12 American Woodturner Spring 2006

Tvenly Ways
not to turn a bowI
By Nick Cook

hen il vas suggesled
lhal I vrile lhis arlicle,
I vondered if il vas
because someone lhoughl I didn'l
knov hov lo lurn a bovl. I vas
assured lhal I drev lhis
assignmenl nol because I'm
inex¡erienced al bovl lurning bul
ralher because I have had so many
voodlurning sludenls.
I have been leaching
voodlurning for more lhan 2O
years, and many of lhe classes
have been basic, for beginners, or
an inlroduclion lo voodlurning.
You can ask anyone vho has been
involved in one of lhese classes
and lhey vill lell you lhal my mosl
frequenlly used direclion is: ¨Slo¡,
don'l do lhal!¨
Anyone vho leaches basics al
}ohn C. Cam¡bell, A¡¡alachian
Crafl Cenler, Arrovmonl, or An-
derson Ranch Crafl Cenler ex¡ecls
lo have rav beginners in a class.
We also ex¡ecl novices vilh |usl a
lillle ex¡erience and even ex¡ecl a
fev vho have been lurning for a
number of years.
The leacher's challenge is
gelling all of lhe sludenls on lhe
same ¡age in lhe same book al lhe
same lime. Adull learners seem lo
have lheir ovn ideas aboul hov
lo lurn, and some are nol lhe leasl
inleresled in hov I vanl lhem lo
lurn. Some are self-laughl, some
Stop! Don't do that!
have allended olher classes. Òlhers
have read voodlurning books and
valched videos.
And olhers . musl have been
lime-lraveling lo lheir eighlh-grade
sho¡ classes vhen someone vas
allem¡ling lo inslrucl lhem.
Òne of lhe biggesl ¡roblems
leachers face is lhal many sludenls
are ilching lo lurn a really large
bovl lhe firsl lime lhey sle¡ u¡
lo lhe lalhe. Òr, lhey lug in some-
lhing lhal cosl lhem big bucks.


No matter how eager you are to turn your ñrst "keeper," don't beg|n turn-
|ng w|th |arge or expens|ve stock. The 8"-d|ameter stock on the headstock
|s more appropr|ate.
Rcprinic! uiin pcrmissicn.
Amcriccn Asscciciicn cj Wcc!iurncrs
13 woodturner.org

StopI Don't do thatI
Too big. You vill learn a lol
more aboul lurning lechniques
by lurning lols of small, shallov
bovls lhan you ever vill by lurn-
ing one or lvo really large ¡ieces.
Too vaIuabIe. Whalever
you do, do nol ¡ay for ¡rac-
lice vood. There is ¡lenly of free
vood oul lhere÷lhe sluff really
does grov on lrees. Ask around al
your AAW cha¡ler, you'll find a
resourceful grou¡ vilh ¡lenly of
¡raclice ¡ieces.
Too hard. Green vood is a
greal vay lo slarl. Wood lols
and local lree cullers are greal
sources for ¡raclice malerials.
Too deep. Slarl oul vilh a
small (8"-diameler) ¡laller
before allem¡ling any ly¡e of
bovl. When you are comforlable
vilh lhal, lransilion lo a shallov
bovl÷|usl slighlly dee¡er, bul slill
aboul 8" in diameler.
Kee¡ lhe form o¡en ralher lhan
making lhe o¡enings smaller. The
smaller lhe o¡ening, lhe harder il
is lo cul lhe inlerior.
Not ready for prime time,
(or finish). Don'l vorry aboul
a¡¡lying finish lo anylhing÷lhal
vill come laler. Think ¡raclice
¡ieces. I suggesl lhal you use a
screv chuck or face¡lale and lurn
sha¡es lhal resemble bovl forms
unlil you gel lo lhe ¡oinl of
becoming comforlable vilh lhe
bovl gouge. When you gel lo
vhere you do nol have lo lhink
aboul vhal lhe lool is doing, you
are ready lo lurn a bovl. Ònce you
gel a fev decenl-looking forms,
lurn lhe bovl around and begin
holloving lhe inlerior. Then, gel
oul lhe finish.
Too oflen, novice voodlurners go
from lurning s¡indles lo lurning
bovls vilhoul ad|usling lhe lalhe
s¡eed. Too big and loo fasl is a
deadly combinalion.
StopI Don't do thatI
Too much speed. ßefore
mounling slock belveen
cenlers or on a face¡lale or chuck,
svilch on lhe lalhe vilhoul any-
lhing mounled. This vill give you
lhe o¡¡orlunily lo see vhere lhe
s¡eed vas sel vhen lhe lalhe vas
lasl used. Develo¡ing lhis habil
vill ¡revenl an accidenl.
I encourage sludenls lo reduce
lhe s¡eed of lheir machines al lhe
end of every lurning session. This
is easy on variable-s¡eed lalhes,
bul I meel resislance lo lhis vhen
sludenls are learning on machines
vilh sle¡ ¡ulleys. Do il anyvay,
il's never loo early lo develo¡ good
safely habils.
Too much of a hurry. An-
olher ¡roblem lhal can ruin
your day occurs vhen you have a
large ¡iece on lhe lalhe and slo¡
lhe machine loo quickly. This ha¡-
¡ened lo my friend Andy Marinos,
vho suggesled adding lhis li¡ lo
lhe Don'l Do! lisl.
To lurn lhe bollom of a bovl,
Andy mounled his large flal |avs
on his scroll chuck and mounled
lhe rim of lhe bovl in lhe |avs.
Wilhoul checking lhe s¡eed, he
lurned on lhe lalhe. Il vas going
much loo fasl for lhe lask al hand.
Andy quickly hil lhe slo¡ bullon
on lhe machine, and lhe molor
slo¡¡ed. ßul, lhe chuck and lhe
bovl had enough momenlum lo
kee¡ s¡inning÷even vilh lhe
lalhe slo¡¡ed. When il came off
lhe s¡indle, lhe assembly caughl
his hand belveen il and lhe lool
resl. Andy's vound required
numerous slilches.
Here's a safer ¡lan: Slarl lhe
lalhe al a lov s¡eed or use lhe
selscrev in lhe chuck lo lock il
onlo lhe s¡indle.
Standing in the wrong
pIace. You should alvays
sland lo one side of lhe vork¡iece
(oul of lhe ¡alh of lhe s¡inning
blank) vhen you lurn on your
lalhe as shovn in lhe ¡holo c|ctc.
Here's a good hab|t to deve|op: Before you
turn on your |athe, a|ways stand to the |eft
or r|ght of the chuck.
14 American Woodturner Spring 2006
ßefore anyone slands in fronl of a
lalhe, I reviev all of lhe lools, lheir
uses, and hov lo shar¡en each.
I idenlify each lool, ex¡lain hov
il is used, shov hov lo shar¡en il,
and also shov lhe various culs lhal
can be made. I also ex¡lain vhal
each lool is nol designed lo do. ßul
somelimes, lhal's nol enough.

StopI Don't do thatI
No roughing-out gouge for
bowI work. Ior bovl lurning,
never lurn vilh a roughing gouge.
This should be a no-brainer, bul
I have seen il done. In my mind,
lhis lool should be referred lo as a
s¡indle roughing gouge.
Here's a classic exam¡le. Òne
sludenl mounled a large, square
blank on a lighlveighl lalhe and
lurned il on al loo high of s¡eed.
Needless lo say, I screamed from
across lhe room, ¨Slo¡, don'l do
lhal!¨ When I gol lo vhere he vas
vorking, I also discovered lhal he
vas aboul lo allack lhe ¡iece vilh
a 1¼" s¡indle roughing gouge. Òh,
and il vasn'l shar¡ened yel, il had
|usl come oul of lhe box.
You should nol use lhe skev on
a bovl eilher!
Big gap at tooI rest. Òne
of lhe mosl common ¡rob-
lems is exlending lhe lool loo far
oul over lhe lool resl. Many limes,
sludenls vill conlinue culling
vilhoul moving lhe resl any closer
lo lhe blank. Ònce lhe lool exlends
more lhan 1" or so beyond lhe resl,
slo¡ lhe machine and move lhe
Sp|nd|e Rough|ng Gouge¬NoI
Bow| Gouge¬YesI
As your bow| takes shape, stop the |athe
frequent|y and move the too| rest to about
1" from the stock.
The bow| gouge, top, |s the on|y one of the
three |athe too|s you shou|d use for your
bow| projects.
15 woodturner.org
lool resl closer. Lalhe lools have
been knovn lo break over lhe lool
resl÷a very bad lhing.
The heighl of lhe lool resl is
delermined by lhe lool you are
using and your heighl and slance.
Alvays ¡lace lhe lool on lhe resl
firsl, louch lhe back of lhe lool
lo lhe blank, lhen genlly lifl lhe
lool handle unlil lhe bevel makes
conlacl vilh lhe vood. This vill
ensure lhe bevel su¡¡orls lhe cul-
ling edge. You vill be less likely lo
gel calches lhis vay.
Moving tooI rest with
Iathe running. Don'l even
lhink aboul il! Never move lhe lool
resl vilh lhe lalhe running.
Not foIIowing the curve.
Il is nol uncommon for a
beginner lo make slraighl culs
along lhe lenglh of lhe lool resl,
correclly move lhe resl closer bul
conlinue lo cul in a slraighl line. To
¡roduce beller ¡rofiles, move lhe
lool resl around lhe sha¡e of lhe
bovl. The resull is a cone-sha¡ed
bovl. This is vhere a curved lool
resl can be hel¡ful, allhough nol a
Work on a conlinuous curve÷
nol lhinness.
Wrong direction. Ior face-
grain bovls, cul u¡hill or
from bollom lo lo¡ on lhe exlerior
of lhe bovl. Òn lhe inlerior of
your bovl, cul dovnhill or from
lhe rim lo lhe cenler.
No body movement. You
are nol bolled lo lhe floor.
To ¡roduce beller curves, use your

When turn|ng the outs|de of a face-gra|n
bow|, turn from the bottom to the top
(somet|mes descr|bed as uph||||.
When you remove stock from the |nter|or of
a face-gra|n bow|, a|ways beg|n at the r|m
and work toward the center (a|so descr|bed
as downh||||.
16 American Woodturner Spring 2006
body and move il lhrough an arch.
Learn lhal ¨voodlurner's svay.¨
Ilace lhe lool handle againsl
your hi¡ and hold lhe handle vilh
your righl hand near lhe shafl and
your lefl hand on lhe lool resl.
Kee¡ your lefl hand on lhe lool
resl lhroughoul lhe cul lo ¡rovide
addilional su¡¡orl. Remember, if
you move your feel, you move lhe
¡ivol and lose lhe curve. Learn lo
sving your body, bul don'l move
your feel.
DuII tooIs. ßeginners also
have a ¡roblem delermin-
ing vhelher a lool is shar¡ or nol.
Il lakes ex¡erience lo be able lo
lell. Differenl voods reacl differ-
enlly lo being cul. Mosl beginners
merely increase ¡ressure as lhe
culling edge gels dull. This can
be dangerous.
When in doubl, shar¡en lhe lool.
And, lhe besl vay lo shar¡en a
lool for beginners is vilh |igs and
fixlures, lhey all vork, and lhey all
¡rovide excellenl resulls. Hand-
shar¡ening also vorks afler you
learn vhal you are doing, bul lhe
|igs and fixlures vill ¡rovide con-
sislenl resulls each and every lime.
ße sure lo louch u¡ your edge
on lhe grinder before making your
final cul. A dull lool vill ¡ull or
lear al lhe fibers, leaving a surface
lhal you can'l sand smoolh. This is
es¡ecially lrue on end grain.
Lach inslruclor vill shov you
his or her favorile grind for lhe
bovl gouge. They all vork if you
lake lhe lime lo learn hov lo use
lhem. Il is more im¡orlanl lhal you
learn lo consislenlly re¡roduce lhe
grind you are using lhan vhich
¡rofile you choose.
Grinding by hand is im¡orlanl
lo learn, bul for lhe beginner, |igs
and fixlures are a greal hel¡.
Too much pressure. An-
olher common ¡roblem is
a¡¡lying loo much ¡ressure vhen
culling lhe surface. This vill force
lhe heel of lhe lool inlo lhe surface
and bruise lhe fibers, leaving lines
lhal remain invisible unlil you
a¡¡ly finish. Yikes!
These lines are almosl im¡os-
sible lo sand avay. You musl recul
lhe surface. Relax and lel lhe cul-
ling edge do lhe vork ralher lhan
forcing il.
A lol of bovl-lurning ¡roblems
begin vilh hov lhe malerial is
allached lo lhe lalhe. ßecause
every nev lalhe is shi¡¡ed vilh a
face¡lale, lhis is lhe obvious choice
for lhe beginning voodlurner.

StopI Don't do thatI
Wrong screws. Trouble
can begin al lhe firsl sle¡
vhen you screv lhe blank lo lhe
face¡lale. Here, several ¡roblems
can occur. Il usually slarls vilh
dryvall screvs, lhey are loo lhin
and loo brillle. You exacerbale lhe
¡roblem vhen you drav u¡ dry-
vall screvs vilh a ¡over screv-
driver, vhich ¡ulls lhem u¡ lighl
and sna¡s lhem.
Sheel melal screvs are a beller
choice lo allach lurning slock lo a
face¡lale. These screvs are case-
hardened and have dee¡er and
shar¡er lhreads. Make sure you
choose a lenglh lhal is a¡¡ro¡ri-
ale. Square-drive screvs are also
¡o¡ular and are much easier lo
remove from hardvood.
Ior securing lurning slock, one
size does nol fil all. Ior an 8"-
diameler blank lhal is u¡ lo aboul
2" lhick, I recommend ~8×¾"
screvs. Ior a 14×8" blank, secure
vilh ~14×1½" hardened screvs.
DifficuIt grain. You musl
also consider lhe malerial
you vill be ¡ulling lhe screvs
inlo. Lnd grain requires larger and
longer screvs. ßevare of ¡unky
or s¡alled voods, once lhe vood
has slarled lo decay, il is exlremely
difficull lo gel a screv lo hold.
Sa¡vood does nol hold screvs
as vell as hearlvood. To be on lhe
A gr|nd|ng j|g he|ps many new turners repeat the same beve| on a |athe too|.
17 woodturner.org
safe side, bring u¡ lhe lailslock
vilh a live cenler for insurance.
This vill give addilional su¡¡orl if
lhe screvs do nol hold.
Choose lurning slock lhal offers
a beller chance for success. Dale
Nish says il besl: ¨Life is loo shorl
lo lurn cra¡¡y vood!¨
Poor grip. Ònce you gel
exciled aboul lurning, il
¡robably von'l be long before you
¡urchase a 4-|av scroll chuck,
vhich I lhink holds malerial beller
on lhe lalhe. Hovever, lhis chuck
has ils ovn sel of challenges.
I have had many inslances
vhere sludenls have made
lenons loo small or lhe recesses loo
shallov. Lilher case can cause lhe
blank lo se¡arale from lhe chuck.
Iunky vood and sa¡vood
¡resenl lhe same challenges and
grain ¡roblems as noled c|ctc.
Loose fit. Green vood
requires you lo lighlen lhe
|avs of lhe chuck re¡ealedly as
moislure is forced from lhe blank.
}usl as vilh lhe face¡lale, remem-
ber lo use lhe lailslock and cenler
vhenever ¡ossible.
Turn safely and have fun. ßul by
all means, lhink aboul vhal you
are doing and consider lhe risks
involved. If you are unsure, ask
someone vilh more ex¡erience. If
il looks dangerous, il ¡robably is.
¨Slo¡, don'l do lhal!¨
Nick Cook (nickcook@earthlink.netj is
an Ame||can Woodt0|ne| contributing
editor. Nick, who lives in Marietta,
Georgia, will teach afternoons in the
Youth Turning Room at the AAW
symposium in Louisville.
If you want your bow| to stay |n the chuck,
you'|| |earn the va|ue of proper|y s|z|ng
the tenon. If the chuck |oosens, the bow|
w||| ñy out off the |athe.
Sheet-meta| screws shou|d be your on|y cho|ce for mount|ng turn|ng stock to facep|ates.
At , you can see how a drywa|| screw can break off , wh|ch |eads to huge safety |ssues.

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