Canadian Woodworking

Learning to Woodwork (The Specifics)

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: August 2010
Learning to Woodwork
Learning to Woodwork

When it comes to pur­chasing large scale woodworking equip­ment, most people begin with a table saw. As you may have real­ized by this point, I’m not like most people. I purchased a lathe.


And not just any wimpy lathe; a hulking, dark green brute that weighed more than a mini-van. This was a behemoth amongst lathes. A lathe that had the capacity to catch a coat sleeve and suck you into the whirling, spinning blades and wrap a fully grown man tightly around the spindle chuck or whatever it was that lathes possess. And that thing was possessed!

I’m not allowed to push any particular brand names in this column so all I will say is that it is dark green (Kelly-green, according to my wife – Kelly) it’s made in Canada and is ranked just above a Colonel. You figure it out! One further clue: It is the best lathe ever made, even if it does possess the means to scare the be-jeebers out of me when unplugged and standing still.

I had purchased my lathe along with a full set of lovely sharp things that com­pletely baffled me. As far as I knew they were a really good, expensive set of fancy barbeque tools. I also got a pretty, shiny chucky-thingy and something called a Wolverine, whose purpose I was assured was invaluable but completely slipped my mind as soon as I was told what it was used for. I was sure the salesman saw me coming a thousand kilometres away but in the end it turns out he knew what he was talking about and almost every­thing ended up being used for something; though some not necessarily for what their inventor likely intended.

My shiny new lathe was delivered by a large truck that had no business attempt­ing to negotiate my ice-encrusted, 1400 foot driveway, up the hill and through the snow-draped woods. But I had confidence in the driver, after all he was a professional.

He managed to finally top the rise and deftly swung his unit around and with careful hand gestures from me – most of which I was making up on the spot – promptly backed into the large snowdrift I had been meaning to shovel away from the shop doors. Now I didn’t have to!

After flattening the snow further with the hydraulic unloading ramp, we man­aged to manoeuvre the lathe off the truck and into the shop, where it imme­diately took up permanent residence. This monster was quite likely never to move again – at least not without an awful lot of help from every one of my friends. His name is Geoff!

I signed the delivery papers and handed over my bank book and my first-born child. As the truck slipped and slithered its way down the hill and through the woods, I stood staring at the mighty beast in deep awe; and a lit­tle nervousness – actually, it was sheer, abject terror. In retrospect, my trepida­tion may be understandable considering I had never before owned a lathe, used a lathe, or even observed a lathe in use, either in person or in a movie.

This is where my new library would come in handy. Trial and error would have to wait. At least until: (a) the tem­perature warmed up somewhat above the current -30 C (I know, I’m a wimp) and (b) my wife asked me, for at least the fifth time, why I wasn’t using my new toy. I figured that should be within the first 15 or 20 minutes after entering the house. So I decided to sleep where I was!

You didn’t honestly believe I could tell this story all in one go, did you?

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