Starting out-inexpensively what do I HAVE to have?

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thewishman

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This thread is for recommendations on starting out on a low budget, what things are ESSENTIAL. (This other thread is for things that are top-of-the-line and money is secondary: http://www.penturners.org/forum/f18...buy-things-once-what-best-134739/#post1791379)

Please share only what you MUST have to start out from scratch. Consider that this person has no tools and is not setting up a commercial operation, just starting in a new hobby that can quickly get expensive.
 
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thewishman

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I started with literally no tools or supplies. Here is what I did:

I visited a local turning club and watched demos and asked questions. There were several people that welcomed me and answered question (though I didn't know most of what they were talking about.)

I joined pen forums and read a lot of threads. When I had a feel for how things worked, I asked for someone within 100 miles that would let me visit their shop and show me firsthand how to make a pen. Two very nice guys hosted me and answered LOTS of questions, and continued to answer questions for several weeks afterward.

Using a borrowed lathe and tools, I made and sold enough pens to buy my own lathe.

I would first search for a used lathe, with a #2 Morse taper in the headstock and tailstock.

$19.99 Harbor Freight inexpensive lathe tool set
$39.99 Harbor Freight 130 piece drill bit set (I still use many of those bits almost 10 years later)
$14.99 Full face shield
$3.50 Whetstone for sharpening tools
$14.99 Plastic miter box with saw
$12 Decent sandpaper (no Harbor Freight stuff, it will NOT save you money) Get the 3 packs at Lowes/HD
$14 Pen mandrel
$17 Barrel trimmer
$5 Hand clamp for pressing parts together
$10 CA glue
$20 60 degree live center
$20 Jacobs chuck
$80-$140 Midi chuck for holding blanks to drill on the lathe
 
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JimB

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Your list actually looks a lot like what I started with except I started with the more expensive lathe tool set from harbor freight and I borrowed a drill press and bought a new lathe.

To your list I would add a shop vac to use as a dust collector. I used a shop vac until I started turning bowls. It worked great. I made a 'hood' out of a 1 gallon milk container.
 

Skie_M

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I got the mini lathe from harbor freight ... cost me 109 after tax (25% off coupon while it was on sale during mother's day weekend).

Beyond that, your list looks a lot like what I've got right now ... but I have the 1inch by 30 inch belt sander combo with 5 inch disc sander ... (took the disc off, I have a buffing wheel there now) This works great for tool sharpening and maintenance ... also faces my barrels and works like a champ. cost - 50 dollars with coupon

I got the harbor freight tools (online ONLY) 3-jaw chuck. I use that for drilling on my lathe. cost was around 34 dollars, with shipping

I do just fine with the harbor freight sandpaper, though it will gum up fairly fast on some woods. 10-pack for 3-5 bucks

I got the 15 dollar version (3/8ths) #1MT jacobs chuck from PSI. I probably should have held out for the 30 dollar 1/2" version.

I also picked up the #1MT Mandrel Saver with mandrel from PSI .... great combo, no bent mandrels for me ... 30 bucks.

For finishing ... I stopped off at Hobby Lobby and got their micro mesh finishing pads (model making section) for 10 bucks ... one pack does 20 - 30 pens all right. My final finish is with a car polish product ... Meguiar's PlastX ... topped with Turtle Wax Hard Coat. wax was 5 dollars, PlastX was around 8 dollars for 12 oz

Still have and use all this gear .... but as you already mentioned, I'm still just getting started! :)

I still don't have a 4-jaw chuck.

To your list, you should include a drill press vise and clamps to secure it while drilling ... pick one up from Harbor Freight for around 16 bucks and REPLACE THE STEEL JAWS WITH PLASTIC ONES so that you can grip and drill things like deer antler and other odd shaped items. I happen to also use this as my pen press .... works like a champ! :)


I have the Harbor Freight Bench Top Drill Press (xmas gift, with the 28-bit Ti/N set)... one of these runs about 60 dollars. The bits were around 20 dollars with coupon.

Other things I have managed to pick up lately .... a HFT Table Saw and a 10-inch mitre saw, a wet-cutting 7 inch diamond blade tile saw. The table saw is essential if you want to safely rip stock boards down to pen blank sizes, the mitre saw is great for cutting your blanks to rough size fast. They are also pretty much essential tools for any standard wood shop, if you want to build ANYTHING for yourself, so they're a great buy wherever you get yours. The table saw ran me 130 dollars (with 25% off coupon and 2 year replacement ... I knew I was going to throw some wild and crazy *#$& at it... the mitre saw was another xmas gift, was probably around 90 dollars with coupon)

The wet-cutting tile saw isn't so much for woodworking as it is for cutting up my stone for when I want to make alabaster and other stone pens. It's not essential unless you plan to do that kind of thing. I paid 65 dollars for mine, with 7 inch diamond blade (doesn't come with a blade, it's 22 dollars)
 
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mecompco

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Hmmm, I do pretty much everything on my lathe--drill, true, (turn, of course), finish and assemble. The only thing I don't do is cut, for which I use my Modded HF portable band saw. I have a drill press which is a total piece of crap and I never use, the lathe drills perfectly. Never saw the need for a $40 pen press--half an hour and zero dollars and you can make a nice set of ~MT 2 (or whatever) inserts for the lathe that work great.

The lathe, a chuck for drilling etc., a .5" drill chuck ($19.95 HF) some home-made assembly inserts and a cheap band saw are pretty much the basics. I soon left the mandrel behind--TBC is so much better and not much more time consuming.
 

Drewboy22

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What lathe tools are a "Must" for pen and what-not turning? I am picking up my lathe this weekend and it is coming with a few chucks but no tools. I want to turn pens, light pulls, ect.

Is the $20 HF set worth it? I do not have a grinder yet, so how often will I be trying to get tools sharpened?

Thanks,

Drew
 

JimB

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What lathe tools are a "Must" for pen and what-not turning? I am picking up my lathe this weekend and it is coming with a few chucks but no tools. I want to turn pens, light pulls, ect.

Is the $20 HF set worth it? I do not have a grinder yet, so how often will I be trying to get tools sharpened?

Thanks,

Drew
I bought the $50 HF set when I started turning in 2008. I still use it today for pens and other spindle turning. I do have other tools for bowls and other larger turnings. Some of those tools retail for over $100 each.

Yes, you need a grinder or other system for sharpening. Sharpening is a key component of using HSS tools. New tools often need sharpening right out of the box. When I turn pens I usually sharpen the tool before I start and again ( or hone it) before the final pass to get the best finish I can to reduce sanding. Some extremely hard woods may even require you to sharpen the tool more often.
 

Skie_M

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What lathe tools are a "Must" for pen and what-not turning? I am picking up my lathe this weekend and it is coming with a few chucks but no tools. I want to turn pens, light pulls, ect.

Is the $20 HF set worth it? I do not have a grinder yet, so how often will I be trying to get tools sharpened?

Thanks,

Drew

Pick up the Harbor Freight sander, like I did, for around 50 dollars .... Use that for facing your blanks and sharpening your chisels. Great multi-purpose tool.

I buff the backside of my chisels so that the bevels are very VERY smooth ... helps with that final pass and microsharpens my edge fast (5 - 10 seconds for razor's edge on my chisel).

I'll stick with the HF 20 dollar chisel set .... I mostly just copy the bevel angle on the back of the blade when sanding on the belt sander. I keep a tall jar (with nearby lid for keeping dust out), full of salt water on the counter near the sander for cooling my tools. NEVER LET IT GET RED HOT. If you see discoloration along the chisel surface, you messed it up.

I like the fact that these chisels are of decent quality metal (the wood handle sucks, you can expect to want to turn replacements soon). You can also pick up an extra set and grind whatever edge profile and bevel you want just to try them out and see if you like it better.


I have 2 sets, myself ... one set of bowl gouges is normal, the other set I went with a fingernail grind on the 2 smaller gouges, and went with a roughing gouge profile on the largest. I use those last 3 most often.

The skews ... I sharpened the angle to give myself a longer working length for my skew ... I reduced the angle of attack to give myself a lighter cut, and I curved the face of the bevel to give myself some elbow room to work with. Last, but not least, I polished that bevel to a mirror shine to leave a really nice finished surface behind when I use it.


That's just a few examples of what you can do to improve your tools yourself. Every turner worth their lathe makes at least a few shop tools themselves, or at the very least re-tunes a tool right out of the box to make it work the way they like.
 

jaeger

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The $20 set will work fine. This is a Lansky diamond pad that I use to sharpen.


image-2004771301.jpg

Other brands available and a less aggressive means of sharpening.
A medium will work or coarse.

Sent from my iPhone using Forum Runner
 

Drewboy22

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The HF set works well. I started out with a whetstone and that's all I used for the first couple of years. My next lathe tool purchase was a Benjamins Best oval skew (https://www.pennstateind.com/store/LX030.html).

If I were starting over, I would jump right into all tools with replaceable carbide tips.
So its grinder/sander or carbide... Carbide are more expensive at the git go but does the edge stay sharp longer? How often are you replacing the tip?
 

hcpens

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You can easily sharpen carbide replace bits or original bits, I have two that I bought in 2012 and re-sharpen once I have used all edges, takes 5 min if that.
 

Skie_M

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Just keep in mind that carbide will stay sharp longer because it's harder .... but if you drop it and the tip hits your hard floor, it's a goner.

Be a good idea to keep replacement bits around just in case, and also for worst case scenarios, keep a set of HSS in the tool chest.
 

thewishman

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I get several pens out of each side of the square cutters, so a total of 15 to 25 pens per cutter. Replacements are about $2.50 to $3.50. And I don't have to stop and resharpen and set up the jigs. Since the edge is more than just the top side of the cutter, I have never had success in trying to sharpen them. Some say they can be resharpened, but I have not been able to.:)
 

Bikerdad

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For cutting pen blanks, a very inexpensive and surprisingly accurate option is a small mitre box, such as this one.

You can find it at most hobby shops. A larger mitre box could also be used.
 
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