I'm curious to know what is the simplest set-up to start bowl turning? Which tools should be high-quality and which can I skimp on? I'm not interested in being able to turn a large variety of bowls, I'm simply looking for a set-up where I can develop my bowl turning skills.
Like anything it depends, but the list is fairly small either way. For the Lathe itself you can use almost any of them, though I would recommend at least a Midi-Lathe, the larger bench-top lathes. I would recommend at least 8-10" swing if you want more than finger bowls. There are many different options and price points. I started with a cheap Midi and moved on up to a large floor model.
After you have your lathe, you need at least a face plate, I think all new lathes come with one, and small ones are as cheap as $25.
Then you need the (turning) chisels, while you could probably get away with 2-3 as a minimum, I would recommend buying a set, either a 5 or 8 piece set, they have the basics needed to get started and a cheap set (last I looked) was about $50.
You could get away with a hand screw driver to attach the wood to the faceplate, but I would recommend getting an electric drill, it will save on wrists and elbows.
Forgot one! you will need something to sharpen the chisels. Might be able to get away with a sharpening stone, I have one and a grinding wheel.
The next piece to consider is where you are getting your wood for the blanks. if you buy round(ish) wood then you are mostly done. However if you start with firewood, then you'll need a bandsaw to cut your blanks round(ish).
There is a lot more equipment you can buy to make each step easier and what not but that is all you really need. After these I would invest in a chuck system which adds what you can do to turning quite a bit and makes life a lot easier.
- Lathe: $200 – $2000
- Faceplate: $25 – $100 (usually one comes with a lathe, even a used one)
- Turning Chisels: $50 – a lot!
- Electric drill: $30+
- Bandsaw: $125 – $1800
- Sharpening stone(s)/grinding wheel: $30- to as fancy as you want to get.
Not much equipment overlap between spindle and bowl turning. Most lathes will accomodate both. For spindles, be more concerned with the length of the bed, for bowls it is the swing, which equals the largest diameter that can be turned, except some lathes have pivoting heads so larger pieces can be turned at 90° to the bed. The larger the bowl, the slower the lathe needs to turn. The surface speed of the wood going past the tool is the important factor.
Spindle turning requires drive spurs and centers, bowl turning requires chucks and/or faceplates.
About the only chisels really used for both are a parting tool and scrapers. Scrapers for bowls need to be thicker, but the thicker scrapers can be used for spindles. A skew can be used some with bowls, but mainly spindles. The gouges are different for specific reasons.
A bench grinder with friable wheels and a jig system for sharpening is really needed for a beginner (I still use a jig system - much better for me). Can be used for both spindle and bowl tools.
I agree with the prices from bowlturner and will add:
- Sharpening: grinder and jig system ~$200 and up
- Turning Chisels: ~$20-$25 per tool for the cheaper brands that work just fine. A 1/2" bowl gouge alone would get you started. A couple of scrapers, 3/4"-1" one square and one curved will help with surface finish. A bowl could be turned with scrapers alone. A drill powered sanding set up is nice but not necessary.