Woodturning Tool Recommendations for the Beginner

Woodturning Tool Recommendations for
the Beginner

So you decided to get into woodturning.

You purchased a lathe, a good wood lathe like a Laguna Lathe ….you’re stoked and ready to turn.

Oh, Oh!

Need some woodturning tools!

Laguna Revo 13\36 wood lathe
This Laguna Revo Wood Lathe wreaks of quality, gonn be my next purchase!

I think that’s the scenario that many of us go through. Maybe we don’t buy the lathe yet but we do the research and figure out which one we are ready to get ….in other words, you are ready to pull the trigger on a woodlathe.

My friend, you’re just starting out and you are going to learn that there is a lot more to woodturning. There are a lot of wood turning tools and supplies you are going to need. And, you are going to have to learn how to use these new tools.

Each new wood turning project will require different techniques, differnt tools and different wood. It will require a different plan of attack. Even if you decide to turn a couple of wood bowls, chances are you will need some different tools and each one ….and maybe even a different finish on each one. It all depends on the type of wood and style of bowl.

I’m not going to talk about all the different accessories in this article, but I do want to talke about what is probably one of the most important considerations when entering into the world of wood turning. I want to talk about your woodturning tools.

First you are going to find out that the same type of tool from one vendor is 10 times the cost with another vender or manufacturer. In this case, you usually get what you pay for, but should you buy expensive turning tools to start off with?

Expensive WoodTurning Tools

If you have the cash, go for it!

beginning woodturing toolsIf you are like most wood turners, that is, always frugal and a good steward of your money you are going to want to purchase tools with the best value to start with.

After fighting through pages and pages, videos and videos about wood turning tools I have come to understand one of the most important things is the type of steel. A wood turning bowl gouge made with less expensive steel will not perform as good as the same woodturning tool made with the best steel. Not only that, it will not hold an edge and you will always be sharpening it.

This could be a double edge sword. It’s important to learn how to sharpen your wood turning gouges, skews and the like because ….number one, it will cost a fortune to pay someone to sharpen your tools and with a cheap tool you might have to sharpen it 2 or 3 times during the project …so you will have to learn how to use something like the Wolverine Oneway Sharpening Jig …you’ll need this regardless of the type of tool you have along with a decent 8″ grinder. So the lesson is, with a cheap tool you will learn sharpening faster and that’s a good thing because when you buy a good expensive Sorby Bowl gouge you don’t want to grind it away honing your sharpening skills with the grinder and oneway sharpening jig!

Don’t Buy A Set of Woodturning Tools

The other mistake most newbie wood turners make is that they buy a set of woodturning tools. A set might have 5 to 10 wood turning tools in it. You might find you only really use 2 or 3 of those tools and you really don’t need the rest at this point.

ellsworth woodturning gougeIt’s better to purchase 2 or 3 seperate wood turning tools of better quality and learn how to use those tools and how to maintain and/or sharpen them. And then as you do more research and your scope of woodturning expands you can grab another medium to high quality tool and learn how to use it.

If we consider the last paragraph, then the question would be….. what tool should I start with? A very good question. I would suggest a spindle gouge, a bowl gouge and a scraper. I don’t hear too many woodturners talk about scrapers, but a good scraper has saved my butt on many occaision and it’s a tool that can build your confidence. Spindle gouges and Bowl Gouges come in many shapes and sizes along with different grinds on each …..unless you are a natural they require some effort to learn but with these three wood turning tools you can do just about anything. The only other one I would suggest to begin with is a parting tool.

Here’s a good video that talks about what type of woodturing tools to begin with….good stuff, excellent photography since you can actually see how the tools cut. For instance a bowl gouge with a fingernail grind can make 3 or 4 different cuts and it could do your entire project if used correctly.

Check out Beginners Woodturning Tools

Getting Started in WoodTurning

So, how does one get started in wood turning?

The older I get the more research I do when it comes into taking up a new hobby or craft. Although I’ve been an architectural designer, property developer, contractor, remodeler, electrician, concrete contractor, excavator, drywaller, carpenter …..I could go on but there really isn’t anything I can’t do when it comes to construction and building or remodeling homes and buildings.

Although I’m not a Donald Trump, money wise or project size related …..I have been building for over 40 years.

Getting Started Wood Turning
Your First Wood Lathe

I enjoy attempting to work at find woodworking, something I have yet to master. I never really thought much about using a wood lathe and turning projects. My interest started in kind of a backwards way, I’ve been researching sawmills, looking at several forums and facebook groups and became fascinated in these machines. Turns out wood turning can quickly squirt out of an interest in portable saw mills.

First you need to do some research. Check out the forums. Take a look at some of the local wood stores. Two big names are Rockler and Woodcraft, you can source manufacturers for a wood lathe from there.

Harbor Freight Wood Lathe
Good starter wood turning lathe from Harbor Freight, if you have the cash, get the best you can afford, read the reviews on Amazon or what I post latter on this site!

You can spend a couple thousand on a wood lathe or you can do what I did. I went to Harbor Freight and purchased a medium size wood lathe for a little over 200 bucks with coupons. I’ll talk more about my lathe latter, but despite of the negative reviews that Harbor Freight often gets, I’m really pleased with my purchase. You can get an extended warranty which means you can torture you machine (at your own risk) and get a new one at the end of the year. I wouldn’t recommend that but hey, the world is full of different people.

You get everything you need to turn a bowl, candle stick hold or lamp with your Harbor Freight Lathe with the exception of turning chisels or gouges. But don’t worry, Habor Freight has ….I think 3 different sets of turning chisels.

Affordable Wood Turning Chisels
Get Started with the most expensive woodturning chisels you can afford!

Here’s the key to wood turning chisels. Two things you need to be aware of:
1. steel type of strenght
-get the most thick chisels you can afford
-I believe you need to try and stay with HSS or above type steel (do you own research because its a little confusing to me) but suffice it to say, the more expensive the chisel, the better the steel
2. Keep your chisels sharp
-good steel will hold an edge for a longer period than cheaper ones
-imagine a 100 dollar chisel when properly sharpened keeps an edge much longer than the same chisel that costs 20 dollars
3. Learn quickly how to sharpen your tools, even if you have a cheap set of tools, learn how to sharpen them properly. Unfortunately the other investment you’ll need is some type of sharpening system geared toward sharpening wood turning chisels and gouges. There are several available from $100 to $200+ along with some sharpening jigs you can make if you have a grinder ….check out youtube.

So, really, if you want to get started woodturning on the cheap you need:
1. A Woodturning Lathe
-get at least a midsize lathe, that would be one bigger than something  used to make pens
-something able to handle 30″ to 48″ in length
2. A set of wood turning Chisels or Gouges
-get the best you can afford
3. Invest in a wood turning (chisel/gouge) sharpening system

Now you can literally grab a branch or log and mount it on your lathe and start woodturning.

Simple Wood Bowl Turning Using
Just a Faceplate and Not a Scoll Chuck

I didn’t intent on talking about this but if you’ve been looking at woodturning then you undoubedly have come across the term “scroll chuck” or “lathe chuck”, a method of hold a piece of wood on a lathe. You really don’t need anything more than what comes with this basic lathe. You need a:

  1. Faceplate
  2. Drive Center
  3. Tool rest
  4. Comes with some cheap wrenches to take off the faceplate

Watch this Video on how to turn a log into a bowl using a faceplate with just the very basic tools that come with the lathe and a set of wood turning chisels!

How to Turn a Bowl with Just a Faceplate Not Using a Scroll Chuck

How to Turn a Bowl without a Chuck!