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Burcote Wood Turning - About Woodturning


Woodturning is a form of woodworking used by turners to create wooden objects on a lathe, it differs from most other woodworking in the aspect that the wood is moving and the tool used to cut it is held stationary.


Woodturning dates back a lot longer than you may think, about 1300BC the Egyptians first developed a wood lathe that was operated by two people, one would turn the wood with a rope whilst the second would use a sharpened tool to cut different shapes into the wood. 


The Romans later improved the earlier design by adding a turning bow, these early bow lathes were also improved and used in Europe.  Later on in the middle ages the hand operated turning was replaced by a pedal system which gave the turner both hands free to use the tools to turn the wood.  The design became gradually improved over time through spring pole lathes to 'great lathes', the latter made it possible to keep the piece turning continuously (the same as todays motorised versions), these versions would have one person turning the crank (usually an apprentice), whilst the turner crafted the wood.

The lathe eventually became motorised during the industrial revolution, this allowed many more items to be made in less time, only one person was required to operate and also better quality items could be made much quicker due to the higher rotational speed of the motor powered shaft.
Today most wood work for commercial purposes is made by cnc lathes which allow a quicker turnaround with very repeatable standard and dimensions of the finished piece, without the cost of employing a craftsman.

There is however still a high demand for the hand turned wooden pieces made by skilled wood turners who still retain their passion for the quality and skills of the old wood turner, this is also a hobby for many people who enjoy crafting wood and displaying their finished work, wether it be a bowl, pen, tray, piece of fruit, etc.


Some common items turned by wood turners are:


- Furniture parts - Table legs, Spindles, etc.

- Bowls - Large open topped vessel

- Trays or Platters

- Pencils, Keyrings, Pens

- Vases and boxes, hollow forms

- Pepper Mills and Candlesticks

- Chess pieces

- Pool cues

- Tool handles

- Baseball bats

- Woodwind instruments - flute, clarinet, oboe, etc.

- Lamps

- Puzzles, toys and novelty items

- Fruit


One of the best qualities of an item made of wood is that the differences in the woods fibre structure, grain pattern, hardness and elasticity will ensure that no two pieces of work turned in wood will ever look identical.  The differences may be tiny but they are there.

Wood turning is sometimes a difficult art to learn the basics of, but can be a very rewarding experience for both the turner and the people who enjoy the unique finished pieces of work alike.


If you find the time and are interested in woodturning these other sites are definately worth a look, John Berkeley's Personal Site and The Association of Woodturners of Great Britain.


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