The process of woodturning

Woodturning Process

Woodturning is the craft of using tools to rotate wood on its axis to produce finished objects. It may be done by hand or with a mechanical lathe. Wood has been turned for millennia, although human-powered turning is slow and requires patience even with the help of machines. Much faster results can be achieved by applying power to the lathe.

History of woodturning:

A woman sitting at a table using a laptop computer

The techniques of woodturning have been known to exist for thousands of years. Turning tools have evolved from the early use of primitive levers, which were later used with lathes very similar to the tool that is still used today. Early examples of this type of lathe can be found in Southern Germany around 250 BCE. Two flat-bottomed indentations have been found in ancient Roman sites in Britain around the year 150 CE.

Relatively little has changed in woodturning technology since Agricola’s time. Woodturners today need much the same equipment as was needed in Agricola’s time to produce a finished piece. This includes wood lathes, cutting and scraping tools, gouges, and chisels, as well as methods for sharpening such tools.

Woodturning techniques

Woodturning techniques vary with the different types of wood and grain patterns. For example, turning a bowl on the lathe uses different techniques than turning a candle holder or vase; both of these may be turned in green (wet and freshly cut) wood versus dry wood.

Woodturning tools:

Woodturning generally consists of four major operations: facing (or “roughing out”), boring, sanding, and finishing.

Roughing out:

Roughing out is the first step in a woodturning project. The objective of this stage is to create a roughly symmetrical shape around the axis of rotation with all points of the workpiece equidistant from that axis. This can be most easily achieved by cutting off corners, or by turning the wood to a rough cylinder (called “rounding out”) until all surfaces are referenced to the axis.


Boring is the second stage of a woodturning project. The hole that is bored in the center of the workpiece is called a “bore”. There are many different types of bores, but most are cylindrical in shape. Some examples of bores are square, star-shaped, three-sided (trochoidal), six-sided (hexagon) and conical.

Boring is the act of making a hole in the workpiece with an “auger”, which is normally a drill bit meant for woodworking purposes.


Sanding is the third stage of a woodturning project. Most sanding is done with either a random orbital, spindle, or disc sander. It can also be done with sandpaper wrapped around various sized dowels, blocks of wood, and eccentric tools, such as the arbor on a motorized drill or even an electric drill itself.


Finishing is the final stage of a woodturning project. It includes sanding to smooth or clean the surface and sealing it with wax or a similar finish. Some turners use spray-on finishes like varnish or lacquer, but these are generally messy and impractical in most workshops.

Advantages of woodturning:

1- Woodturning is relatively easy to learn. It can be done at home with few tools and little space required.

2- The start of any turning project usually begins with the creation of a bowl or cup, which requires no special equipment or materials, except for some dowels or pencils, with all other items usually found at home.

3- Woodturning is considered to be one of the least expensive woodworking activities, due to its use of common materials and tools that are easy to acquire.

4– The end result can be created with relatively little cost per piece; bowls or cups made from scrap woods are often finished without any further cost, and projects following the general shape of a bowl or cup require little material.

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