Turning Archive

Re: Woodturning Vocabulary and Instruction


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.

You seem to have a problem with a very simple concept. Are you trying to learn in a vacuum - with no experienced person helping you or no book on turning? I can't imagine any woodturner just telling someone they are trying to teach “open the flute” without a previous discussion of the tool, it's parts, how it works, and how it catches and showing them what opening and closing the flute means. When I try to help someone learn turning I will often stand behind them and help guide their hands (with the lathe off) to give them a feel for what to do and how it feels.

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.

I don't think that anyone suggested that open or close the flute is the end all or be all. Additionally, while every tool is somewhat different, cuts somewhat differently, and catches somewhat differently, they all have a fundamental sameness/similarity that flows across essentially all cutting tools. That includes tablesaws, planers, drills, etc. It would seem you are starting way ahead of the learning curve. You need the underlying background knowledge before progressing to the fine points.

It's hard to imagine a discussion about gouge use without the term "flute" but it's only in the last few months, when I was struggling to help another turner, that I stopped to think about the definition. I can't recall ever seeing "flute" defined with text and diagrams, and it's a basic concept used all the time.

I took a quick look through my books on turning. Quite a few had detailed descriptions with very clear diagrams of each tool type (spindle and bowl gouges included, as well as scrapers, skews, etc.) and an explaination of each part and how it is used. I found that they not only defined and described flute but also detailed each part of a flute giving examples of different kinds of flute. The discussion was very complete.

Once more you are complicating a very simple concept. Again, I wonder if you are trying to learn in a vacuum and skipping the basics and getting far too concerned with the esoterics. I suggest a book like Mike Darlow's “Fundamentals of Woodturning”. It's very detailed and complete but simple and he leads you through a complete course of turning. It includes lathes, tools, design, spindle, bowl (including chuck and faceplate holding as well as other techniques), and hollow turning. It's a thorough and very understandable book.

Sight, feel, even smell, and especially sound are critical and fundamental to success at turining. But jumping in without the basic background knowledge and understanding is a formula for frustration. I know from experience. Much of successful turning is counterintuitive - at least to me. One must start at the beginning and have some kind of instruction - book or human.

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