turning wood, third edition

turning wood with Richard Raffan third edition

Turning wood with Richard Raffan:
updated and expanded edition
By Richard Raffan

In this completely revised version of his classic best seller, Richard Raffan shares new techniques and up-to-date information on the art and craft of turning wood. Whether you're just starting out or more experienced, you'll discover new insights and valuable advice that reflect the evolution of wood turning over the last several decades. There's even a completely new chapter on hollow vessel turning.

Here are a few examples of what you'll find with easy-to-follow instructions that show you how.

•Choose the right chucks and tools for the job
•Sharpen and maintain your tools for the best results
•Handle tools safely and efficiently
•Learn basic techniques with ease
Brought to you by the consummate expert -- internationally acclaimed for both his turning and his teaching -- Turning Wood with Richard Raffan is an indispensable resource for every turner.

Table of Contents



How It Works
The Headstock
The Tailstock
The Bed and Stand
Switches and Motors
Center Height
Tool Rests
Choosing a Lathe



Overall Safety
Tool Handling

Centering Blanks
Marking Out Spindles
Outside Diameters
Inside Diameters
Diameters on a Face
Inside Depths
Wall Thickness

External Shaping

External Shaping
Pushing Your Limits

Blanks and Fixings
Hollowing Tools
Hollowing Rigs
Making a Vessel
Measuring Wall Thickness

Oil-and-Wax Finishes


About the Author Richard Raffan is a internationally respected woodturning artisan and teacher. Collectors prize Raffan's gallery-quality production pieces, and he is the author of Turning Wood, Turning Boxes, and The Complete Illustrated Guide to Turning. Raffan lives in Holder, Australia.

"Turning Wood is an exceptional work. The Taunton Press and the author should be commended for the excellent illustrations." -- American Association of Woodturners

"My own library includes most of the accepted texts. Without a doubt, this book by Richard Raffan is the clearest of them all." -- Woodworking Crafts


Since I wrote Turning Wood in the early 1980s, the craft of woodturning has undergone a reformation. And that was after it developed in leaps and bounds in the very late '70s. In the early to mid-'70s, it was difficult to find another woodturner, and the range of tools and equipment available was extremely limited. Today there are numerous woodturning clubs all over North America, Europe, and Australia, as well as a number of national associations. Woodturning symposiums run by clubs and associations have disseminated information, while specialist wood-turners' stores offer a bewildering array of stuff pertaining to the lathe. New chucks make life a whole lot easier, and lathes are better than ever. And while most turners are content to make a fairly conservative range of traditional forms and objects, others are not. Some are determined to get their turnings accepted as serious works of art that will make their way into art galleries and into the hands of woodturning collectors, who in turn (so to speak) have their own association. The craft is now a long way from its mass-production origins.

I took to woodturning as a practical means of earning a living, fearing that technology would eliminate me as a middle manager. I was probably wrong about that, but at the time I felt that the sooner I learned to do something practical the better -- but it had to be something that couldn't be done by machine. So on January 1, 1970, I drove west with the dawn of a new decade, leaving London big-city life and a very well-paid job for an uncertain but hopefully more fulfilling life as a craftsman. I never once regretted the decision.

I chose to be a woodturner totally on a whim. When discussing with my sister (an established potter) how I might earn a living, she suggested woodturning and a place where I might be able to learn just up the road from the studio where she trained. For no good reason, the idea appealed to me and I decided to give it a go, knowing that if I didn't like the craft after a couple of months, or if I was totally inept, I could try something else. I had absolutely no knowledge of the craft other than it involved lathes and tools with rather long handles. I chose woodturning not because of some long-standing love affair with wood or trees, but because I felt intuitively that I could learn the basics of turning more quickly than almost any other hand skill. And an internal voice told me it was the right thing to do.

My intuition proved correct. During five months in a country workshop, I was not taught as such. I had to learn by watching and listening, as the skilled journeyman Rendle Crang cranked out the workshop's production on the other side of the tiny dusty workshop. Using the monkey-see-monkey-do approach, I got to know the rhythm of production turnery, what my shavings should look like, and which noises I should be making and which I should not. And I learned enough to produce well-made bowls, lamp bases, plates, and scoops, which were destined to pay all my basic bills. I did not have the skills to turn enough merchandise for a decent living, but I cobbled together enough of a livelihood by selling to small craft and gift stores.

It was a time of relative poverty for me. My income plunged 90% as it dropped a zero, but I'd prepared for this in the earlier times-of-plenty by ensuring I owned a small house and everything in it. Debt free, I exchanged my sports car for a more practical vehicle in which I could carry timber and from which I could hawk my wares. My major concern had been to find an alternative way of earning a living, so the immense enjoyment and satisfaction I gained as I developed the skills of my craft came as a surprise. The long hours of a self-imposed apprenticeship were no hardship, and eventually I developed the speed to get a good return on the hours I spent at the lathe.

If I had a problem, it was working alone with no mentor from whom I could get advice. I discovered almost everything the hard way -- buying poor lots of wood, ruining nearly completed bowls, and so on. But on the positive side, there was nobody telling me I was doing things the wrong way. Despite the fact that I'd been told that real turners don't use scrapers, I adopted an uninhibited approach in search of my own solutions to what I later discovered were all the classic woodturning problems.

If one technique failed, I tried another, and I reckon I've experienced every conceivable way of cutting, hacking, and scraping wood on the lathe. Pieces often flew off and bounced about the workshop (and still do occasionally), but I learned a great deal in the process. In particular, I learned that real turners do use all manner of scraping techniques but not for spindle work. Some instruction undoubtedly would have helped me get started, and this book aims to make life easier for novice turners than it was for me.

No matter what you want to turn on a lathe, you need to have a good set of technical skills if the work is to be enjoyable and fluent. And fluency always makes for a better object. The techniques set down in this book show the way I go about turning wood. They are the result of an odyssey of 30 years in which I meandered the highways and byways of woodturning. They serve me well, but they are subject to instant alteration should anything better come along.

In the 24 years since I wrote the first edition of this book, I've been exposed to a lot of ideas as I've traveled the international woodturning circuit teaching and demonstrating. Fresh insights have been tested, adapted, and refined during my normal production work, and as a result many of my techniques have changed considerably since the mid-'80s.

This is a manual of hand techniques. I have tried to explain how to cut any internal or external surface and what problems and hazards to expect. I've tried to keep in mind the difficulties students commonly encounter, and if I repeat myself in the text, it is because I know these things tend to be forgotten in the mass of stuff to remember. To make the book comprehensible to readers everywhere, measurements are both imperial and metric. For the sake of expediency, most measurements have been rounded to the nearest 5mm.

Novices should be able to work through the exercises in centerwork and facework, practicing the cuts and enjoying the shavings while developing tool control. Even if you're not remotely interested in making spindles, do the skew chisel exercises. You will learn all the basics of the craft and tool control, and the time spent will be richly rewarded. Further skill-building projects are in Turning Projects and Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide to Turning. Turning Boxes and Turning Bowls examine each subject in greater depth while The Art of Turned Bowls will help you make better bowls.

Those who know a little more should find much that is useful here, while gaining an insight into one professional's approach.

If you have never turned wood before, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Shapes develop in secondsas the shavings fly away, and I have a hunch that the ability to remove so much wood so quickly satisfies some basic destructive urge and gratifies the vandal in us all.