Woodturning Blog: Articles, Tips & Ideas

7 Ways to Master Spindle Turning

by Paul Carter | March 06, 2017

Performed by lifelong turners, spindle turning appears simple. Mount the wood, a few strokes, and voila, a beautiful piece. In reality, there are many fundamental principles that will allow you to approach spindle turning with ease. Professional Nick Cook shares a few of these concepts. 


  1. Always cut downhill, from large diameter to small diameter on spindles. Attempting to cut uphill on some woods will produce disastrous results—expect a lot of catches. 
  2. Adjust the height of the tool rest to match the tool you are using. You should cut above center for most lathe tools. If you switch from a thick tool (like a spindle roughing gouge) to a thinner tool (like a skew) you will need to raise the tool rest.
  3. For additional support and better control of your spindle turning, wrap your index finger around the tool rest. 
  4. Never drive the blank onto the spur center while it is mounted in the spindle. This can damage the Morse taper and stress the lathe bearings.
  5. Never drive the spur center into the blank with a steel-faced hammer.This will damage the Morse taper, preventing it from fitting properly. Always drive the spur with a wooden mallet, dead blow, or other soft-faced hammer. 
  6. Position the tool rest parallel to the blank and as close as possible— 1/4" is adequate clearance. Be sure to lock the tool rest to the support and the support to the lathe bed. Always rotate the workpiece by hand before turning on the machine. No matter how many times you have seen it done in demos, never move the tool rest with the machine running. Always move the tool rest closer after removing the corners from the blank—excessive overhang of the tool will cause chatter. 
A full article by Nick Cook including more spindle turning tips can be found here