A quick announcement. I have been invited to speak and demonstrate at a woodturning club meeting at the Peter's Valley Woodshop this Wednesday at 7 pm. It is a new club combining members from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Roughing out a turning is obviously a vital stage in the process. It is easy to look to the fancy skew work or cutting graceful coves as the stars in the show, but it is really the lowly parting tool and roughing gouge that set the stage for a successful turning. If the different elements are not correctly spaced and sized, nothing will save the piece.
My turnings always progress the same way. Establishing a pattern is vital to gaining consistent skills. Think of it as an obstacle course. You'll quickly recognize which elements give you trouble, practice them, and move beyond. By roughing out the whole piece until I can easily visualize the final shapes, I avoid getting confused or misaligning the elements.
I also try to employ an economy of movement, cutting as much as I can with the tool in my hand. This saves time, creates clarity and builds dexterity with the tool.
I highly recommend practicing making the various shapes involved, but if you are at all like me, of course you are going to try to turn the whole thing first! I recall it as a lesson in humility.
Here is a narrated video of me roughing out a leg. I will turn it to completion in subsequent videos.
As I mentioned in the video, I begin each sizing cut by taking a light cut with the parting tool to establish a groove and a clean vibration free cut. Once the tool is riding in the groove, I proceed to cut to the desired diameter. You'll also notice that I "choke up" on the parting tool and hold it just behind the tool rest. I find that this increases my sensitivity and coordination by reducing the leverage. It is vital to feel the tool in proper relation to the cut, but I'll go more into that later.