Gold Coast Woodturners

Tips, Techniques and Projects

 Clever ideas and plans submitted by members to solve woodturning problems or save time.


Laser Pointer and Snake Tool  April 2009

 The laser tool is made from the following list of medals...

1/2" square tubing x 1/16" wall thickness x 14" long

 3/4" square tubing x 1/8" wall thickness x 16" long. I drilled a 9/32" hole and welded a 1/4"-20 nut on the side to except a 1/4"-20 thumb screw.

The main upright rod is 1/2" x 13 3/4" long and the tube it slides in is 5/8" OD machined to except the 1/2" rod and is 1-3/4" long. I drilled a 9/32" hole through one side of the tube and welded a 1/4"-20 nut to the side for a 1/4"-20 thumb screw.

 The solid stock that supports the laser is made of 5/8" round stock, I machined the tube to fit the laser I bought at Office Max which is this laser pointer...Item # 21511491. The laser's tube is 0.503 OD and the tube I made was machined to 0.512 ID, the size of the hole will press the "on" button once its slid into the holder and keep the laser on until you pull it out. The laser will not fall out because the size of the hole's ID and the pocket clip want let it slid through either.


The snake is made up of two things, 1" square stock and 1/4" x 1" flat bar. I used 3/8" shouldered bolts to put it together and I used teflock nuts to secure it so I wouldn't have to worry about the nut's backing off or becoming lose. The two piece's of 1" sq. stock are both 4 1/2" long, the flat bar's set's are 3", 6", and 10" long, two to each set. I used a "V" drill bit to drill all my holes for the 3/8" shouldered bolts, reason being, a 3/8" bolt is 0.375" and a "V" bit is 0.377", so you have a very snug fit with out any slop or wobble.

The front piece of 1" sq stock is bored to fit "my" Sorby swan neck hollowing tool, which is 0.630 OD on the shank. It is also drilled and tapped for two 1/4" set screws to lock my hollowing tool in place about an inch apart. The back is drilled with the "V" bit for the shouldered bolt. In the middle and on top I drilled another hole for the laser tool, here I used a 12.8mm bit for a snug fit for the laser tool and drilled it 7/8" of the way through, I didn't want to go all the way through, I wanted enough left to create a shoulder for the round stock to set on. On the side and right where the 12.8mm hole is I drilled all the way through the 1" sq. stock with a # 7 bit so I could tap it for a 1/4"-20 set screw, one on each side to lock the laser tool in place.

 Edited... I first wrote I used 1" sq tubing, that is incorrect, I used 1" solid sq. stock for the snake, not the tubing.

 Snake tail stock stand...

 The base is made from 1/4" x 4" flat bar, 5" long. I drilled a 7/8" hole about an 1 1/2" from the end one end of the plate and welded a 1" x 1/8" wall thickness  sq. tubing 5 1/2" long over the 7/8" hole. I drilled a 11/32" hole in the sq tubing and welded a 5/16" nut over the hole for my adjustment knob. I used 3/4" round stock for my adjustment bar that moves up and down inside the 1" sq tubing, I drilled it in the top to except a 5/16" thread from the 3/8" shouldered bolts. On the other end of the flat bar I drilled a 25/64" hole about 2" from the end for my T-nut knob. As far as the "T-nut" goes, it will depend on what machine you are making this system for, I machined my own to fit my Jet 1220VS mini lathe.

 Pictured below is my snake with the 6" flat bar's I spoke of above in the Snake section.

The only difference between this snake and the one Chuck (Recon) has is I didn't add the other round tubing to the laser stand just below the vertical tubing where the round stock is seen in the photo. I found out afterwards it wasn't needed.




 I have been turning for 14 months and it has been one of the most satisfying and frustrating experiences of my life.  In the series of articles I hope to write, I will take the beginner through my experiences from the equipment needed to finishing.  I will try to cover all the difficulties I encountered and how I solved them in hopes that the beginning turners are helped by my experiences.

Today I will talk briefly about the first step.  What do I need to turn and what is just nice to have stuff?

 1.  You need a lathe.  Either borrow one or buy one.  Start with a small mini-lathe.  There are a bunch of them available for about $250.  Start small and acquire some skills and see if you love turning as much as I do.  Bolt the lathe down or weigh it with sandbags if it is on a stand. 

 2.  Cutting tools.  There are many kinds and many prices.  You can get a basic set of 7 high speed (HSS) steel tools for about $100 or less.  They will include a spindle gouge, bowl gouge, roughing gouge, one or two skews, a parting tool and one or two scrapers.  They are not the high quality tools most of us eventually acquire.  They are made in China and cut fine.  Just require sharpening more often.  Again limit the investment until you see what you like.

3.  Sharpening- You will need a grinder and probably an 80 grit and 100 grit wheels.  The gray wheels are not for our tools, don’t use them.   You will need some type of system to hold the tools while sharpening.  Oneway has a system that works well.  There are several systems out there.  Check in the Craft store and on the net.  The grinder you can get at Home Depot.  I prefer the 8” wheels but they also make 6” wheels.  Be careful, the wheel can take skin off faster than a blink of an eye.

4.  Get a pair of work gloves that fit and cut the top of each finger off.  You need the fingers bare for the feel.

 5.  Get a dust mask of some kind and eye protection. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.

 6.  Your lathe consists of a headstock (where the motor is) and a drive tool of some sort which digs into the wood and makes it spin.  The other end is the tailstock with a tool that has a small point and spins freely.

7.  Depending on what you like to turn, you will need a chuck that fits your lathe.  Again about $100 for a mid value lathe chuck. Google “lathe chucks” on the net or anything on this page and you will find everything for sale.  The chuck screws on to the lathe and grips the wood with three or four sets of teeth.  The size chuck you buy will determine the size of the bite you can get on the tenon (part of the wood you cut to fit the chuck).

 8.  The lathe should come with a faceplate.  This is a round piece of steel that screws on to the lathe and instead of a chuck gripping the wood, the faceplate screws into the wood or into a glue block that stands between your wood and your faceplate (more of that in another article).

 9. You will need a sander of some kind.  I have found one on E-Bay (its really a drill) that has the head on an angle, not quite 90o but maybe 45o.  It is cheap, about $30 and you can replace it when it gets tired easier than an expensive one.

 10.  You will need sandpaper.  Sandpaper comes in different sizes, shapes and prices.  The roughness of the paper is called the grit.  You will need 80,100,120,180,220,320,400.  Fortunately it is relatively cheap unless you buy the pre-cut to the size of your sanding mandrel.  You will probably want a 2” and 3” mandrel.  That is the thing that goes into the sander and holds the sandpaper.  See the sandpaper section in the Craft store.  Even if you buy the pre-cut you should have a supply of the sheets ( Home Depot).

 11.  You might want sanding sealer to seal the wood before putting any finish on it.

 12.  You will want some kind of oil to bring the colors of the wood and grain out before putting sanding sealer on.  There are many kinds of oil, linseed oil, tung oil and walnut oil are a few. 

13.  A regular set of shop tools will help a lot.  There are many more tools you will ultimately buy such as calipers, hollowing tools, etc. but the above should give you the very basic system.

Stan Blumin

BEGINNERS CORNER  , Part 2              April 2009

Before I get started on wood, a bit in information on where to get stuff.  The following list will give you a heads up on where to buy on-line:

After you have the tools and equipment mentioned in my first article, the next logical step is to get some wood.  This article could be a paragraph, page or a book.  There is no end to talking about wood.

Let’s talk about wood.  For the beginner, this can be the most confusing part of getting started.  So many kinds of wood, so many terms to misunderstand.  So in no particular order, I would like to start this article with some plain English definitions.

Pith- the small round center of a log.

Heartwood-the wood around the pith.

Sapwood- the outside wood, usually a lighter color, but not always. Carries the sap up the tree.  When it stops carrying, it becomes heartwood.

Grain- The capillaries that run up the tree (LONGITUDINAL CELLS).

End Grain- When you cut a log in half and look at the part you cut, you are looking at end grain.

Side Grain- the side of the log, under the bark is the side grain.

  Next we have wet wood and dry wood.  I had no idea what they were talking about when I first heard these terms.  Wet wood is freshly cut wood where the moisture is still inside the pores of the tree.  Dry wood is the opposite.  It takes about an inch a year (in diameter) for wood to dry (general rule).  The thinner it is, the quicker it dries.  Most of us turn wet wood.  It is easier to turn so it is more fun.

Crotch wood-where a branch has connected to the main trunk.  Distorts the grain nicely.

Burl-large knoblike projections or bulges formed along the trunk.  Disoriented grain makes beautiful turning.

Spalted wood- wood that has started to decay. Be careful if you have allergies.

Hardwoods: Apple, Ash, Aspen, Basswood, Beech, Birch, Cherry, Cottonwood, Hackberry, Hickory, Pecan, Magnolia, Maple, Oak, Sweetgum, Sycamore, Tupelo, Walnut, Yellow Poplar.

Softwoods: Cedar, Fir, Hemlock, Pine, Redwood, Spruce

What does all this mean?  Not much to the beginner.  You should start turning with easy to turn woods.  You will find wood locally and on the internet.  Go to E-Bay and search “turning wood”.  You usually will come up with about 1000 items.  Set your filter by most recent and you will see what is up for auction.  The club announces when a tree cutter has cut wood for us to pick up.  It’s free.  You can also buy wood blanks at the Woodcraft store we meet.  It may seem more expensive but you save the freight which can equal the cost of the wood if you buy on E-Bay. They sell every kind of wood in the world.  It’s great to turn different kinds of wood. The wood usually comes in the form of logs of many diameters and lengths or on the internet they will sell round blanks as well.  Remember you can only put on your lathe, twice the distance from the drive center to the lathe bed (radius). Don’t buy a 14” round if you have a 12” lathe.  It won’t fit.

My knowledge of wood for turning is only two years old.  Most of the members get local wood from tree trimming companies that call the club when they are going to cut down trees.  The usual species are Mahogany, Acacia, Norfolk Island Pine, East Indian Rosewood, Pongom,  and Live Oak. You can also buy turning wood on the internet. 

When you get wood from the tree cutter, you should keep it in as long a log as possible until you use it.  It will be “wet wood” which has a tendency to crack along the end grain cuts as it dries.  The longer the wood, the fewer ends to crack.   Paint the ends of the wood with a green wood wax which helps slow the drying process.  When you are ready to use the wood, cut the end off an inch or so and then cut the size piece you want to turn.  Re-wax the fresh wood you will not be using. Another rule of thumb is to turn a piece to 10% of its intended thickness and set it aside to dry (weeks to months).  Wood “moves”.  That means it will warp and or split while it is drying. 

Unless you are going to use the bark to make a natural edge bowl (later), cut the bark off or chip it off with a chisel.  That will save you getting hit in the face or arms when it flies off the lathe.

Many beautiful woods grow in the US but not in Florida.  They include walnut, oak, holly, redwood, yew, maple, and a thousand more.  Some wood is toxic.  I am allergic to tropical almond.  Many are allergic to the dust from walnut.  Make sure you use a good mask when turning.

Another type of wood we turn is burl.  Almost every tree can grow burl.  It is a lump that grows on the side of the tree.  The beauty is that the grain is all twisty and curly inside the burl.  Some of the most beautiful burl comes from Australia.  It is expensive but beautiful. 

If you turn from start to finish, cover the wood on the lathe with a paper bag or plastic bag every time you leave for lunch or overnight.  This will retain some of the moisture and again help stop splitting.  If you cut the wood from start to finish without letting it dry, cut it thin enough so it will move (warp) instead of splitting.  The warping can make an unusual shape that you cannot get turning.  Some of us like the warped shapes we get.

Don’t be afraid of wood with bark inclusions, holes, unusual shapes etc.  They can make some of the most unusual and beautiful turnings.  A bark inclusion is where there was some kind of damage to the wood and the bark grew into the trunk.  Many of the burls have interior voids in the wood that make for interesting turning.

I hope this has been informative to the beginner turners.  Next will be putting the wood on the lathe and starting the fun.

Stan Blumin


Laser-Guided Depth Gauge / Thickness Gauge

  Click here to see larger photo

This fixture has a laser pointer on the top bar that is adjusted to shine down on the end of the dowel.  When the dowel is inserted into the turning the laser shows how deep the bore is.

Robert (Bob) Salvetti, 7/16/2008


  Click here to see the plans

Robert (Bob) Salvetti, 7/16/2008

Save time when doing several pieces.

Save time when doing several pieces by roughing all in a row on one long blank.  Pictured are four hollow form blanks with tenon for chucking individually after band sawing apart.

Lee Sky,  September 5,2005

Preserving fresh cut wood.

If you have fresh cut wood that you can't turn right away & you want it free from checking (cracking) or spalting, or for spalting to not progress more, wrap it in tight plastic ,just as you food, and put it in the freezer until you can get to it. Thawed, it will turn like fresh wood.     Also freeze it for a few days if a piece of wood has insects in it to kill bugs deep inside.

Lee Sky,  September 5,2005

Quick way to clean up.

Everyone recognizes a turner..Their hands invariably have a black residue that is almost impossible to remove with soap. The trick is to keep a cheap bottle of lemon juice near your lathe and rinse your hands with this, prior to washing them with soap. Careful of open cuts as this makes it a little more lively and less enjoyable process.

Rick Pixley,  August 14,2005


Quick way to hold a bowl when turning the bottom.

I am not sure where I saw this technique, but I have been using it with great success and saving time.  Rather than turning a chuck when It is time to turn the bottom of a bowl, I use a short length of PVC pipe with some rubber glued on.  The pipe fits over the jaws of my chuck.  The rubber prevents the pipe from marking the bottom and it provides friction to drive the bowl.  I use the cup end in the live center and after a try or two the bowl spins true.




 I use mine with the chuck jaws inside but it could be either way.


I have a small lathe so ones made out of 2 and 3 inch PVC schedule 40 pipe work good for me.

When I cut the pipe, I true up the ends in the lathe.  The wall thickness varies, but if the end is square this will work.  I use contact cement or Silicone RTV adhesive to glue on the rubber disk.  I suspect carpet pad would also work for the disk.

David Kerzel,  July 4,2005




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