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Your First Woodturning Tuition Class, What to Expect

Updated: Jun 4

Booking your first Woodturning Class anywhere can be a little stressful for some people and for others turning up on the day in person can be a more stressful event. I decided to write this Blog Post for those that want to know a bit more about what to expect on the day. It isn't really stressful but I admit I get a little nervous myself when I first meet new people arriving. It goes away and most are glad that they made the effort to take at least one lesson.



Turning between centres on a Woodturning Lathe
Woodturning Tuition in Tralee


Your First Woodturning Class

I've lost count of the amount of people who claim they are Woodturners or have been Woodturners in the recent or distant past before they land at my door. I even said that myself when I went for my first lesson and then proceeded to embarrass myself when it came to actually Turning. I have yet to meet someone who is very competent at Woodturning when they take their first Woodturning lesson with me so if you are clueless don't worry about it. You are not the first and you won't be the last! I get a lot of Retirees, Near Retirees, Woodworking Teachers, Carpenters, Farmers and then people from all walks of life so you are probably in good company. If you have any Woodturning Tools it would be advisable to bring them along so I can see what state they are in. I normally offer to shape or sharpen them free of charge and show you how to look after the Tools and keep them razor sharp.


Directions

I live about a mile from Tralee Town Centre in a rural setting. V92 W2H4 is my Eircode and Google will show you exactly where I am. Look out for a stone wall with two gates & 4 reflective bollards, the second gate nearest the mountain will be open for you. Just drive in and park in front of the white van. There are angled spaces for cars in the driveway but so many people had difficulty maneuvering into them from this gate that I just started telling them to park in front of the van. I will be there to greet you and let you into the house. Please feel free to use the Bathroom at any stage, I sometimes forget to mention this when I first meet people.


For Starters

I like to show people some finished products as many Students don't know what a well finished piece looks like and this is a very handy early reference. From there we go into my dry wood store where I normally talk about sourcing wood and drying methods. If Students express an interest in cutting and drying their own wood I will show the wet wood drying stores and talk about some of the processes but otherwise we will go straight to the Workshop. You can alter this route at any time by asking questions about any of these topics, I don't mind at all.


The Workshop

Most Students instantly recognise the investments I've made over the years when they walk through the door. I normally start by spending a bit of time talking about about Lathes and do a bit of comparison between different makes and models and use online Irish retailer websites for reference. If you are in the market for a Lathe we will hopefully narrow your focus to 1 or 2 Lathe models.


Sharpening equipment is next and is nearly as important as choosing the right Lathe but is often left as an afterthought. Many Students, including myself back in the day want to spend very little on a sharpening station and this is a massive mistake. I show you 4 systems that I own and talk about setup and which one will suit you for long term use. Don't be fooled by buying a cheaper machine, buy one that you can use for the next 10 years or longer and the results will speak for themselves.


Handtools

I normally spend a small bit of time talking about Tools, my personal preference being Hamlet Woodturning Tools. I show how some Tools are cleaned and sharpened. Some Students bring their own Tools, many of which are not really good enough for long term use. I can reshape and sharpen these for you if they are not too bad and give you pointers on their use. Generally I recommend buying a good brand like Hamlet and buying the Tools individually and not from premade sets. Have a read of my Blog Post Woodturning Chisel Sets Worth Buying and see why I do not recommend them.



New Woodturning Tool
HCT066 Spindle Roughing Gouge

The First Piece

I start every Student with a 6 inch piece of Red Deal (Sitka Spruce) between centres. It is an easy softwood for getting started and everyone has to do it regardless of how experienced they claim to be. From this I can tell what level you are at and identify any issues with Tool presentation or stance. I focus my Tuition on the process of rubbing the bevel as it is the basis of Woodturning for most Tools. Don't take offence at being asked to turn a basic piece if you are more experienced, it's important that I see how you work so I know where to go with you next. With some Students I will move on to using Parting Tools, Skew Chisels and then a Spindle Gouge so you learn how each Tool is presented and how they are supposed to cut. I sometimes wait until the 2nd piece to do this but every session is different.


Coffee Break

About halfway through the session, we take a well needed coffee break and decompress for five or ten minutes. Latte, Half milk half coffee is the speciality here and something I can make fairly easily. Sometimes I have help and can offer tea but Latte is the usual if I'm on my own.


The Second Piece

After the break the second piece is normally a piece of Beech so you can experience Turning a Hardwood. If you are doing well enough I will add a dovetail and move the piece over to a chuck for the next stage. Don't be too concerned if you don't get this far, everyone is different and has different experience levels. We may have spent longer talking about machines or wood drying so don't get to this stage until late in the session. If the students wants to keep practising the Tool techniques they did in the 1st piece I am ok with that but sometimes Students want to Turn a piece that can take home. For these Students I normally assist them making the initial cuts on a teardrop shape to show how they are achieved but I normally have to take over and finish the shaping. I will then show how to sand, seal and finish the piece off yourself.


Tempus Fugit

Tempus Fugit - Time Flies! 3 Hours is not very long and it flies by fairly quickly. The whole thing can be fairly intense for some and yet others want more when we reach the end. I do offer 4 and 5 hour sessions but 3 hours is probably best for the first time. If you are coming from far away you can talk to me about longer sessions for your first time. If you are coming from a long distance I would recommend staying in a B&B or Hotel the night before. During a 5 hour session there will be a short coffee break at 1.5 hours in and then a slightly longer one about the 3.5 hour mark. Trust me, you will need it. I suggest bringing a sandwich or small snack to replenish your energy levels. Unfortunately, I don't offer catering as I am set up for it.


Bowls

I sometimes get asked to do Bowls during a session. I'm not set up at this moment in time to teach Bowl Turning as the wood is hard to come by and learning to Turn a Bowl would take longer than my sessions currently cover. I can and have gone through the basics with Students who come back for a 2nd and 3rd session and demonstrate how a Bowl is turned and the processes by which it is mounted on the Lathe. When I moved on to Students doing their own Bowl I found that they struggle and this is why a full day session would be required for Bowls. The reason for this is because I would have covered the basics of Spindle Turning during the first session and there are similarities of Tool presentation and use when Turning a Bowl that can't be skipped. Many people believe that they can simply pick a chisel and start Turning a Bowl but unfortunately this is not the reality at all. There is loads of theory and practice involved in Woodturning and Bowl Turning has its own set of difficulties.


Conclusion

I get so many people who have an idea of what Woodturning is which is very far from the reality. Videos online can give an inaccurate representation of how fast skills can develop and what can be achieved on very basic machines so take these with a grain of salt at all times. These are people who think you can throw €400 to €500 at a Woodturning setup and think that that will be sufficient going forward. Sadly, it's not that easy. Have a read of my Buying your first Woodturning Lathe in 2024 to see some of what's involved. It is far more complicated than that so take a lesson with me and I will shorten your learning curve and hopefully save you a bit of money in the process. I hope to see you in my Workshop soon! Thanks for Reading, David


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