Lesson #1; An Introduction to Operating a Lathe

Prior to setting up the cylinder onto the lathe he wandered across the wood shop in search of yet another tool that was required in the preparation of the lathe. Inside my mind I kept thinking respect the tools, followed by respect the process to understand the proper lathe methodologies.

In this hand was a drafting compass we used to determine where centre was at each end of the cylinder. He informed some people will just eyeball it but best practice is to use the compass and find the arcs to learn the specific centre.

Then we poked a small starting hole into each end. Next he handed me a Morse Taper and said “shove it tightly into the headstock,” and I did as instructed followed by a second taper to be shoved into the tailstock. Next he handed the pine over and said I was to place it between the two tapers.

Lightly jamming the headstock side in first, then sliding the tailstock and its wheel within 6-inches of the wood. Next we spun the tailstock wheel pushing forward the taper until it reached the pine. We lined up the pre-made holes and slowly tightened the wood into place.

Next we spun the wood by hand as we moved the banjo and tool rest into place. It was a few millimetres from the edge of the bark. Rotating the wood by hand we needed to ensure the wood would turn next to the tool rest.

“Okay, now we need the 3/4″ roughing gouge chisel and we will use its bezel to remove the bark from the cylinder. Its a bit messy and I recommend using gloves or you will endure cuts, and bleeding. Its all part of being in the workshop,” he said with a smile.

He motioned for me to push my visor down and he fired up the lathe as it spun faster and faster he moved over and pointed into a mythical space between the pine and the air at a ghost like figure in the share of the pine… “Can you see that? That’s the phantom. You need to pay attention to the wood and not the phantom. The phantom can get you into trouble. Understood?” I shook my head yes.

Continuing onward he placed the roughing gouge onto the tool rest and slowly pushed it into the the spinning wood. The chisel grabbed into the side and began scraping away the bark. Within a few minutes 90% of the bark had been removed.

He pressed the stop button and it decelerated to a stop. We moved our hands across the wood feeling the rough edge. Then he began explaining how the roughing chisel could be used for a variety of applications. He spun the wood with one hand and showed how you can angle the bezel into the wood and create a different type of cut.

He picked up other chisels to point out their differences and similarities. Nodding in agreement and understanding of what was being said, he stepped out of the way, “your turn.” He nodded me towards the lathe controller and passed the roughing gouge my direction.

Fear of screwing this up in front of my father-in-law crossed my mind just as I pressed the green start button. The wood slowly spun before me as I turned the dial clockwise increasing its speed to the recommended 1,000 rpms. The MONSTER ONEWAY 1640 LATHE spun that wood like nobodies business.

Sheepishly I stood with a scared look on my face the roughing gouge handle gripped in my right hand, arm tucked into my stomach and right hand against my hip. I set the chisel down onto the tool rest then moved my left fingers into place near the top of the chisel and to slide across the tool rest guiding the cutting edge against the spinning wood.

Scared shitless, the edge of the bezel began to cut into the wood and I was producing small wood shavings. As I had just seen, I moved the chisel along the tool rest cutting left into the wood. Then reaching the end of the wood I would adjust the chisel and move it right along the spinning wood the shavings piling up on the tool and the lathe rails.

After a couple of passes we would press the stop button and the motor would decelerate the wood until it stopped. We took out a measuring device to locate the narrowest point and marked it with a pencil.

He showed me a couple of other ways to use the gouging chisel then powered it up to 2,800 rpms and ripped into the section of wood that still had bark on it. It took out 2-inches in twenty-two seconds! “Wow! That was quick!” is all I could muster.

Next I started trimming down the fat side of the cylinder and he backed away allowing me space to maneuver the chisel along the pine. This is when I tried cutting a beveled edge and quickly learnt my skills were too new for this type of cut as the gouge scrapped rather than cut into the wood.

We stopped the lathe and he explained a better technique.

Then he fired it up and demonstrated the technique. Instantly you could see the difference between his bevelled edge and my own. Around that time my wife’s car pulled up outside the shop and we both knew today’s lesson would be coming to an end, as it was lunch time.

Smiling he handed me a broom and pan saying “as soon as you clean up the shop, we can go in for lunch. The shavings go into this can here,” he pointed to the nearest blue trashcan as I passed to him my first ever wood working object.

He marked on the bottom in felt pen: AJ #1

Finishing up the cleaning he leans over and says, “well, will there be a second lesson?”

To be honest that was a lot more information than I had expected. And I’m feeling rather confident now that I had my hands on the chisel. I’d like to come back next week, if that’s alright with you?” He smiled, nodded his head yes, then said, “I am happy to hear you would like to continue.”

Objective: create an even cylindrical pine for a future project

Result: A cylinder with a large top (3″) and a small bottom (2.5″) with 2-beveled edges. Similar to a “mini baseball bat”.

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb

One Comment

Comments are closed.