Top Tools and Equipment for Woodturning

If you’re new to the woodturning world, you may wonder what tools and equipment you need to get started. Which ones are absolutely essential for beginners, and what might you add to your collection as you become more advanced?

Read on to find out more about the tools and equipment every woodturner needs.

Lathe

The very first thing you will need to begin woodturning is something that will turn wood! The tool that you will need for this process is called a lathe. The lathe is made up of several parts, but they all work together to spin the piece of wood around an axis so that a woodturner can use tools to remove unwanted pieces from the wood and shape it into something beautiful and useful.

Woodturning lathe tools and equipment

Think of this like a potter’s wheel. Many people are familiar with the image of a potter bent over a ceramic wheel, shaping wet clay into different instruments while the clay spins on the wheel head. In woodturning, the lathe is not placed between the woodturner’s knees, but is set in front of the woodturner, usually on a bench or counter so that one can stand and reach the machine easily. The piece of wood is then mounted to the lathe so that the woodworker can use tools to shape it into a gorgeous and practical implement.

On the left-hand side of the lathe is the headstock. The headstock is spun by a motor, which is attached to the headstock by a pulley system. A woodworker can change how fast the headstock spins by adjusting the position of the belt on the pulleys.

On the other end of the lathe bed is the tailstock. The tail stock can slide back and forth, keeping an even pressure on the wood piece while it is being turned, which helps hold it in place. The wood piece is mounted to the lathe using a chuck or spur center; these are metal implements that are drilled or hammered into the wood, which keep the wood piece from flying off the lathe while it is turning.

The last piece of the lathe is the tool rest or tool holder. This is where the woodturner rests his or her cutting tools to help keep them steady while working. The tool rest, headstock, and tailstock on most lathes can all be locked into place, giving you a smooth and secure working surface.

Basic lathes, perfect for beginners, can be purchased for $200-$300. (You can even find a mini lathe for under $100 if you are looking for something small to start with!) More advanced lathes cost $800-$5,000 depending on the special features and accessories included.

Basic Cutting Tools for Woodturning

Once you have your lathe, you will need to think about what cutting tools you want to have on hand. Some lathes will come with a set of woodturning tools, but others will not. In that case, you will want to purchase a few basic tools to get started. Below are four basic types of tools used in woodturning:

Roughing Gouges

Shank Hercules tools and equipment for Woodturning

The first kind of tool any woodturner should invest in is a roughing gouge. A roughing gouge has a metal u-shaped flute that is very sharp, which is applied to the wood as it is turning. This tool is used for roughing out a piece of wood and for turning a square block into a cylinder.

Spindle Gouges

The next type of tool a woodturner will want is a spindle gouge. A spindle gouge looks like a roughing gouge because of its long, metal, u-shaped flute. However, a spindle gouge is much thinner than a roughing gouge and is used for detailing.

Bowl-turning or Faceplate Turning Gouges

The next kind of tool a woodturner needs is a bowl gouge. Most bowl gouges also have long, u-shaped or v-shaped flutes, but one side of the u will be thicker than the other side. These tools can be used for shaping the inside and outside curves of a bowl, plate, or other curved surface.

Parting Tools

The final type of tool that woodturners often use is a parting tool. The parting tool has a long metal shaft that is sharpened to a fine point. This kind of tool is used to part a wood piece from the lathe, and it can also be used to mark sections or cut grooves on a spindle, which can help a woodworker keep track of the cuts he or she is making.

Specialty Cutting Tools for Woodturning

So far, we have focused on the basic tools a woodturner needs to get started with his or her first projects. However, once you have mastered the basics, the whole world of woodturning opens up! Once a woodturner has mastered the art of creating bowls or spindles, you may want to try your hand at vases, jewelry, boxes, or other items that require more precise tools and techniques. Below are three categories of specialty tools that you may want to include in your woodturning toolbox for more advanced projects.

Hollowing Tools

Woodturners who make vases, boxes, or other hollow items would do well to invest in a set of hollowing tools. Hollowing tools come in various shapes and sizes, but many have long hooked or bent necks, sometimes called a “swan neck.” These tools let a woodturner reach the inside of a vase or box more easily, especially if the diameter of the opening is smaller than the hollowed-out form (think ancient Greek urns or vases.)

Scrapers

Another kind of tool an advanced woodturner might want to have on hand is a scraper (or set of scrapers!) Like hollowing tools, scrapers come in many shapes and sizes and can be used for many different projects. The most basic scrapers have a long neck and a flat or rounded head and can be used to remove marks made by other tools.

However, more advanced scrapers might have a notch or groove in their heads, allowing the woodturner to create specific shapes. For instance, a dovetail scraper might allow a woodturner to cut the dovetail on the base of a piece to perfection. A captive ring scraper has a c-shaped notch in the head, which helps a woodturner make perfectly round rings on the lip of a vase or on the edge of a baby rattle. A bead forming tool has a u-shaped groove in the head, making it easy for a woodturner to create a series of beads on a table leg or spindle.

Detailers

Texturing tools and point tools are all tools designed to help a woodturner finish his or her product with flair. Texturing tools can add a unique accent to any bowl or birdhouse, while point tools can be used to effectively “draw” designs on the finished product by making tiny grooves or etch marks in the wood.

Woodturning Safety Tools and Equipment

Once you have your lathe, cutting tools, and wood blanks ready, you might think you are ready to begin woodturning. Almost! Before you begin, you will want to make sure that you will not be taking an unexpected trip to the emergency room halfway through your project because you were missing some important safety gear.

Face Shields

The first and most important piece of safety equipment needed for woodturning is a face shield. Face shields are made of a sheet of clear, hard plastic that is mounted to a helmet. A face shield should cover a woodworker’s entire face to protect the wearer from flying debris. Make sure to purchase one made with good quality plastic so that your vision is not impaired as you work.

Clothing

Close-toed shoes are another must for any woodworker. While this might seem unnecessary, the same flying debris that could hit one’s face could also land on one’s toe and send a woodworker to the emergency room just as easily.

Lastly, a woodturner should make sure he or she has tied back any loose hair and removed any loose-fitting clothing or hanging jewelry; anything that could get caught on the piece you are turning has the potential to create a catastrophe.

Hunter Tools

Here at Hunter Tool Systems, we have you covered if you are looking for any kind of woodturning tool. The Hunter Tool uses a very fine grain of carbide specifically engineered to meet the sharp tooling requirements demanded by the woodturning community. Our woodturning tools are simply unmatched in the industry.

Our cutting tools are proficient in rough turning operations, but they also excel in finishing cuts to help eliminate or reduce sanding operations. The carbide cutter will last up to 100 times longer than quality HSS, and when it is dull, all you have to do is rotate the cutter; no grinding or sanding needed. When rotated all around, simply replace the cutter with a new tip. Our tools can be ordered with or without wood handles, and if you use manufactured handles or want to create your own, the Hunter Tool shanks are turned to fit standard handles.

Roughing Gouges

If you are in the market for a roughing gouge, check out our Hercules tools. These tools absorb the shock of the impact of rough cutting, making them the perfect roughing gouges for beginners or advanced woodturners. And, as an added bonus, our Hercules Tools can also be used for finishing cuts.

Bowl-turning or Faceplate Turning Tools

We also have options for those who are looking for bowl-turning or faceplate turning tools. Our Straight Turning Tools and our Viceroy tools are both excellent options for beginners or advanced woodturners. In fact, our straight turning tool was the very first one we put on the market! It is an efficient tool that removes wood very quickly and will produce outstanding finishes prior to sanding. The Viceroy is a versatile tool especially useful for creating the inside curve of a bowl.

Bowl-turning or Faceplate Turning Tools

We also have options for those who are looking for bowl-turning or faceplate turning tools. Our Straight Turning Tools and our Viceroy tools are both excellent options for beginners or advanced woodturners. In fact, our straight turning tool was the very first one we put on the market! It is an efficient tool that removes wood very quickly and will produce outstanding finishes prior to sanding. The Viceroy is a versatile tool especially useful for creating the inside curve of a bowl.

Viceroy Tools and Equipment for Woodturning

Spindle Gouges

Spindle gouges are another important type of tool to keep on hand, we supply those as well. Our Osprey tool might just be the last spindle gouge a woodturner ever needs; it anchors, bevels, and cuts spindles efficiently and is a very popular tool, especially for the woodturners that do segmented work. For fine details, woodturners will want to check out the Phoenix, and be sure to read about how this unique tool came to be.

Hollowing Tools

For the more advanced woodturners who are looking for a set of hollowing tools, we have several options. Our Badger tools are real problem solvers. The box makers, vase makers, and those that turn small hollow forms find the Badger Tools useful “go to” finishing tools.

The Cygnet hollowing tool is named for its avian counterpart: the baby swan. While the Badger tools have straight and swan-necked options, they are quite long. The Cygnet is a smaller swan-neck tool that is daintier than most of the solid bar type tools typical of the Hunter family. The Cygnet is manufactured to produce finer touches.

We offer two types of Baron tools: the Wide-reach Baron and the Long-reach Baron. The Hunter Wide Reach Baron is the perfect tool for short hollow forms up to 6” in diameter. After the Wide Reach Baron tool was introduced, we realized there was a need for a similar tool with a longer reach, so we created the Long Reach Baron.

The Small Taper tools we offer are best used on vessels 3” tall and smaller. They are ideal for final finish form and shaping. These tools can be purchased separately or as a set. The Small Taper Straight tool is used for the initial hollowing process. If the walls of your project are straight, then the Small Taper Straight tool is the only tool needed. The Small Tapered C Hook tool is used for undercutting areas or in the “Belly area” of a hollow form or globe. The Small Tapered Shoulder tool is sometimes called the Back tool. The unique cutter placement is perfect for turning under the shoulder of a small diameter turning, such as a Christmas ornament globe.

Lastly, we offer some options for those who want to purchase their own hollowing set. The Retrofit Hunter Carbide tools are manufactured to be used in the various captured hollowing systems that are available on the market. Many woodturners enjoy manufacturing their own captured hollowing systems and purchase the Retrofit Carbide tools as the cutting tips for their systems.

Key Takeaways

  • The lathe is the first piece of equipment you will need as a woodturner. This is the primary tool that spins wood around an axis for shaping.
  • There are four kinds of basic cutting tools: roughing gouges, spindle gouges, faceplate or bowl-turning gouges, and parting tools.
    • Roughing gouges are used for rough shaping and turning square blocks into cylinders. Spindle
    • Spindle gouges are thinner than roughing gouges and are used for detailing.
    • Bowl-turning or faceplate turning gouges are used for shaping bowls or curved surfaces.
    • Parting tools are used for cutting grooves and parting wood from the lathe.
  • There are many kinds of specialty tools for woodturning; hollowing tool sets, scrapers, and detailers can help you finish a piece with elegance.
  • Safety gear, like face shields and closed-toed shoes, are essential when working on woodturning projects.
  • Hunter Tool Systems offers tools for both basic and advanced woodturners.

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