Woodturning is an art not a science. Each skilled practitioner has his own particular way of doing things. The reason for this is that wood unlike, say, metal or plastic, is not an homogeneous substance. No two pieces of wood are identical even when cut from adjacent positions in the tree. In contrast, consider a piece of steel to be used in a motor car. Numerous metallurgists, and other specialists, will have been employed in the production and testing of the steel, to ensure that it has the required characteristics, and that these will be consistent from one batch of material to another. This means that properties such as its granular structure, its hardness, its elasticity and its tensile strength will be the same for every sample.
Wood is not at all like that. Adjacent pieces will exhibit differences in such features as fibre structure, grain pattern, hardness and elasticity. As each unique work piece spins on the lathe and is traversed by the tool the turner has to make subtle adjustments to his technique as he is presented with a stream of changing information. To add to the choices which have to be made a variety of tools can be used to achieve the same basic forms and these tools can be ground to a variety of shapes and bevel angles. Even the lathes that turners use can affect their style. As turners develop their skills so they find their own solutions to the problems they encounter, and blend together the various tools and techniques they have at their disposal in their own unique ways.
One unfortunate result of the development of individual styles is that beginners can be confused by an apparent conflict in instructions in teaching manuals, methods used in demonstrations, and even in techniques shown in woodturning videos. The beginner should not be upset by this. Underlying this variety there are certain principles which are followed by all successful turners and which enable the novice to experiment and to explore different techniques with confidence and without danger. These principles and the way they can be applied to different situations and different tools are set out in the following chapters.
However, because there are a variety of ways to tackle problems, I, like everybody else, have my favourite way of doing things. As a consequence the views I will be putting forward may differ from those of other instructors. They are an amalgam of the things I have found to work for me and my own particular attitude to woodturning.
Because of such differences in views there is a principle which I think is very important: one should not make statements in a book of this kind, particularly if they are controversial, without explaining the reasons for them. The reader (or listener) should always treat unsupported assertions with suspicion.