Industry Spotlight - Wood Turning

The chair you’re sitting on right now, the hammer you use to put up the pictures around your home, or the spindles on your banister – all these things could have been created by a wood turner. This age old craft traces back thousands of years and we’re lucky to still have skilled wood turners now. Some of Littlefair’s customers work their magic on a lathe, crafting away to create masterpieces before using our range of wood dyes to give it the perfect finish so we thought we would shine the spotlight on this skilled industry. 

What is wood turning?

Unless you are in the industry you may not really know what wood turning is. There are many different types of wood turning processes available today. However, the majority of products are created ‘between centres’ – where the wood is placed in a lathe between two centres that work to rotate the work piece, whilst a tool produces the shape.

As with many industries, wood turning offers the option to hand craft one off pieces/very small batches of a product. Skilled wood turners work with such precision they could create multiple intricate and identical products by hand, which to the untrained eye would look exactly the same.

Understandably, hand crafted is more time consuming than the use of a copy lathe which can produce large volumes of high quality, high definition pieces. This method cuts down work for the craftsman in terms of outlay for patterns and setting, normally with the wood turner sanding by hand to create a precise finish.

For creation of large quantities the use of a fully automatic lathe is your best option. Whilst these allow for high production numbers at a good quality, the machine usually sands the product too. Keeping this in mind during the design process of the product will ensure the outcome is still as precise as possible as hand crafted.

Wooden vase

 A brief history

The history of wood turning can be dated back thousands of years. As with anything, the process and tools have been tweaked and fine-tuned from then to what we use today. Looking back through history we can see the first record of a mechanical continuous revolution lathe is shown in a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci C.1480, depicting a treadle lathe with a crankshaft and a large flywheel. These types of machines were prevalent as earlier versions of the lathes we see used today in the wood turning industry.

Wood Turning Lathe

 The development of mankind goes hand in hand with turned wood items. These creations have produced simple domestic utensils, farm implements and maritime articles to name a few. As with other crafts, the industrial revolution pushed forward the production processes and creation numbers for various industries. The wood turning industry needed to shape itself to fit the ever increasing demand alongside the explosion of populations in towns and cities. This was certainly pinpointed as the beginning of mainstream industrial wood turning.