Wood Turning & Carving

Your Essential Wood Carving Tools

wood carving toolsWood carving is both a craft and a form of art, one that has persisted since the dawn of mankind, and one that still sees a lot of use today. Indeed, it is still very widely practiced today by hobbyists and professionals alike. Indeed, wood is a wonderful and surprisingly easy material to shape: it is neither as hard nor as heavy as rock, and it does not need the constant hammering into shape needed for sculpting metals such as bronze and iron. One of the biggest appeals of wood carving, however, may be the fact that one only needs a simple set of good wood carving tools in order to carve.

The basic set of tools needed by any woodworker has hardly changed through time. Even in this age of advanced woodworking technologies, these simple tools persist, requiring only a pair of strong hands and a good helping of elbow grease in order to work wood. The following are what are most often considered to be the essentials, the most basic wood carving tools:

Gouges – The category of carving tools with curved edges, these are often used for creating hollows and curves along wooden surfaces, and may be the most used type of all wood carving tools.

Chisels – Wood carving tools that have straight edges, these are used for carving wood along straight lines and sometimes to keep surfaces flat.

Carving Knives – These are the probably the simplest of the wood carving tools discussed here. These are nothing more than simple knives that are created for cutting through wood, often used to pare layers off of wood or to make wooden surfaces smoother.

V-Tool – These are used for parting wood, and in some cases, to make lines in fat areas of wood more emphasized.

Sharpeners – These consist of various stones with differing degrees of roughness, used to sharpen the wood carving tools of a woodworker into different degrees of sharpness and fineness.

In addition, one may also place on this list the various pieces of protection that are commonly used by woodworkers:

Carving Gloves – These are thick gloves that are specially created to withstand, or at least, reduce the impact made by the sharp edges of a carving tool if it accidentally cuts at the hand of the woodworker. These may be made from a variety of materials.

Thumb Guards – These are smaller pieces of protection, made especially to protect the thumb of a woodworker from wayward blades of chisels, gouges and knives. This is also the option chosen by those woodworkers who find carving gloves too large and unwieldy to work with.

Lists between different types of woodworkers may vary: some may greatly benefit with the help of electric woodworking tools, while some may appreciate smaller, lighter tools in order to work wood into finer formations. But these are, more or less, the basic wood carving tools needed by any woodworker.

Starting Wood Turning

Wood turning has been and continues to be one of the most popular woodworking methodologies. It's not difficult to learn how but to get good at it can take years and years ... and the results can be outstanding. What I particularly like about woodturning is that you can spend a couple of hours in an evening for example, and actually start and finish the same project. This fact gives many woodworkers the encouragement to start woodturning, and once bitten, many can not resist the thrill of turning for the rest of their lives.

  If you are just thinking about getting started wood turning and not sure about investing a lot of money, I suggest purchasing one of the smaller "mini" lathes like the Jet Mini Lathe . They are quite inexpensive and don't take up a room, and they are not particularly dusty machines ... yes they throw some dust and chips but generally they are not like a table saw, radial arm saw or band saw that can through out volumes of fine dust and you really do need dust collection. With a lathe you can control the amount of dust to a much higher degree.

The thing that I like about the mini lathes is that if you do get intereted in turning and want to move up to a a larger lathe, you will find there is a benefit to keeping your smaller lather as they can be more useful for smaller projects and just for working back and forth between it and your larger lather.

There are a host of projects that can be done on a lathe from making (woodworking) tools to large bowls, urns, pens, plates Christmas decorations, kids toys ... the list is endless. What I also like about turning is if you want, it is easier to collect and use your own wood. You do not have to purchase all the wood you use, if a neighbour decides to cut down an old apple tree there can be a wealth of great wood ... probably for very little cost (if not free) for you. Because you are generally using smaller pieces of wood, you can experiment with other species of wood and really get some great looking pieces. 

You will need a good set of turning chisels that you will be able to use on either a large or small lathe. There are many, many accessories and chisel varaitions fo turning, but to start off with you are better get a bacic sent and start turning to see what kinds of projects you like best. If you decide on doing specific projects you can expand your tool base from their.

There are many many projects that can be done and you may want to pick up some books or DVD on truning to help get you started, again they are inexpensive and will get up up an going quickly. Another suggestion is to investigate a local wood turning club in your area. There are hundreds and hundreds of clubs all over the world and I would be surprised if there wasn't one in your area. If you aren't sure ... check with some of the local dealers ... they will be able to put you in touch with a local club.


Bowl Turning

 As a novice to wood turning I seem to have had more bad luck than good, but the good news is I am learning as I go along. I acquired some cherry from a neighbor who I shamed into giving me a few pieces which would have otherwise all ended up in the fireplace. The wood was quite green when I got it although it had been cut in the winter when much of the sap had receded into the roots. My fear was that in turning it green it might crack as it dried, so I investigates ways to avoid this.

I found that some people place their rough turned bowls into sealed plastic bags, then every few weeks or so when moisture collects on the inside of the bag, they take the bowl out, turn the plastic bag inside out and put the bowl back in to continue to dry slowly.

Once the bowl gets to a certain dryness the bowl is removed and re-turned to it's final shape and finish. Well I am still waiting for the bowl to dry to it's final stage to allow me to complete the turning and finishing. Now ... can anyone tell me how I will know when it is ready for my final assault on the bowl?



Copyright - Colin Knecht 

Turning Treen

Treen is a term used to describe any of a number of small, utilitarian items made from wood. Treen, literally means "from a tree" and can cover anything from carved kitchen ware such as spoons and porringers, to turned boxes and bowls. Though the word has been out of general use for some time, it is returning and is particularly apt for the many small hand turned objects now being made.


Beal Turning Treen BoringThe first step in making a small container like the ones shown, is to bore a hole in a wood blank. Our mandrels require a 1-1/4" hole which can be bored with a multi-spur, brad point or Forstner bit. The depth can be anything up to 4" for a two inch turning blank. It is wise to use a drill press vice or clamp, as shown to prevent the blank from spinning and hurting your hand. Of course the drill press should be set at it's slowest possible speed.

Beal Turning Treen Blank on Mandrel

The blank is then slid onto the large mandrel and secured by bringing the tailstock up to clamp it. Note that a pointless (no pun intended) live center is used to avoid marking the bottom of the vessel. The sharp edge of the mandrel will grip the bottom of the hole and hold it firmly for turning.

Both mandrels have tapped holes in the small end so that a draw bar may be fitted to prevent them from working out of the spindle hole.

Beal Turning Treen Finished Turning on Mandrel

The container can then be turned. Since it is fully supported within, it can be made very thin without danger of coming apart or collapsing in the lathe.

In addition, it can be removed from the mandrel and reinstalled without concentricity problems and the cavity will always be centered since the part is turned around the hole.

The only problem that can arise is if the blank, having been bored, is not turned for some time, allowing the wood to shrink or distort so that it will not fit over the mandrel. It is best to not bore the cavity until you are ready to turn the part.

The smaller mandrel is for turning the lid and stopper. The lid being the decorative exterior part and the stopper being the fitted part that goes into the top of the vessel. These two parts are made separately to make them easier to turn and fit.

Beal Turning Treen Draw Bar

Drill the blanks for the lid and stopper with a 1/2" drill, slightly more than 3/8" deep, and use super glue to install the female fittings. Both parts may be turned on the small mandrel without the use of the tail stock. It will be safer and more secure if a draw bar is fitted for this operation. You can make the draw bar yourself from a piece of 1/4-20 threaded rod, a nut and washer.

Beal Turning Treen Stopper and Mandrel with Brass RingA brass gauge ring is supplied which can be slipped over the small mandrel. It is 1-1/4" OD and serves to help turn the stopper to it's proper size. Though the stopper may be made to fit very well initially, humidity and age will probably change the shape of both the vessel and the stopper so that they no longer fit as well. Using wood from the same stock with the grain oriented the same way will help prevent these problems, but it is also possible to fashion a more forgiving plug by making a "corked" stopper.
Beal Turning Treen Stopper with Cork StripA shallow groove can be cut in the stopper and a cork band glued in. The cork, sands very easily and is springy enough to allow for the wood to expand and contract without spoiling the fit. We supply the 1/16" cork sheet for this purpose. Ordinary wood glue will work well for this, but it must be allowed to dry overnight since it will cause the cork to expand if sanded to shape before thoroughly dry, it will shrink back causing the joint to be loose. 
Beal Turning Treen Cork with Rubber Band

A rubber band is a handy way to hold the cork on the stopper while the glue dries.

The upper, decorative part of the lid is turned on the lid mandrel and is simplified since the tail stock is not used and end treatments, such as the ball, are easy to perform.

Beal Turning Treen Turning Lid

It too can be removed from the mandrel at anytime to test its fit and appearance against the vessel.

Once the lid and stopper have both been finished they can be assembled by using the 3/8" threaded stud to connect them. If a permanent connection is desired, a drop of super glue on the stud will lock it in.

- Jerry Beal, 2001

Link to purchase the Micro Turning Set & Turning Mandrel and Bushings

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