Getting Started in Woodworking

Thinking about giving woodturning a try?

Woodturning is a fascinating hobby.  It is so delightful to take a piece of wood from nature, shear away layers of wood, watch the wood grain take different shapes, and ultimately create an art object.

You can either jump in with both feet and buy a lathe, or you can get some exposure first and then make a decision. A few options to explore the fascinating world of woodturning are:

  • Join a local club. Members readily share knowledge and mentor people
  • Attend a beginners woodturning workshop
  • Attend workshops at a local woodworking stores

I’m  hooked! What do I do next?

You need to answer a few questions.

What area of woodturning interests you?

  • Vessel’s
  • Bowl’s
  • Spindle Turning (Candle Stands, Furniture Legs, …)
  • Miniature Turning (Jewelry, weed pots, …)

How much room do I have to set up a lathe?

  • Are you going to setup in a garage?
  • Are you going to setup in a basement?
  • Do you have a separate workshop?

What Lathe should I buy?

A lathe can run anywhere from $300 to $6000+.  It all depends on what you would like to turn. If you want to turn small objects (small bowls, weed pots, …), take it with you in your motorhome, or are limited on space, a miniature lathe should do.  If you want to turn larger items, then you would need to move up in size. Some sources to buy your lathe a lathe are listed below:

What tools do I need?

Buy only what you need to begin with. Add other tools as you learn and determine that you need them.

Basic recommendation is generally for three tools made of High Speed Steel (HSS):

  • 3/8” spindle gouge
  • 1/2” skew chisel (not required for vessel turning)
  • 1/8” parting tool.
  • Scraper (vessel turning)
  • Sharpening

What safety precautions should I  follow?

Woodturning can be a safe activity if you follow safe practices. The lathe is a power tool and can be dangerous if used improperly or by individuals who do not respect the power of the tool and the momentum of a spinning blank. Sometimes things happen that can't be foreseen even if a person is very cautious. Many accidents happen when the turner is tired. Take breaks and stay alert while using any power tools. Never work in the shop under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Eye protection and respiratory protection are the two paramount issues in woodturning. General shop safety rules are also very important as in any workshop activity. Safe mounting of turning blanks on the lathe and vigilance in assuring the blank or pieces don't fly off the lathe are extremely important.

Woodturning can be dangerous in many ways. You should read the manuals from your equipment manufacturer and avoid modifications to equipment which is not recommended by the manufacturer.The AAW supplies safety warning information in each renewal confirmation. You should take the precautions in your shop to the extent that you feel comfortable, but be vigilant about safety. Using a lathe is dangerous in a number of ways including eyes, skin, lungs, and other body parts and functions. You should always wear eye protection. Wood dust can be very dangerous, especially some woods which can be sensitizers and spalting woods with biohazards (see below). You should wear filtering equipment or have adequate ventilation in the shop. Sanding and finishing at the lathe can produce extremely fine dust which is suggested to lead to disease and/or disability.

There are many woods which can be used in woodturning with proper ventilation. There are other woods which have toxic compounds within the wood and others which harbor harmful biological agents. Contact the AAW office for more information if you are unsure. Other toxic wood links can be found at:

Where can I buy tools and supplies?

  • Local woodworking stores
  • Stores specializing in woodturning
  • Notes: Discounts are generally available through local clubs

Where do I get wood for turning?

  • Tree’s you cut down in your backyard
  • Tree removal service
  • Club Raffles
  • Lumberyard Stock
  • Look for utility companies trimming tree’s in spring.
  • Stop and ask if you can have some wood.

Where do I get more information on Woodturning?

  • Join your local club and the American Association of Woodturners
  • Books/Magazines at a bookstore, woodworking stores, or library
  • Google woodturning
  • (American Association of Woodturners website)

Welcome to the World of Woodturning!