My Favorite Tools and Accessories
by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX
Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Students frequently ask for my recommendation on which tools and accessories they should buy. My recommendation is always based on what I know about the student and the things they aspire to turn. These factors help determine the appropriate size, type and style of tool or accessory.
I thought it would be helpful to share with you the tools and accessories I use most frequently. This list was developed from years of turning items like bowls, boxes, handles and stools. This list is not an absolute, but more directional in nature. Turners can often utilize a range of tools and techniques to accomplish the same task. Some tools might be better for a specific task, however, it is rare that only a single tool is capable of completing the task.
While you may recognize specific brands in the photos, it is not my intent to suggest that what I have purchased is the best option for you. In some cases, products that were not available years ago may be a better option in today's market.
These tools represent my most used tools. In many of these categories, I have several similar versions that I may use almost as frequently. So, if your brand or style of tool is not represented here, it does not mean that I do not own one or think it is not a smart choice.
Let's start with the accessories. First off without question, my
is my most used accessory. I wear the Face Shield anytime the lathe is on. I have gone through numerous styles over the years. This particular style fits me better that any other.
Next, is a custom made apron without pockets.
This model, by Texas Heritage Woodworks
, is a new apron for me. So far, I love it. It provides enough protection from chips without being too warm (I live in Texas). I have used several other traditional turning smocks over the years. These provide complete protection from chips and dust. However, they come at a price. They are too warm for most of the year, and have useless pockets that fill with chips and dust.
The chuck I use most often is the
. I have larger sizes but this is the one that gets most of the work. This category is a good example of how new products have entered the market and might be a better option for some. Along with the chuck, is my shop made reverse turning pad. I use this to reverse mount bowls while I turn the outside. The partially turned bowl is supported by the tailstock and pressed against the pad. The pad offers enough friction to turn the bowl without slipping and does not mar the interior of the bowl.
The compass and caliper are the two tools that I use most in the
Marking and Measuring category
. I use several different types and sizes of calipers and dividers. A
Set of Calipers
(dividers, inside and outside) is an essential accessory for turners. I think for most turners a 6-8" size set of calipers will serve them well for years.
has seen years of hard service and it shows. However, it keeps working despite rough handling by students. I use this mostly for cutting off the remaining tenons on bowls. This was a gift from a friend 10+ years ago, so that makes this saw a personal favorite.
Of course, what turner doesn't have a shop made mallet? If you have not turned one yet, this should be your next project! I discussed how to make one in the
September 2011 issue of The Highland Woodturner
My last most used accessory is the
mounted over my lathe. It is on anytime the lathe is on. This lamp takes a beating from dust to wood chips.
The tools in this photo are by no means the only turning tools I use. However, these are the real troopers that see most of the action in my shop. I tend to favor larger tools. They often can hog off more material quickly, but for me it is more about having the mass of the tool work in my favor. I like how they absorb more of the vibrations while turning. If you turn small items, some of the larger tools may not fit your needs.
Spindle Roughing Gouge 1-3/8"
Scraper 1-1/4" x 1/4"
Bowl Gouge 1/2"
Spindle Gouges 1/2" and 3/8"
Thin Parting Tool 1/16"
There are items that didn't make this list only because I had to draw the line somewhere. Items like
and buffing related accessories are used regularly in my shop.
Again, this article was intended to be a guideline and not an absolute list. However, if you turn the garden variety of items like bowls, boxes and spindles, these tools should serve you well for a long time.
Curtis is a former President of
Central Texas Woodturners
, a member of the
American Association of Woodturners
, and a member of
Fine Woodworkers of Austin
. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at