Learning how to Turn on a Lathe

I am fortunate that one of my coworkers at Techshop, who is extremely skilled at wood turning, offered to teach me how to use the wood lathe. At first I was a bit nervous, as I have minimal experience in woodworking (I’m more of a CNC/digital fabrication kind of gal). However, I soon learned turning was not as difficult as I thought. I believe it’s one of those skills that is relatively easy to learn, but difficult to master. It’s all about getting the rotation speed correct and placing the chisels correctly (this was actually a bit difficult for me as a lefty!)

I wanted to show a comparison of my first work with my most recent work. Here is my first work, a basic baluster, that I turned on the lathe:

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To get the varying cuts and grooves, I used different chisels, such a spindle gouge for lighter grooves and a parting tool to make deeper cuts (this is also what to use to actually remove a piece from the lathe). After I learned how to use the lathe, my ultimate goal was to make some sort of bowl. My coworker decided he would show me how to do so, but using marble rather than wood. I was really surprised to learn that marble (and soapstone) was a soft enough stone to be cut using steel chisels. It didn’t take much more effort to turn the marble than the wood, and I think the final product came out beautifully. I decided to give the small bowl-turned-candle holder to my mom- check it out:

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Couple of side notes: 1) I used steel wool to polish the marble. You just hold it against the stone while it’s spinning. 2) This bowl was actually supposed to have a lid, but unfortunately it went FLYING OFF THE LATHE (!) as I tried to part it. You live and learn I suppose- my happy accident turned my jewelry bowl to a candle holder.

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