Turning Archive

Woodturning Vocabulary and Instruction

Don Stephan
A prior discussion on "open flute" and "closed flute" has been very instructive for me. After reading all the comments yet again, I still find "open flute" and "closed flute" very nebulous and unspecific.

Even today, if another turner watching my work suggested I "open" the flute slightly I would have to ask what they meant. I cannot believe that a new turner being mentored would know what was being suggested until the meaning was explained, and that makes me question the educational value of the term and usage.

An equally fundamental concern I have with the idea of only suggesting someone "open" or "close" the flute is that the turner may not be developing an understanding of successful cutting edge presentation, an understanding that SHOULD be extendable to all lathe tools. If all the turner learns is open or close the flute, and next month perhaps in a different bowl the turner is not achieving a successful cut, all he or she has learned is open and close the flute. The bevel angle may have changed (because of grinding or perhaps using a different gouge), the flute shape may have changed (U, V, parabolic), the internal radius of the bowl may be different, and so on. The turner (myself for a long time, and to some extent still today) struggles to get a successful cut because he or she has only been given catch phrases (ride the bevel, open the flute, . . .) and not empowered - given an understanding that allows a careful look at the problem, understanding it, and seeing the solution on their own.

When I started a serious attempt to learn woodturning several years ago, some of the common vocabulary was a real impediment because it wasn't clearly defined and wasn't used consistently. It would be extremely helpful if the community undertook a friendly, positive program to examine all the shortcomings of common terms and usage, with the goal to develop a common vocabulary that has inherent meaning and can be used consistently.

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