Using a Strobe Light with a Lathe?
posted on April 10, 2006 by Rockler

We're not sure whether this segment from the Woodworker's Journal eZine (2001 archives) qualifies more as a woodworking tip or as a woodworking "oddity."  Whichever is the case, we have only two things to say: Thanks to our friends at the Woodworker's Journal for continuing to explore the outer limits of woodworking, and if you try this, be careful!

Q. This woodworker wonders if anyone else has tried this. He is a woodturner and he's set up a strobe light that flashes totally in sync with the turning of the lathe. He has discovered that this strobe effect actually helps him see the piece better and get better results because it makes the wood look like it's standing still. Has anyone else ever heard of something like this?

(Michael Dresdner) "I first ran across strobe turning about fifteen years ago back in Pennsylvania. Michael Mode, an outstanding and somewhat reclusive turner, was doing it and brought me to his shop to demonstrate the technique.. He had connected the lathe to the strobe light so that it automatically was in sync with the lathe revolutions. It's very bizarre seeing a piece stand still, yet have curls of wood come off it. His warning -- be very careful with pieces that contain voids -- it is tempting to think you can put a chisel in there. However, he found his turnings were best with strobe turning, as they let you see the inside of the vessel as you turned. Very cool...

(Rob Johnstone) "Let me get the full picture. Is there incense burning and Ravi Shankar music (or maybe Eric Clapton and Cream) playing as well? Does his lava lamp have a shop function too? The whole concept sounds frightening to me. But -- and this may surprise you -- I have actually not tried this specific technique, nor observed it On a more serious note, I would suggest that this is something that should be observed before it is tried, especially by turners with a little less experience."

(Ian Kirby) "It's a technique used in quite a number of industries to observe the behavior of materials or parts in motion. If it helps achieve an objective, use it. Just be aware of the perils and guard against them."

 

posted on April 10, 2006 by Rockler
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One thought on “Using a Strobe Light with a Lathe?”

  • Robert wrote in, pointing out another use for a strobe in woodturning:<br /><br />...using a strobe light while turning is used throughout the industrial community. You are using what we call a Tachometer. We generally use it to measure the speed of rotating equipment. The Tachometer is a strobe light that is calibrated with a dial. You adjust the speed of the flash of the strobe with a dial until the shaft of the rotating equipment appears to be stopped (generally, there is a painted line on the shaft (perpendicular of the direction of rotation) that you are looking at stopping). When the shaft appears to be stopped, the dial will indicate the approximate speed of the rotating shaft. In the application that your article is discussing you are taking advantage of one advantage, but you could also use it to check the speed of the lathe and fine tune it if desired.

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