confidence and make great gifts. The Klondike Craftsman on youtube has a series of videos on smaller projects like the ones listed that are amazing and simple to make. Start off smaller, build confidence. Mastering skills takes time and practice, don't rush it or get too discouraged. Above all, be safe.
 
Last edited:

Michael Mathews

Michael
Corporate Member
Dirk - is that a video (series?) on YouTube? Who does it? Can you be a bit more specific with your reference?
Seems like a title like that might generate lots of videos done by different people (only some of which are worth watching and learning from).
Henry, here's a link to the YT channel Turn A Wood Bowl Turn A Wood Bowl 45.3K subscribers•68 videosTurn A Wood Bowl channel is all about turning wood bowls on the lathe. My name is Kent, and I'm an artist, graphic designer, ...
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
What lathe are you using? I taught myself how to use a bowl gouge on my PM3520. It has a VFD and I can slow it down to a crawl. This is how I learned (in slow motion) how and when the tool was cutting. It was very telling and once I understood riding the bevel, it was a piece of cake. If you can slow yours dow to under 50 RPMs , you can watch when and how it starts to cut, pay attention to tool angle and rotation and mimic that.then it becomes second nature, watching the profile take shape and listening to the tool.
 

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
What lathe are you using? I taught myself how to use a bowl gouge on my PM3520. .....
I thought the OP said he was using a Nova Comet II - which I believe is a mini lathe - but I am not certain about any of that!
For those who saw my introduction post, you know that I am new. I got my Nova Comet 2 about a month ago. ....
Yup that's it - Nova Comet 2. No idea how slow that can run though, so maybe he can implement your advice, and maybe not.
 

iclark

Ivan
User
Sharp tools... That may be an issue as well. Because I make knives, I have several belt grinders... In the shop, I have a couple 2x72's with VFD so wouldnt have to worry about ruining the temper on the tools, a 1x30 and a 2x42. I may just make a jig to dedicate for tool sharpening. I'll have to look at some ideas.
If you are sharpening on belt grinders, you have to be very careful to get a flat bevel. It is very easy to get a convex bevel on a gouge. With a convex bevel, there is a very small transition from not cutting to catch. Having to live in that small transition zone is not easy and it is not very forgiving.

Both Sorby and Shopsmith make sharpening jigs for belt sanders/grinders. You might want to check them out before you start designing your own.
 

djvanduy

Jason
User
Anything elm is not going to be easy to turn especially if its dried. Its hard and not as forgiving as other woods. Just keep at it and keep turning you'll pick it up. I learned from Mike Mahoney for bowls. I don't know if he has youtube vids, but I know his videos are very comprehensive. As far as getting green wood, if it were me Id put your money into the tools to go gather it rather than buy blanks. But thats just me...

Heres a resource to help on that front... Wood Gathering - Sourcing and Preparation of Wood Turning Blanks
 

Our Sponsors

LATEST FOR SALE LISTINGS

Top