© by Russ Zimmerman, May 2018


The two-day class consists of two morning and two afternoon sessions. We start at 8:30 the first morning and work until 5:30-6:00 with a break for lunch. The second day is a repeat of the first. Start on a day of the week that suits your schedule. But you will also note in the section “Tuition and Contact” that there are one-day and hourly options to the full two-day course.


We will start with sharpening, demonstrating how to sharpen a bowl gouge, using a jig for convenience. Then you will do it. That will be followed by spindle gouges, skew chisels and scrapers. Intermingled with the sharpening of each tool, you will be introduced to the basics definition of cutting vs. scraping, and the “Zimmerman turning principles.” So as you sharpen each tool you will begin to get a sense of what a sharp tool can do. With a set of sharp tools, I'll demonstrate a tool, followed immediately by your trying what you've seen me do. I'll encourage or correct you. Depending on your specific goals, you will be prac- ticing on spindle stock and/or we will be turning a bowl, usually of local green wood. You choose the amount of time you want to spend on each type of turning. You progress according to your ability. Ask questions as you think of them. Just practice techniques or apply the techniques to specific turning projects. As you are doing all this, you'll learn why you are doing what I have shown you. You'll also learn why a technique is not working for you. My goal is for you to understand the why behind the how so you will be able to practice by thinking about turning techniques. I am always pleased at the progress a student makes over two days. One student told me when he had returned to his own shop that while practicing he could imagine hearing me saying "Do this," or "Do that."


If you are now turning, please bring the tools you are using so that you can practice sharpening them. If you are flying with carry-on luggage, you'll have to leave your tools home. No problem; I’ve got plenty here, and you will learn what tools are best for you. If you are new to turning and have no tools, take a look at the next section on this page. “Suggested starter tool collection.” In addition, I will provide a face shield, dust mask, wood and sandpaper. If you need a large or special piece of wood for a project you'd like to do while here, please bring it. One student brought a 5” x 5” piece of wood to make a columnar support for a table. SUGGESTED STARTER TOOL COLLECTION If you look at turning tool catalogs, the variety of tools displayed is extraordinary, but I want you to know that you need no more than 6 tools to start turning bowls and spindles. Any additional tools you buy will usually be similar tools in different sizes. Pictured here are the basic six. From left to right: 3/8" (Chinese 1/2”) LONG & STRONG BOWL TURNING GOUGE. 3/4" ROUND NOSE SCRAPER. (1/2" OK) Those will carry you a long way in your beginning bowl turning, but in class you will also learn to use the 1/4" (Chinese 3/8”) bowl gouge (not shown) which I think wonder- ful for finishing bowls. Then four spindle turning tools: 3/4" ROUGHING OUT GOUGE; 1/2' SKEW; 3/8" FINGERNAIL GOUGE; 1/8" or 1/4" PARTING TOOL. I have never liked sets of tools, usually because the bowl gouge was shortened to fit in the box. (22”+ is a good length.) And sometimes a generally useless tool is put in to fill the eight spaces in a box. It used to be the diamond pointed scraper. These are just thoughts to consider when buying tools. But remember that you'll have a chance to use a variety in class so that when you do buy you will make a decision based on experience rather than guessing. Go to RESOURCES for information on ordering tools.
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