It’s 15 degrees out and I got covered in sawdust today. I am a happy woman.
After getting our lathe set up last night I was thinking about what I could make. I knew the project had to be easy, since I had never used one before and I’m most definitely a novice in any woodworking. Even though the lathe has chucks to turn wood bowls it would be too difficult for a first project. A light bulb went off this morning and I told Andy I wanted to try making a french rolling pin. About two seconds later he was headed to the workshop. I love that he got excited too.
We needed a 2×2 by 20 to 24 inch piece of wood. Unfortunately we didn’t have any so Andy found the longest piece of firewood he could and used the bandsaw & tablesaw to cut it to size. This piece happened to be maple.
Next he showed me how to find the center of each end with a square edge, and align the edges into each chuck on the lathe. Then he told me how to tighten it all down, line up the guide and a quick lesson in how to use the lathe & tools. Here’s some tips Andy gave me (in my words). Do not use these tips as “good enough” guidance. Lathes are extremely dangerous and I don’t condone using them unless you are already skilled with them, or have someone who is skilled with you.
- Never use chisels as lathe tools. Ever. In a million years. Ever.
- Don’t use a lathe without professional guidance – it’s way dangerous.
- Wear a full face shield.
- Take your time. Go slow. Pay attention. You simply cannot be rushed, or distracted, when using one. You will get hurt.
- You have to have control over the tools – but you have to respect the how sharp it is.
- If you tip your lathe tool too low, it can get pulled under the piece – along with your hand and arm.
- If you tip your lathe tool too high, it can fling back and up into your neck/face.
- Knocking the corners off right when you start is the most dangerous part, you pretty much want to barely touch the wood but have a very firm grip – it takes a while.
- Baggy clothing plus spinning wood is a super bad idea. I wore a fitted shirt with my sleeve pushed up the entire time.
You’ll get used to the best grip for you. As the photo below indicates, I had a death grip on the tool right at the beginning while knocking off the edges. As I kept working with it, and different tools, my grip and style definitely changed.
It turns out I am left handed on the lathe. Your dominant hand is suppose to be on the bottom of the handle but it just didn’t work for me. I can definitely work with my right hand (as I did above) but it felt far more natural using my left hand.
It took a while to knock off the edges, but I finally started getting somewhere and getting more comfortable.
Near the end Andy helped me from wanting to briefly throw the rolling pin in the wood-stove. I just couldn’t get the ends the exact the same size and taper. Thankfully my husband is the shit. Andy showed me where it needed work, but stepped back and let me do it. It was awesome to have someone come over and give tips throughout and then leave me to it. Finally, Andy showed me how to sand the piece and he cut off the ends where the chucks were.
Total cost to make? $0.00.
Here’s it is close up. The final piece is about 18″ long. It’s a little short for a french rolling pin and you can tell it’s not totally even, but I love it. For the first piece I ever made and without calipers to make sure I was entirely accurate it’s not bad. Andy would have had me shave some more but I decided it was good enough. I am looking forward to trying my hand at another one.
Andy’s brother suggested I “whisker” the piece. Even though I haven’t yet, it’s a great idea. Per my brother in law, this entails taking a slightly damp cloth and gently rubbing it over the piece. Then you hold it in front of the wood-stove with high heat to raise the grain or “whiskers”. Once the grain raises you take a piece of 600-1000 grit sandpaper and wipe only in the same direction as the grain to sheer the “whiskers” off. This makes for a smoother piece and keeps it from whiskering out after the first wash—which can end up in your food. Once this is done, a little rub of mineral oil and it’s set for use!
It’s kind of awesome to know this was a piece of firewood just hanging out in our basement.
I have to admit something. This is one of the most relaxing and satisfying things I have ever done. You literally cannot think about anything else except the present. For someone who thinks a lot, this is welcome. I also welcome the fact it was free.
Now to decide what else I can create. Maybe a set of wooden cooking utensils?