Mastering the skew chisel

Like lots of turners, whether on a pole-lathe or powered lathe, it’s the skew chisel that’s always caused me headaches. With a life of it’s own and seemingly no other intention than to mess up details at the last moment I’ve tended to shy away from it in the past or approach it with hesitation and caution.

pole lathe turned beads & covesWell, no more of that, I’ve decided to go into 2013 with with me and the skew as working partners so I spent an evening watching whatever videos I could find online into just how people manage to turn over smooth beads without digging in. I’ve not posted any links because, honestly, there wasn’t really one video that had it all. In lots the camera seemed so far away or at such an angle that you couldn’t see the action or there was a perfect bird’s-eye view of the spinning timber but no idea what the person holding it was doing. Watch enough of them though and, assuming everyone’s doing it the same,  you can piece together enough of a theory to take to the lathe; it worked for me.

I’m not going to add my own video to the existing soup but I’ll add these tips that helped me:

  • Get the skew sharp first.
  • Make a good sized V notch before you roll the bead so you’re not trying to work through too much wood.
  • The heel of the tool leads but the action really takes place with at the end of the handle which you move up and out in a smooth arc, it’s a big movement here for the small sweep of the bead.

One of the many advantages of the pole-lathe is that the work is turning much more slowly so the whole thing is safer and it will stop instantly whenever I want, by thought control. Show me an electric lathe that can do that.

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About Steve Tomlin

I am a greenwood worker and scythe tutor. I carve spoons, bowls and other products from locally sourced greenwood. During the summer I teach scything around the UK.
This entry was posted in SteveTomlinCrafts, tools and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mastering the skew chisel

  1. Simon Lamb says:

    If you are making fine shavings then only a light grip on the tool is needed. Enough to control but no white knuckles. The firmer the grip the deeper the dig in if it happens and the more you have to remove to get back to a good surface. The larger the bead the harder I find it.

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