What Is Wood Turning?
Wood Turning is the use of a lathe which spins wood horizontally allowing hand tools to be used in cutting. The lathe will hold the wood by its ends, not its sides.
The cutting process allows for objects like pends, bowls and cups to be fashioned in woodworking. It is a great way to create art with wood.
Due to the nature of how the lathe operates the vernacular “wood turning” became popular. It can be used as a term to describe someone who uses this method of woodworking and their work or products.
I wish to drop three ideas for you before I go into issues surrounding the market you exist within for this tool. Whether one decides to remain as a hobbyist or seek profit can depend on how well equipped they are for the market they are in.
Three Ideas To Take Wood Turning To Your Next Level
These ideas will help a hobbyist become a more dedicated professional with their work. Achieving this really is about niche markets when using a lathe only.
Yet I will deal more with those challenges later comparing a hobbyist to a professional Wood Turner.
Wood Turning Idea 1: Furniture Repair Or Making
Get good at copying pieces from furniture. If you achieve this then you can repair pieces which few other people can replicate. Yet go one step beyond that idea.
How many people do you see making slab tables out there in places like FB? There are tons of them.
How many are making quality kitchen table chairs? Ahah! If you have a quality lathe then you are in business.
Wood Turning for generations has existed around ideas such as these. Rather than the token trinkets of pens or bowls there are ways to turn wood and create a substantial name for yourself.
Niches such as this are across the market where one can fit into.
Wood Turning Idea 2: Architectural Works And Fine Pieces For Framing
This steps back to older times. You have two options here as well. Historical repair work or new work which is incorporated into architectural designs.
Many may shrug away from this as it would seem intimidating but there is a hidden open door.
The skills it would require to make those kinds of pieces can also be put to use in a unique way. Creating framing for canvas art can be a unique niche market.
How you use a lathe to Wood Turn frames I will let you discover.
Wood Turning Idea 3: Art Sculptures
Art Sculpting is something Wood Turning is not commonly used for today compared to the volume of lathes in garages. Yet the lathe is a part of the process of this creation.
The benefit of the cnc is that if one has little carving skills it can help get you started. Otherwise tried and true practice with wood chisels will help you finish the sculpting. Patience and practice is always key.
Nevertheless creating sculptures, folk art, and other pieces with Wood Turning heralds back to ages past. It is more than a trip down a nostalgic lane.
Today there is a broadening market for items which reach beyond the mass produced junk we commonly find.
Wood Turning As A Hobby
Wood Turning is a great hobby. The upside to a lathe is that it can be had inexpensively when starting wood carving.
Depending on the size you are looking at they can run anywhere between 300 dollars for a small benchtop to near 1k usd for a larger machine.
There are better lathes if one desires such as a Powermatic yet here you are paying considerably more. If I were new to Wood Turning and looking on the market for my first machine I would probably suggest a Grizzly.
It will let someone get their hands dirty with a more dependable set up inexpensively.
Most people who are into woodworking either started with a small lathe or soon after starting got one to play with. There are also some functions it can perform which no other tool can do.
At the end of the day if you do not have one, eventually you will.
Due to how inexpensive it is there are a lot of people out there that are into Wood Turning. Among the more popular things made are pens and bowls.
You can find them at flea markets and woodworking shows. Kits are sold for pens across many places online.
There is an entire industry built around this tool for the hobbyist or small shop weekend seller. The benefit to this is that ultimately you will never run out of support for what you need.
The downside is that it can be challenging to make a real profit off this tool alone.
To see real gains you will need to step out from the hobby mindset at some point. This will require better machines and more skill. Ultimately it will require your creativity.
Wood Turning For Profit As The Hobbyist
I have a neighbor who is heavily into Wood Turning. He has also managed to make a profit at what he does.
He is a natural at his work and his ability to sell his work. What is more is that his Wood Turning is quite good.
Not everyone will find success at selling their work. Most projects are small and will yield little profit.
There are some rules to abide by when staying within these small items.
The idea is to minimize overhead, sell in person to eliminate shipping, and to have a beautiful end product. It will be difficult to compete online or in a broader market with these items unless you can create something really unique.
There is no doubt that Wood Turning is an art form. If anyone doubts this they should load up a lathe and give it a go.
It is very unique and much of the ability to find profit from this tool alone will depend upon how skilled and creative you are.
Challenges Commanding Higher Prices With Wood Turning
The challenges for getting more money for your work are much the same as with anything else. The one exception to this is how common the lathe is today allows for more of what you make to be found made by others.
Consider the next two paragraphs as being highlighted red, in bold all cap letters, and underlined. They are that important. I have dedicated entire articles to these concepts.
If you want to see more in return you will need to beat out all the mass produced garbage online. They claim their stuff is hand made, but most is not. Here you achieve by two paths. Expand your work and learn marketing.
Once you create that something which is unique to you, keep the secrets of that creation to yourself. Please ignore the millennial generations bad habit of creating a how to on everything for social networking.
Likewise once you learn how to market in a niche, keep that guarded as well. Sure it is okay to help others along a path. Yet help them on their path, not down yours.
How To Transition From Hobby Wood Turning To Professional
The best way to begin a transition from Wood Turning as a hobby to profiting is by growing. Expanding what one makes is critical. This applies to both aesthetics and function by design.
Not every lathe is equal. You will need equipment which fits the vision of where you want to be. Additionally you will need other woodworking equipment to further expand your capabilities in what you can do.
Right off the top of my head immediate needs come to my mind. I can list three now being a good size bandsaw, table saw, and router table.
These three alone would expand ones capability in what could be made with wood turning.
There just really is not a way to compete in a broader market with a lathe alone. While I am not going to sit here and tell you what you should create nor what you should buy, looking around your local market should prod you in a direction.
Online you can find bowls, pens, cake holders, assorted plates, and cups of wide varieties. Your problem is that many of those you see are makers with larger machines that are automated.
You are hand making yours as a hobbyist trying to find a foothold in a market.
If it were me, and understand I am a wood artist, I would pick up my chisels and start adding art which cannot be easily duplicated. Yet that is just me.
What you decide to use in beginning your transition will depend upon your skill set and mind towards the end goal.
Does Quality Of The Lathe Matter?
You better believe quality in a lathe matters. I want to step you up a few notches in thinking to this higher quality tool getting you away from the hobby stuff.
The first thing that comes to my mind in tools like this is power and motor life and multi axis functions.
To get the most you can out of residential power setups this means a 2 hp machine at 220v. The Powermatic 3520 B can be operated on both single and three phase power.
The price tags of these kinds of machines already puts you at no less than between 3 to 5k usd out the door with drop shipping.
Some features on a machine with this kind of power and price tag should be an automatic given. The lathe having variable speed is one example.
Yet the benefit to what it offers as a whole outweighs the price.
Among these benefits is consistency in power, speed, and repeatable results. The machine will be better than you are which allows you to focus on improving your work.
Wood Turning suddenly becomes a real art as you begin to eliminate nuances of human error.
The scope and range of your work will increase. The dependability of the parts used on the machine will give you more confidence in your Wood Turning.
All around it is simply worth it when you are ready for that transition.
Is Wood Turning Safe For Teens?
I get asked if some things in woodworking is safe. This one has been among them because it is so popular. My mind always goes back to… it depends.
Here is what I mean. In the 70’s and 80’s as kids we would ride our bikes across town without supervision and no helmets. Today people freak out over these things and hook up their kids to leashes like dogs.
So let me ask you. Does a piece of wood spinning as you take a blade to cut into it scare you? When used responsibly and with common sense Wood Turning is quite safe.
Yet all things with blades and spinning things are relative.
To answer the question of safety I will allow generational differences to settle the matter. If someone needs a safe space they may not want to get into wood turning in a serious way.
On the other hand the one benefit is that you are holding the blade not pushing your hand towards one like a bandsaw.
There are some pieces of equipment that unless I personally know the teen I would never allow them to touch it. If I were to give a warning about those tools I would say a bandsaw or a table saw that is not a SawStop is far more dangerous.
Generally speaking Wood Turning is safe for the family art night. Keep your tools sharp and the project within the specifications of the equipment.
Keep any loose hair tied and tucked away with no dangling jewelery.
To my knowledge there is no lathe on the market which will provide the same degree of safety measures found in some table saws like SawStop. Yet generally where the most fingers are lost in a wood shop does not happen on a lathe, it is the table saw.