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Discussion Starter #1
I'm just learning the use of a lathe, having used a metal lathe in college I find that the basics don't work quite the same way with a wood lathe.

What seems to be giving me the most trouble is even diameter reduction. That is, taking an rough and uniformly reducing it's diameter across the length - say 3" to 2 7/8" diameter.

With a metal lathe it's simple, set it to the correct diameter and then traverse the length with the cutter. With a chisel - not so much. I find that I tend to carve deeper into the wood as I move along the length - I'm assuming because I am looking at the wood from an angle when working.

Other than practice practice practice (which I'm doing, and getting better) what might I try to help me along? Maybe to narrow down this open-ended question, should I focus on how I'm holding the chisel on the tool rest - work on sliding the chisel smoothly across the rest? I got plenty of scrap 2x3's in the shop - so practicing isn't a problem.
 

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Yeah, woodturnign is NOT metal turning. As you're finding out, with wood turning, your hand/eye/brain coordination is the "setting".

It shouldn't be hard to hang a pair of calipers nearby and check frequently ... that should help you get a feel for when you're tending to cut more at one end of the length than the other and help you learn to correct that tendancy.
 

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The toolrest is your guide in this situation. Hold the gouge with your thumb on top and your fingers underneath with the index finger riding against the back of the toolrest.
 

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Take a set of outside calipers. Set them for the final dimension. Use a parting tool to cut down to that dimension in several locations along the piece. Then just take away the wood above these cuts. I use a rough out gouge to get close and then a skew for the final few passes.
Need to turn an accurate taper. Follow the same procedure as above but make a parting cut about every inch for accuracy.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Whew! thanks for the replies. I was half expecting to get clobbered for asking such a basic question.

What I'm hearing here is getting to be familiar with calipers. Yeah, I can see that. I know they exist, have seen lathe turners using them, but never realized their importance in producing basic work. Not trusting my eyes until I've developed sufficient skill to trust them.

I think what I'm hearing is that the tools are there, use them until I'm skilled enough to freehand. I can do that, I have plenty of scrap.
 

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I depends on how accurate you have to be. I can turn a leg for a chair and make it look pretty much just like the one I copy. I do that by eye with many years experience. However if the two parts are going to be right next to each other then more accuracy is required. That's where the dial calipers or outside calipers come in handy.
 

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Thanks again for the replies.

To Slatron25 - this actually turned out to be the best advice. I started paying attention more to how the tool was held and did in fact notice that moving the chisel down the tool rest was far more natural and the tendency to dig in largely went away. Kudos to you.
 

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I depends on how accurate you have to be. I can turn a leg for a chair and make it look pretty much just like the one I copy. I do that by eye with many years experience. However if the two parts are going to be right next to each other then more accuracy is required. That's where the dial calipers or outside calipers come in handy.

I do this exactly as John has described but in cases where I need to duplicate a diameter especially a taper, I make some jigs with some 1/4" ply and a forstner bit or bits on the drill press to check the diameter. I get a little nervous using calipers on the lathe while it is turning but a chunk of 1/4" plywood with the corners rounded slightly wont grab the spindle while it is turning. Just hold the jig up to the spindle and check if it is a good fit and adjust as needed. You also dont have to re-adjust your calipers to check a different diameter for a taper.
 

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Make sure to keep your eye on the top of the workpiece instead of watching the point where your tool contacts the workpiece. Paint the wall a dark color in order to make the profile easier to see. I have followed this advice from many turners at demos to good success.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
That's not bad advice. I have a pretty bright light for the lathe which illuminates the piece nicely - but you're right the profile does get lost against the light background surface.
 
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