The Secret To Mastering Woodturning: Essential Tools And Techniques

Woodturning is an ancient art form, but still pretty new to most of us. It requires a lot of tools and materials that you wouldn’t find in your typical garage workshop. Luckily, there are plenty of places to buy these items online and locally if you’re interested in getting started with wood turning.

Mastering Woodturning Tools and Techniques
Key Takeaways
– Woodturning is an art form that involves using a lathe to shape wood into desired forms.
– Essential woodturning tools include gouges, skews, and parting tools.
– Different types of lathes are used in woodturning, with some being designed for specific types of turning.
– Safety is crucial in woodturning, with precautions including wearing protective gear and familiarizing yourself with the lathe before turning.
– Additional resources like DVDs, digital downloads, and practical manuals can provide further guidance on woodturning tools and techniques.

Your wood-turning lathe

A wood lathe is simply a device that allows you to rotate your workpiece while it’s being worked on. It can be used for all sorts of projects, including turning, carving and other forms of woodworking.

When choosing a lathe you should keep in mind how much space you have available and what tasks you want to use it for. A small, portable model might be best if you’re only doing small jobs or want to practice at home; larger models are better suited for industrial use (though they’re not as easy to move around).

Setting up your lathe takes time and patience so it’s best done before starting any project. Choose an area where there aren’t any obstructions like power cords from nearby machines – if possible select an area away from people too! 

Once they’re set up properly they’ll stay put but moving them around could cause damage to both yourself and the tool itself so try not do this often unless absolutely necessary!

Are you new to woodworking and want to learn more about the craft? Our comprehensive beginners guide to woodworking can help you get started on your woodworking journey, with tips on tools, safety, and even project ideas.

Grinding Jigs

For woodturners, the grinding jig is the secret to mastering turning. It’s used to grind tools and tool bits down to size. 

The main components of a grinding jig are a wheelhead and a platform that holds the tool bit or tool blank while you spin it against the wheelhead. 

Grinding jigs come in many different shapes and sizes based on what type of work you do most often with them. Some have flat platforms for sharpening gouges, others have angled platforms for sharpening parting tools, spindle shaves or skew chisels.

Grinding JigTypeBrands
Wolverine Grinding JigFor sharpening roughing gouges, spindle gouges, and bowl gougesOneway
Vari-Grind JigFor sharpening bowl gouges and spindle gouges with fingernail profilesOneway
Ellsworth Grinding JigFor sharpening bowl gouges with swept-back profilesOneway
Skew Grinding JigFor sharpening skews with straight or curved edgesOneway
Platform JigFor sharpening scrapers, parting tools, and other flat toolsWolverine

Note: This table provides a list of commonly used woodturning grinding jigs, along with their types and brands.

Parting Tools

Parting tools are used to cut grooves in wood. They have a small cutting edge, and are designed to make cuts along the grain of the wood.

Parting tools come in different shapes, sizes and angles. Some tools will be shaped like a chisel while others may have multiple blades that are angled differently so that you can create more complex cuts in your work piece.

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Scrapers are used for shaping, smoothing and finishing. They’re similar to chisels in appearance and function, but they have a completely different cutting action. 

Scrapers remove small amounts of wood at a time by scraping away at the surface of your piece with an angled edge or face. You can use scrapers to refine details and shapes by removing unwanted material from inside cavities as well as outside curves.

Scrapers come in a variety of shapes and sizes for specific tasks such as hollowing out bowls or creating concave surfaces on spindles (spindles are long thin cylindrical objects).

Bowl ScraperFor smoothing and shaping bowlsCrown, Hamlet, Robert Sorby
Round Nose ScraperFor starting cuts on bowls and spindle workEasy Wood Tools, Henry Taylor, Sorby
Square ScraperFor smoothing tenons and end grainHamlet
Diamond ScraperFor shearing cuts and reducing tear-outEasy Wood Tools, Hamlet
Negative Rake ScraperFor shear scraping on end grain and smoothing surfacesCrown, Henry Taylor, Sorby

Note: This table provides a list of some of the commonly used woodturning scrapers, along with their types and brands.


Chisels are used for cutting and shaping. They’re primarily used to make grooves or hollows in the workpiece, but they can also be used to create concave shapes, convex shapes, or flat surfaces.

Sandpaper and Abrasives

Sandpaper is used to smooth a piece of wood. Use a piece of sandpaper that is at least as wide as the diameter of the piece of wood you are sanding. 

Sanding discs on drills are used to sand flat surfaces because they allow you to control how much pressure goes into the wood and how much gets taken away.

Woodcarving is an art form that requires skill and patience, but with the right techniques and tips, anyone can create beautiful pieces. Our ultimate guide to woodcarving techniques and tips covers everything from tools and safety to the different types of carving styles, helping you master the craft.

HSS Lathe Bits

When it comes to using HSS lathe bits, the most important thing to remember is that they are very sharp. 

The fact that they are so sharp means they can cut through almost any material with ease, but on the flip side of that coin, it also means you need to be extra careful handling them.

HSS lathe bits are made from high speed steel (HSS), which is a super-hardened type of tool steel used in many industries for its superior performance and durability. 

It’s used extensively in the machining industry for cutting metal pieces and components because it’s harder than other types of steel and can withstand higher temperatures without losing its edge or breaking down over time like carbon steel would do under similar circumstances (i.e., when subjected to stress).


A gouge is a woodturning tool with a metal blade that has been ground to an edge on the end and is used for cutting and shaping wood. 

A gouge can be made from high speed steel (HSS), which is harder than most metals, but you need to be careful as it can chip or break if you are not paying attention. There are many different types of gouges with different shapes, sizes, and uses.

The top two pictures show round nose and flat nose spindle gouges respectively. These are very useful tools in their own right but not essential in your first year of turning because they will take longer than other tools when making cuts due to their shape and size. 

The third picture shows an old fashioned carving chisel which would also fall into this category as well as any combination of both top types such as an oval nose spindle gouge for example (the fourth picture).

Designing and building furniture can be a challenging but rewarding experience, and with the right tips and tricks, you can create unique pieces that fit your style and needs. Our guide on the best tips and tricks for designing and building custom furniture covers everything from choosing materials and hardware to finishing techniques, helping you achieve professional results.

Carbide Cutting Tools

Carbide cutting tools are a great way to cut steel, iron and other metals. They’re more expensive than HSS lathe bits, but they’re also more durable and harder.

Carbide cutting tools last longer than HSS lathe bits because they’re harder—that means they can withstand the high speeds at which you’ll be turning your metal without wearing down as quickly. Carbide also cuts cleaner than HSS; you won’t get any burrs on the surface of your metal with these babies.

Drill Bits, Boring Bars and other Accessories

There are a variety of tools that can be useful to the woodturner, including drill bits and boring bars. They’re used for more than just drilling holes into your workpiece.

Boring Bars

A boring bar has parallel cutting edges that allow it to pass through your workpiece without changing orientation. Boring bars come in many shapes and sizes, from small handheld versions to large floor-mounted models. 

They come with different types of cutters: end mills, single flute end mills or spiral flute end mills (also known as twist drills). These types have different uses: they may be used for shaping soft material or drilling precise holes in hard materials respectively. 

You may use a boring bar to prepare your wood by sanding down its surface before turning it on your lathe or simply hollowing out an existing block of wood using specialised attachments such as those shown above right 

Drill BitsBosch, Dewalt, Makita
Boring BarsCarter and Son, Easy Wood Tools, WoodRiver
Lathe ChucksNova, Oneway, Rohm
FaceplatesPSI, Robert Sorby, Wood River
Turning ToolsCrown, Hamlet, Sorby, Turner’s Select
Sanding SuppliesAbranet, Festool, Klingspor
Finishing SuppliesGeneral Finishes, Minwax, Zar

Note: This table provides a list of some of the woodworking accessories commonly used in woodturning and woodworking, along with examples of popular brands for each type of accessory.

Finishes/Waxes/Oils/Polishes/Shellacs/Lacquer etc.

Finish is a term used to describe the coating of a material. It is a product which is applied to wood, either by hand or by machine, to protect it from water or other elements, or enhance its color.

There are many finishes available for woodturners and each has its own unique properties. Finishes can be applied by hand with brushes or roll-ons, as well as with machines such as spindle sanders and buffing wheels. Here we will discuss some of the more popular finish types:

  • Oil – oil gives a satin finish which brings out grain patterns in the wood; it also provides some protection against moisture
  • Wax – wax gives a semi-gloss finish that looks great on highly figured woods but does not provide much protection against moisture; good for use on pens or jewelry boxes
  • Shellac – this traditional coating has been used since colonial times; it comes in both liquid form (called “lacquer”) which dries hard quickly but may crack with age if exposed too long under bright lights while still wet

If you’re interested in woodturning, having the right tools and techniques is essential to success. Our guide on the secret to mastering woodturning covers the basics of woodturning, including safety, different types of lathes and chisels, and techniques like sanding and finishing, so you can create stunning turned pieces.


This post is a brief introduction to the tools used in woodturning. We hope it gave you some useful information on what tools are available and where to get them. 

If you are interested in learning more about woodturning, we recommend checking out our blog posts on how to start woodturning as well as some other helpful articles like this one on turning bowls from scratch.

Further Reading

For more information on woodturning tools, techniques, and resources, check out the following:

Mastering Woodturning Series No. 1 – This DVD or digital download by Glenn Lucas covers the essential tools and techniques for mastering the craft of woodturning. Featuring step-by-step instructions and close-up footage, this resource is perfect for beginners and experienced turners alike.

Carter and Son Toolworks – Carter and Son Toolworks offers a wide range of woodturning resources, including articles, videos, and tips on everything from tool selection to finishing techniques.

The Wood Turner’s Handbook – Written by Stephen Hogbin, The Wood Turner’s Handbook is a practical manual that covers everything a woodturner needs to know, from selecting and maintaining tools to advanced techniques like ornamental turning.


What is woodturning?

Woodturning is a craft that involves turning a piece of wood on a lathe and using various cutting tools to shape it into a desired form, such as a bowl, spindle, or vase.

What are the different types of lathes used in woodturning?

There are several types of lathes used in woodturning, including benchtop lathes, mini lathes, and full-size lathes. Some lathes are designed for specific types of turning, such as pen turning or bowl turning.

What tools are needed for woodturning?

Some essential woodturning tools include gouges, skews, and parting tools, as well as chucks, faceplates, and centers for holding and supporting the wood on the lathe.

What types of wood are best for woodturning?

A variety of woods can be used for woodturning, including hardwoods like maple, oak, and cherry, as well as softer woods like pine and cedar. The wood should be free of defects like knots and cracks and should be properly dried before turning.

What are some safety considerations in woodturning?

Woodturning can be dangerous, so it is important to take safety precautions like wearing eye and ear protection, using sharp tools, and keeping the lathe at the correct speed. It is also important to familiarize yourself with the lathe and all its controls before starting to turn.