Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Beginning Woodturning

5 day beginning woodturning class with Bonnie Klein and Tim Lawson


Beginning Wood-turning



Taught by Bonnie Klein and Tim Lawson, this class is perfect for complete beginners or for experienced wood turners who want to tune up their skills.

Turning can be a relatively low cost hobby (in woodworking all things are relative). A mini-lathe, a set of turning tools, a grinder for sharpening, a work light and some protective gear can be purchased for between $750 and $900. A mini-lathe can easily be stored under a bench. Setting it all up takes a relatively small amount of space.

This class is designed to give you an understanding of the tools used by turners and the skills to safely and effectively use them. You will practice so that you start to develop a "feel" for turning. The class begins with turning basics and a chance to practice your newly learned skills as you work on a variety of projects, including the turning of a few pieces of green (freshly cut) wood into bowls. 

What our students say...

"Was able to learn a lot in a short time, and everyone was able to learn at their own level, independent of prior turning experience."

"I really appreciate that Bonnie used affordable tools – homemade glue blocks instead of expensive chucks, etc."

Class Description

This class includes a good dosage of cutting theory, basic cutting techniques on practice blocks, and tool shaping and sharpening.  To reinforce the skills, there will be several projects such as a crazy stick pen, a spin top with chatterwork, a tool handle with a brass ferrule, and more from Bonnie’s book, Small Woodturning Projects with Bonnie Klein.  

You may be wondering - "Where is the best place to begin?" Bonnie, like most other instructors, believes that spindle turning is the answer. 

By definition, spindle turning is when the grain is oriented parallel to the lathe bed, usually with the work piece captured between centers.  We think this is a safe place to start and best for learning about tool cutting theory.  This cutting theory can be applied in the use of all turning tools.  The ultimate goal is to achieve the best possible surface on the wood right off the tool, thus reducing excessive sanding.  Too much sanding will distort or ruin fine details and reduce design crispness.  A good sharp tool, used properly, will produce a good cut.

Skew chisel techniques will be introduced and a skew chisel project will be turned.  "We will tame the skew!"

You will also learn about turning bowls out of green (freshly cut) wood and dry wood. How to use a bowl gouge, the variety of gouge shapes and how to sharpen a gouge will be demonstrated.

There is something really wonderful about a wooden, utilitarian bowl. You hold the essence of the tree in your hand.  I have a friend who uses his bowl for microwaving oatmeal every morning and then puts his bowl into the dishwasher!  Wooden bowls are tough and made to be used. They can also serve as containers for keys, coins, etc...as well as for food. During this class we will learn a variety of alternative (and frugal !) ways to mount work pieces on the lathe.  Your bowls will be mounted and remounted three times during the turning process. Since we will be using the small Jet lathes, the bowls will be about 6” in diameter.

You will learn about chucking methods, turning procedures and reverse chucking to finish the bottoms. We will use freshly cut (green) wood because it is so much easier to work with while learning the cutting techniques.  In addition, the use of green wood reduces sanding dust. Bowl gouge shapes and sharpening, cutting techniques, cutting theory, as well as design and enhancement ideas will be explored. You will have the opportunity to make several small bowls about 6” diameter and finish them. Join us to make your very own salad bowl!

When you finish this class, you will have a good understanding of how the tools are used to remove wood and you will feel confident about putting a tool into spinning wood.


We are equipped with the turning tools you'll need for the class. However, if you want to bring along your own turning tools and work with them, we encourage you to do so.

This are Bonnie's recommendations for turning tools that will get you started turning. 

  • 3/4" roughing gouge

  • 3/8" spindle (shallow fluted) gouge

  • 3/8" bowl gouge

  • 1/8" parting tool

  • 1/16" parting tool

  • ½” round nose scraper

  • ½" square scraper

  • Skew (3/4” or 1”)

  • Chatter tool

  • Sandpaper (80,120,220,400,600)

  • Glues (Cyanoacrylate), finishes and rags

  • Shop lamp or gooseneck lamp for extra light

  • Jewelers magnifiers for sharpening

  • Colored felt pens

Please bring:

  • Paper, pencil,

  • Small ruler

We do require that you bring your own safety gear:

  • Face, hearing, and respiratory protection
    We suggest that you bring a face shield, hearing protection and a comfortable dust mask. You can buy a face shield from Woodcraft for around $23. You can also buy face shields at Edensaw (our local lumberyard). Check our FAQ for more details.


The only prerequisite for this class is enthusiasm. This class is designed for complete novices up through  experienced turners who would like to tune up their skills.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day in Building 304.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 8
Cost: $775
Materials Charge: $75

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.