Q: I’m just starting to get into lathe turning. With the multiple speeds on the lathe, at which speed is it best to finish sand the project? It seems to me that at the lower speeds, the sandpaper doesn’t clog up as fast.
A: Turning has had a special place in my heart since I was a 10-year-old boy, and I’m still fascinated with it. It’s truly one of the “ancient” crafts and so there are lots of “rules” and many experts. One of the best rules I was ever taught came to me from a man in England who is the best turner I ever met, and probably the dean of turners in the world today, Bill Jones. When asked which tool he used to do a certain job, he replied, “The one that cuts.” Take that lesson from the master, and use it to answer your own question. In other words, use the speed that works best for your sanding job. I generally prefer to err on the slower side when I work at my lathes. Many others prefer higher rpms. In the end, it is the quality of the work that tells the tale, and discussions about rpm should follow, not lead. Different wood species, sizes, abrasives, even operators — all make a difference. In the end, use the speed you like and the one that seems to work best. Just remember that more speed means more heat, and heat is often the enemy, especially of sanding.