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Woodturners Show Small Scale Fine-Grain Wood Turning Projects on a Lathe
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Small pieces turned on a lathe Small bits of wood can be incredibly difficult to turn into a piece of art on your lathe, but some woodworkers have mastered this extremely delicate technique.

Size matters: large turnings command attention; small objects draw the viewer in to hold and to touch. The limitation presented to these four woodturners was to create one or more small objects from a piece of wood measuring 2" x 2" x 4".

The creations of Ed Kelle, Bonnie Klein, Joe Seltzer and Jennifer Shirley have a presence that goes way beyond their size. Yes, size matters, but so do design and execution.

Many of these tiny objects were made using standard-size lathes; however, for those who have space limitations, a miniature lathe, a few tools and something to sharpen with are all that are needed. Well, wood’s required, of course, and I’ve found there’s plenty of that lying around everyone’s shop: those precious scraps that are too good to burn, yet not large enough for major projects. In fact, even though I offered to supply everyone with wood, three of the turners selected pieces from their own stash.

Small-scale turning can open a wide range of possibilities for individuals who need to sit while working; for snow birds who travel; and for young children just learning to turn.

Most small turnings require the use of miniature or small-scale turning tools. But don’t worry, they’re easily available through woodturning catalogs and at woodworking stores. When it comes to tiny turnings, it’s helpful to select a fine-grained wood. Excellent fine-grained species are boxwood, dogwood, pear, persimmon, holly, hard maple and many of the exotics. But don’t forget to consider the branches of larger trees. For example, if I want to use ash wood for a small turning, I might harvest a small branch from a large tree. The growth rings will be closer together and finer-grained, helpful for small-scale turnings.

The ability to see well is of paramount importance. I recommend those magnifying lenses that fit on a person’s head. They’re sort of like wearing a pair of reading glasses, but easier to use when working at both medium and close distances. They’re a standard fashion accessory for Bonnie, as well as for many other turners! I have my own pair.

Ed Kelle
Jennifer Shirley
Joe Seltzer
Bonnie Klein

posted on October 1, 2008 by Betty Scarpino
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2 thoughts on “Woodturners Show Small Scale Fine-Grain Wood Turning Projects on a Lathe”

  • Maarten Meerman

    Small woodturning is fun, we need more of it. It can be done on a small budget and in a much smaller space than a regular lathe. I use various small pieces of wood, mainly ebony, Lignum Vitae, birch, and dogwood. Ebony is the only one that I can reliably turn to 0.001" by hand, most other woods give up long before that.

  • William Shinn

    Just purchased a jet wood turning lathe. I'm retired and wanting to start a fun hobby

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