I woke up yesterday and decided to devote my day to learning to turn wood. My dad offered to each me several years ago, but I just never got around to it. Mondays are my days off and since my dad was also free yesterday it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Before I started, I went to Woodcraft to look at different woods. I quickly decided to start on scraps in my dad's shop instead of spending money on a beautiful piece of wood that I might ruin. After looking around a bit, we found a piece of Mahogany that could be cut down and turned into a nostepinne. For those who don't know, a nostepinne is a tool that is used to wind yarn into a center-pull ball. I have always loved the simplicity of this tool, it requires no clamp or set-up and can pulled out of your knitting bag anywhere. Plus it makes balls that are far more aesthetically pleasing than the yarn cakes put out by a mechanical winder (thus making it the ideal choice for handspun or handdyed yarns.)

Here are my first attempts. The two outer nostepinnes are mahogany and the one in the center is oak. They are all finished with oil and wax which really enhances the wood. The one on the far right is my very first attempt. All of these (and probably a few more) will be available in the shop in the next few days.

What I learned so far...
  • Woodturning is very messy. In addition to safety glasses and a shop coat you should make sure the shop air filter is turned on before you start.
  • The tools will burn you. The tips of the tools heat up pretty fast when in use so it is best to keep your hand a few inches away from the tip or you will get burned.
  • Oak is evil. While I think oak is a beautiful wood and it smells amazing when it is turned, it requires really sharp tools to turn and sanding it down to a smooth surface is a huge pain. In the end, I had to use extra wax to get the oak nostepinne nice and smooth.
  • There are a lot of different tools to choose from. Every tool gives you a different kind of cut and keeping them straight is quite a task.
  • It is best to go into the project with a plan. After the first attempt, I drew out plans for what I wanted the nostepinnes to look like (i.e. where I wanted to do the shaping) and that made it way easier.
  • It is easier to finish the project on the lathe. My first nostepinne broke off the lathe and had to be finished by hand which takes about ten times as long as finishing it on the lathe, plus it is much harder to get a nice shine from the wax without the heat of the spinning friction.
  • Though louder and scarier, a lathe works like a spinning wheel. The turn of the lathe is controlled by the same drive band ratio system that a spinning wheel uses.
  • According to my dad, all wood is female. Throughout the lesson, my dad constantly referred to the wood in the feminine.
  • Wood working is a skill that is passed down from generation to generation in my family. My dad learned to turn wood from his dad and was pretty excited that I was taking an interest in it. He told me stories of working in his dad's shop and about how his dad would slap his head when he messed up. I was pretty relieved that my dad decided not to carry on that part of the tradition.


Janis said...

Those are really awesome. Even though you say it was a pain to turn, I really like the shaping of the oak one.

robiewankenobie said...


Robyn Wade said...

The oak one is my favorite, too. It didn't quite come out like I wanted since the angular shaping is a lot harder than the curves, but with practice I will be able to do it.

edisonmyndiecoco@yahoo.com said...

"Expressed" by Judy Snow
He thoughtfully handled
each piece of wood -
soft whorled pine, hard durable oak,
tough and elastic ash -
to feel the heft, the surface satin, finesse or grit of grain,
fitting each one to its use,
a bookcase, desk, a set of blocks.
A frugal man & scarce of words,
he carefully cut each board
exact to measure, with special attention to grooves & notches,
the beveled joints
that would dovetail together
in strict harmony.
As he created these simple things
of usefulness
my father's quiet considered ways
found statement
in enduring lines of eloquence.