SSYTC046 Robbo’s baby lathe

Dropped round on Robbo recently, as he has been working gluing up a segmented block to turn into a table leg, and was about to turn it for the first time.  An opportunity not to be missed!  He didn’t do a great deal on the first day – too many competing priorities, but even so, it’s a pretty good segmented unit!

It was also being filmed for the forums, so any comments were directed to that camera.

SSYTC046 Robbo’s baby lathe

The Taming of the Skew

O monstrous beast! how like a swine it lies!
Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!
Sirs, I will practise on this unwitting log.

The Shew Chisel is much maligned by inexperienced wood turners, and yet the experts regularly say it is probably the most powerful tool at a woodturner’s disposal.

I’ve had a number of surprisingly aggressive kickbacks from the skew in the past – encouraging me to quietly put it aside, and I doubt I am the only one!

However, after covering a number of other tools, we got to the skew at Robbo’s, and other than when he deliberately demonstrated a particular user failure (which resulted in a small ‘explosive’ catch, and managed to draw blood), I found myself wondering why the tool was so disliked. It is flexible (both rapid stock removal, as well as finessing beads, forming tenons, and decorative work (particularly when working from square to round cross sections.)

I was surprised how easy the skew was to use!

I don’t remember all the terms, but slicing at 45 degrees, rolling beads, paring away huge amounts of materials. Without being unusually careful either. Sure, catches are definitely achievable (had a few myself, often when I touched the workpiece before properly engaging the rest), and skew catches are often more violent than with gouges, but at the end of the day I was impressed how functional the skew can be.

Robbo has also lent me a DVD; The Skew Chisel with Alan Batty. Interesting that Alan seems to use the skew more with the tip leading, but otherwise the approach is similar, and although it looks so easy when watching it, at the end of the day it can also be that easy in practice, so long as you understand what you are seeing. That is the real benefit of one on one instruction. Even then, I had to pay very close attention to just what part of the skew was doing the actual cutting. What looked like the tip doing all the work was actually a mm or so further up the blade in many cases.

I might have to write a more detailed article (once I understand the tool better), but still would feel like a bit of a knob doing so, when compared to all the real experts out there. On the other hand, that is the real benefit of this website- I have to understand what is happening to be able to write the article/produce the video, and you get dragged along on my journey.

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