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Thread: Lathes and Turning 20 Years Ago...

  1. #1
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    Lathes and Turning 20 Years Ago...

    Just to kill a little time between football games today I thumbed through and old turning book I have. "Turning Wood" by R. Raffan, published in 1985. If your club library has it check it out. For you turners who have been turning for only a short time you may be surprised. Raffan's Union Graduate lathe, made in the UK was ahead of it's time in some ways such as a 19" swing. It still used a belt change for 4 speeds. No Reverse and a lot more. The standard way to secure a piece to the lathe was with a faceplate. Raffan used a bowl gouge but with a square ground nose. There's a lot more that's interesting.

    Any of you old timers remember other "old" methods and tools of those days? I sure do. We've come a long way in 30 years.
    Last edited by Wally Dickerman; 12-28-2015 at 7:41 PM.

  2. #2
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    I can go back even farther than that. I started with a Dunlap lathe, bronze bushings for bearings. Mostly spindle turnings with mild steel tools and one face plate. It had either a 6 or 8" swing, three speeds with an old motor that I have no idea where I found it, probably one half horse could have been a third. I think I got it for Christmas in the late 1950's.

  3. #3
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    I started in my dads shop in 1967 on one of three converted Atlas metal lathes turning bait casting bobbers and spear fishing handles. over the years we did a large portion of 5 million bobbers and 150 thousand spearfishing handles. On long runs we would use carbide tools that we ground specifically for the job. For normal jobs we used 1/4" HSS tooling. We turned a range of stuff from beads to columns 24' long and 2' in diameter. material from redwood to ebony to a turntable bearing for BN railroad out of lignum vitae and maple for the first plastic coated bowling pins for AMF. Never did get a "real" wood lathe all of ours through the years were converted or handmade from scratch.
    Last edited by roger oldre; 12-27-2015 at 9:26 PM.

  4. #4
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    Excellent book

    Turning Wood" by R. Raffan
    An excellent book. Since I knew no woodturners or anything about resources I learned turning from Richard's books, Mike Darlow's, and others. For those who would rather learn everything from videos, you might be missing out. There is SO much more information in the text of a book than they could ever fit into a video of reasonable length. Not only the "how" but the "why". I follow many of Raffan's techniques when I teach turning to beginners.

    I had the pleasure of watching and talking to Richard when a local turning club hosted him a few years ago. What a pleasant guy. And I got some books autographed.

    JKJ, Wood Turning Groupie.
    Last edited by John K Jordan; 12-28-2015 at 9:16 AM.

  5. #5
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    I can remember when a woodturning catalog was 3 pages--cash only.

  6. #6
    Wally, that is the book that I got and it sure helped my turning. I still have a number of old tools that were not that great. It wasnt only the high carbon steel, but the crummy handles as well. Not only were they less than optimim shape, but tapered ferrules often loosened up and short tangs came loose. It was common to occasionally slam the butt down to reset the tang.

  7. #7
    There is a nice video from 2008 on youtube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0DndTljUhg

    If you have any trouble with the url, search on youtube for

    "Bowl Turning with John Jordan"

    Worth a look :-)

  8. #8
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    In 1985 top of the line lathes such as the General 260 had a 12 inch swing, reeves drive, no reverse and came with no live center.

    Faceplates were used, often screwed directly into the wood. Glue blocks, sometimes with newspaper, were used to avoid screw holes in the blank. The 4-jaw chuck first appeared in 1989 I believe.

    The fingernail grind on bowl gouges became popular in the middle 80's. Side grinds came a little later.

  9. #9
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    In 1985 top of the line lathes...
    Faceplates were used, often...
    Glue blocks, sometimes with...
    The 4-jaw chuck first appeared...
    The fingernail grind on bowl gouges became popular in...
    Wally, I'm looking forward to your new book, "The History of Woodturning".

    Or even "The History of Modern Woodturning". No need to go back to the 1600s except maybe in the introduction.

    No?, how about a magazine article, then?

    JKJ

  10. #10
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    At one of our holiday shows I got to talking with a "old" turner. He was actually about my age but had stopped turning about 20 years ago.
    He looked at the bottom of my bowls and asked how I did them, I said vacuum chuck and saw the glazed look in his eyes. So I explained what a Vacuum chuck is.
    I further explained that technology had evolved a -lot- since he stopped turning.

    Turns out he was an early/founding member of the Bremerton club, and knew your name, and a few others... Since we had just had our 25 anniversary.
    I can't recall his name right now, but he worked for Pope & Talbot (timber)
    Making sawdust mostly, sometimes I get something else, but that is more by accident then design.

  11. #11
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    Not to make us feel any older than we already are, but 1985 was 30 years ago....That's when I got back into woodturning after learning 20 yrs earlier in high school.

    There was no vortex then. A spur drive, a faceplate, a few scrapers, and a parting tool, and you were all set.

  12. #12
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    Wally, in1985 i talked my wife into taking a vacation to the new England states, i had found a add in Fine woodworking magazine for turning lessons from a fellow in Vermont. We figured out a time to go there in the fall for a foliage tour and a 2 day class in turning. I came away from there with new tools i had not seen before and a PCC chuck. Precision Combination Chuck it was really assume compared to a face plate. It was from UK and just ahead on the scroll chucks of today which are way ahead of the PCC.
    Wally Wenzel

  13. #13
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    Wally my first exposure to a wood lathe was in about 1965, as a 7 yo, with a visit to a pro wood turners shop with my Dad to pick up an order. It was a dusty messy place but a hive of activity, exposed belts whirring, plenty of noise - exciting to see. We see similar in the books such as Raffan's of that era. Today WH&S inspectors would be horrified to see such practices in a work place & thankfully hobbyist turners have also benefited from more knowledge & better gear to make life safer.

    I think my first actual use of a real "full size" wood lathe was in 1970 in a "manual arts" class in high school, although I had one of those mickey mouse aluminium bed lathes powered by a "Skil" aluminimum bodied power drill in about 1969. Hard to believe I started turning over 45 years ago, though I have had long absences away from turning. Still hve one of those toy lathes about. I should take a few photos & post them.

  14. #14
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    Yeah John a mag article might be a fun thing to do. I'm no journalist but I've been published a few times in magazines including American Woodturner

  15. #15
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    The first time I used a lathe was in shop class in 1961 and 1962, using one of the big Deltas that every school used to have. Bought my first lathe in 1964, sort of looked like the old AMT lathes you could find in the back of Popular Mechanics. Used it to make duck calls and predator calls for several years. Upgraded to a Delta in the 1970's. I used face plates and home made jigs for making duck, turkey and predator calls for many more years.

    Then came the 3 and 4 jaw chucks and finally the Beall collet chuck on the market. Thought I had died and went to lathe heaven. I had used metal lathes and had access to chucks that really made a difference in the way I could do things. Today I still have most of my old lathes, even an AMT that I used a washing machine motor, and a collection of other old iron lathes that I use when I feel like it. My old lathe collection is big enough to make an anchor for the Titanic, some I use, some I just have in storage.

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