With the cost of hardwood these days, it can be prohibitively expensive to turn anything into a lathe, let alone practice. Many beginning turners and even experienced ones turn to the woodpile for turning wood. While experienced turners will have little trouble mounting the wood, beginners need a few tips to get started.
Much firewood will come in sixteen inch lengths and will be spilled in halves or quarters of the log. For spindle practice, select a quarter log about three inches on a side with no splits at the end. If there are small cracks, they can be treated in the workshop. Cutting an inch off the ends will usually eliminate small cracks in a quarter section of the log. If not, cut off another inch or take another piece of wood from the woodpile.
When examining the register side of the coin, you will notice that you can get a rotating square about two inches from the coin. For all purposes, divide the width of the room (three inches) by three and multiply by two. If you have a bandsaw, you can cut the scrap to leave a rough square, or you can do it laboriously with a hand saw. This is not a good cut to make on the table saw.
Another option is to remove waste in the lathe. Starting at the corner of the section, measure one inch and go up one inch at each end. This will give the centers of the two-inch square. On the wood lathe, choose one end for the headstock and the other for the tailpiece. Center the center of the spur on the headstock at the center mark on the wood and strike it on the other end with a mallet to drive the center of the spur into place. Some turners object to this for fear of damaging the bearings, but if a bearing will be damaged by such an event it is too light for wood turning.
Raise the tailstock and center the center of the tail on the square center mark. Tighten the tailstock and feed the center to hold the wood firmly in place. Because of all the extra wood in the log section, it will be very unbalanced. Learning to handle it is a good exercise in lathe work.
Make sure, with the lathe off, that the wood clears the rest of the tool and tightens the rest. Stand clear of the wood and run the lathe at its lowest speed to make sure the wood is secure on the centers.
Sharpen a roughing gouge and get ready to gouge the wood. The tool must be clamped firmly in the tool holder and held so that the tip is above the turning wood. It will bounce off the uneven wood but won’t cut. The handle of the tool rests on the hip, and the planned cut will be very close to one end of the wood, usually the tailstock end. As the handle slides up the hip and the point moves down into the wood, a chipping cut will begin as the tool approaches forty-five degrees. Cut towards the end of the trunk. Once the cut is made, lower the log a bit and repeat. This continues until the other end of the record is reached. At this point, move the rest of the tool toward the wood for better control and repeat until the wood is round. You can now proceed like any other spindle.
Kindling is a great source for practice wood and also for advanced projects. It is dry enough to work with and provides an excellent supply of local hardwoods for woodturning enjoyment.
Eventually, a one-stop vein for a lifespan of woodwork plans!