Something is askew with my woodturning

Googly-eyed Pen Barrels

Why are they looking at me like that? And how is this even possible?

Today was, in some ways, an important day in my development as a woodworker: it was the first time I fired up my lathe.  And while momentous, it was not entirely successful…

The plan was to prepare a few pen blanks out of some lightly-figured curly maple I had on hand (done), build a jig to drill the blanks at the drill press (done), glue in the brass tubes (done – still got the CA glue on my thumb to prove it), and commence the turning!

Turning done too, technically, but here’s where I get confused. When I drilled the holes for the tubes, I just “eyeballed” the centre point, figuring that the turning process would centre everything up, by definition. And the turning did go reasonably well once I got the hang of the roughing gouge.

But by the time I got to the point we see in the photo, it was clear that something was amiss. Sorry, askew. The holes are well off-centre: on one side the wood is down almost to the barrel, while on the other side there is still a good one-eighth of an inch of material left…

I though that the basic premise of woodturning would make this impossible.  How could it be so eccentric? Not that I’m one to talk about being eccentric. But sheesh, what’s the deal here? It’s not like it was wobbling around, it seemed to be going well… I’m using all brand new stuff, and had some instruction (in conversation, and in video and books) in exactly this setup, so I was fairly confident in my process.

And yet it all went horribly wrong… well, not horribly, but still…  I’d like to figure out what the deal is here before I waste another blank.  That curly maple don’t grow on trees you know…

9 thoughts on “Something is askew with my woodturning

  1. Awww. I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at yer wood there *cough*
    I’m laughing because your entire blog this time is #SDBI.
    Well DONE! 😉

  2. Are the tubes 7mm or are they larger and requiring a different stepped bushing? The barrels look to far off center to just be caused by over tightening of the mandrel. Drilling off center should have no impact. I regularly turn pen blanks that are poorly drilled(by myself).

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Phil! Yes, the tubes are 7 mm. But I’m beginning to think over-tightening may indeed be the cause… I don’t exactly have a feel for it yet…

  3. I believe this comes down to over tightening not only the blank/bushings on the mandrel but then overtightening the tailstock as well. You can go from minimal eccentricity to drastic eccentricity with the tiniest little turn of the tailstock. Think of the tail stock as a way to just provide support for the mandrel. No more than a quarter turn of the wheel to snug it in place.

  4. Looks like it may not have been my fault after all… there’s a significant wobble coming directly out of the headstock… a piece of dowel directly in the headstock (no chuck, no nuthin) wobbles all over the place, making about a 1-inch circle by the other end… had a long chat with “the guy at the place” and I’m taking the lathe in tomorrow for them to look at… it’s brand new, so it’s either defective or somehow askew from the factory in a way not easily adjusted or worked around…

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