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Create wooden objects on a lathe using cutting tools.

Woodturning is a form of woodworking, that is used to create wooden objects (e.g. a bowl or a table leg) on a lathe using cutting tools. Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking, in that the wood is moving while a (relatively) stationary tool is used to cut and shape it. Many intricate shapes and designs can be made by turning wood.

There are two distinct methods of turning wood, spindle turning and faceplate turning.

Most bowls, platters and vessels are face plate turned, while pens, table legs, and other slender pieces are typically spindle turned. Regardless of the method of attachment, the orientation of the grain determines the method in use, the type of tools to use, and the direction of cut.

Its origin dates back to around 1300BC in Egypt where the Egyptians developed a two person operated lathe. One person turned the wood with a rope and the other used a tool to cut out the shape in the wood. The Romans had a similar design to the Egytians, but improved it with the addition of a turning bow. Many other communities also have evidence of early bow lathes, for example they were used in Germany, France and the UK long before the Roman influence. In the middle ages a pedal replaced hand operated turning, freeing both of the craftsman's hands to hold the woodturning tools. The pedal was usually connected to a pole, a straight grined sapling, the system today is called the "spring pole" lathe (see Polelathe). Additionaly there was a two person lathe called a "great lathe", where the master did the cutting and a student turned a crank. This allowed the piece to turn continiously, similar to today's power lathes. Spring pole lathes were in common use into the early 20th Century.

The term "bodger" stems from pole lathe turners who used to make the chair legs and spindles. Originally a passive term it has been corrupted to describe anyone who does a bad job, or an unfinished one ( the bodgers job was unfished as they only made component parts )

During the industrial revolution the lathe was motorized, allowing turned items to be created in less time. The motor also produced a greater rotational speed for the wood, improving the ease of producing high quality work. Today most commercial woodturning is done by computer operated machinery allowing for mass-production that can be created with accurate precision and without the cost of having to employ any craftsmen. Despite this there is still a demand for hand turned products. Woodturning is also a hobby enjoyed by many people.

Common woodturned items
* Furniture parts - spindles, table legs, stretchers, or other furniture parts
* Bowls - vessels with a large opening on top
* Platters and serving trays
* Pens, mechanical pencils, keyrings and other small items
* Hollow forms - similar to bowls, except usually taller and with a small opening, when compared to the hollow interior
* Pepper mills and candlesticks
* Chess Pieces
* Sculptural forms
* Pool cues and baseball bats

Woodturning tools
Turning tools are generally made from two different types of steel, Carbon steel, High speed steel (HSS), and more recently Powdered Metal. Comparing the three types, high speed steel tools maintain their edge longer, requiring less frequent sharpening carbon steel, but not as long as Powdered metal tools. The harder the type of high speed steel used, the longer the edge will maintain sharpness. Unlike other edged woodworking tools, woodturning tools, require more frequent sharpening, and the sharpening process requires either skill of the craftsman, or one of the many available sharpening jigs. To maintain a clean cut, the sharpness of the tools edge must be maintained. Often the tools are sharpened by using a sharpening jig, these jigs facilitate maintaining a specific bevel on the tool.

When woodturning, it is important to wear certain personal protective equipment (PPE). Loose clothing should not be worn, all jewelry should be removed, and long hair should be tied back. Wood shavings generated during turning will also need to be periodically removed.

*Eye protection is a necessity when woodturning. There are several PPE available for eye protection such as safety goggles, glasses and visors, some of which feature built-in respirators. Although all of these are adequate, for the highest level of protection, a visor that protects the entire head from dust and debris should be worn.

*Respiratory equipment is also important when woodturning or doing any type of woodworking that creates dust. This can range from a simple disposable dust mask, to a full face helmet with built in respirator. Most stand alone respiratory equipment will interfere with dust shields and visors, so devices that incorporate both are available.

*Ear protection Compared to other power tools, a lathe is a relatively quiet machine. Ear protection should be used if noise is excessive, this may be due to motor (fan) noise from a shop dust collector, or the combination of wood and tool being used.

*Foot protection. Protective footwear is a must for any type of shop activity.

Source: Wikipedia

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