9 Essential Turning Tools

The turning process can reveal true works of art and impressive ornamental details. To subject the wood to this type of processing, however, you need some essential tools, including the lathe, a complete set of knives, which allows easy adaptation to the necessary operations, saw, vise and much more.


Turning is a processing operation that involves cutting and is done by keeping the processed material in rotational motion. The cutting is done by means of a knife whose position is modified depending on the operations to be performed. When it comes to wood, the process is used to obtain furniture legs, stair railings, vases, statuettes and other ornamental objects. 

Here are the main tools you need if you want to use this processing.



The lathe is the main part and the one that also gives the name of the turning process. It is similar to a vise, having the role of keeping the material fixed horizontally and vertically, the difference consisting in the continuous and uniform rotational movement, which it imprints on the processed object. In other words, the lathe spins the piece of wood, while the cutting is done with a knife, manually or automatically.

Currently you have at your disposal a variety of lathe models classified according to the position of the main shaft axis (vertical and horizontal), the degree of automation (CNC, automatic, semi-automatic or manual), size and precision.


Spoon or concave kneeling knife

This type of chisel has a U profile, but not too deep. It is a tool that carries the weight in turning because it is used when it is necessary to remove large amounts of wood to create the basic profile. It has a large opening, a little high and is the tool you want to touch if you need to turn a rectangular piece of wood into a rounded one. It is also helpful when you need to finish complex, curved patterns.

The deeper and narrower version is designed to allow work on details such as creating grooves, round holes and various shapes that require precision.


Wide straightening knife

As the name suggests, this type of chisel has a wide blade, straight on the lower face and slightly curved on the upper, which ends with an angled edge. It is the best tool you need if you want to straighten the surface of a wooden segment and, used skillfully, often reduces the need to use sandpaper for finishing.

It is one of the most adaptable versions, and can also be used for details and other necessary operations. If you do not have much experience in using these tools, we recommend that you use this model especially carefully, which, if it is not placed at the right angle and you are not careful, can easily stop in your hand. It is important never to try to take too large a layer of wood, because the tip is not so sharp, and to work step by step, in thin layers.

Unlike the previous variants, in this case it is much easier to approach the wood with one of the corners of the blade, wrong position that creates the feeling of blocking in the material. So be careful to always orient the chisel with the middle of the blade towards the rotating material.


V-shaped knife

This version has a sharp angled tip and is usually used to split wood in two. Although it is very efficient and can complete the process, the specialists recommend advancing with the chisel only until close to the breaking point and completing the sectioning with a saw, after you have stopped the lathe.


Round knife

This model is similar to the spoon type, in the sense that it has a cut tube profile. But it is significantly deeper, and the top is straight, looking a lot like a bowl. The round knife is mainly used to dig out various curved vessels, both when creating the interior and to give shape to the exterior.

An alternative to this version is the round knife with a U-shaped tip, with the edges slightly angled and sharpened towards the end, features that allow use for a greater variety of operations.



Before you can insert the wood segment into the lathe, you need to cut it to the right dimensions, and for this operation you need a circular electric saw that allows you to easily cut large and straight pieces. If your activity also involves making detailed, complicated cuts, in curved or broken lines, it is good to ensure a vertical pattern.


Sanding and sanding machine

After you have finished turning the furniture or decorative object and obtained the desired format, you will have to finish the surface, eliminating the chips and any small unevenness left by the action of the knives. Work carefully with the right-grained emery sheets, either manually or using a grinder.

You can also finish the roughness with the material still on the lathe, taking advantage of the rotation speed. But for this you need a standard sandpaper sheet and the sensitivity of your own hands, which will tell you how much pressure you need to apply, so that you get the desired effect. It is a method usually used to finish objects without ornamental details, with a smooth surface.



For both the cutting and the grinding part, you need the best wood vise , suitable for your workbench, which will ensure the stability of the materials during processing.


Vacuum cleaner

Turning is one of the operations that generates the most waste. In order to keep the workshop clean and to work safely, you will therefore need a vacuum cleaner. Fortunately, the sawdust does not remain in the turning area, but falls to the floor, so unlike working with a circular saw on the bench, it will not bother you much in terms of visibility.


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