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Thread: I'm new to turning-Best wood for small pieces

  1. #1
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    I'm new to turning-Best wood for small pieces

    I'm new to turning. Mostly I make small models of old cars. these often require pretty small pieces, e.g. one part I making now has a bell at the top about 3/4" wide , an inch long, the bottom is a 3/16 dowel like piece about 2" long. I've tried to make it several times from wood I have, southern yellow pine-broke,
    poplar-broke. I made one out of mahogany but only cut the bottom dowel piece to 3/8",it didn't break but I obviously didn't get to the desired 3/16".
    I don't doubt that a big part of the problem is my technique (or lack thereof). Any suggestions on the best wood to use or technique to follow is appreciated.
    Thanks
    Dennis

  2. #2
    Dennis it's good to practice on soft wood like the pine just to get the feel of things but for those sort of small items I would look to hardwoods. Walnut, maple, are among them these are usually available depending on the color of wood you want to use.
    Pete


    * It's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep for life - Sister Elizabeth Kenny *
    I think this equates nicely to wood turning as well . . . . .

  3. #3
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    Poplar is a good wood for turning, and should go down to 3/16" with little problem. Sounds like you are being too aggressive or are using dull tools, maybe both. Another area which will affect thin spindles is the use of a live center. Too much pressure from the live center can cause problems. Try again, using sharp tools, light pressure on the cut, and little or no tail stock pressure. Also, use a finger behind the turning to help support it. Don't push too hard with the finger, as that could break it too.

    Another thought, if you have cross grain in the 3/16" area, that will weaken it quite a bit. Keep trying, it will come together.

    Tom
    The hurrier I goes, the behinder I gets.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by dennis thompson View Post
    I'm new to turning. Mostly I make small models of old cars. these often require pretty small pieces, e.g. one part I making now has a bell at the top about 3/4" wide , an inch long, the bottom is a 3/16 dowel like piece about 2" long. I've tried to make it several times from wood I have, southern yellow pine-broke,
    poplar-broke. I made one out of mahogany but only cut the bottom dowel piece to 3/8",it didn't break but I obviously didn't get to the desired 3/16".
    I don't doubt that a big part of the problem is my technique (or lack thereof). Any suggestions on the best wood to use or technique to follow is appreciated.
    Thanks
    That sounds mostly like a technique problem. Lots of practice will build expertise. Practice turning spindles will let you develop fine tool control.

    Are you making these in one piece or two pieces and glued together? Is the bell hollowed or solid? Do you have a picture of one?

    A couple of other things. Could you describe the tools you are using and the way you are holding the wood to make the dowel? I turn a lot of long, thin spindles and some methods of holding are better than others. For thin things, straight grain is easier.

    Some tools are definitely far better than others for small work. I prefer a 3/8" spindle gouge or detail gouge and a small skew, along with a parting tool for sizing.

    Which part are you doing when the pieces broke? Did you get a catch with the tool? Did the dowel section break or the bell?

    In normal times I would suggest attending a local woodturning club and ask for advice, and perhaps find someone who can watch your technique and make suggestions. But in these times, the turning clubs are probably (or should be) closed. If you take some closeup photos of how you are mounting the wood and your tools, and get someone to take a few pictures of you turning one, someone here might be able to spot something.

    As for the type of wood, for small things I like to use fine-grained wood, the finer the better, such as domestic species like holly, dogwood, cherry, bradford pear, or exotics like ebony and cocobolo. Some of the harder species like dogwood are very strong.

    BTW, I sometimes turn quite tiny things and the exotic woods are my favorites, the harder the wood the better. (The hard, fine-grained wood will take detail better. These are on a penny! The goblet in this picture is actually huge compared to some my friend John Lucas has turned - one of his is so small you actually need a magnifier to see it!

    tiny_things_IMG_7973.jpg

    JKJ

  5. #5
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    I’m fairly new to spindles and this video by Mark Sillay helped me a lot, FWIW. He does everything on pine and needs no sanding.

    https://youtu.be/YYlK_njna_M

    tom

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    John and Thomas
    I watched Mark's video and there is no question that my problem is technique. I guess I just need to practise a lot, Mark makes it seem so easy using the right technique, and I think he was just turning a 2x4.
    John
    That goblet is amazing, I'm 76 years old and if I can get to making a goblet like that by the time I'm eighty I'll be happy ☺

    Thank you both for your very helpful advice.

    PS, John you were so right , just bought a second set of turning gouges, the $ are adding up, or should I say, going out fast!
    Dennis

  7. #7
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    Agree with what the others have said. I really like cherry or hard maple for small parts. Plenty strong, cheap (relatively-- or especially when it comes out of the firewood pile), turns easily, and finishes beautifully. Any of the fruitwoods really are very nice. Poplar is great for practice, but you may want something harder for your finished product. Pine and other softwoods require very sharp tools and great technique to get a good surface, it's not what I'd suggest someone start with; too much frustration.

  8. #8
    Here in NJ, maple is pretty economical. I would start with that. It takes details very well. I would steer clear (for now) of oak. It's open grained, and presents challenges when forming details.

    In fact, a great thing to practice on is green wood. It's softer and less dusty. There are abundant sources of it here in NJ depending on where you are.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    Here in NJ, maple is pretty economical. I would start with that. It takes details very well. I would steer clear (for now) of oak. It's open grained, and presents challenges when forming details.

    In fact, a great thing to practice on is green wood. It's softer and less dusty. There are abundant sources of it here in NJ depending on where you are.
    Prashun
    Where,here in NJ do you get your maple?
    Dennis

  10. #10
    Pm me. Depending where you are I may be able to give you a few chunks of that. I have a little cherry too.

  11. #11
    What county are you in? The wood turning club i am in meets in Howell the 2nd Tuesday of the month. If your close your more then welcome to come to a meeting once this dust from the world clears when we start meetings back up. We have lots of experienced turners that would be more then willing to help you with technique.

  12. #12
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    Some progress😊

    Well after listening to everyones suggestions and watching the youtube demonstration , I turned a decent piece,certainly not perfect , but at least OK. I used poplar which I have a lot of. Progress is nice☺. Going back to look at some more youtube demonstrations.

    Thanks again
    Dennis

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