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What is the Right Age For a Child to Start Woodturning?

Updated: Apr 6

For those that don't know me and have found this post online by accident, I am a Woodturner, Woodturning Teacher and Woodcrafter with my own business in Tralee Co Kerry Ireland since 2015. I had been Turning off and on since 1996 up to starting my business and I have been teaching my Craft since 2019. I only started teaching when I felt I knew enough about Woodturning to properly instruct others.


I get many requests from Grandparents, Parents, Aunts & Uncles to teach Woodturning to young children during the course of each year. Summer is generally the time when these requests come in more frequently and some Parents expect a Summer Camp style event for a discounted price. These people generally change their mind when they see the price exceeds the price for Summer Camps and the duration is inconveniently short for them. I'm not a babysitting service, I run a serious business and there are serious consequences for using sharp Tools and unpredictable wood on a spinning machine at high RPMs.



what is the right age for a child to start woodturning
Very Small Child using a Lathe Cartoon

What is the Right Age to Start Woodturning

How appropriate is Woodturning for a Child under 12? Is it ok for a 6 year old to try it out? What is the right age to start woodturning? I have been asked these questions and many other variations of the same over the last few years. The answer can be quite complicated and can vary from each child and and for each new request. I don't want to turn people away unnecessarily but I have to inject a bit of reality into the situation when I can.


Sometimes, it can be ok to have a small child briefly trying out woodturning with an adult guiding the chisel and supporting the child directly. This is fine in your own home, with a family member, with your own Lathe & Tools for a short period of time but not ideal in a proper Workshop setting like mine. I generally try to discourage anyone under 10 from Woodturning as they are just not capable at that age. I understand that you might be excited at the prospect of introducing something new to a young person's life but it isn't always appropriate or even safe to do so. I take Safety very seriously in my Workshop at all times.


Am I being unfair to Children?

Absolutely not! Woodturning requires specific body movements, advanced control & coordination and an ability to respond to correction from a Woodturning teacher that young people are just not capable of below a certain age. I know this because I have had children of many age groups attend with Parents in the past and the results are always the same. While I am happy to do the odd Session with a younger person it is more often than not a waste of everyone's time. The child is often too young to understand or appreciate the Craft and the Parent has higher expectations of the Tuition Session and it goes no further. Also, my requirement for a Guardian to be present during the entire lesson isn't always convenient for some people. I don't take chances while teaching children. I need you there to be responsible for them.


Age 16 and Up Seem to do Better

I have tried many times over the last few years to develop classes for secondary school teenagers and also slightly younger students in my Workshop. Each time the attempt has failed fairly miserably. Sometimes, I can get one or two interested in attending classes and after a bit of back and forth by email with their Parents, the request dies out and the Students never attend. I don't chase people anymore as a result. From experience, Students I've taught aged 16 and over tend to do better in Woodturning classes and stick with it longer which allows me to get them through the basics and on to more advanced work. The basics are the important part of Woodturning and you cannot skip this stage. The basics can be the boring part of learning to Turn and require lots of repetition before becoming competent. This is the stage where many Students falter and drop out.





Encouragement is Great but...

If you are one of those adults who want to encourage a young relation to take a class, first of all I salute you. I'm delighted to hear someone trying to take children away from video games and get them to experience a hands on Craft.


Many adults admirably want to impart skills to young people while at the same time think that it should be inexpensive to do so. Imagine if I suggested you take a pay cut in your job because I had an opinion about what you do without fully understanding what it is you do exactly. Would you be happy with that?


My Current Charges

I no longer distinguish between people's ages when it comes to Tuition charges. I did offer cheaper rates and shorter sessions over the last few years but I have had to change that because it costs me too much to run each class and it takes me away from my production business. At the end of the day, I have to make a living at this.


I now charge the same for adults and children because it is actually harder and not easier for me to teach younger people. I also now teach over my regular 3 hour class sessions which is probably going to be very tough on younger people, not to mention the Guardian who will have to be there too for the duration. I run a business and I have overheads to cover on a daily basis, this is why I have made the decision to charge everyone the same and over the same minimum 3 hour session.





Is my Child Capable?

Before considering your child for Woodturning, think about how they perform around the house. The ability to sweep the garage floor or work a hoover around the sitting room does not translate into ability on a Woodturning Lathe no matter how much you want it to. Some children are more responsive to physical work than others but you must realise that Woodturning is not the same thing as chores or housework. Children are not great with complex tasks and their life experience is much less than yours as an adult. Oftentimes, life experience makes learning new things so much easier so should never be discounted. As adults, we may forget how challenging some things were when we were small.


Experience Woodturning

Woodturning is a great experience to have in your life. I do it for a living so I know how good it is and that was right from Day One for me. Consider this. If you bring your child at too early an age it may turn them off Woodturning later in life. If they do not enjoy the experience they probably won't want to do it again. Even the slightest small thing might upset them and turn them off it for life. I have had some children that had to be corrected multiple times for the same errors. I did not enjoy the repeated corrections and I assume the children didn't enjoy it either. Did anything bad happen to you as a child that turned you completely off a hobby or sport? I would hate to be the cause of that.


A Bit Strict?

Reading this Blog Post, you might think that I am being overly strict but I am drawing from past experiences and from these things I learned what worked and what did not work. If I state these things and explain my reasoning then there's no room for individual interpretation or misinterpretation. Many people will ask for special treatment or exceptions to be made but if they are clearly spelled out then there is no room for misunderstandings. By all means, you can request a lesson for your child but you should be ready to accept that the time is not yet right and don't be upset about it.


Conclusion

If Woodturning was simple or easy the World would be full of Woodturners. Woodturning is massively popular Worldwide but it is not for everyone. It requires dedication, repetition, disappointment and will most surely empty your wallet time and time again. A child may not be capable of these kinds of responsibilities so early in life so don't force it upon them. Just because you think it is a good idea might not necessarily mean a child will agree.


So what is the right age to start Woodturning? The answer is not easy to nail down to a particular age group as all children are different. Think carefully before pushing your child into Woodturning and take my advice by trying to wait until their later teens or beyond before encouraging this path. If you push them too hard too early they will most likely go the opposite way to what you want. If you are a Woodturner yourself and you try to share your passion of Woodturning with your child it can backfire spectacularly. Let them make their own decisions themselves would be the best advice you can take.


I hope these few thoughts helps your decision making. Thanks for Reading, David









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