You’ve just been given or purchased a wood lathe and some tools to go with it. Now what do you do?

Woodturning is not just plug-and-play. One of the great benefits of membership in OPCAAW is that you have a built-in support system for your new craft. In addition to our formal mentor program, members of the organization are always glad to host a new turner in their shops, answer turning inquiries on our Facebook page, or even come to your shop to share information about our craft.

We strongly encourage beginning and novice turners to take advantage of the skills and expertise of OPCAAW members.

We have set up this page intentionally to present information for beginning turners in an order that may be most helpful to getting you started with our craft. In general, the order is as follows:

  • Selecting and understanding the basic parts of a lathe
  • Safety in turning
  • Sharpening and why sharp tools are so important
  • Ways to hold items on your lathe
  • Woodturning tools and their use
  • Basic cuts that underly successful woodturning.

Take some time to visit this page about discovering woodturning from the American Association of Woodturners.

The following web videos are of specific value for beginning and novice woodturners. The run time of each video is listed in parentheses.

Getting started

  • Selecting a wood lathe. (8:49)
  • Brendan Stemp’s choosing a wood lathe (21:40)
  • Anatomy of a wood lathe. AAW video by Lauren Zenreich (5:59)
  • How to get started in woodturning. Shows the components of a small and large lathe and demonstrates some basic turning.  (20:51)
  • Another video on how to get started in woodturning. Focusing on choosing a lathe based on what you intend to turn, how to hold wood to the lathe, and some basic tools and equipment you need to get started. (23:02)
  • Tool rest adjustments. What’s the correct height and position for various tasks at the lathe. (15:16)

Turning safety and dust control

Tool sharpening

Holding wood blanks on your lathe

  • Ways to mount wood on the lathe without using a scroll chuck. Part 1  (16:08) and Part 2 (15:37)
  • Techniques for using a faceplate to attach wood to your lathe.  (19:51)
  • Using scroll chucks and jaws to attach wood to your lathe (14:17)
  • How to create a tenon on your blank for your scroll chuck to grasp. (22:46)

  Tool selection and uses

  • Woodturning tool identification (18:48)
  • Mike Waldt’s thoughts regarding tool selection when you start out with woodturning  (13:36)
  • Sam Angelo’s must-have tools for woodturning (10:30)
  • Basics on tool sharpening for beginning woodturners  (11:17)
  • Beginners guide to the spindle roughing gouge  (14:52)
  • Beginners guide to the spindle gouge including the basic use of the spindle gouge, how to present it to the work, and how to avoid catches.  (14:11)
  • How a detail gouge is sharpened and how it is used to create coves, beads, and other details.  (14:30)
  • Parting tools can be used to “part” wood but also to create beads and turn other details. (20:58)
  • Information about scrapers (19:13) and an explanation of the negative-rake scraper (15:24)
  • The basics of the skew chisel (25:02)

 Basic cuts and practice methods

Other online resources for beginning woodturners

Around the Woods page for woodturning instruction
Beginning woodturning guide from a lumber dealer in the United Kingdom
The Highland Woodturner online newsletter