Woodturning Tools and Equipment

Lathe Chisels
Learn what you need to know to begin with woodturning. Which tools, and equipment that is necessary for  woodturning.  If you're like most turners you subscribe to a number of magazines and have a library full of books. These books and magazines are great at telling you all the things you have to have to increase your woodturning abilities, but where do you draw the line. 


This is the list of tools you need to check-off if you are a first time lathe buyer.

  • Lathe and Fittings

Standard Equipment - You should have with the following:

  • Faceplate: For attaching wood to the lathe, screw threaded onto the lathe headstock.
  • Spur drive center: A 2 or 4-pronged device for driving square billets of wood between centers
  • Tail-stock: The non-driven end that is adjustable in position along the lathe and supports the wood
  • Tail-stock center: A revolving point (hopefully) that holds the billet in place in the tail-stock.
  • Tool rest: A flat plate that is used to support the cutting tools when turning.
  • Tool-post: The device that attaches the tool rest to the lathe.

Tools to Buy to Get Started

The purist will tell you that you can do all the woodturning you need with a 13mm bowl gouge.  But we need a few basic tools to get started.

  • Spindle Turning 13mm tools are a good starting size. Hardware firms sell a 3-tool set that includes a shallow gouge, a parting tool and a skew chisel. As a raw beginner this will get you going and you will be able to make a rolling pin or a chair leg. The steel is not so good in these sets but they cut wood if sharpened often enough. Bigger sets are also available with up to 10 tools in the set.
  • Bowl Turning - None of the cheap tool sets I have seen have a bowl gouge in them. It is very difficult to make a bowl with a shallow gouge as it leads to dig-ins.  A 13mm bowl gouge is a good starter size. For a beginner I recommend a replaceable-tip gouge because you can waste a lot of expensive steel until you learn how to sharpen properly.
  • Grinder - Cutting tools have the habit of going blunt. You will need to sharpen these and the best way is to use a grinder. A warehouse grinder is better than none but a grinder with 25mm wide stones and a minimum diameter of 150mm is best. 1/3HP is probably as small as you want to go to drive the 6" wheels.
  • If you were just getting started the above list would get you going. Your projects list is going to be small but at least you will be able to be a woodturner.

Tools to Make the Job Easier

  • Chucks - At the top of this list has to be a scroll chuck - If you look in woodwork magazines you will find the options are huge.
  • Electric drill with Power sanding Attachment - I know this sounds like cheating but a power sanding attachment for your electric drill can increase your finishing ability by 100% when you become efficient at it.
  • Stone Dressing Tool - This is the gizmo that straightens up the stones of your grinder, after you have been sharpening gouges for a while. This leaves a big groove in the middle that makes it hard to sharpen your skew chisel. A dressing tool is the answer here. See you hardware man if you need to know what one looks like and how to use it.
  • High Speed Steel - As you get good at sharpening, aim to replace your most commonly used gouges and chisels with High Speed Steel tools - the edge lasts 10 times longer when used correctly.
  • Bowl Gouges - Adding a 10mm bowl gouge to the list can assist with finishing cuts. Later down the track you can add 15mm or 19mm bowl gouges to assist with larger size bowls.
  • Scrapers - These tools used correctly is a real bonus to bowl turners.
  • Electric Chainsaw - Being able to cut wood in your shed with the doors closed is a really good option. There is the limitation of the length of the cord as to what you can cut outside, but it's a great first saw.
  • Chainsaw - To be a woodturner you need wood. A chainsaw is a very necessary item. Buy what you can afford. The bigger the saw the bigger the pieces of wood you can bring home, (within reason).
  • Vacuum chucks - Removing chuck recesses is a breeze with a vacuum chuck. Peer pressure will lead all of us eventually down this road.
  • Band saw - You can cut the corners off a wood blank with a hand or chainsaw. But ask the turners that haven't got a band saw how many times they visit a turner who has one. If you cant afford a band saw don't race of a buy one because I said you needed it. But keep it in mind when you are asked about Christmas presents.
  • Battery Operated Drill - These you can do without until you have had one and it breaks down. Their ability to zap wood screws into hardwood is unbelievable and much easier than a screwdriver.

Nice to Have List

  • Chuck Accessories - There are times when a standard set of jaws is not enough. The 100mm and pin jaws are very popular and handy to have for bigger and smaller turnings.
  • A Second Chuck - Once you have purchased all the accessory jaw sets you get really hosed off having to change them all the time. Many of the professional and semi-professional turners I know own more than one chuck.
  • Hollowing tools - All of us at some stage will want to make a hollow form. There are many and varied tools available. My advice here is to see what the other chaps are using and ask if you can have a go. The symposium and the jamborees are a great place to see these tools in action and maybe have a try.
  • Bowl Savers - A bowl saver equals free bowls. To have the option of removing the center from a bowl and making it into another bowl means extra money instead of extra wood shavings. This gizmo will pay for itself.  As for which one, they generally all seem to work.
  • Angle grinder - A 100mm angle grinder with a sander or carving tool attached is a great time saver. My warehouse grinder is in its fourth year and is used extensively for carving with a rotary chisel.
  • Drill-press - This gives you the means to drill straight. Not cheap to purchase but you will know when you need this one.
  • Air Compressor - The advantages of compressed air are huge. From removing shavings from the inside of a hollow form to running a spray gun or air-brush. This also opens the option to use air operated power tools like drills and grinders.

Wood Turning—Basic Tools & Cuts


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