Sunday 31 January 2010

Turn Turn, Spinning Wood Into Gold

Photo D D

The long dark days of winter can lead to cabin fever or interesting hobbies.

The ancient Egyptians are given credit with inventing the first practical lathe around 1300 BC.

And spinning wood has been fascinating mankind ever since. This first lathe was a two person design that used an assistant to pull a rope spinning the wood, that was carved by the master.

The Romans adapted this technique adding a bow to the process allowing for more consistent speed. In the middle ages a foot pedal was devised allowing one person to operate the lathe much like a treadle sewing machine.

Lathes and turning techniques can be divided into two basic techniques, spindle turning face carving. Spindle turning involves putting a piece of wood between two spinning points and carving it as it spins. This method is used to create spindles, dowels, table legs and baseball bats. Face turning utilizes only one turning surface to which a piece of wood is attached. This method is used to carve bowls platters and other open face items.

Wood turning was probably mechanized in a manner similar to grain mills, with animal, water and wind power. The advent of speed and consistent power was a big step forward and allowed for mass production. While mass production isn't the goal of the hobbyist or artisan carver the modern electric lathes are the end development of close to 4000 years of consistent improvement.

While your wood turning may only be a hobby it is one way to add value to the wood you grow in your woodlot or even your yard. Turning often utilizes small pieces of wood that have interesting grain or other defects that may make them unsuitable other woodworking processes.

Branches and burls that have been pruned from trees in your yard can be turned into valuable and cherished items. Relatively common woods like birch, maple and oak can be used to make extraordinarily beautiful pieces.

There are wood turning clubs and organizations that help those new to the world of wood turning to learn basic methods and make the right decisions on equipment.

While talents and skills are not developed over night, the process of learning them can be quiet enjoyable. A trip to a local lumber yard may point you in the direction of individuals or groups that can help you get started on your wood turning adventure. Mood turning can be a fun relaxing hobby or even more.

Be sure you wear appropriate safety equipment as spinning wood, sharp tools and lots of wood chips can be dangerous.