An Update After 12-Weeks of Using a Lathe

As you may recall back on April 25th we had our very first introduction to the wood shop out in the countryside. To Lathe or not to Lathe; That is the Question?” was the title of my first posting about how-to use a lathe. If you missed that article you may want to jump back and read it, follow by lesson # 1, #2 and a few others that I have written. If you have already read those postings then keep on reading…

The initial plan was for I to drive out to the countryside every Sunday for a lesson in how-to use a lathe. For the first few weeks I was strictly prohibited from using the lathe on my own. The mentor and wood shop owner knew my skills were not adequate enough to be left alone in the wood shop. At the end of my first lesson I wrote: Lesson #1: An Introduction to Operating a Lathe”.

From the onset of my training, I was told I would be creating beads, shoulders and curves as these were the most basic skills that a wood turner must learn before their skills would progress. This is when I wrote my second article: “Lesson #2: An Introduction to Beads, Shoulders and Curves”.

It is here in those first few weeks that my skills were noticeably poor and I was given regular homework of watching videos on YouTube about practicing with the lathe. I then wrote the article “Headstock vs Tailstock; An introduction to a Lathe“. Watching YouTube channels after channel, I started to see a great difference in styles, techniques and craft based around the use of the lathe.

It fascinated me, and my own eagerness began to show around the fifth week. I found myself delving into articles, looking up books in the still closed library praying for it to reopen so I could check out books on these masters and learn from them.

Through watching these videos I located several wood turners around the world whom were doing interesting things like Oliver Gomez of France. Oliver has a unique way of building overly large wood turning projects. Or Andy Phillip from England whose very much into spinning both wood blocks filled with resin as well as random slightly wet burls. Every piece Andy makes expands my creativeness in what is possible on a lathe!

Some of the names my mentor mentioned that I should look up and check out were:

  • Richard Raffan, of Austraila
  • Mike Mahoney, of California USA
  • Pascal Oudet, of France

Of course the more I watched guys turning on YouTube the more my creative right brain started churning out idea after idea after idea, until I could not handle it anymore and turned it all off! Once the computer was off, I grabbed a pen and paper to start sketching ideas. Which was followed by a bunch of research online about different types of wood.

My mentor informed we would start with a soft wood as his acreage is chalked full of poplar trees, then we would graduate into a slightly harder wood called Elm and finally he would offer up some Oak as its a harder wood. However before we could start with the hardwoods we needed to progress with learning the skills.

After six weeks of constant roughing gouge to eliminate the bark followed by what seemed like 100 beads, coves and shoulders I was spent. My skills were either getting worse or my patience was running thin. Either way I needed something more to hold my own interests.

Thankfully one Sunday before our lunchtime break, I asked about coming out more often to the wood shop to increase my exposure on the lathe. “Basically what I am finding is I am forgetting the rules of the lathe between each Sunday and would like to begin coming out here on either Tuesday or Thursday night for a couple of hours to get a bit more hands-on,” I asked with a grin. His face always stoic simply looked into my eyes and no words came out. “My problem is I’m not retaining the information and each week I feel pressured to work faster even though I’m understanding the concepts of going slower to keep up with how a wood turner is supposed to progress. I’m a really hands-on learner. And I believe an additional few hours each week will really progress my skills.” I finished my sentence and let him ponder on those words as I grabbed the broom and pan to start my cleanup.

He could see it in my eyes, the eagerness to learn.

“For now, I am good with you coming out to practice on Tuesday or Thursday nights as I have other commitments. I will not be able to assist you on those nights. If you are good with that, then you may come out whenever you like during the summer months. In the winter it will have to be by appointment.”

We shook hands followed by a bit of laughter because we both understood I was hooked on this new found hobby and was eager to get my hands on the lathe, chisels and working on a piece of wood.

The 6th Poplar Box