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Is Woodturning a Good Hobby?

Updated: May 11

You've probably landed on this Blog Post because you saw a video or two of someone Turning on a Lathe and wondered if it would suit you. Maybe you are just looking for an activity for your spare time or you just want to be in your own space doing what you want to do and when you want to do it? Is Woodturning a Good Hobby to get involved in you may be asking yourself. As human beings we are often afraid of what we don't know and don't understand so I decided to write this post to clear up a few things up for you.



Woodturning a Finial design
Turning a Finial


My Own Early Experience

I started Woodturning back in 1996 when a friend showed me his homemade Lathe made out of a washing machine motor, welded bed, moveable tailstock with a basic pulley system & on/off switch. Although extremely primitive, this setup actually worked and I was hooked from the very first try. I bought my first Lathe within a fortnight and went on to buy a bigger Lathe within the year as well as a few basic Tools. My mistake going forward is that I didn't go and get lessons immediately and this cost me dearly long term. I ended up leaving the Lathe idle off and on for several years. In 2014, after an extended break I came back to Woodturning again with a vengeance and eventually sought out a Professional Woodturning Teacher in 2015 as the same problems kept holding me back. It was the best decision I could have made and it propelled me forward. I finally had explanations as to why my earlier Turning sucked and I had clear advice on how to go forward creating beautiful pieces. Well, it took a little bit longer.





Why You Should Learn from My Mistakes

If you want to succeed at anything in life you must first get good advice. You can blindly feel around finding your own way but this is a fool's quest. Take it from someone who knows that painful truth only too well. I spent money on bad Machinery and Tools and squandered precious time that I could have devoted to being a real Woodturner. Who knows how far I could have gone if only I had gone for that first lesson.


Tuition is Expensive

Yes, initially it is an expense where you don't seem to gain anything tangible. You don't appear to have the same gain as when you buy a physical Tool for the same amount of money. What you are in fact gaining though is the insight and knowledge from a professional who has already walked the same road as you are on now. I wasted many hundreds of Euros buying cheap, bad Machines and unnecessary Tools. I could have used the money to buy better if only I had someone to show me the way.


So, Is Woodturning a Good Hobby?

Yes, it is an amazing hobby to have. I am doing this professionally since 2015 and I love creating my current range of products. I get so much joy in creating the best pieces I can make and know that I can still improve even now. If I had been able to show my earlier self what I would be capable of after taking lessons I would have been absolutely gobsmacked. If I wasn't in business anymore I would still continue to Turn as a hobby and would probably be making more artistic, complicated one off pieces instead of the production line type products I make now.


Woodturning is very therapeutic for me even now as a Woodturning business and I am often able to shut out the outside world when I'm at the Lathe. Even if your early pieces are not very good, you will still be very proud of them and should continue to improve the more time you invest. Most people do not understand that the shaped piece in front of you is a direct result of every movement your body makes or doesn't make and even your breathing comes into play while Turning. You are as much an artist as any sculptor out there as you cut away the raw material to expose the finished surface beneath. Keep that in mind when you first start Turning! Keep plugging away until you Turn what you see in your Mind's Eye!





The Cons of Woodturning

Con Number 1; It's expensive. There I said it but what pastime isn't? Unfortunately, it is not a cheap hobby and you will have to throw money at it in order to get anywhere. I normally tell my Students to expect to pay between €2,500 and €3,000 just to get started with the basic Lathe, Sharpening Station, Chucks, Tools & Accessories. This is buying brand new, you may be able to pick up good equipment second hand if you are careful. Spend a fraction of this money and you probably won't get very far. Spend the money on Equipment I recommended during my classes and you will be Turning long into the Future. Of course, this doesn't include purchasing a Bandsaw which you will need in time and all the other bits and pieces that you will want to buy; and you will want to buy more!


Con Number 2; It's difficult. Woodturning is a difficult, challenging but not impossible craft to master. I often tell Students that the world would be full of Woodturners if it was easy. First you will need good equipment and Tools. Second, you will need to put in lots of time to become proficient and this is only after receiving lessons. Many believe that they can throw a few Euros at it and an hour or two here and there and they will magically be brilliant at it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. If you are up to the challenge and are willing to work through failure then Woodturning is probably right up your street and something you should pursue.


Enjoy It!

Enjoy your time on the Lathe! No matter what is going on in your life, you can always put a piece of wood on a Lathe and just Turn. Fairly soon, you will only see and think about the piece in front of you. What could be a better Hobby to have?


Conclusion

Many of my Students have the same issues or worries when getting started. They wonder if they like Woodturning enough at the beginning to justify spending all that money because the results are not immediately apparent and may not be for a while. How do you gauge it so? I normally ask Students if they felt great while Turning in my classes or was it a 'take it or leave it kind of thing'. To those that felt great, I say go ahead and spend the money. To those that didn't enjoy it so much I say maybe it's not for you. If you feel you are in either of those groups, take a lesson first and then at least you will know. If you take my advice and buy great equipment and decide down the road that its not for you; you can always sell it on and get most or all of your money back. If you buy cheap, you won't get your money back. What do you have to lose?


Don't procrastinate. Don't worry about the initial cost of Tuition, you will reap the rewards in your first year on the Lathe while saving money. Don't be shy when it comes time to book. Just go for it and be happy with the fact that it will be of great benefit to you going forward as a Woodturner.


My Woodturning Tuition Classes in Tralee

I specialise in low Teacher to Student ratio Sessions of short duration where I cram as much as possible into each session instead of you having to attend full day courses with groups of strangers as with other Woodturners. If 3 Hours is too short, you can extend to 4 and 5 Hour sessions if you wish. Check out my Woodturning Tuition page for listings and more details or read more in the Blog Posts at the bottom of this page.


Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in my Workshop in Tralee real soon! David



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