Wood Turning 101: A Beginner's Guide to Wood Turning

Wood Turning 101: A Beginner's Guide to Wood Turning

Wood turning is a branch of wood working that uses a lathe to spin the exotic woods that you're working with. As the wood turns on the lathe, you can use various tools to shape it into things like table legs, bed posts, stair rails, spindles, finials, bowls, pens, bottle stoppers, and more. As you're starting out, here are a few things that you should know:


There are many different kinds of tools you can use to achieve different effects:

  • Skew chisels

  • Gouges

  • Parting tools

  • Scrapers

  • Lathe tools

Each tool mentioned above is used for different purposes. Just make sure to keep your tools sharp so that the tools will cut cleaner and won't gouge or grab the wood. If the tools are dull, you can sharpen them using a bench grinder and wet sharpener.

Hand Positioning

After choosing the tool that you want to use, you need to consider your hand positioning to make sure that you're safe and don't cut more than you want. Take the hand that you use to write with and hold the handle of the tool. Your other hand should be placed against the tool rest, which stays under the tool. Place your thumb on top of the tool rest to help keep it sturdy.


Once you've chosen the tool you'll be using, it should remain in contact with the tool rest. The tool rest should stay about 1/4-inch from the wood. Keep the tool at a beveled angle to reduce the amount of wood that gets cut off in the process. And make sure to cut with the grain, also referred to as downhill by your fellow wood turners.

While working, remember that safety comes first. Don't remove the lathe to adjust it until it comes to a complete stop. Also, you should have no loose clothing, jewelry, or hair that could get caught in the machine. As a beginner woodturner, you can shop our weekly wood turning specials to start creating your first project. Just make sure that you feel confident using the various tools before you get started.

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