Wood on the Lathe

flat turned bubinga bowlI am an expert woodworker … I just am. I have a natural talent for the craft, and I have dedicated myself to it for over 40 years. It is exacting work about which I am serious, and while I do get satisfaction from a well-made project, I would not describe making furniture as a good time. On the other hand, I do woodturning for fun. I am decidedly not an expert turner, as the letters I get from real turning experts demonstrate every time there is a picture of me at the lathe in the print magazine. (“Rob, your form is really terrible!” “Rob, it just hurt to see you using that scraper when you should be using a so-and-so gouge.” All of those comments are appreciated, have come to be expected and are taken to heart.)

osage orange wood turned bowlEven so, while I do give it my best to come up with a great woodturning project, I have not let this one area of woodworking migrate from a release to a regimen — I want it to be my shop fun time.

Recently, we have done some surveying around the topic of woodturning, and have discovered that many of you have joined the woodturning gang, and that even more of you are thinking of giving it a go. If you want my opinion, I say make it happen sooner rather than later. I don’t think you will regret it. (And, to read even more about woodturning, click on over to this week’s Woodworker’s Journal eZine — it’s a special themed issue, dedicated to the theme of woodturning.)

Rob Johnstone
Editor in Chief

lathe turned wooden bowl

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About Rob Johnstone

Rob Johnstone has been part of Woodworker's Journal's since 1997, becoming editor of the print magazine in 1998 and editor in chief in 2007. He began woodworking at age 13 in his family-owned cabinet shop and, as an adult, trained to become an accomplished luthier. He eventually opened his own cabinetry and custom fine woodworking business. Rob has brought many of the most well-known authors in woodworking to the Journal's pages and introduced Woodworker's Journal Online Survey. When, in his free time, Rob isn't woodworking, he enjoys hunting for sharp-tailed grouse with his bird dog, playing music and/or listening to his son's rock band and cooking on his high-tech stove.

8 thoughts on “Wood on the Lathe

  1. Maybe your form isn’t “correct”, but your 3 items you picture are to me beautiful, and pretty “expert”. — the NON-expert.

  2. Thats how I started out, have used other tools very rarely in the last 6-7 years. In fact have sold some off for more room for my 3 lathes. I know buy only with wood turning projects at the news stands

  3. I have been turning wood since 1957, have taught many kids in my industrial arts classes to turn wood, and I consider the wood lathe the easiest woodworking machine to learn to use but the hardest to learn to use well. Anyone can go to a lathe and with a little instruction turn a very suitable project. It takes many years and much sawdust on the floor to get good enough to turn duplicate parts.

    I was doing a demo at out state craftsmen’s guild several weekends ago and a fellow was watching me and asking good questions about how to do different things. I gave him the round nose tool I was using and turned the lathe over to him. Of course I was watching him since the piece of wood he was turning on was going to be a project that I was going to finish and sell later. After a while he said, “I could do this all day long.” I think we have a new wood turner in the making.

  4. I have dedicated my life to service the country and state first as a proud Marine for eleven wonderful years and then as a school teacher. Although my spine and various other parts of my body have given out due to my days in the Corps and I have had to give up teaching, my workshop, the Doghouse, is my escape. Admittedly it is difficult to hold tools most of the time and my concentration is shot from pain meds, my lathe, when I am able to hold the tools, is my greatest release from having lost so much. I am definitely not even in the same arena as your “non-expert” status you claim but it is so much fun when something finally falls off the face plate all shiney and beautiful. It just goes to show, God’s blessings are all around us. He blessed me with many wonderful years in the Corps and even more blessings in the classroom with an awesome bunch of students over the years. I miss the Corps and will miss the classroom but God has given me yet another gift as turning at my lathe helps take my mind off all the things I am no longer able to do. As I turn trinkets at the lathe, I anxiously wait for God’s next grand adventure He has planned for me. Through God, all things are possible.

    Mr. Johnstone, please keep up the wonderful job with both the online and print magazines as I look forward to both. And those turnings above, are absolutely AWESOME!

  5. Hello Rob,
    By the way I like that name, ROB. I have a son the III and grandson the IV who also use that . LOL You know what that makes me correct. Junior.

    You may already have heard this from others, but thought I might mention it any way. Wood turning, especially pen turning probably ought to have meetings, such as AA, but we don’t and there are no plans to start them. In addition no chance of getting on the wagon once you are on board. Fair warning OK ?

  6. Don’t forget about spindle turning, I have made rocking chairs for each of my 5 grand children and am now making one for each of the nephews families. I know you have one grand from your earlier articles. Lorin

  7. I think you hit the nail on the head. You have to keep it fun. I did production turning for a short period and it was not fun. I just don’t do it anymore. I’ll make small items for friends and family and enjoy every minute of it. Nice work by the way. natural talent.

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