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Old 01-09-2015, 11:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Hi Everyone,

I got a Turncrafter lathe and PSI pen turning starter kit for Christmas. I've wanted to turn wood for a long time and was super excited to get going. I managed to turn 2 pens, but halfway through pen #2 my wood started chipping. After some research on this forum I realized that the chipping was likely due to dull tools (along with a fair amount of operator error) and that I need to sharpen my (high carbon steel-not HSS) tools. Here's the thing, I don't have any way to sharpen and, actually, I'm dealing with a general dearth of tools--no way to cut, no way to drill, and I should also mention, no huge reserve of cash to play with (I'm a grad student; they don't pay us that well). So, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things I need to get before I can proceed and the decision of how best to stretch my little bit of money has been all consuming. I'm hoping the you all can help.

What should I prioritize?

Should I maybe invest in a couple carbide tools for now just to get going so I can forgo the sharpening dilemma? Are there ways that I could begin sharpening that don't require a substantial initial monetary investment, but may require a little more time/elbow grease?

As far as drilling goes, I've been planning to use the lathe and just buy the necessary chucks, but I'm a bit leery because the tailstock on my lathe seems to have quite a bit of lateral play. I'm not sure if this is typical. I did call PSI and talked with them about it and they said that I should just figure out which side it pulls to and then compensate by manually pulling it in the opposite direction. I can't imagine this would work well for drilling, but what do I know? Is a little bit of left-right movement typical in the tailstock? Will it still work fine for drilling? By the way, I can get the tailstock to align with the headstock, but only if I manually correct it before locking it in position.

This brings me to another question about alignment. The mandrel I received simply does not align with the tailstock no matter how I adjust the tailstock. It's not off by much, but it is clearly rubbing against the dead center and just from the two pens I've turned there is already a groove in the dead center. Am I doing something wrong here or is this typical?

Sorry for all the questions. I just really want to get going, but don't know the best/most efficient way to make that happen. Thanks in advance for all of your help. --lindsay
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Old 01-09-2015, 12:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sabriel7 View Post
Hi Everyone,

I got a Turncrafter lathe and PSI pen turning starter kit for Christmas. I've wanted to turn wood for a long time and was super excited to get going. I managed to turn 2 pens, but halfway through pen #2 my wood started chipping. After some research on this forum I realized that the chipping was likely due to dull tools (along with a fair amount of operator error) and that I need to sharpen my (high carbon steel-not HSS) tools. Here's the thing, I don't have any way to sharpen and, actually, I'm dealing with a general dearth of tools--no way to cut, no way to drill, and I should also mention, no huge reserve of cash to play with (I'm a grad student; they don't pay us that well). So, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things I need to get before I can proceed and the decision of how best to stretch my little bit of money has been all consuming. I'm hoping the you all can help.

What should I prioritize?

Should I maybe invest in a couple carbide tools for now just to get going so I can forgo the sharpening dilemma? Are there ways that I could begin sharpening that don't require a substantial initial monetary investment, but may require a little more time/elbow grease?

A couple of things here:
A) You can invest in carbide tools. You can also make carbide tools using 3/8' bar stock for a lot less cash. Watch videos by Capt. Eddie Castelin on YouTube.
B) PSI sells a disc sander/sharpening setup that will mount on your lathe that is fairly inexpensive. http://www.pennstateind.com/store/LCMPLUS.html

As far as drilling goes, I've been planning to use the lathe and just buy the necessary chucks, but I'm a bit leery because the tailstock on my lathe seems to have quite a bit of lateral play. I'm not sure if this is typical. I did call PSI and talked with them about it and they said that I should just figure out which side it pulls to and then compensate by manually pulling it in the opposite direction. I can't imagine this would work well for drilling, but what do I know? Is a little bit of left-right movement typical in the tailstock? Will it still work fine for drilling? By the way, I can get the tailstock to align with the headstock, but only if I manually correct it before locking it in position.

As long as you're drilling centered (i.e. the bit isn't wobbling in the hole). I disagree with their answer of just manually making it line up. Drilling is a fairly precise operation...especially with regards to pens. It doesn't matter which way the hole goes, as long as it's the right size throughout and leaves you with enough material to turn throughout the blank. There may be some adjustment on the tailstock assembly that will allow you to snug the fit to the ways. Perhaps someone here has more experience with that lathe and can add to the conversation.

This brings me to another question about alignment. The mandrel I received simply does not align with the tailstock no matter how I adjust the tailstock. It's not off by much, but it is clearly rubbing against the dead center and just from the two pens I've turned there is already a groove in the dead center. Am I doing something wrong here or is this typical?

You should be using a live center on the tail stock. Also, the live center should be 60 degrees, not the standard live center that comes with lathes. If yours was the penturner's starter package, it should have come with a 60 degree live center. If not, they're about $8 from Amazon.

Sorry for all the questions. I just really want to get going, but don't know the best/most efficient way to make that happen. Thanks in advance for all of your help. --lindsay
Don't worry about questions; those are good ones. The library has some excellent articles on getting started along with techniques for the entire process.

Welcome to the community.
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Old 01-09-2015, 12:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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Lindsay -

Prioritize on practicing and learning, not on buying stuff. You will eventually buy a lot of stuff (turners are often called 'tool junkies' for a reason), but for now, you need to develop the skills to be able to turn, and after you are able to produce turnings, you will have a much better idea of which kind of tools you need to buy.

Yes, you need to sharpen your tools. For the first several months after I bought my lathe, I used an oilstone to sharpen the carbon steel tools that came with my lathe. That worked just fine - a bit tedious and time consuming, but i had some stones available to work with.

If you got a new Turncrafter lathe, it came with a faceplate. I suggest getting a scrap of plywood (or mdf - actually, mdf could be a better choice) about 5 1/2" square to attach to the faceplate with screws. Make sure that the screws aren't so long that they go all the way through the mdf. Use your dull tools to turn the edge down to a circle. Hint: use a gouge, and turn from the face ONTO the edge - that is much easier that trying to smooth a rectangular shape into a circle. Then, pick up some 5" 'pressure sensitive adhesive' sandpaper discs at the home center - look for 220 grit, but 150 is ok. Peel the backing and apply a sheet to the mdf on the faceplate. Now you have a sanding disc that can also be used to sharpen your tools - just rub the bevel in the 6 to 9 o'clock portion of the disc.

I have a Turncrafter lathe - yes, the tailstock does have a little lateral wiggle that tends to disappear when it is locked into position. But you do need to make sure that the headstock and tailstock are aligned - there are four hex-head bolts on the headstock that can be loosened just a little to allow the headstock to be rotated to line it up with the tailstock. Make sure that you lock down the tailstock so that it can't wiggle as you do the alignment. And I found that it is very helpful to put the pen mandrel into the headstock spindle, and the line up the end of the mandrel with the tailstock - the mandrel will 'amplify' any alignment error, and you will get a more precise alignment if the mandrel is in place.


Carbon steel tools are less expensive than HSS, which is why they are usually supplied in starter kits. They need to be sharpened more often, but when they are sharp, they will cut as well, if not better than HSS or carbide. So learn how to sharpen on the carbon steel tools, and after you acquire some skills and have the available cash, then you can invest in HSS. Carbide tools are nice mainly because they don't require sharpening, but they don't cut as well as either carbon steel or HSS, and unless you buy cutters and make your own bars and handles, they can be more expensive.


You can buy predrilled blanks, but they are more expensive and the selection is more limited than with undrilled blanks. So eventually you will need to find a way to drill. The usual choice is a drill press because they have other uses, but if you are mainly drilling pens, a better solution is to buy a morse taper chuck and a chuck to hold blanks on the lathe. While you can buy 3/8" chucks, 1/2" chucks aren't much more expensive and can be far more flexible in the long run. I suggest getting a keyed chuck - less expensive than a keyless and bits mount more accurately.

You will also need a way to hold the blank while drilling. The best solution is a four-jaw scroll chuck. These aren't cheap. I opted for the less expensive PSI 'utility' chuck which has served me well for a number of years - don't regret that choice at all.

PSI and the other suppliers all sell pen blank drilling jaws - I don't think they are necessary. Just mount the blank between centers and turn a tenon on one end, and then mount the blank in the standard jaws of the chuck using that tenon.
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Old 01-09-2015, 12:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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You would do yourself a huge favor and save many hours of frustration by finding someone in your area to help you with your new hobby. I self taught for over a year and grew so frustrated I almost quit. Luckily I found a turning club and as they say the rest is history.
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Old 01-09-2015, 12:20 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I started with a set of HSS turning tools and I still use them for a lot of things, but for simple pen turning, I use an R2 carbide tool almost exclusively.

I use this set of diamond hones to sharpen my HSS tools. About 10-15 strokes with each one is usually enough. Ideally they should be sharpened on a grinder and just dressed with the hones, but you can get by with the hones alone for quite a while.

Buy DMT Dia-Sharp 2.5" Diamond Offset Mini-hone, Kit at Woodcraft.com
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Old 01-09-2015, 12:23 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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To what Louie said regarding chucks: if you don't plan on doing much other turning than pens in the near future (or until the funds are available), PSI sells a pen blank drilling chuck for $80. It is good for nothing other than drilling, whereas the more expensive chucks will be versatile for turning bowls and other items.

Also, +1 for the faceplate sanding disc. That's all the $40 system from PSI is. It's an acrylic faceplate that mounts with a nut and washer.
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Old 01-09-2015, 01:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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I always tell newbies that they need to buy a sharpening system the same time they buy a lathe. Absolutely necessary. But you could get an Easy Start Carbide for about $60 to do pens. Did you get a faceplate with the lathe? if so, you can fasten a piece of MDF to the faceplate, and glue on a sheet of good sandpaper, then sharpen on that.
The best money spent, would be to join a local chapter of the American Association of Woodturners. You learning curve will be cut by 2/3 and you will get the right advice on what tools to buy. American Association of Woodturners
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Old 01-09-2015, 01:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Came across this method for sharpening my wood planes years ago. Great results for short money. Just need hard flat surface, some spray glue and a few different grits of sandpaper.

Scary sharp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 01-09-2015, 02:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Find a mentor. Someone in your area that is also a turner.
That is the best advice I ever got and I pass it on. The mentor I found showed me where to spend money. Easier ways to do things. And helped me beyond words. They can give you advice and direction.
Find a local turning club. Those people have made most of the mistakes and can help stop the frustration. They might even know how to aling you equipment.

Welcome from Minnesota.
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:57 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Thanks to everyone for the wonderful advice. I think the idea of attaching some MDF and sand paper to the faceplate is just brilliant! I'm going to make that my weekend project. I'm also on the lookout for a local wood turning chapter. I noticed a few other Michiganders on here and I'll PM them soon to find out where they're meeting.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge. I truly appreciate it!
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