Sometimes it is bloody frustrating being a novice

Headed down to Carbatec today, with my Christmas $$$s burning a hole in my pocket. Wanted to get a few extra things for the lathe, after learning a bit more about it all with the visit to my friend’s shed last weekend.

Couldn’t find a curved toolrest for my Jet mini lathe – more research required.

I did pick up an asymmetric 1″ (25mm) heavy duty scraper (and yes Soren – it has a long handle!!) (For those wondering what I’m on about- as you can see from the photo in the previous post, my latest 3 (and now 4) chisels all have a substantial handle on them. I’ve discovered how much I like having something decent to hang onto while turning. Yes, I know a real turner makes his own handles….. and I might too when life decides to slow down from the million miles/hour it is currently running at). I’m hoping it will do the job that I want – it is a great chunk of HSS (high speed steel) – about 10mm+ thick.

I also bought some extra jaws for my Teknatool Nova G3 chuck. This is where the frustration starts creeping in.

The jaws that came with the chuck are 50mm. They hold primarily on the external rim of the jaw (ie you insert them into a hole (which can be as shallow as a couple of mm), then expand them with the chuck to grip the workpiece. In the case of the bowl I am practicing on (see photo in a recent post), I haven’t gotten the hole in the base with quite enough diameter, so I thought I might as well get a smaller set of jaws, which will be useful for other jobs in the future. Having a look around, there were 45mm jaws (too close to 50mm thought I), 25mm jaws, and 35mm jaws, both in a bowl jaw and a spigot jaw. Hmm – confusion growing a little. Reading the box, it suggests that the 35mm spigot fitted nicely in the gap of sizes between the 25mm and the 50mm. Not sure what the spigot term meant, but it wasn’t much more for those, and they did say that they can grip both internally and externally. Cool – bonus – they can do the job I want, and for not many more $$s than the standard 35mm I can do this spigot thing when I learn what it is (something to do with vases and goblets apparently). Fitting that gap between the capacity of a 25mm jaw set and a 50mm jaw set is exactly what I’m looking for.

So, get home, open box, get out the “Accessory Jaw Manual” and had a quick read. Huh? Apparently the 35mm spigot jaw’s minimum size for expanding is 53mm. What the? How is buying a 35mm jaw set to have one smaller than a 50mm jaw set end up being wrong? This is the frustration. I’m sure if any turners read this, they’ll be going “of course”, but for a novice, this is the sort of thing that jumps up to bite you time and time again. I even went to my Richard Raffan “bible” – the Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Turning. Not a mention of a spigot, or that some 35mm jaws are larger than 50mm jaws.

I guess why I’m saying all this, is I do appreciate where people new to woodworking are coming from – I’m still learning different aspects myself, and it is these traps that keep tripping us up frustratingly, that would be good if an introduction to a subject actually covered what you need to know, without being written too simply, or patronisingly. (Just because you are new to a subject doesn’t mean you’ve also lost your brain!)

While I’m on the subject of frustration for novices, I guess I would have learned a lot of this by joining a turning club, but so far I’ve been really put off. I haven’t re-broached the subject for a few years now, but my experiences went like this:

One club wanted me to go to an individual member’s house before joining, so my turning abilities could be assessed. Like that isn’t a daunting concept for a novice. I’m just starting out, and someone thinks I want my abilities judged and criticised? Sorry, but no.

Another club (and I’m not naming names here), seemed interested in getting a new member, so I was chatting to one (at a woodshow) about the club etc, and me wanting to learn more. He asked what sort of lathe I had (this is before I bought the Jet mini), and I said that I have a GMC (this is a $100 lathe, so I am under no false illusions about it being a first-rate tool. Never-the-less, I have made plenty of pens, including my apple one with a captive ring (posted here a while back), turned some pretty round spheres in redgum etc). Irrespective, the conversation didn’t get any further. The instant I uttered the fated word “GMC” the member turned his back on me and walked away mid-sentence.

So now you know why I’ve never joined a wood turning club to learn more. Disappointing really. So I’m doing what I do with most things – jumping in feet first and learning as I go. Reading books, watching videos and making sawdust. I’ll probably pick up heaps of bad habits, that will end up restricting me before I unlearn them, but at least I won’t be insulting people, or being a tool snob.

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